The year 2015 was a great year for both the Earhole team and music in general. To review, each staff member will recap their favorite music moments in our second annual OTYs (Of The Years) column! Porter leads off...
Album OTY: Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly
I’ll never forget March 15th, 2015: my first listen of TPAB on the M train trying to piece together the avant-garde jazz production, crazy rhymes and heavy subject matter. Or when my jaw dropped on my desk when I first heard Tupac’s voice on “Mortal Man”. Or listening to it back at my apartment with Genius pulled up to analyze the lyrics until 2 AM. Or listening to it 10 times the next day, and the next day, and the next few weeks after that, and for a few months after that. Or the image in the “Alright” video of four white cops carrying the Kendrick and his buddies in a car, or his crew flexing in front of the White House on the album cover. Or my excitement after buying tickets to see him at Terminal 5 in Manhattan. Or walking to the venue and seeing the line wrapped around two blocks, the largest I've seen at the venue. Or chanting “WE GON BE ALRIGHT!” for ten minutes straight before Kendrick came back out for an encore. Or...
Listen, I could wax poetic all day but there’s a reason why so many blogs sing TPAB’s praises. It was the best album OTY, and it wasn’t close.
There was no album that I played, debated, overanalyzed, replayed, and overanalyzed again more than TPAB. It wasn’t 2015’s easiest listen but it was unequivocally its most rewarding. If Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City put K. Dot on the map, this instant classic is what made him one of the most important voices of our generation.
Most Underrated Album OTY: Lianne La Havas' Blood
If you've never heard of Lianne La Havas, it's time to change that. The British singer/guitarist’s Blood dropped in July and has been in my musical rotation since. Her voice can go from sultry like Norah Jones (“Wonderful”) to Beyonce-esque powerful (“Grow”). Her virtuosic guitar chops are also noteworthy and versatile, especially the sleek “Tokyo” (which sounds just like “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” off Radiohead's In Rainbows). While The Weeknd, Jamie xx, and Tame Impala dominated my summer, Blood holds its own. It sounds like how Sunday morning feels.
Album I Loved This Year That Didn't Come Out This Year OTY: Mac Demarco's 2
Thanks for the recommendation, Treske and Squints! The music has a hazy slacker aesthetic with chilled, distorted acoustic rhythms and a vocal delivery in the style of Bob Dylan if Dylan wore Birkenstocks and loved Odd Future. “Ode to Viceroy” is my favorite song of the project, but all of the tracks groove so smoothly. In the classic phrase told my someone who probably shouldn’t be participating in political elections, Mac Demarco is someone you’d want to grab a beer and shoot the shit with. In fact, he left his house address on the last song on this year’s Another One. He does lives in Queens, maybe I'll go visit!
Song OTY: “I Know (There’s Gonna Be Good Times)” - by Jamie xx ft. Young Thug X Popcaan
Unlike Album OTY, Song OTY was a tough choice. It could’ve gone to “Can’t Feel My Face”, “Trap Queen”, “Hotline Bling” or sleeper jam “Girl” by The Internet and I would've been perfectly content. But none gave me the rush of pure bliss quite like “Good Times”.
Jamie xx masterfully combines all interchangable parts — steel drum beats, a soul sample courtesy of The Persuasions, Popcaan’s dancehall crooning, and Thugger’s signature whine rhymes — into a turn up machine. Its fun is contagious, so much so that a coworker told me the other week that he missed hearing "that song about riding in pussies like strollers.” In hindsight, maybe I picked this one in honor of pussy strollers...
Guilty Pleasure OTY: The Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording
I’ve tried to put so many people onto this album with virtually zero success. Listen friends, I know it’s a musical and the general campiness of show tunes doesn’t help my cause but you’re missing a masterpiece at work.
Written by the Emmy/Tony/Grammy-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda and produced by Questlove and Black Thought of The Roots, this epic paints the triumphant and tragic life of America's most important figures. The musical has been deemed the biggest Broadway show since Rent and is currently sold out through May 2016, which according to my actress sister is unheard of. The story is powerful, the voices are beautiful, Questo's production is dynamic and the bars are excellent. I urge you throw this one a look, specifically in one listen. Maybe this cypher will help sway your feelings...
Do it for the theatre kids! So what if they spell the word with an "e" at the end and are a little too loud for your taste? They got this one right.
Top 5 Favorite Live Performances OTY:
5.) Chance the Rapper @ Terminal 5, 10/23/15
I had this show circled on my calendar for months and I'm happy to say that it lived up to the hype. Chance and the Social Experiment brought crazy energy, a smart and loyal crowd (v underrated), wild dance moves, crazy light production, and great songs. Songs like “Juice”, “Baby Blue”, and “Sunday Candy” made the crowd go nuts; others like “Paranoia”, “That’s Love” and “Everybody’s Something” made us think. It’s been said many times before, but Chance's youthful energy is contagious. You don’t have to see it to believe it, if you have you know that it’s truly sight for jaded eyes.
Oh, and did I mention that A$AP Ferg and Ja Muthafuckin Rule were special guests???
4.) Drake @ Governor’s Ball, 6/5/15
SOURCE: Republic Records
I saw Drizzy perform in 2012 to support the release of Take Care and it was terrible. He was shown up by his direct support (a very young J. Cole!), spent a half hour that could've been used rapping on pointing out random people in the crowd, and brought out too many special guests. The latter sounds picky, but it made the show very choppy and disorganized.
This was not that case for Champagne Papi's Gov Ball set. The strides he's made both musically and onstage were readily apparent. Although I lost all the people with whom I went to the festival in that set, it was incredible. He played 24 songs from So Far Gone through IYRTITL -- a huge catalog for a rapper who's hasn't been around all that long -- all made the crowd go nuts. It’s been dubbed Drake’s best set of all time by critics, and for good reason: right after the drop on “Know Yourself”, I immediately realized what a huge star he became. We all did.
3.) Tame Impala @ Terminal 5, 10/7/15
SOURCE: The Waster
Visually and sonically stunning. I felt like I was in a kaleidoscope the entire time, and that’s the highest compliment I can give.
On a side note, this concert was also responsible for the cruelest practical joke ever pulled on me. Coworkers of mine thought it would be funny to think I wasn’t on the list for the show. The band’s agent assistant sent an mail to me saying they ran out of room. I was beside myself for a half hour — I mean fully catatonic, unable to communicate levels of upset — before they ended the joke. I’ve never been so rattled.
Ian Porter: walking #FirstWorldProblem.
2.) Kendrick Lamar @ Terminal 5, 11/2/15
I covered most of the performance in the Album OTY section, but I have to reinforce how empowering the show was. Chanting “We gon’ be alright!” made it feel like we were part of something big. Terminal 5 is the opposite of a small venue, but Kendrick made it feel incredibly intimate. Plus, there's not much better than an artist opening their set by screaming "THIS. DICK. AIN'T. FREEEEEEEEE!"
1.) Alabama Shakes @ Boston Calling, 9/27/15
I almost missed this set, which would've been a huge mistake. It was the last one of the entire festival, I had work the next day and my driver and I were thinking of leaving early to get back to get some sleep. My risk-averse ass chose to stay and I'm so glad about that because I would’ve missed out on the greatest performance of my life.
Brittany Howard may the best frontman in rock music today. Her voice boomed across City Plaza, wailing on “Gimme All Your Love” and “Miss You”. At the same time she made us feel at home, cracking jokes at that night's super moon (“what is thaaaaaaaaaaat?!?!?”) and sending us off by saying “it’s not ‘goodbye’, it’s ‘see y’all later’” in her soothing Southern drawl.
She even moved me to tears with “This Feeling”. The line “I’ve been having me a real hard time, but it feels so nice to know I’m gonna be alright” captured the feeling of my whirlwind year trying to make it in music. One year before, I worked security detail for the festival as a volunteer. I was guarding a wall, facing directly opposite the stage, heartbroken because I couldn't Nas performing Illmatic with The Roots in its entirety. The Alabama Shakes set was an overwhelming full circle moment.
I got back to my apartment at 4:30 in the morning, but it was fully worth it. The show was a religious experience and I am happy to spread the Alabama Shakes gospel.
Worst Live Performance OTY: Miss Lauryn Hill @ AFROPUNK
Lauryn Hill showed up an hour late and barely played anything from Miseducation. Her sound was cut off before she could play “Doo Wop”, making it barely audible from my seat. On top of it, her lack of punctuality caused me to miss both Danny Brown and Death Grips. Extremely disappointing set.
Music Video OTY: “Hotline Bling” by Drake
Bars OTY: "Mural" by Lupe Fiasco
I am an admitted Lupe Fiasco stan, but after the disappointing Lasers and Food & Liquor II albums and his radical decree that President Obama is a terrorist, he's been tough to root for. Yet, with his January release of Tesuo & Youth Cool Young Lu is fun to like again!
It opens with “Mural”, a nine minute stream of consciousness with no breaks or choruses. More bars than Fort Knox. Laced with complex metaphors, vivid imagery and smart wordplay, “Mural” is back to the tricks he demonstrated to perfection on past work like “Hurt Me Soul” and “SLR”. “Mural” is dense and every new lyrical idea Lupe pitches hits it out of the park. My personal favorite part is this mind fuck:
I prefer girls to reign all over the world
And not rain like, rain man or rain like rain dance
Or rain like a slight chance of rain when it's raining
Or rein like deer slaves to Santa Claus sleigh man
But reign like Queens that reign over made man
And not Queen like Queen killer, rhapsody bohemian Queen
But Queen, like white glove wave hand, and not wave hand, like it's a heat wave
So you make a fan by waving your hand, I'm talking wave, like you saying, "Hey man!"
And not hay for horses,and hoarse like you almost voiceless
You gotta treat your vocal chords, like it's a fortress
And treat every single one of your words, like reinforcements.
So much to unpack with this song, which makes it enjoyable to return to again and again. I wish this came out in school so I could’ve covered it in a term paper. "Mural" is the best thing he's put out in years and gives me hope that his career is far from over.
Feel Good Song OTY: “Sunday Candy” by Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
I got a future so I'm singing for my grandma
You singing too, but your grandma ain't my grandma
Mine's is hand made, pan fried, sun dried
Southside, and beat the devil by a landslide
Praying with her hands tied, president of my fan club, saying to her
Something told me I should bring my butt to church!
There will come a time where Chance will face backlash, but I don’t see that happening for any time soon. His rise from 10 Day to the amazing Acid Rap to the critically acclaimed Surf has been fun to watch because of his enthusiasm and brash honest. Surf wasn’t my favorite album this year, but it’s lead single is nothing but joy.
PS. That music video tho...
Saddest Song that Sounds Happy OTY: “Them Changes” by Thundercat ft. Flying Lotus X Kamasi Washington
Who would’ve thought a song shares a drum sample with Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day” could be so sad? Who would’ve thought that a song where the protagonist begs the listener not to move in order to find his heart, having been ripped out of his chest by an ex-flame, make me want to cut a rug?
Tangent: It's so exciting to see The Brainfeeder label making jazz relevant again. The music that bassist Thundercast, saxman Kamasi Washington and producer Flying Lotus have made in the past few years has been excellent, and “Them Changes” is no exception.
Best Song Named “Hello” OTY: “Hello” by Erykah Badu ft. Andre 3000
No offense to Miss Adele, but damn idk idk idk idk idk idk idk idk… 3 Stacks and Fat Belly Bella may have her beat.
Favorite Personal Earhole Moment OTY: Props from Leon Bridges' Dad
Favorite Unrated Earhole Moment OTY: That Time When We Went On For Three Minutes About What Would Happen If His Dick Had Knuckles Like A Thumb
Shit gets weird on Tune Up, and you should be listening to it. I'm praying an editor will throw up the link to this uncut moment. Darren, where you at?
As always, thanks for reading and listening! Looking forward to creating new content in this new year.
Peace, love & Fetty Wap,