Showing posts with label dessa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dessa. Show all posts

Sunday, January 6, 2019

the top 25 best albums of 2018 (VIDEO)

And that's the last of year-end list promotion...whew.

Next up... honestly, no idea, we'll see - stay tuned!

the top 25 best albums of 2018

Normally this is the list that feels like the greatest relief to make - it's the final moment where we can lay a year to rest chronicling the best of the best, the sort of release that comes with it being the last list but also one that feels the most professional, for lack of better words. I'm having fun with the lists of the best and worst hits, I'm getting more personal with the overall songs list - this list for critics is staking claim, drawing our lines in the sand, and as such, it's normally the most professionally rewarding.

But I have to say, in comparison to previous years, this list was not that hard to make. Even though I covered far more albums in 2018 than ever before, it felt like I hit greatness less often on average. Which is probably not completely true, but it sure as hell feels like it, especially given that the cuts weren't that painful this year, or it certainly seemed like there was less of them to make. And while I don't do an Honourable Mentions segment for this list, I will say I'm a little regretful that I have to leave Rolo Tomassi and Against All Logic off this list, and I'm sure I'm going to surprise some folks by saying that Beach House and Kacey Musgraves also missed the cut - sorry, but especially in country, Kacey had stiffer competition. But really, if we're to highlight a genre that turned out in spades in 2018, it was hip-hop - and no jokes here, this is more hip-hop on this albums list than I think there has ever been before... which yes, means that there were two painful cuts in the form of Marlowe and Armand Hammer. But you know, let's start off with hip-hop here...

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

the top 50 best songs of 2018

The tagline that I've always had with this list is that it's the hardest to make, but let me qualify it: it's the one that easily requires the most work. And considering this is the year where I reviewed more albums than ever before, you'd think for the sheer volume of material this would be excruciating to assemble...

But in truth, this top 50 list actually fell out pretty quickly, at least with respect to the volume of music I've consumed. It still takes a lot of refinement to go through the best songs of any given year, but the truth about 2018 was that for as many songs as I loved, most of them were concentrated onto specific albums, which might lead to a slightly less diverse list as a whole. And if there was a year where my qualification that I can only put up to three songs from any given album on this list was tested... yeah, it was here. And yet even with that qualification, this list is kind of all over the place - little more hip-hop heavy than previous years and we'll get into why on my final list - and I'll freely admit there isn't quite as much metal or electronic music I'd prefer, but I needed to be honest with this one. Keep in mind songs from albums I covered on the Trailing Edge are eligible, and that if you don't see any songs from an album I loved earlier this year, there's no guarantee it won't show up on a different list - some albums don't put out the best individual songs and vice-versa. 

But no more wasting time, let's get this started!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

the top albums/songs of the midyear - 2018

There are years where I struggle with this midyear list, sometimes in years overloaded with quality that force me to make some painful cuts, or years that are a little more scant I'm stuck with what seems like a smaller list... and still have to make painful cuts. 

And thus it feels odd that building this 2018 midyear list is perhaps one of the easiest I've ever assembled, and since I'm not about to assume I'm getting good at this, I'm genuinely curious why that might be. I will say that outside of hip-hop, other genres don't seem to be having an exceptionally strong year - great albums in rock and country and metal but few that really went over the top in terms of quality, and I'd argue pop has had it even worse. But more than that, even the records that just missed the cut - Beach House, Iceage, Parquet Courts, Against All Logic, and especially Phonte - while they were truly terrific releases, I'm not precisely torn up that they had to miss the cut, as they all have a considerable shot for the year-end as my tastes evolve and change. 

So given that this is my fifth list like this, you know the rules: the albums and songs have to have been reviewed in 2018, and while I'm fairly certain you'll all know what's going to top this list, I'll add that there are songs from The Trailing Edge that have a chance to wind up in the individual songs, because there really were some incredible cuts there. So let's not waste any time and start with...

Monday, February 26, 2018

video review: 'chime' by dessa

I think I stunned a couple people with the score I gave this one... hell, I even went back to the others I scored the same to check to see if it deserved to be on the same pedestal. But the truth is that I couldn't find a problem with it - every song sent a chill down my spine, the sonic themes meshed perfectly, the emotional throughline was wonderfully balanced, and the writing is top-of-the-line, analytical but never sacrificing the emotional core. This is the album to beat in 2018, and really, it deserves the score.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN - stay tuned!

album review: 'chime' by dessa

So I've covered a lot of truly excellent records in February... and I can't help but feel it's all been building up to this, the newest, long-awaited solo release from one of my favourite-ever MCs, most notable for her work in the Doomtree collective but also for the diverse, genre-twisting blend she brought to her own work...

And yet I'll admit I was nervous about this, mostly because Dessa's solo work is very different than the fire she typically spits with Doomtree. I might love A Badly Broken Code as an underrated near-classic, but it's meditative and restrained in an uncanny way, and certainly took a lot of listens to grow on me as much as it did. And her 2013 follow-up Parts Of Speech, even though that record made my year-end list, it was a pivot towards more R&B and less hip-hop, and I was a little unsure whether it played enough to her strengths - she's an absolutely excellent rapper, but not quite as expressive or potent as a singer. And thus when I heard that her newest project Chime was pivoting even further, moving closer to mainstream-accessible pop... well, it's not like I couldn't have seen it coming, given her contributions to The Hamilton Mixtape and her own wild creativity to be more than just a spitter, and I was sure there was bound to be real density and punch in the content, and it's not like Lazerbeak or Cecil Otter would steer her astray on production - okay, maybe I was worrying too much over nothing, I'll admit it. But again, Dessa is an all-time favourite MC of mine, I really wanted this to be amazing, especially given some of the critical buzz about this release and that she had brought in Andy Thompson to augment her sound with more classical elements... so, what did we get on Chime?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

video review: 'the hamilton mixtape' by lin-manuel miranda & various artists

I honestly thought this review would do a little better, given how dedicated the Hamilton fanbase is... eh, it happens, I guess, I'm guessing more people are looking forward to year-end lists or a J. Cole review.

In the mean time, though... Billboard BREAKDOWN up next, so stay tuned!

Monday, December 12, 2016

album review: 'the hamilton mixtape' by lin-manuel miranda & various artists

Let's talk about one of my biggest mistakes last year, or at least one that has weighed on me pretty heavily: I didn't talk about HamiltonOh, I considered it, a lot: I like hip-hop, I like musical theater, and I like Lin-Manuel Miranda. I might not have loved his debut In The Heights but it had a lot of charm and potential, so when he took the world by storm in 2015 with his musical chronicling the fascinating and tumultuous life of Alexander Hamilton... I didn't cover it. I don't really remember what my reasoning was for it either - the musical, while having its flaws in pacing and historical context, is indeed pretty awesome, with some of the most immediately catchy songs you'll ever hear. And hell, I even knew Daveed Diggs from clipping., I had an obvious inroad here!

And yet even with that Hamilton became the sort of Broadway crossover into popular culture that you so rarely see. Forget that it cleaned up at the Tony Awards, it was the sort of show where you'd probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting tickets. As such, the vast majority of us made do with the soundtrack, which wound up on a surprising number of year-end lists from professional music critics and as of now has crossed over a billion streams on Spotify, which does say a lot. Would it have landed on mine? Well, it would have had a shot, and that is saying a lot, especially given how strong 2015 was, especially for rap music.

And then we all got word about the mixtape... and if you've seen the list of huge names that have signed on for it, it's more than a little mindblowing! I would have gotten it for Usher covering 'Wait For It', but when you have Black Thought, Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz, and Nate Ruess doing 'My Shot', Kelly Clarkson doing 'It's Quiet Uptown', John Legend doing 'History Has Its Eyes On You', Chance The Rapper working on the reprise of 'Dear Theodosia', Regina Spektor and Ben Folds covering the regular 'Dear Theodosia', Ashanti doing 'Helpless' - which is such an obvious choice it's not even funny - Nas, Dave East, and Aloe Blacc working on 'Wrote My Way Out', Common and Ingrid Michaelson handling 'Who Tells Your Story' with The Roots - and The Roots are all over this project - and then add in a bonus track like 'Congratulations' with Dessa on it... at some point, you might as well give this project a spot on my year end list! I was primed to love this, and that meant I came in with the highest of expectations - were they paid off?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

video review: 'parts of speech' by dessa

Well, this one turned out quite good. Surprisingly good quality in the change of location.

Next up are the year end lists. Stay tuned!

album review: 'parts of speech' by dessa

Exactly one hundred video reviews ago, I talked about the debut album from Colette Carr called Skitszo - which, much to my surprise, actually turned out to be pretty decent. I mean, this was a white female rapper who pulled half of her inspiration from Eminem and the other half from the Spice Girls, it would make sense to expect questionable results. Fortunately for everyone, Colette Carr proved to a good performer, and Skitszo wasn't a half bad album.

But If that album highlighted anything, it only served to show how very few albums existed from female rappers, let alone ones that actually produced viable hits. And the sad fact is that it actively seems to be getting worse - at least in the late-90s and early 2000s we had acts like Missy Elliott and Lil Kim and Lauryn Hill who had mainstream success, but who can you say fills that role now? The only two that spring to mind is Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., with the former squandering her talent making increasingly bland luxury rap and the latter losing momentum in recent years.

Fortunately, there are still female rappers making music, and great music at that - unfortunately, they tend to be underground acts, and today, we're going to be talking about one that really caught me by surprise: Dessa, a member of the Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree. When she released her album Parts of Speech back in September, I initially passed it over (mostly because I was swamped in September), but after hearing some rave reviews and recommendations, I figured I should go back into her discography and get a feel for her music.

Man, I'm glad I did that, because Dessa is awesome. With a measured yet forceful flow, baroque-pop inspired production with a ton of flavour and texture, a superb singing voice, and strikingly intelligent lyrics, Dessa's first two records (that have significant overlap) A Badly Broken Code and Castor, The Twin were memorable and easily rose above the conventional topics in mainstream rap. And thus, I was kind of psyched to listen to her new album Parts of Speech - how did it turn out?