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Articles by The Analog Vault

A Very Analog Christmas Gift Guide 2016

A Very Analog Christmas Gift Guide 2016
(From top left to bottom right) Blood Orange - Freetown Sound, DJ Shadow - The Mountain Will Fall, Charles Bradley - Changes, NxWorries - Yes Lawd!, Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane & Matthew Garrison - In Movement

Seasons greetings to all! It's been a great year filled with fantastic new music releases and reissues of stone cold classics. For any last minute holiday shoppers out there with a music lover in their life we've got the gift guide just for you!

(From top left to bottom right) Maxwell - Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite, King Geedorah - Take Me To Your Leader, Jimmy Forrest - Out Of The Forrest, The Avalanches - Since I Left You, Willie Dixon - Willie's Blues

Best New Reissues 2016:

From highly coveted long out of print albums to top notch audiophile presses, this has truly been the year to reintroduce some long overdue classics. Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite and Since I Left You are groundbreaking albums that signalled the changing of the guards with their then out of the world sound and vision. They have long fetched high prices on the open market and should not be missed out by fans.

Take Me To Your Leader features possibly one of the best looking packages for a reissue this year. Pressed on red vinyl housed in a crisp cream outer sleeve with metallic foil lettering, not forgetting the special pop out inserts. Only the finest for the metal-faced villain!

While on the audiophile end of the spectrum, Analogue Productions has once again kept up their consistent quality reproductions. Their pristine and crystal clear vinyl reissues of Out Of The Forrest and Willie's Blues are perfect companions for the gloomy year end weather. Best served with a side of whiskey.

(From top left to bottom right) Andrew Bird - Are You Serious, Bon Iver - 22, A Million, NAO - For All We Know, Whitney - Light Upon The Lake, Case/Lang/Veirs - Case/Lang/Veirs

Favourite Indie Releases 2016:

Delving deeper into some of the best new Indie releases this year, admittedly we're suckers for troubled troubadours. Bon Iver with his adventurous sonic palette has come a long way from his early days of being a pure folk-oriented artist. This year he breaks further from his stripped down roots with an album that one can only describe as an electronic-folk album superbly crafted and not an album to be overlooked.

Seasoned veterans Andrew Bird and the immaculate super team of Neko Case, K.D. Lang and Laura Veirs each provides their own grand masterclass in creating tight compositions that truly show why their the best in the business.

In a year where we lost the purple prince himself, electronic R&B artist NAO channels his early works with her smooth as velvet blend of electropop and funk sensibilities. She will be playing at the upcoming Laneway Festival Singapore, so time to get your funk on and perfect your dance moves before then!

Also playing at Laneway Festival Singapore, Chicago band Whitney comprising of former members of psychedelic bands Smith-Westerns and Unknown Mortal Orchestra perfectly creates a blend of folk and soul, channelling adult oriented rock vibes akin to Steely Dan which truly sounds timeless. Effortless and lush it's no wonder this album was named Best New Music by Pitchfork.

(From top left to bottom right) Moderat - III, James Blake - The Colour In Anything, Aphex Twin - Cheetah, Nicolas Jaar - Sirens, Honne - Warm On A Cold Night

Favourite Electronic Releases 2016:

If you thought 2016 was the advent of the apocalypse with the loss of numerous treasured musical icons and the troubling political climate. You are not alone.

Here to brood with and comfort you into the next year are some of this year's electronic releases from seasoned artists with a darker edge. From the long awaited sophomore album by Nicolas Jaar to relative newcomers Honne with their soulful electronic styling, let these releases keep you warm on a cold, cold night. 

(From top left to bottom right) Various Artists - Re:works, Matthew Bourne - Moogmemory, Ólafur Arnalds - Island Songs, Steve Reich - Four Organs/Phase Patterns, Johann Johannsson - Orphée

Favourite Neo-Classical/Experimental Releases 2016:

Think less Tudor-style hairstyles with fancy ceremonial dresses and more scruffy geniuses surrounded by synthesizers and Moogs. Modern classical music is highly experimental in production and often borrows techniques used in electronic music. These are some of the best modern classical releases out this year which admittedly will have even the most ardent classical music abstainers quite possibly indulging in.

(From top left to bottom right) De La Soul - And The Anonymous Nobody..., Czarface - A Fistful of Peril, Sampa The Great - The Great Mixtape, Knxwledge - WrapTaypes, Oddisee - The Odd Tape

Favourite Hip Hop Releases 2016:

Check the mic and drop the beat, 2016 marks the return of boom-bap legends De La Soul with their crowdfunded come back album! Slowly permeating modern hip hop with his beats, Knxwledge puts out a real banger with WrapTaypes. Just as heavily influenced by comic books as ol' metal face, we have Czarface with a sound that answers the question to what if MF Doom was a gangsta rapper?

Smoother than butter and fresher than coffee in the morning, Oddisee puts out the chillest of albums this year. Like a fresh cuppa joe in the morning, Oddisee encapsulates a day in the life beautifully with The Odd Tape. Refreshing.

Also headed this way for Laneway Festival Singapore is Sampa The Great with her bold and inspiring The Great Mixtape. If you think she's great then you're not alone as she had been chosen to support the king himself Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, Hiatus Kaiyote and Ibeyi in the past. A feat worthy of greatness!

Bonus: On the sly, we would also like to highlight Danny Brown's Atrocity Exhibition and ScHoolboy Q's Blank Face LP which is not pictured but highly recommended.

Of course not forgetting A Tribe Called Quest's We Got It from Here...Thank You 4 Your Service! (However it will only be arriving post-Christmas)

(From top left to bottom right) Nas - Illmatic XX, A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, Dr. Dre - The Chronic, Outkast - ATLiens, Common - Resurrection

Hip Hop 101 - The Golden Era:

Now here's a little story that must be told about the golden era of hip hop. Spanning across the coasts and cities, here's a little selection introducing the different sounds and styles of hip hop. Jazz-inflected and the epitome of boom-bap A Tribe Called Quest's debut brings rap back to a more positive and conscious note in a time where harder street oriented rap dominated the airwaves.

Influential and often associated with reviving the east coast rap scene in the mid-nineties. Illmatic is a masterpiece in the gritty hard edged east coast sounds boasting production work by some of the greatest producers of all time such as DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Q-Tip to name a few.

Sun baked coasts and low riders popping to the beats, the West Coast popularised gangsta rap and caused quite a stir. The one and only Dr. Dre further refined it into G-Funk with The Chronic, cementing hip hop's status in the mainstream consciousness while launching the careers of then little known rappers Snoop Dogg, Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, Nate Dogg, and Warren G.

While in the windy city and way down south, Common brings to mind his brand of intellectual soulful gospel-infused rap and Outkast's Andre 3000 pushes the technical limits and skills of a true rap MC with the seminal ATLiens.

(From top left to bottom right) Miles Davis - Kind of Blue, Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um, Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto - Getz/Gilberto, John Coltrane - A Love Supreme, Duke Ellington - Ellington Indigos

Intro to Jazz 101:

We often get queries to recommend jazz that's good for people just getting into the genre or have absolutely no clue as to where to begin. Here to provide a starting point for the budding jazz aficionado, we have five classic jazz albums ranging from the more contemporary to slightly more adventurous.

A pervasive album that has rightly seeped into the public consciousness and inspired not just countless jazz musicians but pop and rock artists. It is none other than Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, its iconic opening bass line is one you will be humming in no time.

Further building upon the common aural ideas of jazz are Mingus Ah Um and Ellington Indigos, with the former being a politically charged album being a predecessor to the spirit of our current hip hop artists who continually challenge the social consciousness of the world. While the latter being an album which channels the smoky jazz piano lounge with some definitive renditions of several classic jazz standards.

For the more adventurous we have the smooth bossanova styling of Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto with their perennially loved Getz/Gilberto and verging on the cusp of free jazz is Coltrane's A Love Supreme. Spiritual and out of this world, an album that transcends the depths of what jazz really is and strives to reach a higher state of mind.

(From top left to bottom right) Gregory Porter - Take Me To The Alley, Nina Simone - Little Girl Blue, Julie London - Julie Is Her Name, Jose James - Yesterday I Had The Blues, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - Ella & Louis

Jazz Vocals Favourites:

For those who prefer more vocals as opposed to just instrumentals in their jazz. These are our top picks for essential albums any jazz collector would be glad to own, ranging from the classic to the modern.

Timeless masterpieces are best enjoyed on high quality wax productions, Analogue Productions pressings of Little Girl Blue and Ella & Louis, and Box Star Records' long out of print reproduction of Julie Is Her Name are some of the best you can get apart from searching for good condition original pressings.

Sophisticated and refined Jose James and Gregory Porter proudly carry on the tradition of jazz crooners. Performing soulful new compositions and reinterpretations of classic standards.

(From top left to bottom right) Kamasi Washington - The Epic, Madlib - Shades of Blue, Esperanza Spalding - Junjo, Badbadnotgood - IV, Avishai Cohen - Into The Silence

Modern Jazz Classics:

Some would have you believe that jazz is stuck in a rut, stubbornly seeking inspiration solely from the past. These modern artists would beg to differ, drawing from a myriad of inspirations and applying modern techniques forging new paths.

Building on the storied history of jazz, Junjo and Into the Silence are more traditional jazz albums which are well executed, creating unique and melodic atmospheres. 

Extrapolating from the legacy of John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, Kamasi Washington spins a truly epic tale with his highly spiritual jazz. While barely legal jazz wunderkinds Badbadnotgood has come a long way from doing jazz covers of hip hop tracks to coming into their own as bona fide electro-jazz musicians. Is this the shape of jazz to come?

Coming from a left-field perspective, heavily blunted genius Madlib raided the Blue Note archives, pulling and weaving samples to create a phenomenal mosaic bridging the connection between jazz and hip hop. Truly questioning and pushing the limits of what is to be considered a jazz album today.

Album of the Month: Mos Def - Black On Both Sides (1999)

Album of the Month: Mos Def - Black On Both Sides (1999)

Mos Def, or currently known as Yasiin Bey, is an American hip hop artist hailing from Brooklyn, New York City. Having a career spanning through the 90's and better associated with the underground hip hop scene of the time. Having appeared on albums by Da Bush Babees, De La Soul and finally forming a formidable duo with Talib Kweli as Black Star. Considering the strength of his collaboration with Talib Kweli, it was no surprise his solo debut followed soon after to a roar of high praise for his socially conscious lyrics, solid production and focus on live instrumentation played none other by the multi-talented Mos Def himself.

Guest MCs and producers featured on this release includes Talib Kweli, Q-Tip, (Of A Tribe Called Quest) Busta Rhymes and DJ Premier (Of Gang Starr) to name a few. Stand out tracks from the album includes "Hip Hop", "Mathematics" and "Ms Fat Booty". At his best, Mos Def showcases his exceptional flow that's smooth as butter that will entrance you and hold your attention. With lyrics that talk about his trials and tribulations of being in an industry that's filled with danger where no MC is safe and with slice of life anecdotes that will amuse. Mos Def will get your body grooving and your head bopping despite being overly preachy with his rhymes at times.

If you like your hip hop to be about the people and for the people, then Black On Both Sides is for you.

Essential Tracks: Hip Hop, Mathematics, Ms Fat Booty

Buy a copy at our store here.

 

Album of the month: Portishead - Dummy (1994)

Album of the month: Portishead - Dummy (1994)

Genre: Electronica

Style: Trip hop, Downtempo

One can never talk about Trip Hop without first mentioning Massive Attack and Portishead. As one of the early champions and possibly the band that further refined the Trip Hop genre first laid out by Massive Attack. Solidifying and expanding on what was known as the Bristolian Sound, comes Dummy the debut album that pushed Trip Hop further into the collective consciousness of the nineties.

With an expansive influence drawing from dub, jazz and hip hop. Portishead has created a strong debut with a heavy Gothic, melancholic sound. With clever use of live strings, Rhodes piano and jazz samples the album plays more like a soundtrack to an old time noir or spy movie. Beth Gibbons’ (Vocalist) frail and smooth contralto vocals will lull you into a sense of false security. She’s the dame singing in the smoky jazz club that you’ve arrived for your secret rendezvous. The one who doesn’t demand your attention, doesn’t even crave it and yet you give it anyway, cause you’ve been spellbound.

The lyrics are dark and brooding, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You will need a glass of whisky after this one.

Essential Tracks: “Sour Times” “It Could Be Sweet” “Glory Box”

Purchase a copy of this album at our store here.

 

Album of the Month: Dexter Gordon – Our Man In Paris (1963)

Album of the Month: Dexter Gordon – Our Man In Paris (1963)

Genre: Jazz 

Style: Tenor Saxophone | Hard Bop | Bepop

Recorded in Paris during his self-imposed exile to Europe, Dexter Gordon joins Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke and Pierre Michelot who at the time had been performing as a trio known as “The Three Bosses”. Despite the fact that Bud Powell would only play jazz standards at the time, it did not hinder the album from being a sublime bop masterpiece.

Covering classics from Charlie Parker, Ann Ronell to Dizzy Gillespie the quartet performs simple yet powerful renditions with masterclass soloing from Gordon and Powell, not forgetting the often understated but essential drum and bass work of Clarke and Michelot who provides a strong backbone allowing Gordon and Powell’s endless choruses of bop lines to take flight.

Gordon’s interpretation of “A Night In Tunisia” is often heralded as one of the best versions done and it is hard to disagree as the quartet melds perfectly showcasing a dizzying array of skill and class.

Dexter Gordon’s Our Man In Paris is a vivid demonstration in hard bop and modal tonalities, and would sit well in any hardcore or moderate jazz fan’s collection.

 Essential Tracks: “Willow Weep For Me” “A Night In Tunisia”

Purchase a copy of this album from our store here.

 

Album of the Month: Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio (2012)

Album of the Month: Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio (2012)

Genre: Hip Hop, Jazz, Funk / Soul

Style: Contemporary Jazz, Hip Hop, Rhythm & Blues, Neo Soul

Robert Glasper, an American Jazz pianist and record producer with associations to a myriad of hip hop and R&B artists which reads like a Christmas wish list for any burgeoning young hip hop producer. To name a few which includes Q-Tip, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z and even the late J Dilla himself. Black Radio features his experimental and genre bending band, The Robert Glasper Experiment. Black Radio includes collaborations with artists like Lupe Fiasco, Bilal, Erykah Badu, Ledisi and many more.

Heavily influenced by neo-soul, modal jazz with tasteful borrowing of elements from electronic music. The lyrics are simple yet contemplative, verses and chorus are repeated much like a skillful producer would manipulate beats and loops. With strong female guest vocals which are lush, smooth and strong enough to hold its own against Glasper’s sprawling sonic soundscapes. Standout tracks includes “Afro Blue”, “Always Shine” and “Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)”.

Black Radio, the soulful contemplative soundtrack to a long day’s night.

Essential Tracks: “Afro Blue” “Always Shine” “Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)”

Purchase a copy of this album from our store here.