The 15 Best Live Performance Videos of 2017

 
Our year-end coverage continues here, with the 2nd annual installment of the best live performance clips of year. We already covered the best songs of 2017, and check back here for the best albums of 2017, coming soon.

Before proceeding, I want to give quick honorable mentions to both Moses Sumney’s and Jay Som’s exquisite Tiny Desk Concerts, the War on Drugs owning the stage in Amsterdam with an epic version of “Under the Pressure,” and Rae Sremmurd bringing energy to the Ellen Degeneres Show and making white people dance in hilariously awkward fashion to “Black Beatles.”

Alright, let’s go.

15. Japanese Breakfast (NPR Music: Tiny Desk Concert)
Michelle Zauner went atmospheric on her newest album, but all the production is absent during her Tiny Desk Concert. Zauner brings in a string quartet to help round out her arrangements, which are emotionally resonant and deeply beautiful.

 

14. Slowdive: “Sugar for the Pill” (NPR Music: Field Recordings)
Slowdive, who came back in 2017 to release their first album in 22 years, inhabit the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Brooklyn to play “Sugar for the Pill.” They have no trouble filling the large, empty space with their dreamy soundscapes.

 

13. Anderson .Paak: “Am I Wrong” (Live on Ellen)
In January, the human ball of talent named Anderson .Paak stopped by the Ellen Degeneres Show to play “Am I Wrong” from one of last year’s best albums, Mailbu. Paak sings, dances, hypes, jumps, and plays drums tremendously, and then tops it off by bringing his cute son to bust some moves at the end.

 

12. Bon Iver: “8 (circle)” (La Blogotheque: One to One)
All Justin Vernon needs is a guitar and an echoey room to enthrall just about anyone (emphasis on the “one”). In a new series from La Blogotheque called “One to One,” artists play a song for just one person. Here, Vernon plays a stripped-down version of “8 (circle)” from last year’s anything-but-stripped-down album, 22, A Million. Watching him bare his musical soul to one person seated inches away is a bit awkward, I’m not going to lie. But the unimaginable beauty of Vernon’s voice and guitar makes it worth it.

 

11. Mac Demarco: “Still Beating” & “This Old Dog” (La Blogotheque: A Take Away Show)
La Blogotheque has recorded their “Take Away Shows,” where artists play in unconventional settings in and around Paris, for about a decade now. My favorite offering from them this year was by the eminently chill Mac Demarco. Demarco takes his acoustic guitar on a cloudy stroll through a noisy park, complete with kids playing and yelling, birds chirping, sirens blaring, and multiple French dudes hilariously deciding it was a good idea to talk to/sing at him while recording, which Demarco engages with affably. Even through the funny distractions, the beauty and intimacy of his introspective songs still shine through.

 

10. Frank Ocean: “Nikes (Rehearsal)” (Live from Frank’s Tumblr)
Frank Ocean’s voice is the eighth wonder of the world. The noted recluse finally released his amazing, long-awaited follow-up album Blonde last year, which featured the trippy, almost psychedelic opening track “Nikes.” Luckily for us, Ocean decided to post a video to his Tumblr of him rehearsing the track, with nothing but an electric piano to back him. His voice soars and swoons. There’s no auto-tune or studio trickery to improve it — it’s just there, bare and emotive, conveying the weariness inside of him with every note.

 

9. Alabama Shakes; Nas (PBS: American Epic Sessions)
PBS recently produced a series that explores music in the early 20th century, when folk and blues artists were being discovered by major labels. T Bone Burnett and Jack White used the only recording system still working from the 1920s to capture modern artists covering old blues standards, resulting in the “American Epic Sessions.” Alabama Shakes come in to play a bouncy, delightful rendition of “Killer Diller,” satisfyingly pleasing in its historical accuracy. Nas then does a fun hip-hop-style cover of “On the Road Again,” originally by the Memphis Jug Band in 1928. Watch the Alabama Shakes clip followed by the Nas clip (along with narration) below.

 

8. Hurray for the Riff Raff: “Rican Beach” & “Pa’lante” (Live at SXSW)
The talent of Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra cannot be overstated. She writes songs that are both musically engaging and lyrically powerful, and has a stellar bluesy voice. Segarra brings the heat on “Rican Beach,” a song dripping in sweat that tackles gentrification: “Well you can take my life, but don’t take my home.” She really brings it home on “Pa’lante,” which already sounds like a ’70s standard even though it just came out this year. Starting out as a somewhat slow piano ballad, it eventually builds steam until it hits you in the gut.

 

7. Spoon: “I Ain’t the One” (Live on KEXP)
Spoon stopped by the KEXP studios in Seattle to play “I Ain’t the One,” a cinematic, brooding, extremely cool song from their latest album. The track’s intensity lends itself to soundtracking some legendary slow-motion movie scene. Throughout the song, Britt Daniel motions to whoever controls the sound to make certain instruments louder or softer — at first, good-naturedly, but then you can sense his exasperation at not getting the sound levels just right. Even though the situation is clearly annoying him a little bit, he’s a great multitasker, because he still delivers his vocal performance with tenacity and passion.

 

6. Sampha (NPR Music: Tiny Desk Concert)
All of the clips on this list are amazing, but not all of them feature perfect singing. Even some of the best singers falter once or twice in a live setting. Sampha’s voice, however, is perfect. And not only is it perfect, but it’s unique. No one in the world sounds like Sampha. The singer-songwriter from south London comes to the NPR Music offices to enchant us with powerful songs from his latest album, with the spare and gorgeous “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” (a top 5 song of the year!) as the centerpiece.

 

5. Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, & Nico Muhly: “Mercury” (NPR Music: Field Recordings)
Sufjan Stevens has been on a tear ever since releasing the best album of 2015, what with the live album, the B-sides and outtakes album, and, most notably, his team-up with Bryce Dessner of the National, classical music composer Nico Muhly, and drummer James McAllister to record an album about the solar system called Planetarium. NPR Music recorded the Planetarium group playing “Mercury” at an NYC studio, and it is simply gorgeous. The four elements — piano, viola, electric guitar, and Sufjan’s ethereal voice — combine to form a full-sounding, picture-perfect blend of classical, folk, and post-rock that is glorious to behold.

 

4. Chance the Rapper: “How Great” & “All We Got” (Live at the Grammys)
Chance the Rapper’s star is rising fast, recently hosting SNL, appearing on Sesame Street, and playing at President Obama’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the end of last year (while Sasha mouthed every word). Back in February, Mr. The Rapper played at the Grammys and absolutely killed it. It takes a special ability to command attention from such a large audience, both in person and through the TV, but Chance succeeds with his intensity and earnest desire to reach out and uplift (not to mention, his incredible backup gospel choir).

I was able to find the performance divided into three parts on YouTube — below, you’ll find Parts 1, 2, and 3 of the four and a half minute performance. If you want to listen to the whole thing uninterrupted, here’s audio of it. I recommend watching it though for the full effect.

 

3. Lorde (Live at Electric Lady Studios)
Lorde is one of the most interesting, compelling pop stars we have. She has an energy that is entirely captivating, making it hard to look away when she’s performing. Lorde recorded a series of intimate performances at the legendary Electric Lady Studios in New York — each of the six videos feature a stripped down version of a track from Lorde’s oustanding new album, Melodrama. All of the songs are presented in a unique way and they each sound incredible, enhanced by Lorde’s visible passion amid the candle light. My favorites are “Sober,” “Homemade Dynamite,” and “Supercut,” though they are all excellent. Watch a playlist of the videos below, starting with “Sober.”

 

2. Tuxedo (NPR Music: Tiny Desk Concert)
Live music is enticing when it either demonstrates skill, poignancy, fun, or some combination of the three. Tuxedo’s Tiny Desk Concert falls squarely in the “fun” category, though not without some obvious skill as well. Mayer Hawthorne (a D-Brad Music favorite) and Jake One, the duo that make up Tuxedo, assembled a mini-band to play their late-’70s/early-’80s-era funk and it’s extremely enjoyable. Of all the pleasing moments (including a button that goes “HO!” and the realization that a cassette is playing the drum beats), my favorite is during the chorus of “2nd Time Around,” when Hawthorne and backup singer Gavin Turek break out their simple but synchronized dance moves. It’s awesome to see them clearly having such a good time.

 

1. HAIM: Valentine (Short Film, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
HAIM teams up with with the illustrious film director Paul Thomas Anderson — the brain behind some of my all-time favorite movies, including There Will Be Blood and this year’s Phantom Thread — to deliver a stunning portrait of a talented band at work. Anderson captures HAIM in the studio performing three songs off their recent sophomore album: “Right Now,” “Something to Tell You,” and “Nothing’s Wrong.” He uses very few shots, opting for long takes where the camera moves about the studio, training its lens on each member of the band in turns. But though Anderson should be commended for the way he captures the band, the three Haim sisters are the stars of the show. Their playing is impressively taut, their voices (especially that of lead singer Danielle Haim) are incredible, and their overall musical prowess is immediately apparent. Every drum hit, every guitar lick, every vocal line sounds crisp and fresh, authentic and vibrant.

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Five Quality Tracks: February 2017

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1. Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean & Migos: “Slide”

You guys, this song is really good. Calvin Harris, the electro-dance producer (and recent Taylor Swift flame), decided to team up with two completely different artists in the introspective and ingenious soul-singer Frank Ocean, and Atlanta trap-rap kings Migos, who are currently basking in the spotlight with their chart-topping single “Bad and Boujee.” “Slide” features an unexpected collision of worlds, but it ultimately works in the best possible way. Harris’s silky, shimmery beat is an immediate earworm — I can already picture it setting the mood for some laid-back July barbecues.

Frank Ocean is the song’s anchor, and I love when he drops the pitched-up “I might!” during the verses as the beat drops out. But my favorite part is the verse by Offset, one of the two “Migos” that appear. His fast flow punches the track up a notch, bringing it from “really good” to “great.”

I was a fan the first time I heard “Slide,” and my love for the song has only grown each time I’ve listened. Now we don’t have to wring our hands over what the 2017 “Song of the Summer” will be. We have it locked in, everybody can go home.

 
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Best Albums of 2016

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With the gradual proliferation of streaming services and curated playlists, for a while it didn’t look likely that the “album” format would survive. Yet here we are, at a time where the biggest pop stars are releasing cohesive, fully developed ALBUMS, in capital letters. I will always have a soft spot for the album as a concept, whether contained on discs of vinyl or within links to Spotify pages. Smash hits lie alongside deep cuts to form one 30-70 minute statement reflecting the artist’s pain and joy, their view of the world, their quest to express the words in their head and the riffs in their gut. Here are my 25 favorite albums of 2016.

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Five Quality Tracks: August 2016 (+ July 2016)

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The transition from July to August brought vacations and final exams and a LOT to do, so apologies for no previous July edition of Five Quality Tracks. But never fear — after going over the five tracks from August, we’ll double back to July and make up for lost time with five additional tracks.
 
AUGUST

1. Frank Ocean: “Self Control”

Frank is back! It’s hard to believe this actually happened. I still can’t shake the feeling that we’re all living a fever dream and Frank Ocean’s two new albums (yes, two new albums!) will be yanked away from us when we wake up. But my iTunes still has 35 more Frank Ocean songs than it did a couple weeks ago, so it’s real!

Two days after releasing a “visual album” called Endless (a project largely full of vignettes and a smattering of really good, but also really short ideas), Ocean released Blonde, his proper follow-up to channel ORANGE. As a whole, Blonde floats along with less immediacy and fewer hooks than channel ORANGE, but it washes over you with ambient moments of unadulterated beauty, punctuated by bursts of brilliance. “Self Control” can be classified as one of those “bursts.”

On “Self Control,” Ocean opens with a jarring chipmunk effect on his voice before going into his gorgeous, raw croon over a rhythmic electric guitar groove. Ocean’s ability to create a thick, fully realized atmosphere in the studio is enough to put him in the upper echelon of songwriters, but then he has that extraordinary voice to go on top of it. He’s a talented dude.

The song then gives way to an absolutely stunning chorus of Franks singing “I I I know you gotta leave leave leave.” It’s the kind of thing that makes you stop in your tracks and pause to take in the beauty.

Frank is back. Let’s enjoy it.

 
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D-Brad Music’s Best Albums of 2012

Tame Impala, just ruminating on their epic year

Tame Impala, just ruminating on their epic year

2012 is long gone, but the music lives on. Relive it right here. Luckily for us, music never gets old. Well, okay, when you hear Rihanna telling you to shine bright like a diamond YET AGAIN, then it does get old. But I promise, you’re going to like this stuff.

Singles have taken over for albums as the most important musical medium, with our download-heavy culture now, but there will always be something special about the ‘album.’ The cover, the track order, the high points and low points all contribute to its character.

Notice that each entry has a Spotify link, along with YouTube links to three key tracks from the album. Kick back and enjoy.


25. First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar
Spotify
Key Tracks: Emmylou | The Lion’s Roar | Blue
This Swedish female duo hit it big after covering Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, quickly showing the world their innate knack for bone-chilling harmonies. The Lion’s Roar is full of mountainous, pastoral folk rock for your next jaunt in the wilderness.


24. Jack White – Blunderbuss
Spotify
Key Tracks: Freedom at 21 | Sixteen Saltines | Love Interruption
The mastermind behind the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather finally released his first solo album. Some of it rocked, some of it burned slow, but overall, it was a solid effort.


23. Melody’s Echo Chamber – Melody’s Echo Chamber
Spotify
Key Tracks: I Will Follow You | Mount Hopeless | Quand Vas Tu Rentrer?
Everything about this album, from the cover to the sound effects, scream 1967. The Summer of Love vibe is thick on this debut album from French singer Melody Prochet, produced by Tame Impala mastermind Kevin Parker. Personal favorite: “Mount Hopeless.”


22. Titus Andronicus – Local Business
Spotify
Key Tracks: In A Big City | Still Life With Hot Deuce and Silver Platter | My Eating Disorder
Despite what many perceive as a failure to live up to their previous album, The Monitor, Titus Andronicus rocks hard on Local Business. My personal favorite track is “My Eating Disorder,” an 8-minute epic with harmonizing guitars that hearken back to Judas Priest.


21. Kishi Bashi – 151A
Spotify
Key Tracks: Bright Whites | Manchester | I Am the Antichrist to You
Kishi Bashi wins the award for most underrated album of the year. It didn’t get a lot of attention, but it won the hearts of those that listened to it. You may have heard his single “Bright Whites,” but check out the whole album, beautifully orchestrated and carefully crafted. If anything, I encourage you to check out “Manchester”: “Will you be mine? I haven’t felt this alive in a long time.”


20. Ty Segall – Twins
Spotify | YouTube
Key Tracks: The Hill | Thank God for the Sinners | Gold On the Shore
Ty Segall, the garage rock hero from San Francisco via Laguna Beach, is a workaholic. He released three albums this year. Yeah, three. His solo effort, Twins, is a consistent and worthy addition to his catalog, full of blistering riffs mixed with more subdued melodies.


19. Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action At a Distance
Spotify
Key Tracks: Strangers | Eveningness | Remember Our Days
Lockett Pundt, the brainchild behind Lotus Plaza and guitarist for Deerhunter, kind of slipped this album in under the radar, but it won me over with its subtle beauty. Every track is hypnotic, understated, and downright appealing. “Remember Our Days” is one of my favorite songs of the year, perfect accompaniment for introspective. The shimmering guitar riff of “Eveningness” and looping guitars and snare drums of “Strangers” are highlights.


18. Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits
Spotify
Key Tracks: My Love is Real | Would That Not Be Nice | Like Ice Cream
Britt Daniel of Spoon is a beast. Everything he does is gold. His voice is pure rock n’ roll. That’s why everything about his new project Divine Fits, along with members of Wolf Parade and New Bomb Turks, was a shot of swagger and awesomeness. This is what a rock record should sound like. Just listen to that slinking bass line in “Would That Not Be Nice.”


17. Allah-Las – Allah-Las
Spotify
Key Tracks: Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind) | Catamaran | Busman’s Holiday
Allah-Las conjure images of breezy beaches and good times with the greatest of ease. Many bands strive to capture the beach aura, but few are as effective and chill as these guys.


16. The Tallest Man On Earth – There’s No Leaving Now
Spotify
Key Tracks: Revelation Blues | Wind and Walls | To Just Grow Away
Kristian Matsson, the Swede known as the Tallest Man on Earth, is the master of acoustic ballads, complete with nasally Bob Dylan-esque voice. On his third album, There’s No Leaving Now, Matsson continues his consistent run of excellent albums, adding a bit of unique production techniques on this one.


15. Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself
Spotify
Key Tracks: Give it Away | Desperation Breeds | Lusitania
Andrew Bird takes the cake for the smartest and most talented guy on this list. A violoin virtuoso with a perfect singing voice, Bird captivates with his poignant songwriting. Personal favorite: “Sifters”, in which he wonders what would happen if he and his lover were born in different eras. “What if we hadn’t been born at the same time / What if you were 75 and I were 9?”


14. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse
Spotify
Key Tracks: Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart | I Bought My Eyes | Wave Goodbye
Remember how I was talking about that workaholic kid from Laguna? This is him, again. Complete with backing band. The hardest garage rock out there.


13. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
Spotify
Key Tracks: Do You… | Adorn | Use Me
Miguel rode the wave of an invigorated R&B scene (see: Frank Ocean, How to Dress Well, “Climax” by Usher, etc.). Although Miguel didn’t reach the popular heights of Frank Ocean, Miguel’s burst onto the scene was in many ways, just as good. “Adorn” is as sexy as it gets. “Do You…” is as catchy as it gets. Not a bad track on this whole album.


12. Chromatics – Kill For Love
Spotify | Soundcloud
Key Tracks: Kill For Love | Lady | Back From the Grave
Chromatics was originally slated to score the movie Drive with Ryan Gosling. Although that didn’t work out, their 2012 album Kill For Love caught me by surprise. I’ve said this a million times before, but it’s perfect for a night drive. Perfect. The mild electronic beats and melodies come in waves, breaking you away from the hypnotic calm moments.


11. Beach House – Bloom
Spotify
Key Tracks: Lazuli | Myth | Other People
Bloom picks up where Teen Dream left off in 2010, improving upon Beach House’s excellent formula. The climactic moments of Bloom, such as at the end of “Lazuli,” are breathtaking. Every chorus on every song brings a huge payoff – you can’t wait to hear it and you never want it to end.


10. The xx – Coexist
Spotify
Key Tracks: Chained | Angels | Sunset
It would have been a supremely daunting task to improve upon xx, the group’s 2009 debut. Instead of building on that album, the xx decided to take a step back and create an even more minimalistic album. Many saw the album as boring, disappointing, a “sophomore slump.” Those assessments are simply incorrect. Coexist is not as exciting as xx, but it is just as beautiful, if not more so. Melodies meander by, simply but impressively. The production shimmers as the two lead singers breathily sing tales of despair. Just check out this stripped down live version of “Fiction”. Amazing.


9. The Walkmen – Heaven
Spotify
Key Tracks: We Can’t Be Beat | Heaven | Line By Line
The boys of the Walkmen have toned it down considerably since their marquee single from 10 years ago, “The Rat”. They’ve grown up and had kids, and their sound reflects it. There is so much introspection and beauty on this one record. “We Can’t Be Beat” contain a pensive acoustic guitar, along with harmonies from Fleet Foxes’ frontman Robin Pecknold. And “Line by Line” is perfect soundtrack for a sunrise (or sunset) over the trees.


8. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
Spotify
Key Tracks: Gun Has No Trigger | Offspring Are Blank | Dance For You
I’ve always thought of Dirty Projectors’ music as excellent accompaniment for a modern art museum. It’s weird and abstract, but still appeals to your emotions. Swing Lo Magellan is the most normal record they’ve ever made though. There’s more meaning and feeling then ever before. Crazy sound effects and unbelievable random bouts of harmony still color the album, but there’s something there under it: heart.


7. Grizzly Bear – Shields
Spotify
Key Tracks: Sleeping Ute | Yet Again | Gun-Shy
“It remains difficult to relate to Grizzly Bear’s lyrics, but Shields’ skillful display of studio wizardry more than makes up for it. Grizzly Bear expertly combine the cerebral, technically tricky art-rock of Dirty Projectors with the pleasant folk harmonies and lush arrangements of Fleet Foxes. We get the best of both worlds — a psychedelic mish-mash of unique song structures, intricate ornamentation and beautiful vocals. Finding this terrain where abstract experimentalism meets catchy melodies can often be elusive, but Grizzly Bear roam across it with confidence. Opener “Sleeping Ute” epitomizes this convergence, featuring varying time signatures and stop-and-go tempos, providing a backdrop to a meandering but captivating melody. Fascinating instrumental flourishes abound — the bass tone on “Gun-Shy” or the flutelike synth line on “A Simple Answer.” And “Yet Again” could very well be the best song the band has ever written, with its swirling, ornate production and founding member Ed Droste’s impeccable melody.” –Daily Californian Review


6. The Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth
Spotify
Key Tracks: White Cedar | Lakeside View Apartments Suite | The Diaz Brothers
I’ll be honest, John Darnielle and the Mountain Goats blew me away with this record. I’ve always been interested in Darnielle and his incredible ability to churn out copious amounts of amazing songs, but this is the first album by him that really, truly connected with me. I’ll start saying this about every remaining album on the list, because that’s what happens as we approach #1, but dude: every song is good. The chorus and bass line on “Lakeside View Apartments Suite” is catchy, “Cry For Judas” is amazing, and the powerful refrain of “Amy a.k.a. Spent Gladiator” reverberates: “JUST STAY ALIVE.”


5. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Spotify
Key Tracks: The House That Heaven Built | Younger Us | Fire’s Highway
When Japandroids are firing on all cylinders, there’s no stopping them. Their heart-thumping, fist-pumping brand of rock and roll makes you feel alive. I can’t even begin to describe the excitement that results from listening to “The Nights of Wine and Roses” in the car on a Friday night with endless possibilities ahead. The formula for Japandroids is simple but potent. Give way to your inhibitions and “give me younger us.”


4. Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory
Spotify
Key Tracks: Stay Useless | Cut You | Separation
Attack On Memory came out of nowhere. Cloud Nothings were a pop punk band with nothing very unique to offer on their debut, but then came blistering through the music scene with their sophomore album, completely changing their sound (thanks in part to longtime Nirvana producer Steve Albini). This was by far one of the most consistent releases of the year. Every track is awesome. “Wasted Days” is incredible, “Stay Useless” is catchy, and “No Future / No Past” is absolutely punishing. The intersection of grunge, punk, pop, and garage thrashing never sounded so invigorating.


3. Tame Impala – Lonerism
Spotify
Key Tracks: Elephant | Feels Like We Only Go Backwards | Mind Mischief
“Do not listen to Lonerism on your Macbook’s weak speakers. It will be like viewing a Van Gogh through a screen door. No, you need some headphones — or even better, some car speakers, so Tame Impala can soundtrack your modern-day magical mystery tour. On the second album from Kevin Parker’s psych throwback band Tame Impala, released in October, John Lennon is present in the vocals, Led Zeppelin in the riffs and Pink Floyd in the trippy wordplay. But no band has combined those elements as effectively as these Australian phenoms. Lonerism is heavy on reverb, fat bass tones and wobbly synths. Listen to it a few times so the swirling nuances can wash over you. When it sinks in, it doesn’t leave.” –Daily Californian Review.


2. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city
Spotify
Key Tracks: Swimming Pools (Drank) | Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst | The Art of Peer Pressure
good kid, m.A.A.d. city is undeniably the best hip-hop album since Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It’s a masterpiece. The production is smooth and varied, Kendrick’s flow is infectious, and the lyrics paint a vivid picture of growing up in Compton. Every single track has something to offer, whether it be the ominous foreboding beat of “Swimming Pools (Drank),” the silky verse from Drake on “Poetic Justice,” the tales of youthful indiscretion on “The Art of Peer Pressure,” the epic closing to “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” or that Beach House sample on “Money Trees.” Ya bish.


1. Frank Ocean – Channel ORANGE
Spotify
Key Tracks: Thinkin’ Bout You | Forrest Gump | Pyramids
The year 2012 will be remembered as the year of Frank Ocean. He made a splash in a huge way. But here’s the thing: when you strip away all the backstory and the narrative associated with Ocean’s character, you’re still left with a stunning album in Channel ORANGE. Even if Ocean was the most boring and conventional dude on the planet, Channel ORANGE would still dazzle with its range, production, content, depth, and ambition.

Here’s what I said in my Daily Californian review: As Ocean’s perfect croon soaks into the soul on “Thinkin’ Bout You,” it is impossible not to reflect on all of Ocean’s qualities. He’s an immensely talented, creative, good-looking, up-and-coming pop star, but out of all the things going for him, his greatest asset is still his voice. Honestly, those vocal chords could be the eighth wonder of the world. Channel ORANGE is like a swim through a vast sea of swirling currents and serene beauty. With every gorgeous vocal flourish, Ocean’s tales of isolation and lost love burrow into your being. His soothing, pitch-perfect voice is enough to elevate him to stardom, but it’s his ear for sonic beauty and mind for lyrical boldness that carry him to greatness.