It’s that time once again, as the countdown to the end of 2016 quickly approaches we take a personal look back on familiar names, features and musicians’ best releases of the past 12 months. In what has been a crazy year of highs and lows it’s the releases that have pulled a lot of people through the year. Now in it’s 6th year, Circuit Sweet will be hosting takeovers from the featured artists/musicians/labels and promoters of the site with their personal top 5 releases of the year.
Our annual end of year tradition is where we let our favourites take over the site to tell us the records that have made their end of year lists, their favourite events/gigs and what we can look forward to from them next year.
Our next take over comes from our dear friend Josh Lamdin. With his talents known for multiple projects, Josh is known on Circuit Sweet for his work in JIAL, drummer for Aulos, guitarist for Last Tree Squad and his work as a producer. The Herefordshire based multi-instrumentalist has had a rewarding year working on his new efforts in JIAL and this month dropping his first music video for track ‘Life on Hold’. Everything Josh works on soon becomes a masterpiece- his craft and his dedicated efforts to his music always impress us. We hand over to Josh to find out more about his year in music..
Clipping – Splendor & Misery
At just 38 minutes long the group manage to take the listener on a very complete and literal journey. Sonically and thematically Splendor & Misery is, I believe, Clipping’s most cohesive and creative work yet. The album is a Sci Fi, Afro futurist story, set aboard a spaceship commandeered by main character and cargo escapee #2331. Each track feeds into the next developing the story, through a blend of Hip Hop, Gospel and electronics glued together with Clipping’s brand of noise and found sound. With much of the instrumentation throughout the record made to sound like it’s coming from the spaceship itself, tracks like Baby Don’t Sleep and Wake Up show the group at their darkest. While the songs more comparable to Clipping’s earlier work like Air Em Out or A Better Place, being more hook driven and typical in structure, still stand with the feel of the rest of the album and make for enjoyable lifts through the insanity. Between Digg’s detailed lyrics, versatile flow and the attention to story telling, this album reminded me heavily of what I enjoyed in the original Deltron 3030 record but musically quite distant, much darker and more experimental.
Solange – A Seat At The Table
Beautiful vocals, creative arrangements and sharp song writing from start to finish. Much of the music is subtle but rich and feels very live. The rhythm section creating a solid bed of funk and soul grooves, accompanied by piano and often layered with dusty, gentle synthesisers, while songs like Don’t You Wait subtly bring in more electronic elements. Certainly every song on the album features gorgeous performances by Solange, lyrically portraying themes and emotions of Black identity and the complexity of race in America. The short interludes serving to illustrate some of these experiences and introduce the next song from a personal perspective, such as before Mad, where we hear from Solange’s father. The concept is consistently carried and expanded from one song to the next creating what feels like a very intentional and uplifting arc to the record. Between all this, some of the most interesting and sweetest backing vocals orchestration I’ve heard (loads of ideas for mixing), and the very tasteful production, A Seat At The Table has about everything I could ask to hear in a R&B record today.
Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
One of the heaviest albums I got into this year, Atrocity Exhibition is haunting, strange and twisted. Over diverse range of beats and sounds supplied mostly by UK producer Paul White, whose work i really enjoyed on Hella Personal Film Festival, Danny Brown’s trademark intense vocals weave and flow, painting a picture free of anything glamourous. Songs like Downward Spiral and Lost drag the listener through despair while the madness of Ain’t It Funny or Golddust further pull us into the drug binge and the calamity that comes with it. Most impressive is Danny’s ability to rap over some of these beats as tightly and uniquely as he does; despite a distinct lack of any typical snare on some tracks or many of the frantic feels such as on When it Rain. Laced with humour, intricate instrumentals and great features this was definitely one of the most enjoyable Hip Hop albums I listened to this year.
Three Trapped Tigers – Silent Earthling
Silent Earthling sees the group progressing to yet another peak. While Route One Or Die has made the last 5 years an easy wait, in comparison this album compositionally feels a lot more considered, melodically stronger yet all the more intense somehow. The band as a whole sounding tighter than ever, such as the amazing rhythm guitar work on Strebek and the interplay the whole group share making such syncopated grooves still flow and sing. The instrumentation this time round feels more defined, despite the wider array of tones and effects. I feel the guitar is much more upfront while the synthesisers rumble in the low end and soar in the highs. Throughout each songs there are strong melodic and rhythmic themes built, dismantled and carried from beginning to end. The band it feels are relying less on noise to get the point across, more twisting, bending, unifying, adding layers and intricacies from section to section, making for a very complete listen. Silent Earthling is easily my favourite Three Trapped Tigers album yet. More than ever they are demonstrating some of the most unique and interesting sensibilities a history of British Electronic music has given us, but as a 3 piece Rock band with their own complete identity.
A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service
Easily one of the more positive surprises of 2016, the legendary Tribe’s final album. Despite almost 20 years since the group last released new material, We got it from Here shows ATCQ as relevant and on point as ever. From The Space Program onward we hear every member rhyming at their best over beats as astral and Jazz ridden as you could hope. The concepts do not fall short either, on many of the songs here Phife, Jarobi and Q-Tip lyrically dismantle the social and political wounds of today with quick wit. While songs like Movin Backwards and Dis Generation are more observational in topic, showing just some of the wisdom Tribe have gathered through their many years together. Instrumentally the album rides so close to the feel of Midnight Marauders, yet new for today. The unique sample choices and aggressive chops over laid back beats, but with much more live and psychedelic instrumentation. Some particular highlights for me were the excellent feature list, especially Andre 3000 with Q-Tip on Kids and some of the guitar playing on this album is the best I’ve heard on a Hip Hop record in some time, credit to Chris Sholar. As a young fan but long time listener of ATCQ, a new album is already more than I ever expected and the fact it’s this fantastic despite the hiatus and the sad passing of Phife (RIP) is a testament to the Tribe legend.
Noname – Telefone
Beautiful EP full of personality. Noname tackles heavy topics with a quick & direct but very conversational flow and a voice to love. Sweet, wonky, soulful instrumentals lathed with old school Chicago Doo-wop influence.
Jah9 – 9mm Vol. 2
While the ‘9’ album sits on my wish list the 9mm Vol.2 mixtape has been a generous dose of very much album quality material to sit with in the meantime. Reworkings from the New Name album, some stunning covers, singles and a few surprises. Of course consciousness and learning to be gained from beginning to end. “This is more than just a mixtape”
Kendrick Lamar – Untitled unmastered.
A small sequel to the sound of last years To Pimp A Butterfly and every bit as creative. Dark, dusty instrumentals moving from Jazz, Funk, through Hip Hop to straight experimental and back again. Lamar weaves flows in signature versatile style, lyrically working through biographical and socio political themes with the originality and wide perspective he has become known for. If you enjoyed the psychedelia of his last album this is worth checking out.
Iyabe – biology.biography.culture
Bristol based experimentalists Iyabe finally released this year. In just 7 fairly short songs the group have managed to somehow contain their emotive, sparse yet raucous live sound without sacrificing a thing. Between this EP and having seen and played live with Iyabe several times in Bristol a couple of years ago they have solidified themselves as, in my opinion, one of the bravest and most intriguing Rock bands I’ve heard coming out of the UK right now.[Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]
Ogives – Moirai
Another Bristol based artist whose forging out their own lane, and incidentally playing guitar for Iyabe, Ogives or Ben Harris as I know him has been working hard in many areas of interesting music in Bristol. This year he put out his 3rd release as under his solo moniker Ogives and its his most ambitious yet. A real sonic journey from beginning to end with swelling bass, cavernous organs and tumbling synthesisers. As fa as I know this was written as a soundtrack for a play, while I don’t know the plot of the play this record very much writes a story of its own with a wide array of instrumentation, sonics and complex writing.
Chillman – Get Live (feat. Leaf Dog)
ScHoolboy Q – Groovy Tony
Aesop Rock – Rings
Injury Reserve – Oh Shit!!
Moses Boyd – Rye Lane Shuffle
The best show you have played this year and why
Haven’t been gigging too heavy this year but in November Last Tree Squad supported Radical Dance Faction at The Booth Hall in Hereford. It was a great night and probably my favourite local show yet. Supporting any band thats been working as long and hard as they have is always an education.
The best gig you have attended and why
Was lucky enough to spend a little time in Amsterdam this year visiting my sister and while over there we went to Paradiso to see Public Enemy. Unfortunately we got there and the tickets were more expensive than we had thought and we were just about to leave when we saw Three Trapped Tigers were playing in a small room upstairs for a third of the price. They played mostly material from Silent Eartling in a great sounding hall and it was amazing. You can’t fully appreciate what these guys do until you watch it in person.
Highlights of your year
Between getting back on my feet and working with Ivo & Raj on the music video its been a way more productive year than I thought going in. Health and hard work on shit you enjoy, can’t complain.
Artist/Band to watch for 2017
Everybody! All my favourite musician friends are doing more interesting things every year and it’s all worth following and makes me want to work harder. Chillman’s new album is excellent, look forward to the Verbal Highz EP, Iyabe as I mentioned are doing big things and have altered their line up since I last saw them live. Memory of Elephants put out a great EP and have been touring and gigging extensively alongside the equally talented Chiyoda Ku and anyone else I’m forgetting you should listen to them to.
Plans for the New Year
Practice more, actually finishing and releasing some more of the music I started making this year, hit the live circuit heavy with Last Tree Squad, write with Aulos, find more work and generally keep positivity going.