"Where did you go to end up right back here? When did you start to forget how to fly?"
Simple yet powerful, "Same Drugs" from Chance the Rapper’s 3rd Mixtape is hauntingly relatable. Presented as an abstract anecdote from Chance’s personal life, the song describes the ebb and flow of relationships and growing up that is nostalgic of a simpler time. And the rest of the album continues on the same brilliant path, often times feeling like the collective wisdom of hip hop has culminated to this moment. It’s one of those rare works that demands your attention and has it (almost) the entire way through.
2. All Night - Beyoncé - Lemonade
"With every tear came redemption, and my torturer became my remedy."
Beyoncé wears many hats in Lemonade, this year’s most critically acclaimed and talked about album. In her interpretation of the final stage of grief, Beyoncé challenges what Redemption means in "All Night", the ballad that we have been waiting for from Queen Bee since "Halo". Described as her favorite on the album, "All Night" is the most lyrically impressive as it treads on the most familiar territory for Beyoncé: Love. In an album full of eclectic emotions, this song is the most emotional, pulling the heart strings of all listeners, new and old. In the wake of infidelity and darkness, Beyoncé escapes in "All Night" in the most beautiful way.
3. Never Be Like You - Flume (Feat. Kai) - Skin
"I would give anything to change this fickle minded heart that loves fake shiny things"
In his sophomore Attempt, Flume ventures from the Electronic music that once made him popular. This is introduced to us in the form of "Never Be Like You": a wonderful marriage of Trap effects and ambient sounds that epitomizes what we love about EDM in 2016. With the help of unique vocals from Canadian EDM vet Kai, "Never Be Like You" explores self - destruction and loss, heavy themes for electronic music. The rest of the album has not yet dropped, but is highly anticipated. If the whole work of Skin is anything like "Never be Like You", EDM fans will be in for quite a treat.
4. Burn the Witch - Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
"This is a low flying Panic Attack"
Staccato Strings and vicious energy are at the genesis of Radiohead’s cautionary tale "Burn the Witch" and everyone is immediately drawn in. As its title suggests, "Burn the Witch" paints a picture of mass hysteria and authoritarianism, a history our country has trouble owning. Although unintentionally political, Radiohead succeeds in their first release in 5 years at being just as strong with metaphor as they are musically. The piece comes to an exciting end with Thom Yorke chanting in vibrant falsetto "We know where you live", reminding us all the ever growing talent of this great rock band.
5. Untitled 08 | 09.06.2014 - Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered
"In today’s day and age we practice the self-pity of taking the easy way out."
"Why so sad?" Kendrick asks as he laments in Untitled 08 about coming ahead in the face of adversity. Like many Kendrick Lamar songs before, Untitled 08 is racially and socially driven often touching on the financial struggles and tribulations of the black community. Although sad in content, the music is very alive with pounding drum beats and major key, reminiscent of To Pimp a Butterfly’s "King Kunta". Untitled Unmastered often feels more like a mixtape than just a release of previously unreleased Kendrick Lamar demos, but that is exactly what is special about him; all of his music exists in his world and we are just living in it.
6. Timeless - James Blake - The Colour in Anything
"You know you slide out when you slide in with graceful shadow."
James Blake has had a busy year so far, dropping a surprise album, being on another surprise album (Lemonade. Song: Forward), and continuing to innovate electronic music. The peak of this on the album is in the song "Timeless", a hauntingly beautiful song that is harder and harder to digest the more and more you consume it. The lack of a definitive beat and excess of ambiance make "Timeless" one of the best songs to drop this year. The more we listen to James Blake, the more we yearn for him and his uniquely unexpected sound.