The Fortnightly Playlist, May 23rd, 2021

Okay… so May has brushed past quickly… I guess after the seemingly endless months during Covid havechanged the perspective a little. Lots of favorites in the list this edition. Some artists here that I’ve featured quite a lot over the last few years such as Dessa, L’Orange, Aesop Rock, Son Volt, and Making Movies. Also plenty of new artists as always.

Ayron Jones has been grinding along and building his career in the Pacific Northwest for some time now with a couple independent releases, and last year was signed to Big Machine records. I would describe Ayron Jones and his band as a Post-Hip-hop Grunge-Blues, but I’m not expert when it comes to accurately distilling an artist down to a few words like this. I’ll clarify this a bit. The Grunge and Blues should be clear within listening to a few songs, but “Post-Hip-hop” isn’t a term I’ve ever really heard thrown around. I think that a lot of current rock music right now has been influenced by the philosophy and the techniques of hip-hop, and I also think that this is a defining characteristic of rock music in our current era. This is, in part, why we see classic Hip-hop acts being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ayron Jones is an artist whose rock music clearly has a Hip-hop edge. Ayron himself has described his music as being influenced by Blues, Hip-hop, Grunge, Hard Rock, and Soul. I strongly recommend giving his new album, Child of the State, a listen.

At this point, I sort of wonder how L’Orange manages to absolutely kill every beat he makes. Now for the last few years there has been a L’Orange project in my top 10 at the end of the year. It seems this may again be the case. Imaginary Everything was released this week, and this time around L’Orange is paired with Nashville multi-instrumentalist/producer/MC, Namir Blade. I was unfamiliar with with Namir Blade before this album, and I’m enjoying his work here enough that I’ll have to take a look at his previous albums. One thing that I’ll note here about Blade is something that I think of with numerous rappers, and I think is something many hip-hop fans struggle with at some point; the use of the N-word. I don’t think it is my place, as a white man, to criticize any black person about this usage, but at the same time I would be lying to say it didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. At times, I think that is the point, and those are the instances where I actually think the word may be useful. Sometimes we should feel uncomfortable. In large part, I tend to agree with one of my favorite rappers, Akala, that there is just too much blood attatched to the word to use it casually. I tend to gravitate toward artists that keep it’s usage very sparing. I’m not familiar enough with Namir’s work really say whether his usage casual or conscious (and again, it should be said with emphasis that it isn’t my place as a white person to judge when a black person should or shouldn’t use the word), but I did feel that it was time to bring this up. There have been a fair number of songs that have included the word, and I know I’m not alone in finding this difficult territory.

Other particular favorites in this edition are Kaidi Tatham, Dessa, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (featuring Moses Sumney), and Tomo Nakayama.

MALIA – Lucid Dream
Hiatus Kaiyote, Arthur Verocai – Get Sun
Wu-Lu – Times
Kaidi Tatham – Intergalactic Relations
Tony Allen, Jeremiah Jae – Gang on Holiday (Em I Go We?)
L’Orange, Namir Blade – Shotgun
Aesop Rock – Jumping Coffin
Busdriver – airliner_patio
Ayron Jones – Boys From The Puget Sound
Sleater-Kinney – Worry With You
Modest Mouse – We Are Between
Weyes Blood – Titanic Risen
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Moses Sumney – Soon It Will Be Fire
Anjimile, Lomelda – 1978 (Reunion)
Tomo Nakayama – On The Way
Dessa – Talking Business
Jose Gonzalez – Visions
Robert Finley – Sharecropper’s Son
Ayron Jones – Baptized in Muddy Waters
Making Movies – La Marcha
Son Volt – Reverie

The Fortnightly Playlist, May 9th, 2021

I don’t think I had a lot of set expectations when I began making these playlists in early 2016, and not even when I began to write more for them and started this blog in late 2016. I certainly don’t think I expected that it would lead to the amount of jazz and afrobeat included on a regular basis, but I really love that it has happened that way. I always sort of wanted it to span genres, and it seems like these recent posts have done this more than ever before.

Anjimile is an artist that I haven’t been familiar with until recently. It’s interesting to begin with an artist on a project of remixes, but Anjimile’s latest release is orchestral remixes of songs from last year’s album Giver Taker. The arrangements are beautiful, and it motivated me to go back an give some attention to the original versions of these songs. In particular, this song “In Your Eyes” featuring Jay Som has really grabbed and held my attention.

This posthumous album from afrobeat legend, Tony Allen, has quickly become one of my favorites so far this year. The string of collaborators are so varied in their styles, and it helps highlight Allen’s versatility. The mix is excellent, and it keeps his genius drumming prominent. Tony is most famous for his work with Fela Kuti. The two were longtime collaborators, and they shaped West African music for decades (and by extension, heavily influenced hip hop and modern soul/funk around the world).

Other favorites in this edition are Faye Webster, Jose Gonzalez, Manchester Orchestra, and Jupiter & Okwess.

Lianne La Havas, Wu-Lu – Seven Times (Wu-Lu Remix)
Faye Webster – Cheers
Damien Jurado – Tom
Hussy – I Tried
Veps – Ecstasy
Flying Lotus – Crust
Str4ta – Rhythm In Your Mind
Sons of Kemet – To Never Forget the Source
Tony Allen, Lava La Rue – One Inna Million
Little Simz, Cleo Sol – Woman
Tobe Nwigwe, Lanell Grant – Caged Birds (SIO Version
Alfa Mist, Kaya Thomas-Dyke – People
Jose Gonzalez – El Invento
Anjimile, Jay Som – In Your Eyes (Reflection)
iLe – No Es Importante
St Vincent – The Melting of the Sun
Laura Mvula – Church Girl
CIVIC – Radiant Eye
Dinosaur Jr – I Expect It Always
Iceage – High & Hurt
Mad Foxes – Crystal Glass
Flock of Dimes – No Question
Manchester Orchestra – Keel Timing
CHVRCHES – He Said She Said
Bomba Estereo – Profundo
Tom Jones – I Won’t Crumble With You If You Fall
Jupiter & Okwess – Bakunda Ulu
The Black Keys – Going Down South
Rhiannon Giddens, Francesco Turrisi – Black As Crow
Dropkick Murphys – Queen of Suffolk County

The Fortnightly Playlist, April 11th, 2021

Okay, so I had a hard time editing this down to under 2 hrs of music for this edition. That’s a reasonable playlist length, right? Some got pushed to next time because there’s a lot music coming out right now. I got into a lot of new latin music in the last few weeks, so there’s probably more latin music in this edition than I’ve ever included before. US, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Chile, Spain, Nigeria, UK, and Australia all represented by the artists included here.

Kansas City band, Making Movies, has long been a favorite that I’ve shared here. Each of their full-length records has been featured here. Now theyve shared their cover of “Listening Wind” by Talking Heads, and I am absolutely loving it. They’ve got a new album on the way, so more to come!

I’m a huge fan of this new Flock of Dimes album, Head of Roses. “Price of Blue” certainly grabbed my attention before the album was released. Flock of Dimes is the solo outlet of Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak. She has also collaborated and toured with Bob Iver and Sylvan Esso. Some of these collaborators make appearances on the record including Nick Sanborn of Sylvan Esso and Matt McCaughan of Bon Iver. Where other projects Wasner has done are collaborative efforts, though, Flock of Dimes is her own artistic vision, and it showcases her strength as a songwriter. In this, her second full-length, the growth in songwriting is evident. This is among my favorites so far this year.

Other favorites in this edition are Tony Allen, Centavrvs, Xenia Rubinos, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Hiss Golden Messenger.

Flock of Dimes – 2 Heads
The Joy Formidable – Into the Blue
Goat Girl – They Bite On You
Tune-yards – Cannonball
Field Music – No Pressure
Jungle – Keep Moving
Dub Collective – Shield & Spear
Tony Allen, Sampa the Great, – Stumbling Down
Making Movies, Calvin Arsenia, Jeremy Kittel – Listening Wind
Buscabulla – Eva
Dessa – Life on Land
Helado Negro – Futurism
Flock of Dimes – One More Hour
Xenia Rubinos – Did My Best
Clara Peya, Alba Flores, Ana Tijoux – Mujer Frontera
Mello Music Group, Open Mike Eagle, Elaquent, Namir Blade – Symbol of Hope
Phife Dawg, Redman, Busta Rhymes – Nutshell Pt II
L’Orange, Namir Blade, Quelle Chris – Point to Point
Mello Music Group, Oddisee – No Trouble
Camila Moreno – Hice a Mi Amor Llorar
Centavrvs, Cornelio Reyna Tercero – Me Cai De La Nube
Marinah – Desalma
Nano Stern, Simón González – Ya Es Tiempo
Rodrigo y Gabriela – Street Fighter Mas
Valerie June – Two Roads
Waxahatchee – Light of a Clear Blue Morning
Hiss Golden Messenger – Sanctuary
Quivers – Radio Song
Middle Kids – Today We’re The Greatest
Tune-Yards – be not afraid.

The Fortnightly Playlist, March 28th, 2021

I had a list of over 40 artists to work through for this edition. When it came time to start writing this post, I still had a lot of decisions to make. Some gets cut, some gets pushed to next time because it just doesn’t fit… and this is the list I’ve managed to build this time around.

No One Sing Like You Anymore, the new posthumous album of covers by Chris Cornell actually came out back in December, but the release was rather quiet, and at the time I was writing my year-end posts so it slipped by me. There is some really good material here, and some of it unheard before. Several of them had been performed live and were well-known. Chris had performed Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” a number of times, and had performed Harry Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire” at a Temple of the Dog reunion show as well. I’ve enjoyed this collection, and it really shows how broad Cornell’s listening and influences were (Something you probably already know if you’re at all familiar with his music over the years). No one sings like Chris anymore.

Marlon Craft has a new album out that I’ve not yet listened to, but he also has this new single that isn’t on the album and that song has really grabbed my attention this week. I was not really all that familiar with his music before, but “State of the Union” certainly made me want to be. So expect more from Marlon Craft because I’ll be giving his new album How We Intended a listen soon.

Describing bands and artists is something I sometimes find difficult, because genres don’t have clear boundaries. The Weather Station has fallen victim to this before by simply getting slapped with the labels “folk” and “singer-songwriter” as if that were enough to tell you what her music sounded like. The new album, Ignorance, has quite a big sound. It delves into jazz rhythms and definite pop beats, big string arrangements as well as more sparsely-arranged and intimate moments. The album feels versatile with the ease it moves from song to song, and Lindeman’s gentle voice ties it all together so well.

It’s a long list this edition, but it’s some really great stuff. Some other favorites of mine this time were Corvair, Arooj Aftab, David Huckfelt, Gotham, and Flyying Colours.

Chvrches – Science/Visions
Corvair – Sailor Down
The Weather Station – Tried to Tell You
BoomBaptist – Komfort Food
Namir Blade, L’orange – Corner Store Scandal
Tony Allen, Ben Okri, Skepta – Cosmosis
Tune-Yards – make it right.
St Vincent – Pay Your Way in Pain
Chris Cornell – Get It While You Can
Middle Kids – R U 4 Me?
Sharon Van Etten, Big Red Machine – A Crime
Wolf Alice – The Last Man on Earth
Joe Pug – Crescent Bridge
Valley Maker – Pine Trees
Eliza Shaddad – Blossom
David Huckfelt – Land of Room Enough and Time Enough
Bow Thayer – This Thing Called God
Arooj Aftab – Mohabbat
Mdou Moctar – Tala Tannam
Vic Mensa, Wyclef Jean, Chance the Rapper – SHELTER
Marlon Craft – State of the Union
Mello Music Group, L’Orange, Solemn Brigham, Marlowe
Aesop Rock – Long Legged Larry
Gotham, Talib Kweli, Diamond D, Busta Rhymes – The Quiet One
Claud – Gold
Flyying Colours – White Knuckles

The Fortnightly Playlist, March 14th, 2021

Whew, it’s been a week. I didn’t write anything, but I do have a playlist here!

Making Movies – Could You?
Dessa – Bombs Away
PRICE, Bas, Wyclef Jean – Selfish
Django Django – Right the Wrongs
Japanese Breakfast – Be Sweet
Chaka Khan, Idina Menzel – I’m Every Woman
Black Pumas, Lucius – Strangers
Bruno Mars, Anderson.Paak, Silk Sonic – Leave the Door Open
Damian Jurado – Helena
Fruit Bats – On The Avalon Stairs
Middle Kids – Stacking Chairs
Flyying Colours – Goodtimes
Dry Cleaning – Strong Feelings
Gretchen Parlato – Sweet Love
Madlib – The New Normal
Valerie June – Stay
Emilee, Maya Jane Coles – Rodeo (Maya Jane Coles Remix)
Jehnny Beth, Rone – French Countryside (Rone Remix)
Rick Holmstrom – Don’t Wake Me
Nathaniel Rateliff – Redemption
Painted Shrines, Woods – Heaven and Holy
Neil Young – Like a Hurricane (Live)

The Fortnightly Playlist, February 28th, 2021

Another big list again this edition as there is a lot of great new music coming right now. As has become typical of the Fortnightly, this one covers a lot of ground stylistically, and hopefully brings some things to the surface that weren’t previously familiar to you.

Rick Holmstrom has not released a solo album for about 9 years, but he’s released plenty as guitar player and band leader for Mavis Staples. His new album, See That Light, gives a look at what makes Rick such a great artist himself. Listening to Rick has a throwback sound, but with a freshness not found with just any seasoned and skilled picker. Holmstrom had recorded and toured with various bluesmen and bands before spending the last nearly 15 years as bandleader for Mavis Staples, and becoming a big part of her tightknit and straightforward blues-gospel sound. His tremolo-drenched guitar sound reaches back to influences that would have to include Mavis own father, Pop Staples (who was well-known for heavy use of tremolo).

One of the more unusual artists included this edition is Senyawa. Rully Shabara and Wukir Suryadi formed the experimental group in 2010 in Yogyakarta on the Indonesian island of Java. while having a modern, avante-garde, experimental aesthetic, the group also include various traditional instruments and vocal techniques, and often has taken on the descriptor “neo-tribal” along side “metalcore”. Unafraid to mix modern with traditional as well as blending edgy with atmospheric. Alkisah is their 9th studio album.

Other favorites in this edition include Fruit Bats, Black Thought, Flock of Dimes, and hey… how about that Tom Jones tune?

Rostam – These Kids We Knew
Fruit Bats – Holy Rose
Dinosaur Jr – I Ran Away
Black Pistol Fire – Pick Your Poison
When Rivers Meet – Walking On The Wire
Rick Holmstrom – Take My Hand
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio – From the Streets
Black Thought, C.S. Armstrong, Angela Hunte – Welcome to America
Slowthai – focus
Valerie June – Why the Bright Stars Glow
Anisa Romero – Sliver
Julien Baker – Bloodshot
Cassandra Jenkins – Michaelangelo
Sun June – Singing
Midnight Alleys – Broken Ties & Stolen Lines
Wild Pink – Pacific City
Bow Thayer – Ata Ni
Flock of Dimes – Price of Blue
Tom Jones – Talking Reality Television Blues
The Hold Steady – The Prior Procedure
Senyawa – Alkisah II
Chihei Hatakeyama – Night Wind

The Fortnightly Playlist, February 14th, 2021

There’s some new songs here that have me really excited. Those sort of songs that you can listen to over and over, and that you can really feel. New releases have really picked up quick, and here I am with the second list in a row that is a full hour and a half long. I took a look back this weekend as well. As of 2 weeks ago, I’ve been making these Fortnightly Playlists for 5 years. I didn’t start writing here until toward the end of the first year when I decided I wanted to write a little more for my year-end favorites in 2016, but the first Fortnightly Playlist appeared on January 31st, 2016. I don’t know if I expected to do it so long, but I’m still very much enjoying it.

I wanted to draw attention to Valerie June. This song, “You and I”, that opens the playlist this edition is one of my favorite songs right now. It hit me immediately when I heard it earlier this week, and I immediately wanted to hear it again. Valerie June has appeared here before with her 2017 album, The Order of Time, and I’m very excited for her upcoming release, The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers. 4 years since her last full-length release, but June has clearly been busy as she has an upcoming book release as well.

My favorite instrumental release so far this year has to be Sitka Sun’s All The Way West. It’s not a long record. 6 tracks clocking in at just over half an hour, but it has really grabbed and held my attention. I sometimes find it hard to explain why a particular record does this, and especially so with an instrumental album. Sitka Sun brings us this well-constructed jazz album with a firm rhythmic structure, Central American flair, and a little psychedelic improvisation mixed in. When an instrumental record captures me this way, I’m sometimes struck by the ability music alone has to make you feel something.

Other favorites in this edition are Wild Pink, Anisa Romero (Sky Cries Mary), Femi Kuti, and We Are KING.

Artwork from songs by Adrianne Lenker

Valerie June – You and I
Bomba Estereo – Agua
Hannah Jadagu – Think Too Much
Middle Kids – Questions
Julien Baker – Favor
Wild Pink – The Shining but Tropical
Dry Cleaning – Scratchcard Lanyard
Foo Fighters – Cloudspotter
The Lounge Society – Burn the Heather
Ayron Jones – Mercy
The Hold Steady – Spices
Balmorhea, Lisa Morgenstern – The Myth
Anisa Romero – Borrowed
London Grammar – Lose Your Head
Flock of Dimes – Two
Echo of the Low Light – Afterlife
Bicep – Sundial
Yuno – Somebody
Femi Kuti – As We Struggle Everyday
Jay Gonzalez – Sunspot
Adrianne Lenker – anything
Saintseneca – All You’ve Got Is Everyone
We Are KING – Space Oddity
Sitka Sun – Long Shadow

The Fortnightly Playlist, January 31st, 2021

Some early favorites for the year appearing here, and some of them are total surprises. There are some real gems here, and I had a lot to work with and even had to cut a few to keep this one a reasonable length. Just one month in and 2021 is delivering some great new albums, as well as promising many more in the works.

I’ve got to start with this new Tune-Yards single, “hold yourself.” This one was a surprise for me, and it’s connected with me, I think, more than anything they’ve ever released. So combine that with their now well-established reputation for boundary-pushing, genre-blending indie-pop, and this has gotten me pretty excited to hear more from them.

Last weekend, I spent a good chunk of time with the new Steve Earle album, J.T. It was back in August that we learned of the passing of Steve’s son, Justin Townes Earle. This new release is 10 covers of Justin’s songs, and closes with an incredible tribute song called “Last Words”. It’s worth noting that this might be Steve’s best song that he’s ever written. Every line hits right to the heart. Somehow, with this song Steve was able to communicate all the mess of emotions that he’d felt with Justin’s passing. It’s a heartbreaking song, but it’s also beautiful. At some point, play that song and listen to it without any other distraction. Listen to every word, and feel it.

I follow a lot of luthiers on Instagram. I love seeing the craftsmanship. Well, one of my favorite builders is Mule Resophonic Guitars, and I’ve found a few artists through them that have ended up on the Fortnightly. Most recently through Mule, I’ve found Larkin Poe. The duo are sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell and following a breakout album in 2020, they’ve now released a collection of covers. I don’t think you’ll find a better modern blues sound than what these two have developed over their now 6 album catalog. Gritty, mean-sounding riffs that make you scrunch your face up and say “oooh…” Their singing and their guitar-work together is just absolutely perfect. It’s got that bourbon-soaked, smokey bar, dusty road kind of soul.

Ity was tricky this edition fitting in what I wanted to, and some things have been pushed to next time or cut. There’s a lot of great new music out right now and coming soon. This list was pushing an hour and a half, and it took some last minute changes to make it fit together nicely. Besides what I’ve already mentioned here, some favorites are Sitka Sun, Crazy Arm, Arlo Parks, Goldmund, and this killer Run The Jewels remix with Mexican Institute of Sound.

Sitka Sun – Dauntless
Run the Jewels – Ooh La La (Mexican Institute of Sound remix)
Kali Uchis, Buscabulla – la luz(Fin) Buscabulla Remix
Arlo Parks – Hope
Tune-Yards – hold yourself.
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio – Right Place, Right Time
Breeze Brewin, Juggaknots, Marco Polo – King Oxymoron
Madlib – Road of the Lonely Ones
Goat Girl – Badibaba
Jess Locke – Destroy Everything
Bleach Lab – Old Ways
Crazy Arm – Fear Up
Larkin Poe – Fly Away
Steve Earle – Last Words
Dan Wriggins – Dent
Holly Macve – Be My Friend
Pearl Charles – Sweet Sunshine Wine
Hand Habits – 4th of July
Eddie Vedder – Future Days-acoustic at home
John Fogerty – Weeping in the Promised Land
Oux – Rise
Goldmund – The One Who Stands By

The Fortnightly Playlist, January 17th, 2021

Mixing in some sounds from around the world in this edition with artists from Cape Verde, Brazil, Ecuador, New Zealand, Belgium, England and Puerto Rico.

Dessa put out a new single on the 15th, and has announced a project called Ides in which she intends to release one song on the 15th of each month in 2021. This first single is called “Rome”, and has touches on the more aggressive side of Dessa’s music with high-tempo and hard beats breaking into huge chorus. I’m excited to see this project from an artist that has typically stuck to album format. Whether at the year’s end we’ll have a cohesive album or a collection of singles will be interesting to find out. Either way, I think there will be some great music here.

We’ve got a 2nd new single from the upcoming Julien Baker album, and it’s got a big sound. I’m looking forward to this big sound from Baker. She has, up ’til now, stuck with a sparse sound, and this project promises to be something different. It’s good to see an artist take risks and step away from what has worked for them in the past. From what we’ve heard so far from the album, this risk was a good step forward for her. The full band sound is working well, and it suits the material.

Other favorites of mine in this edition are The Hold Steady, Nicola Cruz, Jeremy Pinnell, and this collaboration between Aili and Transistorcake.

iLe – donde nadie mas Respira
The Chills – You’re Immortal
Aili, Transistorcake – Dansu
Arlo Parks – Caroline
Nicola Cruz – Individuality Riddim
Caroline Polachek – Breathless
Moon Palace – Faultlines
The Avalanches – Take Care In Your Dreaming
Shaka – Tokio e Rio
Dessa – Rome
Chris Alford, Justin Peake – A Course in Water
Elida Almeida – Di Pundi Nu Bem
Jeremy Pinnell – Joey
David Nance – When the Cover Comes Off
Lana Del Ray – Chemtrails Over the Country Club
Julien Baker – Hardline
The Hold Steady – Heavy Covenant

The Fortnightly Playlist, January 3rd, 2021

Welcome to 2021. Let’s hope we can make it better than 2020. So this, my first post of the year will be a mixture of some looks back and some looks forward. The past couple years, this post (the first after my top albums of the year) has typically been one of the few that includes music that isn’t released within the past year. There will be albums I slept on and discovered late (in a few years, I may declare them among my favorite 2020 releases though they didn’t get much or attention hear), music released too late in the year to have ended up on my year-end list, music from a few artists who passed in 2020, and some looks ahead at music I’m most excited for in 2021.

For late releases, there is one king of them all this year. We Will Always Love You by The Avalanches is an instant classic. It was released about 3 weeks ago. Now I’d heard some singles from it, but I didn’t sit and listen to it fully until this week. Hearing it in its entirety made me love the singles more. As an album, it is a masterstroke. The guest spots throughout include Mick Jones, Neneh Cherry, Leon Bridges, Johnny Marr, Kurt Vile, Sampa the Great, Tricky, Karen O, and on and on and on. I can’t give this enough praise, and I’ve heard plenty of people ammending their year-end favorites with this at the top of the list.

One that will bug me is that I didn’t include Lianne La Havas in my top 25. I love her self-titled release this year, and I think I got it wrong leaving that out, so I’ve included her in this list. Obviously, the cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes” was a track that stunned me, but the entire record is worth your time.

There are two upcoming releases that I’d say I’m most looking forward to, but several others I’m watching for as well. The two are Nilufer Yanya and The Hold Steady. Now, I always look forward to new material from The Hold Steady, but, in particular, I really enjoyed this new single they released called “Family Farm”. Sonically, it’s classic Hold Steady at their best with driving hard rock, piano breaks, and Craig Finn’s distinct storytelling. Nilufer Yanya is a different case, and isn’t super well-known to me although I’ve shared her music here before. Her 2019 album, Miss Universe, had some good moments, but it was the release of the first single from her upcoming release that really grabbed my attention. I shared that single, “Crash”, back in late October, and they’ve added 2 more tracks since. So far, this album looks very promising.

Most forefront in my mind this week of artists we’ve lost this year is rapper and beatmaker, MF DOOM. Always one to be intensely private, Daniel Dumile had actually passed two months before it was announced on December 31st. No cause of death was reported in keeping with his determined shunning of the spotlight. He performed as characters, and kept a mask on for all public appearances (and notably sent others out in the mask at times). What he did as a lyricist changed hip-hop forever though. In many ways, his style was the culmination of the evolution of all hip-hop before him. Things that other pioneers had just touched on or glimpsed in pieces were now fully formed in his flurry of releases in the mid-00’s. His last solo release came in ’09, but he remained active as a serial collaborator appearing on numerous projects (most recently an apparent posthumous release from just weeks ago with Badbadnotgood). He was very comfortable writing multi-syllabic rhymes to the point that every syllable in the entire line rhymed with every syllable in the next. He knew the rules of rhyming and how to break them in such a way that his words flowed like no one before, and have influenced everyone since. “Just remember all caps when you spell the man name.”

The reason I’ve written about DOOM so much is that the news is fresh, and I think his achievements are understated in by many. So much has happened this year, and we’ve lost absolute legends. John Prine, Toots Hibbert and Eddie Van Halen are 3 giants in their respective genres. Any modern singer-songwriter or country artist owes a debt of gratitude to John Prine. His storytelling has shaped music well beyond the boundaries of genre, and you hear his influence in the writing of many today. Eddie Van Halen… do I even need to say anything? Forever pushing the boundaries of how the guitarwas played. Sure, when it comes to deep, profound, heartfelt lyricism, Van Halen won’t be top of anyone’s list. That was never the point, and who says it always needs to be? Eddie’s guitar playing, as with DOOM’s rhyming, changed everything. Toots Hibbert has the distinction of coining the term that would become the name of his genre. He championed Reggae even unto his latest shortly before his passing.

Courtney Marie Andrews, Molly Sarle, Liz Cooper & The Stampede – America
Bedouine, Waxahatchee, Hurray For The Riff Raff – Thirteen
Sarah Jarosz – Up In The Clouds
John Prine – Glory of True Love
Jeffrey Foucault – Real Hard Thinking
Van Halen – Dance the Night Away
Cherry Glazerr – Rabbit Hole
Nilufer Yanya – Same Damn Luck
ASTU – Reckless
MF DOOM, Madlib – Accordion
Toots & The Maytals – Got to be Tough
The Avalanches – The Divine Chord
King Krule – Alone, Omen 3
Leaf Dog, Thirstin Howl the 3rd, BVA – Still Thirsty
MF DOOM, Badbadnotgood – The Chocolate Conquistadors
Lianne La Havas – Green Papaya
Nilufer Yaya – Day 7.5093
Toots & The Maytals – Pressure Drop
Van Halen – Mean Street
The Hold Steady – Family Farm
The Besnard Lakes – Feuds with Guns
John Prine – Boundless Love