Spinnaker Record Club’s Best of 2015: Albums (10-1)

Spinnaker

Sold Out [via DJ Paypal on Facebook]10

DJ Paypal

Sold Out

(Brainfeeder)

A genre cannot live unless it moves beyond the scene that invented it. For example, after the death of DJ Rashad, it seemed like footwork would live and die in Chicago. Then along came North Carolina-born DJ Paypal, a faceless rogue living in Berlin whose musical eclecticism, sense of humor and solid appreciation for the genre will surely push it into the future. His Sold Out was released only a few weeks ago, but it’s undeniably the best footwork release of the year, moving the genre forward without compromising its values. Rashad will never be forgotten, but at least his legacy is secure. – Doug Markowitz

DJ Paypal – Sold Out

 

Cherry Bomb [via Tyler, The Creator on Facebook]9

Tyler, the Creator

Cherry Bomb

(Odd Future)

People tend to underestimate Tyler, the Creator. Sure, when your most famous video starts with you saying “I’m a walking fucking paradox” and ends with you hanging yourself, you tend to get a lot of wings flappin’. But when your latest video calls out the erroneous perceptions people have about you because of that early work, it’s a sign of maturity. With Cherry Bomb, Tyler didn’t just make his best album, he made an excellent, stylistically diverse LP that happens to be one of the best in a year stacked with talent. Those countries he keeps getting banned from don’t know what they’re missing. – Doug Markowitz

Tyler, the Creator – BUFFALO

 

The Epic [via Brainfeeder Records website]8

Kamasi Washington

The Epic

(Brainfeeder)

This album may be three hours long, but that’s not why it’s the most important jazz record in decades. Washington himself deserves much of the credit for maintaining the nearly-dead genre’s relevance thanks to fusing it with other genres on recent albums by Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar, but with The Epic, he proves that jazz is just as incredible and seductive on its own. Don’t let the length turn you off, because this is one for the ages. – Doug Markowitz

Kamasi Washington – Re Run Home

 

I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside [via Earl Sweatshirt on Facebook]7

Earl Sweatshirt

I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

(Columbia)

Listening to IDLS might have you wondering why a depressed, introspective rapper like Earl is signed to Columbia, who botched the album’s rollout in March by announcing it only a week before the due date. And he had every reason to be pissed: the appropriately-titled album is his strongest, most poignant work to date, a dark, druggy portrait of anxiety and agoraphobia with a 30 minute runtime that will have you scrambling for the replay button. Earl’s description of companion piece “Solace” ironically describes the album best: “music from when i hit the bottom and found something.” – Doug Markowitz

Earl Sweatshirt – Grief

 

Jenny Death [via Death Grips on Facebook]6

Death Grips

Jenny Death

(Thirdworlds / Harvest)

Adding rock elements into their industrial rap concoction, Jenny Death gives us what we love about the group – angry, visceral rap over intense production – while letting them experiment with new noise. It’s possible this could be their last album, which may be bad news if you missed them play Freebird in October. Then again, the group has given out so much conflicting information over the last few years that it’s possible they could release another ten albums tomorrow night. Nevertheless, if Jenny Death marks the end for the controversial group, it’s a fine way to go down. – Doug Markowitz

Death Grips – On GP

 

La Di Da Di [via Warp Records website]5

Battles

La Di Da Di

(Warp)

Some people can’t fathom listening to a song without words, and Battles have provided possibly the best example yet of why they’re missing out. On La Di Da Di, the band completely ditches vocals and delivers 12 stunning instrumentals of brilliant, kinetic rock flecked with enough electronica to keep things interesting. It’s a roller coaster of an album, complete with loops of melody so tantalizing they’ll make your head spin. – Doug Markowitz

Battles – The Yabba


 

Sun Coming Down [via Constellation Records website]4

Ought

Sun Coming Down

(Constellation)

The suicide rate among college students has increased by 13 percent in the last two years. One third of Americans have experienced student loan debt, and the total amount of said student loan debt has reached $1.2 trillion. A major news organization removed an online poll that said a presidential candidate other than the one their parent company is funding won their televised debate. There have been 52 school shootings this year, not counting the ones that happened after I wrote the first version of this capsule in mid-October.

And let’s not forget everything that’s happened since. Over 120 people were gunned down at an Eagles of Death Metal show in Paris. I’m sure you don’t need a source for that, but here you go anyway. In the aftermath of this, the president of France has requested the government alter their constitution to expand executive powers in the name of safety, governors of half the states in the Union have closed their doors to refugees from the war-torn Middle East – despite the fact that the Parisian terrorists were European nationals (and despite the fact that they lack the authority to even do so) – and a major presidential candidate has announced a plan to force Muslim Americans to carry special identification.

Our time is a storm of strife and hardship. We weather it as best as we can, but it ends up weathering us. Ought are here to play to us until the ship sinks. Doesn’t it just bring a tear to your eye? – Doug Markowitz

Ought – Men for Miles


 

Summertime '06 [via Vince Staples on Facebook]3

Vince Staples

Summertime ‘06

(Def Jam)

Have you ever actually been to the ghetto? Has the sound of gunfire kept you up on a school night? Has anyone in your dwindling extended family ever overdosed? Died in a drive-by? Found himself bleeding out on the sidewalk because the Crips told him they’d hook you up and you need the cash because your cousin spent the welfare check on heroin?”

I wrote that a month ago to meet a deadline and I regret it. None of it makes a lick of sense because, for the record, I’ve never actually been to the ghetto. I’ve watched The Wire. I went to Little Havana once. That’s the closest I’ve ever gotten. I am an enormous poseur. I regret the error of being corny.

And for what it’s worth, Vince Staples is not nearly the harbinger of doom his work makes him out to be. He’s hilariously wry on Twitter, in the press and in person. He shills for Sprite like a starving real estate salesman. Back in October, he nearly made a $10,000 bet to prove to a Gucci Mane-hating fan that Kanye West enjoys the work of Big Guwop, along with everyone else. If you dispute me, let’s go to the video tape.

All people contain multitudes, and our lives are not determined by the circumstances of our birth. The rap game is full of people who were born in broken homes that are richer than my white suburbanite ass will ever be. It’s how they make their money, and how they glorify it, that lights a fire in Vince Staples. He wants us all to wake up and smell the coffee about the ghetto. It’s a nightmare, and he made Summertime ’06, with its woozy production and expert-level flow, sound like one you won’t want to wake up from. – Doug Markowitz

Vince Staples – Norf Norf


 

Vulnicura [via Bjork on Facebook]2

Björk

Vulnicura

(One Little Indian)

Perhaps the saddest thing about Vulnicura – beyond the strings, the lyrics on heartbreak and survival in the midst of familial devastation, the pulsating production – is that we couldn’t even let Björk release it on her own terms. Originally slated for March, she released the LP just a week after its announcement in response to the entire album leaking. Listening, it becomes clear that she put every ounce of her soul into what is not only her best, most direct work, but also her most sorrowful.

As she revealed her process for the album, forged in agony over her diffused marriage to fellow artist Matthew Barney, it also became clear that she was fighting not only her emotions, but the perceptions of a sexist industry. When the press learned that she had worked with Arca on production and hired the Haxan Cloak to mix the record, they presumed that they, the men, had done most of the work. “I spend 80% of the writing process of my albums on my own,” she told Pitchfork. “I write the melodies. I’m by the computer.”

Björk feels more deeply than any of us. She is unguarded in her expressions, willing to spin even the most personal traumas into art. She opens herself up, and we are obligated to respect her. – Doug Markowitz

Björk – Black Lake


 

To Pimp a Butterfly [via @TopDawgEnt on Twitter]1

Kendrick Lamar

To Pimp a Butterfly

(Interscope / Top Dawg)

In an op-ed for The New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat commented on the “strange blend of pampered and exploited” that is the student activist in 2015. “The protesters at Yale and Missouri and a longer list of schools stand accused of being spoiled, silly, self-dramatizing,” he writes, “and many of them are. But they’re also dealing with a university system that’s genuinely corrupt, and that’s long relied on rote appeals to the activists’ own left-wing pieties to cloak its utter lack of higher purpose.”

The primary criticism of the student activist is their embrace of political correctness. It’s said that by limiting the use of certain words, they are not only limiting the freedom of speech, but limiting themselves to a limited view of the world. They are closing themselves off to ideas that might offend them. But underneath this argument – and the oft-forgotten fact that the First Amendment only protects the citizenry from the government – is a hidden desire to be able to say whatever offensive word one wants to say and to get away with it. Here, we must ask ourselves which argument is more mature. Is it the one that demands the ability to speak and act with impunity, or the one that asks for respect in the form of minimal sacrifice?

Because that’s what political correctness boils down to: respect. It’s the ability to go into an office or public place and not be purposefully or inadvertently singled out for whatever one might happen to be. If that means all the bigots of the world can’t plaster the YouTube comments section with racial slurs, then it might be a worthy sacrifice.

And these quibbles are minor compared to what the student activist faces outside their “safe spaces”: swastikas smeared in shit on bathroom walls, roaming bands of klansmen wielding makeshift weapons, cancelled classes. The events at Mizzou showed us the true threat to academia comes not from the minority asking for equal status, but from the majority that turns violent when their power is threatened, even in the most meager of ways. Fear for one’s ability to say certain words is nothing compared to fear for one’s life.

None of this has to do directly with To Pimp a Butterfly, but it certainly gives the album a new context. This vivid culmination of centuries of black history, decades of black music, and years of one black man’s life, is impossible for a white person to fully understand. It’s simply something we haven’t lived. But in attempting to understand it, we can attempt to connect the struggle depicted within to the struggle slashing its way across our nation. Ultimately, even if they go about it in different ways, Kendrick shares the same goal as these activists: respect. It’s as he says on “Mortal Man” – “If I respect you, we unify and stop the enemy from killing us.”

Kendrick Lamar peered inside himself and pulled out not simply the best album of the year, but the most beautiful, stirring, important musical work of the year, one where the word is respect and the goal is understanding. We’re not meant to chime in. All we can do is stand in solidarity. – Doug Markowitz

Kendrick Lamar feat. Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat – These Walls

Our year-end music coverage continues tomorrow with our favorite videos of 2015. Read our lists on the best songs and EPs of the year. 

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