Goodbye 2020: A lookback at some of our favourite albums
As January draws to a close; we look back at some of our favourite albums from 2020.
ELLIP - "Four Words"
Four Words is the debut album of Tallinn based musician Pille-Riin Karro, featuring Mikk Siemer (Nzea) on production. Trippy sampling, organic textures and glitchy drum beats with strong Jazz and Soul roots make up the album; and the results have a slightly 90s feel (think modern Massive Attack, Sneaker Pimps and others of this style) while overall possessing a rich meditative stillness.
Ellip’s voice can go from deliciously soulful, breaking in all the right places - to icy ethereal. Reverse sampling is a strong proponent in this album; opening on Shivers which fuses a dark sample in reverse paired with organic sampling, glitchy beat, with electronic elements that not only drive the song and give it a dark, intense energy; also adding an element of unpredictability, like it could take a different turn at any second.
Soul Food - which laments youth and times passed; features a tribal beat fused with jazz elements. Four Words is a treat for your ears and mind.
Arvo Party - "Inheritance"
For a lot of music lovers, music transports our minds to another realm; or conjures up images associated with the music we are hearing. This is especially true of sound design; as one of ambient sound design’s main applications is that of accompanying images; and enhancing or emulating these visual worlds. However - when done well - these ambient soundscapes as standalones can create vivid imagery and sensations all by themselves.
The truly astounding album from Belfast based Arvo Party (Herb Magee) is one of these - in which the soundscapes are designed and composed so well that they represent specific, live organic landscapes and places. We were lucky enough to interview earlier on the year re - his setup, see here.
Inheritance was created mixing found sounds with electronic elements; which results in an ambient jungle of lush soundscapes - which at times morphs and shifts into something slightly otherwordly.
The introductory track Abcz is a rich, soothing and relaxing wall - creating the sensation of a memory near the ocean. Kyoto which is centered around early 90s trip hop drums is one of our favorite tracks from 2020; as it takes something familiar and shifts it slightly so that it almost at times sounds like it is taking place in a hostile, slightly alien landscape.
Róisín Murphy - "Róisín Machine"
A luxuriously synthesized, intergalactic trip into deep space - teleporting you to another dimension no matter where you are.
One of our favourite albums from this year - Róisín Machine is the 5th studio album by the Irish singer. Enlisting the talents of long time collaborator Richard Barratt (aka DJ Parrot or Crooked Man) and engineer/musician Fat Dave; whose talents were enlisted on the track that spawned the album (Simulation); on which he plays rhythm guitar and the electric piano section (the e-piano section being from Kontakt-5)
Simulation is the opening track on the album; which begins like an Old Hollywood Sci-Fi movie; with a slightly mournful, old school orchestral string section (bringing to mind Murphy standing on a barren desert on another planet, wearing a otherworldly galactic gown) before descending into deep space disco. Shellfish Mademoiselle is a masterful fusion of electronic/house/pop that sounds like it is from both the 90s and the early 2000s.
From here the exotic and other dimensional exploration continues - and this album is your portal.
Gemma Dunleavy - "Up De Flats"
This EP initially began as a documentary; created in partnership with Dr. Martens Presents ( a platform that supports independent artists in pursuing creative ventures) , before morphing into the conceptual EP released in 2020.
Documentaries transport you to a place in the past; as they capture vivid images of people, places and the feeling of that time. This documentary element is very much alive in the EP; the feeling of this time period, the soul and character of the community it is about as vivid as any visual work.
The Dublin based producer and singer not only possesses an impeccable ear for songwriting and production; her lyrics fuse centuries old storytelling with heavenly choruses.
Up De Flats is a dreamy UK Garage/Rnb track which sounds like a flashback to a warm, blue skyed memory. A harp ripples over the beat, with vocal chops and samples; Gemma’s vocals and lyrics generate a clear image of a place she loves; all with the gentle haze of memory.
Cruisin transports you to the early - mid 2000s with it’s R&b - guitar licks and the glittering harps.
Watch the video on the EP here:
Shygirl - "ALIAS"
Nothing floored me more than the creepy and relentlessly banging SLIME, taken from the UK artist’s incredible EP ALIAS. Fused with Shygirl’s incredibly skilled flow (that seems almost indifferent, but reveals a viciousness under the surface) ALIAS is a fusion of industrial glitchy hip-hop, electronic and trippy dance.
Phoebe Katis - "It’s OK To Cry"
I had the pleasure of seeing Phoebe playing live in Cyprus Avenue in Cork,opening for Cory Wong at the start of 2020
It’s Ok To Cry features truly luxurious harmonies, amazing arrangements of Neo-Soul keys - and is a burst of joy and humanity. Ranging from delicious Neo-Soul to 90s influenced pop (as heard on Placebo) This is what you need in order to lift your spirits, remind yourself that it is OK to be human. If you are curious about her process and her sound, we interviewed her about her setup earlier this year.
Shabrang is the second studio album from Dutch - Iranian artist Sevdaliza;which is a mix of eerie RnB, trip-hop, trap, art pop and Persian music. The songs have a poetic and parable-esque quality to them - creating a chilling and alluring soundscape, paired with her haunting vocals.
Each song on this album slowly builds - each containing a sense of dark stillness and foreboding; which creates a feeling of these songs being from an ancient time passed; yet still sounding current. Let yourself be consumed.
Craic Boi Mental - "Craic Magic"
Released in October 2020 - Craic Magic was produced, written and performed by the Cork artist/producer.
Since going viral with Polos is Life in 2017 - Craci Boi Mental has enticed people with his luxuriously chilled and melodic hip-hop beats and masterful hook writing. All of this is present in Craic Magic; mixed in with the vocal chopping/sampling styles of classic Hip-Hop ( as heard in Matter of Time)
Magical, glittering 90s textures and melancholy Hip-Hop beats all come together to form an album that possesses all of the best qualities of Craic Boi Mental.
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