3. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs.
“My cushion was a bosom on bad days,
There’s not a black woman I can’t thank.”
spent most of 2018 listening to Earl’s angriest and most abrasive tracks, I
seen his angst as immortal. But then came ‘Some Rap Songs’, and during first
listen I realised the foundation of this record wasn’t gonna be frustration,
but instead gratitude.
having had no idea of who Keorapetse Kgositsile (his father), Cheryl Harris
(his mother) or Hugh Masekela (his uncle) were prior to this album, it amazed
me how Earl’s tributes to them could still evoke so many emotions within me. On
‘Playing Possum’, audio of an acceptance speech from his mother combined with
snippets of his father reciting his poem ‘Anguish Longer Than Sorrow’ creates a
posthumous dialogue between the two, even though Earl had the idea for the
track before his father’s death. Hearing this was a seriously surreal
experience, kind of similar to listening to David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ for the
“To my son
Thebe, cultural worker and student of life. Whose growth and insights inspire
me, a thousand kisses.” – Cheryl Harris.
this record, Earl details some of his darkest inner demons in a constant stream
of conscious flow. “Spent most of my life depressed, only thing on my mind was
death, didn’t know if my time was next” he raps on ‘Nowhere2go’, avoiding all
subtlety when it comes to this topic. As most of the messages on this album are
less subliminal than his previous two records, instead of admiring clever bars,
it’s his straightforward but nonetheless thoughtful insights that stand out to
me the most, such as “Mama said she used to see my father in me, said I was not
video by Bandstand (linked below) detailing Earl’s use of samples made me
appreciate the beats on Some Rap Songs even more. Using a sample of The
Ghostwriters’ gorgeous piano arrangement ‘Rococo Rondo’ to craft the piercing
and unnatural sounding ‘The Mint’ is a stroke of genius. Though it sounds
foreign, this track still has a strong spine to it, as some of the standout
instrumentals on this album don’t even have recognisable drum beats. The hazy,
hungover and uneasy ‘Peanut’ creates an atmosphere that hauntingly compliments
the themes of mental struggle Earl raps about. King Krule’s ‘A Slide In (New
Drugs)’ is the only other song that comes to mind when I think of this kind of
soundscape being done so well.
closes with ‘Riot!’, a tribute to his late uncle Hugh Masekela who was a
founding father of South African jazz. Earl chops up Hugh’s song of the same
name and leaves it in a stuttering but stunning state. The song is completely
instrumental, meaning the last words on the album are “My uncle Hugh” (heard at
the end of Peanut).
irony of ‘Some Rap Songs’ is the fact that these instrumentals do not seem like
songs at all. They seem more like little snippets of the atmosphere and the
environments that have shaped Earl into the person he is today. And listening
to that is an incredibly voyeuristic but meaningful experience.
that being said, this album really made me worry about Earl’s well-being. I
hope the release of ‘Some Rap Songs’ can be a release for Earl himself, a
weight off his shoulders. In 2018, the year Earl has described as “the toughest
one” yet, Earl’s seen the passing of both his father and his uncle, while also
having to deal with many more struggles that we don’t know about. I hope this
album has marked this stage of his life as over.
Every Sample from Some Rap Songs: https://youtu.be/RrrYQ3hQ-Ig
2. Melody’s Echo Chamber – Bon Voyage.
“So much blood on my hands and there’s not much left to destroy.”
Allbrook’s “just wanna shit all over myself when I die” spoken word passage
didn’t quite get top lyric I’m afraid. There’s probably even better lyrics
hidden in the record here somewhere but I sadly cannot understand the French
and Swedish passages.
it is, the most underrated album of the year. I cannot believe how little this
record featured on 2018 Album of the Year lists. Of the reviews I did read, it
seemed like the majority of them talked about either Kevin Parker or Melody’s
near-fatal accident more than the actual record itself. Well, that’ll be my
first and last mention of them both on this list, because ‘Bon Voyage’ is
brimming with so many ideas that I need all the space I can get to write about
the creativity on display here.
pretty hard to believe this album is 33 minutes long. On one hand, there is so
many transitions, subtleties and different genres weaved and blended into the
tracks that it feels like it has to be longer. There’s enough material here for
‘Bon Voyage’ to be well over 33 minutes if Melody wanted it to be. However,
it’s also because of this fast-paced flow that there is not one dull moment
here, meaning this album could also feel like the quickest 33 minutes of your
‘Bon Voyage’ opens with pure psychedelic bliss on the track ‘Cross My Heart’, with a 12 string guitar and it’s accompaniment being played in reverse. So far, this track wouldn’t sound completely out of place on her debut. Emphasis on “so far”. She makes it pretty obvious, pretty quickly that this album is gonna be as unpredictable as one from The Avalanches. It abruptly breaks down into a bizarre beatbox/flute solo showdown, followed by a passage of heavy guitar riffs that then escorts us to the outro of the track, where we’re left with just the same 12 string acoustic guitar that started us off. It is complex and clever song structures like this that make the album actually feel like a voyage. And a “Bon” one at that too. (That probably made no sense whatsoever… yikes)
voyage continues, we arrive at ‘Desert Horse’, a track that’s as desolate and
sparse as its title (well, for most of the track anyway). Melody gives the most
haunting, and in my opinion, the best vocal performance I’ve ever heard from
her. At the midway point, all instrumentation breaks down and we’re left with
silence. The only thing we can hear is Melody taking an important breath of
fresh air (considering the last track we listened to was about her difficulty
breathing). This calm may just be the eye of the storm though, as it’s
interrupted by an intruding guitar drone, a man screaming something in Swedish
and an unnaturally high pitched shriek in the background. Unpredictable
instrumentation and unsettling panned vocals close the track out.
Then comes what could very well be my song of the the year, ‘Quand Les Larmes D’un Ange Font Danser La Neige’. I’m a sucker for those extended drum fills that are being played for like 6 out of the 7 minutes of this track. I was the least surprised man on the planet when I found out it was the drummer from the prog-rock band Dungen (Johan Holmegard) who had performed this track. I love the way that even in this song’s most chaotic sections, while surrounded by an overwhelming atmosphere of guitars and constant crash cymbals, Melody is still just quietly whispering “angels aching” in your ear throughout the track.
album’s closer ‘Shirim’ starts off with this cool loop of middle eastern music
before being followed by this unusual distorted beat. I kinda wish this little
intro lasted longer/developed more as it’s quickly replaced by synth chords and
a simple snare drum beat. This is definitely the catchiest song on the record.
While it’s not as creative as the other tracks here, it’s made up for in really
Which leads me to the controversial opinion: I think the production on this album is better than her debut. It features more of what I’d consider the spirit of psychedelia: experimentation. Through instrumentation alone, there’s simply more emotions evoked within me on this album than there was with her 2012 release.
Melody’s recently stated in an interview with Pitchfork that “There is always music inside of me. Maybe I’ll let it [stay] in there for a while.” as she pursues other interests in life. I can’t fault her, as the 4 years it took to release this album were 4 years of seriously intense labour. When she eventually does come back with a follow up, I’m confident she’ll have a reserve of creativity from her endeavours in other walks of life
1. IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance.
“The mask of masculinity, is a mask,
A mask that’s wearing me.”
Do I have to spell it out for you? Well, I suppose I don’t have to, IDLES kind of do that for me. This album is “G-R-E-A-T”. I’m not sure if an album has ever changed my perspective on life and the attitude I have towards myself as much as this one right here.
When this album first came out, lyrics like “He’s made of love, he’s made of you, he’s made of me, unity!”, “Don’t you feel like crying? Come on, cry to me.” and “I love myself and I want to try” made me cringe. Even the word “cringe” is a massive cop-out. These lyrics made me uncomfortable. I could not relate to these lyrics one bit, and instead gravitated towards songs like ‘Never Fight a Man with a Perm’ or ‘Gram Rock’, which were grounded in hilarious one-liners. An example being:
“You look like a walking thyroid
You’re not a man you’re a gland
You’re one big neck with sausage hands”
I realised I was part of the problem of toxic masculinity and felt the same
loneliness that lyricist Joe Talbot had been feeling for most of his life. In an
interview with ITV, he describes the male facade of invulnerability as a
“severe dislocation within society” which has led to suicide being the highest
killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. This realisation was
That’s where the genius of IDLES truly lies. The violence and anger of their music is what will initially appeal to the listener, but a little seed of tolerance and humanity will be planted in the process. Eventually, it grows to the point where compassion is almost all you can hear in their music. These guys are so furiously positive! It’s such a bizarre paradox. For IDLES to shout “this is why you never see your father cry” to their angsty predominately-male punk audience, we know IDLES are not preaching to the choir. They are singing to the people (myself included) that desperately need to hear their message, in a similar vein to Fugazi singing the anti-rape track ‘Suggestion’ to a room full of men as opposed to a room full of women. This is what gives me the sense that what IDLES are doing right now is truly important.
But you don’t become someone’s album of the year through just a lyrical theme. Every member’s contribution to ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ is flawless. I’ve already said plenty about Joe’s lyrics, but his performance is so consistently powerful. The violence of his voice in ‘Never Fight a Man with a Perm’, the chaos of ‘Rottweiler’, and the anguish of ‘June’ is what brings the tracks to life. Then there’s Jon Beavis’ drumming on tracks like ‘Colossus’ or ‘Samaritans’ and all I can think is “this is how drums should sound”. Every snare hit sounds like a fucking gun shot. Dev’s bass is the spine of the album, keeping everything grounded while also giving the guitarists freedom. Having said that, when I think of ‘Danny Nedelko’ (probably the catchiest track on the record), it’s not Lee Kiernan’s memorable guitar riff that I think of first, it’s actually Dev’s bass line. Lee really does step it up on this album in terms of catchy riffs though, turning tracks like ‘Danny Nedelko’ and ‘I’m Scum’ into catchy Song of the Year contenders. And how could I forgot “The Irish Adonis”, Mark Bowen. His dancing alone is enough to warrant his place in the band, nevermind his guitar playing. He creates some of the harshest noises on the record and shows off true chemistry with Kiernan, complementing each other on “Joy” on the parts where they used to deliberately clash on their previous record ‘Brutalism’.
spewing out a big long list of compliments towards IDLES and ‘Joy as an Act of
Resistence’, I feel like I have to end this list with the biggest compliment I
can give to this record, and maybe the biggest compliment I could give to any
record. This album is brave.
cannot wait to see these guys in The Iveagh Gardens in July)
Other Album of the Year Contenders:
4. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
“Heading to the promised land, ruled by the masculine, tied to the country but we’re all from the motherland.”
5. Death Grips – Year of the Snitch
“Hanging out with Linda, I heard she’s in fucking custody”
6. Pusha T – DAYTONA
“Blew through thousands, we made millions, cocaine soldiers, once civilians”
7. Kali Uchis – Isolation
“My mama’s never on coke, this isn’t my way to cope, washin’ my mind out with soap”
8. Against All Logic – 2012-2017
“Boots and kats and boots and kats and boots and kats” (It’s a house record so I’m just gonna go with that as favourite lyric)
9. Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile
“Don’t wanna take my country back mate, I wanna take my country forward”
10. Yves Tumor – Safe in the Hands of Love
“Have you looked outside? I’m scared for my life, they don’t trust us”
Spotify Playlist of my 10 Favourite Songs of 2018: