Our Mid-Year Album Awards for 2017,
part 1

Our Mid-Year Album Awards for 2017,
part 1

Featuring Two R&B Romp Fests, the Death of Lyrcis and the Saddest Album Ever Made


As a part of the competition involving our Mid-Year Awards, just by reading this post you could stand to win $50. Find out how right here.


“Barroom Banter” Award – For Best Pub/Dive Bar Music


The Navigator by Hurray for the Riff Raff

Whiskey-soaked and fire-branded, Hurray for the Riff Raff are a shambling rock band that deploy blues music the way a boot opens an avocado: it’s effective, colourful, pretty messy and undeniably original. Their tunes would be right at home anywhere that people drink to remember how they used to feel but then keep on drinking to forget that they can never go back to how things were. It’s not miserable, necessarily, though it is informed by struggle, even if the overwhelming feeling you’re left with is that of triumph.

Fronted by Alynda Segarra, Hurray for the Riff Raff’s record The Navigator is part concept album and part exploration of Americana through the eyes of an irrepressible Puerto Rican spirit. Backed by a band that’s both ramshackle and tightly wound, Segarra shimmies, croons, howls and sweetly purrs her way through 40 minutes of urban malaise and spry gumption, tinged with regret. The whole thing is a rigmarole of tambourines, billowing riffs and chugging bass lines, conveying perhaps one of the simplest, truest sentiments about this existence: “It’s hard, it’s hard sometimes.”

Best Tracks:Life to Save“, “Pa’lante“, “Living in the City

The Navigator can be purchased on Bandcamp.


“Crying in the Bathroom” Award – For Best Miserable Music


A Crow Looked At Me by Mount Eerie

I don’t need to listen to this album more than once to recommend it; in fact, I refuse to listen to it again right now. A Crow Looked At Me serves its purpose admirably, gets its point across immediately and will probably linger within you for a good deal longer than you’re comfortable with. “Death is real” are the first words you’ll hear sung, in the same tired, world-weary monotone of Phil Elverum – Mount Eerie’s only member – that haunts the rest of the barebones folk album.

Without being facetious, “haunt” does seem the appropriate word, as the ghost of Phil’s recently departed wife Geneviève fills every part of the album. She died pretty suddenly last year from pancreatic cancer, leaving Elverum to raise their infant daughter. What this record does is address the hard facts of her death and his dense sadness, while refusing to find something inspirational, wise or uplifting at any point (“I don’t wanna learn anything from this”). It’s music that hinges on a specific tragedy but, in its depth and starkness, what it has to say is for all of us to hear. And I don’t think I can deal with that a second time at the moment.

Best Tracks:Ravens“, “My Chasm“, “Real Death

A Crow Looked At Me can be purchased on Bandcamp.


“Drowning Out the Sound of Fucking” Award – For… Y’know



Fuck a Friend Zone by Jacquees & DeJ Loaf

If Jacquees and DeJ Loaf haven’t already fucked, my recommendation is that they shouldn’t. Nothing their genitals achieve together could ever live up to the perfect sexual chemistry of their interlocked vocals. With Jacquees’ sidestepping, shoulder-rubbing croon matching perfectly with DeJ’s cheeky yelps and suggestive lilts, these guys conjure up the auditory equivalent of a warm shower and body chocolate.

Their debut collaboration, Fuck a Friend Zone, is as direct as its title and artwork, if a little more inviting. Twinkly, late night synths and rickety hihats get tangled up in the sheets and heavy breathing, while lines like “I used to watch you on YouTube” sound ominous and voyeuristic until the follow up “So when I met you, it’s like I knew you”. The whole mixtape exists on that tilt, between strained and sexy, trying too hard and saying just the right thing, separated by just a single word. Or a moan.

Best Tracks:Make You Fall In Love“, “The World Along With You“, “Hold This

Fuck A Friend Zone can be downloaded for free on Hot New Hip Hop.


SweetSexySavage by Kehlani

Kehlani’s SweetSexySavage is to sex what drugs are to creativity: not a necessity, but it sure doesn’t hurt. And yes, it’s incredibly reductive to keep implying that this young, madly talented artist’s music does nothing but promote carnal activity. Kehlani’s songs work for a variety of situations, with her innate R&B melodicism and hip hop swagger coalescing into perfect driving, exercise or party music. Buuuut… you just can’t go wrong with this album if you’re looking for a soundtrack to fucking.

What’s great, though, is that there’s a variety of fuck moods available. Wild one night stand? The freaky stomp of “CRZY” should suit. Tender love-making with a familiar? Try the flamenco guitar and springy beat of “Undercover“. Break-up/make-up sex? There’s the muffled groan and handclap swivel of “Keep On“. Taking it slow? I’m not shitting you, there’s a lowkey, breathy ballad near the end called “Hold Me By the Heart“. Over the course of 19 tracks, Kehlani repeatedly brings the sizzle; all she can’t provide is the steak itself.

Best Tracks:Keep On“, “Not Used to It“, “Too Much

SweetSexySavage can be purchased on iTunes.


“Grin Like a Dickhead” Award – For Best Happy Music


Life Will See You Now by Jens Lekman

Jens Lekman pulls off the kind of guileless cheer that would be immediately tarnished if there was even a hint of insincerity at play. That’s not to say you can’t be sentimental and cynical at the same time, but when it reaches this level of the former you basically need to go all in and completely avoid the latter. And, sure enough, he never once falters throughout Life Will See You Now, a sunny – though occasionally sombre – look at getting older and accepting the world as it is instead of trying to fit to your own desires.

Where many artists observe the passage of time and grow forlorn, Lekman perks up. He sees the thrill of possibility where others see the limitations; where some find fear, he burrows in and excavates the love in everything. On “Our First Fight“, he recalls an upsetting argument that ends with his partner mouthing the words “I-L-O-V-E-Y-O-U” much like a parent would mouth “ice cream” (“like there’s kids in the room, ooh-hoo!“). But it’s in his marvellous “Wedding in Finistére” (perhaps the best song of the year) that his true talents shine: amidst a crackling horn section and peppy samba beat, he watches the world around him stay the same as he grows through it. It’s both touching and whimsical, and – for his sake as well as our own – Lekman chooses the laughter over the tears.

Best Tracks:Wedding in Finistére“, “What’s That Perfume That You Wear?“, “Hotwire the Ferris Wheel

Life Will See You Now can be purchased on Bandcamp.


“Lyrics Don’t Matter” Award – For Best Music… And That’s It


C U L T U R E by Migos

Coming at Migos for having shitty lyrics is like coming at The Big Bang Theory for faulty scientific reasoning; I mean, you can hate all you want, but you’ve found the stupidest way of doing so. Because, by all means, if you’re gonna rip on Migos you should aim for their swamp-obotic vocals, unimaginative flows and tragically backwards views of gay rappers. But, seriously, who gives a fuck about their lyrics? C’mon, you see that fuckin’ album cover, right?

C U L T U R E is the hip hop that all oldheads and lyrical purists have long been dreading, an album overflowing with post-language, nonsensical id that exists to engage you on a visceral level, tapping into a nebulous zone of syrupy whoops and hollers that turn your brain to bubble-gum and your breath into weed vapour. The tones are warm and loopy, the hooks gooey, constant and unreasonably consistent. In other words, it does exactly what it says on the can, offering an explosion of riches and hedonism masquerading as sophistication, daring you to have more fun than these guys had while making it.

Best Tracks:Call Casting“, “Slippery“, “T-Shirt

C U L T U R E can be purchased on iTunes.


“No More Cocaine” Award – For Best Pump-Up Music


DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar should make you worried, no matter how he’s approaching you. If he’s coming towards you in a pool on a summer day, smiling and doing a lazy backstroke, a mojito resting on his upturned belly, you best be ready to fuckin’ run. This guy doesn’t play around, and even when he’s slumbering his mind is always on alert, his skills sharpened and ready to take on any challenger. If he’s definitely on your side though, DAMN. can make you feel pretty g’ed up.

It’s almost a perfectly structured record, one that accentuates Lamar’s high-wire rap-crobatics while taking the time to let him (and us) gain some chill throughout. Proper opener “DNA.” has a relentless pace and sonic potency that might actually rupture you, but if you survive you’re treated to the singsong morass of “YEH.”, which still feels like it could be a trap waiting to spring. Elsewhere, the boast track to rule them all “HUMBLE.” is bookended by the psych-swirl of “PRIDE.” and pitter-patter slump of “LUST.”. Nothing is misplaced, misspent or misshapen. It all slides smoothly into place with a startling refinery, like the metallic click of a chambered bullet aimed right at your temple.

Best Tracks:HUMBLE.“, “XXX.“, “YAH.

DAMN. can be purchased on iTunes.

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part 1

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