Just when you think you’ve got the measure of Terrace Martin, he surprises you yet again. The Los Angeles born musician and producer has worked with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Talib Kweli and Robert Glasper, not to mention playing a major role in shaping Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Martin’s latest album, Velvet Portraits, is a stunning chameleon of a record with enough musical hues to match an Ikea colour chart.
Anderson Paak’s Malibu is incredible. This multi-disciplined singer, rapper, songwriter and producer has been living a breakout year, appearing on tracks by Schoolboy Q, Kaytranada, Snakehips and Mac Miller to name but a few. Malibu, with its flavoursome grooves and relatable hooks, is the type of album you’ll want to listen to from end-to-end, and shout about to all your friends.
Spring is on the way and is being heralded by the return of the one and only Corinne Bailey Rae.
Texan group White Denim make music for you to live large to. The four-piece has been cooking up a flavoursome blend of blues rock, psychedelia and dub for over 10 years. After hearing their thoroughly absorbing live performance at last weekend’s 6 Music Festival in Bristol, their upcoming album, Stiff, has graduate from ‘maybe someday’ to ‘must-have right away’.
In part three of this year’s albums round-up, we have old-new soul man Leon Bridges, the ethereal excellent of Wolf Alice, the everyday empress of garage rock Courtney Barnett, a whole lotta funk, and a Brazilian funkstress that is more than a match for Shakira’s hip-shaking.
30. Mark Ronson – Uptown Special
29. Florence and the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
28. Wolf Alice – My Love is Cool
27. Flavia Coelho – Mundo Meu
26. Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
25. D’Angelo – Black Messiah
24. Leon Bridges – Coming Home
23. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
22. Jazmine Sullivan – Reality Show
21. Nicole Willis & the Soul Investigators – Happiness in Every Style
Hypnotic Brass is a group with the power to take your body and soul into the cosmos. Cuts like ‘Gibbous’ and ‘Ballicki Bone’ have always been warmly received when I’ve played them for friends. These eight Adonises of the jazz scene tour more extensively than just about any other band around. But, despite being productive songwriters, regular recordings from them can be infrequent. So when a new Hypnotic Brass cut does appear, it’s like a gift from the jazz gods.
2012 was a phenomenal year for music, and, for me at least, British singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas was the crowning jewel. Her debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough?, was a record of astounding colour and emotional depth. So it’s encouraging that La Havas has steadily been refining new songs, and a little under three years later her second album is at last ready to be released.
To many, an album from Mark Ronson, steeped in the influence of 60s and 70s funk, will seem like an odd departure for the producer, whose best-known work includes Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and his 2007 collection of cover songs. But glance at his credits – which include hip hop (Ghostface Killah, Q-Tip, Wale), R&B (Macy Gray, Estelle, Winehouse) and pop (Christina Aguilera, Lily Allen) – and you’ll see that Ronson is a producer who wears his influences on his sleeve. His first studio album, Here Comes the Fuzz, still sounds like he and his ensemble of hip hop heavies had ridiculous fun making it. And that’s what Uptown Special feels like.