This Tuesday, May 16, Gabriel Garzon-Montano is performing at The Crocodile in Belltown. Gabriel Garzon-Montano’s Jardin, released early this year, intricately melds together notes of soul, pop, hip-hop, and funk, ultimately creating a vibrant sound owned solely by him. Hailing originally from Brooklyn, Garzon-Montano’s interest in music was sparked in childhood by his mother, a musician in the Philip Glass Ensemble during the ‘90s. Though most commonly recognized as the creator of the sample featured in Drake’s Jungle (check out his original Six Eight), Garzon-Montano is so much more than that. Weaving together bright funk notes and unlikely time signatures, Garzon-Montano’s Jardin is a powerful collection of music that insights both introspection and pure dancing fun and will undoubtedly be a memorable experience live.
In case you couldn’t tell by the album’s title, Joey Bada$$ is not merely dropping a typical rap album. Inspired by the late Capital Steez’s AmeriKKKan Korruption, Bada$$ has decided to follow in the footsteps of Pro Era’s former great. Exactly five years to the date after Steez’s album, Bada$$ has delivered a project strongly rooted in the “korruption” in present day America.
ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ features a departure from Bada$$’ typical boom-bop New York sound, favoring a tracklist highlighted by bright production and jazz rap. Long-time producer Statik Selektah produced only two of the twelve tracks on his new album, compared to four on B4.DA.$$. This time around, Bada$$’ producers implement horn sections and electric guitar on a number of tracks, elevating them from decent to fantastic, as well as displaying Bada$$’ adaptability by stepping in a new direction of melody. The middle of the tracklist includes what might be the grooviest sequence of production on an album this year, with “TEMPTATION”, “LAND OF THE FREE”, “DEVASTATED”, and “Y U DON’T LOVE ME (MISS AMERIKKKA)” following one after another. The transition from these four tracks to the next two, “ROCKABYE BABY” and “RING THE ALARM”, is completely jarring, but a welcome shift back towards Bada$$ embracing his ruthless lyricism.
The subject matter is surprisingly heavy compared to the albums upbeat production. Much like Common’s Black America Again, ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ addresses issues plaguing American’s African Americans, such as police brutality, racism, and inequality. “Y U DON’T LOVE ME (MISS AMERIKKKA)” is reminiscent of an homage to 50 Cent’s “21 Questions”, except Bada$$ questions America’s lack of acceptance towards African Americans. He spits, “Tell me why you don’t love me/Why you always misjudge me?/Why you always put so many things above me?/Why you lead me to believe that I’m ugly?”. Bada$$ doesn’t hold back, and it pays off. The last two minutes of the album are when Bada$$ is at his strongest; he effortlessly dismantles the U.S. government, accusing them of trying to start a civil war between its black and white citizens. He encourages his listeners to unite and fight back, rather than fight each other like he believes the government wants.
Bada$$ hits the mark on every aspect of this album. The production is solid, the guest appearances burst each track into flames, and the themes present relevant issues that need to brought forth time and time again. The focus of ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ is much tighter than B4.DA.$$, and its production more versatile. Bada$$ has shown great signs on improvement on his sophomore effort and has proved himself deserving of the national spotlight alongside industry titans like Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Listen to ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ here.
You might not know his name, but it is likely that you will recognize Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s voice. Garzón-Montano was pulled into the spotlight after Drake sampled his track “6 8". But he is determined not to let that define him. “I don’t want to be that guy that got sampled on ‘Jungle’,” he said, “I don’t want that to give me my value”.
I think those concerns have been effectively erased with the release of his full-length debut Jardín. As the primary vocalist, instrumentalist, and composer for Jardín, there is no doubt left about this man’s talent.
Music became part of Garzón-Montano’s life from an early age. Gaining the foundations of classical training from his mother, he learned violin as a child before moving on to guitar, drums, bass, and piano. His resulting musical career has incorporated his experiences with urban electronic and hip-hop, as well as influences from his French-Colombian heritage.
It’s actually quite a feat to locate Garzón-Montano’s sound on the wide map of his influences. I would place it somewhere between chill funk and neo-soul, balanced with a touch of psychedelia and a hard penchant for groove. On Jardín, this has culminated in a luxurious ode to life, beauty, and romance. The layered vocals and lush instrumentals across each track are irresistible.
Opening with “Trial”, Jardín eases the listener in with soft harmonies laid across a restrained string performance. The next few tracks build up to soulful vocals from Garzón-Montano, punctuated by the funky rhythms of “The Game” and “Crawl”. From this point onward, Jardín somehow feels like its own microcosm. It’s minimalistic at times, yet eerily moody in a world that seems very much separate from ours. Garzón-Montano is quite aware of this. He closes the album with the gentle, soothing melody of “Lullaby”, perhaps as if to delicately deposit the listener back into reality.
I’m very impressed with this release. The intricacies and details in Jardín seem to indicate that we can expect more great things from Garzón-Montano. He is certainly surpassing his time in the spotlight as “the guy that got sampled on ‘Jungle’”. He is making his own name for himself, and I look forward to what he will bring us in the future, perhaps with a bit more polish if nothing else.
Look, I don’t like to be a negative person. But, it’s been a negative year, and there have been some truly confounding albums that only seemed to make things worse with their badness.
So, in the spirit of humor, taking the piss, and Internet clickbait, I will be listing the 10 albums that I hated the most this year. I’m only listing albums that I listened to, perhaps even albums I was highly anticipating before they came out. These 10 albums were either extremely disappointing or they totally lived up to the paltry, minuscule expectations I had for them in the first place.
For better or worse, below are the 10 WORST albums of 2016, with #10 being the least worst and #1 being the absolute fucking worst. Stay tuned for the 69 Best Albums of the Year, which will be way more positive, optimistic, and carefully written.
10. Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway
Famed Cali-rock act RHCP is currently coasting through a mildly successful fourth act, due in large part to The Getaway, the sophomore album of the band’s second post-Frusciante phase. The Getaway isn’t really a horrible album, so much as it is a well-composed album that’s completely ruined by Anthony Kiedis’ cringey vocals and lyrics.
The Getaway isn’t spectacularly bad, but it did turn me into the kind of person that would openly bash Anthony Kiedis’ vocals and lyrics. I used to be a big RHCP fan, and even after I stopped really listening to them I never developed a hatred for them, it was more like a quiet respect. Yet, here I am, rightfully bashing the shit out of Kiedis on this album.
This record is a halfway-coherent concept album about the 50-year-old singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers being dumped his 23-year-old girlfriend over some legitimately good and interesting musical contributions by Josh Klinghoffer, Flea, and Chad Smith. There are a few cuts I find likable, like lead single “Dark Necessities,” and it’s nice to get an album produced by Danger Mouse that isn’t completely lifeless, but this is too weak a follow-up to an even weaker album (2011’s toothless I’m With You) to have an impact on me in any meaningful way.
9. Blink-182 – California
Famed Cali-rock act Blink-182 is currently coasting through a m—
Um, I mean… Blink-182 is a world-famous alternative/pop-punk trio who recently ditched its most interesting member: vocalist/guitarist Tom DeLonge. While DeLonge is busy helping Hillary Clinton find ancient aliens, bassist/vocalist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker kidnapped Matt Skiba from… *checks notecards* … Alkaline Trio, which is probably another alternative/pop-punk band.
But don’t mistake this as just another attempt to continue cashing in on a dead brand at arenas all over Southern California, for this new Blink lineup actually resulted in some productive recording sessions. At least I can say that there’s way more chemistry on this album than on Blink’s 2011 discography blight, Neighborhoods, but DeLonge’s absence from the mix is totally felt.
Once again, the band tries to be the adolescent late-90s fuckboys that made bestiality jokes onstage as well as the trio of serious, poetic early-40s dad-dudes, who totally love A Day to Remember, bro. It didn’t work then, and it still doesn’t work.
California is a forgettable-ass album, with a decent single, two throwaway joke songs, and far too much self-seriousness (and too little Tom DeLonge) for its own good. And this is coming from a guy who willingly saw Blink-182 live in 2014, a few months before the ouster of Mr. Angels & Airwaves himself. In that regard, California is probably the biggest waste of time of any Blink-182 album to date, and I will be unsurprised if it is the final one Hoppus and Barker manage to crank out before the pop-punkocalypse kills us all.
8. Francis and the Lights – Farewell, Starlite!
The first time I had ever heard of Francis and the Lights, it was when I was asking “…is that Justin Vernon?” during my first listen-through of Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book. Nah, it turns out the voice on “Summer Friends,” one of the worst songs on that mixtape, is some dude named Francis Farewell Starlite (that’s his real name) who sounds kind of like Justin Vernon. It doesn’t help that the song “Summer Friends” samples, “Friends,” features Justin Vernon.
All this confusion coalesces on Farewell, Starlite!, a messy, hazy debut album that only proves the point that this dude is as forgettable as his contribution to Chance the Rapper’s worst release. Farewell, Starlite! is a 30-minute dud that feels rushed, incomplete, and bland as hell.
If this guy wants to deserve the hype he has, he needs to hone his skill and distinguish himself from just being the Justin Vernon-sounding dude with the Peter Gabriel worship who was briefly on that Chance record to a memorable, significant musical figure. Next.
7. Drake – Views
In the many years that I’ve been compiling year-end best-album lists, Drake has been on two of them. First in 2013 for Nothing Was the Same and then last year for If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late. What the hell happened?
I’m not really sure. I don’t know why or how this album happened. Maybe Drake is surrounded by too many yes-people who are afraid to challenge him musically, or maybe they legitimately thought it was dope.
And I understand. There are certainly moments on Views that I think are fairly good, like the opening track “Keep the Family Close,” or the bars on “Hype” and “Weston Road Flows.” I don’t even mind “One Dance” or “Child’s Play” that much. But going back to it, that’s like 25% decent (not great) material in an album that is otherwise flooded with filler, fat, and snooze-bars.
“Redemption”? “With You”? “Faithful”? “Fire & Desire”? Do you even remember what these songs sound like without refreshing your memory? Even some of the more memorable tracks like “Pop Style,” “Too Good,” and “Controlla” are just not that good. This album is filled with too many weak songs, which isn’t typical of a Drake album. Hopefully the project he’s teasing now for release early next year will see a return of that hungry, melodically gifted Drake we all know and love. Because this shit sucks.
6. Desiigner – New English
Before Desiigner was the Grammy-nominated goofball superstar he is now, he was the Future-ripping teenager whose hit single “Panda” some-crazy-how ended up on Kanye West’s highly anticipated The Life of Pablo. Now, he’s signed to GOOD Music and has an extremely weak mixtape under his belt, New English.
This thing is messy, clearly unfinished, and actually kind of insulting. If you’re going to come into the game biting somebody else’s style (and you can’t say he doesn’t sound a lot like Future), then at least prove yourself with something beyond one established hit single.
But, no, this album is laced with forgettable filler tracks and some literal snippets of songs that still have not been released in full. Desiigner’s post-New English single “Tiimmy Turner” has me intrigued, but not by much. I guess the one upside is that he couldn’t possibly release something worse than this.
5. Green Day – Revolution Radio
Famed Cali-rock act Green Day is currently—
Jeez. Ahem. The last time we heard from Green Day, the band closed out 2012 with a trilogy of really bad power-pop albums, titled ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, and ¡Tré!. Thankfully, they took an entire presidential term before coming back with something… just as bad.
Revolution Radio is one of the most boring, flaccid “punk” albums I’ve ever heard. It is unashamed of how commercial and overproduced it is, with painfully inadequate platitudes disguised as “revolutionary rhetoric.” I’m not even sure who Green Day is playing to at this point, because at least the empty platitudes on American Idiot were presented as catchy songs. This is just embarrassing.
Ironically titled Revolution Radio, this album is as groundbreaking as royalty-free Spike TV “RAWK MUZIK” that plays in, like, Monster Energy Drink commercials. Except it’s worse because it seems like they’re trying really hard. This album almost seems like it was crafted as a clever joke, but I know that Green Day isn’t that self aware.
4. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – This Unruly Mess I’ve Made
I don’t tend to think of myself as being contrarian simply for the sake of opposing mainstream cultural obsessions. If I like something, I like it. If I dislike something, I dislike it.
I hate this fucking album.
Macklemore is a rapper from my (filthy) city, Seattle, where he cut his teeth writing not-horrible conscious raps about Real Shit™. Then, in 2012, he blew up with one of my least favorite pop rap songs ever, “Thrift Shop,” while also capitalizing on LGBT+ microaggressions with “Same Love,” which will probably be looked at historically as the song that effectively legalized same-sex marriage. Great.
Then, he did the unthinkable. He beat Kendrick Lamar’s masterful instant classic good kid, m.A.A.d. city – which didn’t commodify LGBT+ rights or produce any embarrassingly obnoxious radio rap singles – for the Grammy Awards’ coveted Best Rap Album trophy. He didn’t do it on purpose, obviously, but the deed was done.
So, however many pleasant Macklemore-free years later, Macklemore is back to apologize for his big oopsie. With trusty minion Ryan Lewis in tow, pianos and horns and warts and all, Mack lent his annoying ass voice to more corny bullshit, with a couple moments of heartfelt seriousness thrown in there for fun.
This Unruly Mess I’ve Made came out in, like, February and I’m still upset about its existence. I do not want this man to be associated with Seattle’s amazing, experimental hip-hop scene, and I’m not sorry that this album sucks.
3. A$AP Ferg – Always Strive and Prosper
I really enjoyed (and still enjoy) the 2013 debut from NY rapper A$AP Ferg, Trap Lord, which was an unexpected smash with critics and fans alike. Naturally, I was hoping that this studio follow-up would be similarly heavy on catchy bangers, with an emphasis on Ferg’s unforgettable voice and amazing hooks.
Nope. Nope nope nope nope. Not here. Always Strive and Prosper is a weak pseudo-concept album that features some ill-conceived attempts at radio hits and EDM-rap bangers. “Hungry Ham,” with Skrillex, is annoying as hell. And “Strive,” which features the usually on-point Missy Elliott, is straight-up garbage.
Always Strive and Prosper is a jumbled mess of an album that is incoherent and incohesive, and it in no way lives up to the standard Ferg set for himself that 2013 summer when Trap Lord was miraculously borne unto this cold world.
This album was not good, and I think Ferg realizes that no one vibes with this record, so hopefully the next release will be more in the direction where he actually does strive and prosper, which is catchy, funny hip-hop bangers. I’m not saying he should box himself into one style, but he should take this album’s poor reception into serious consideration.
2. M.I.A. – AIM
It was only a matter of time until the previously sharp and at times underrated M.I.A. released a miserable album. There are songs on this album that literally sound like they were written and recorded in three days, and not in a charming, lo-fi sort of way, but in a “Oh shit, I’ve got three days until I need to turn the album in and I have nothing” sort of way.
AIM is M.I.A.’s least successful album to date, both commercially and critically, and for very good reason. The songs aren’t catchy or sharp, the production is thin and lame, and the minimal effort that seems to have been put into AIM totally shows.
I never want to hear this album again. The singles are weaker than some of the worst songs on her previous album, and the deep cuts on AIM are uncharted territory. Listen to this record at your own risk, because it may completely destroy your pre-conceived notions of how amazing M.I.A.’s previous music is.
Actor Corey Feldman, whose most famous roles were as a child back in the ‘80s in films like “The Goonies,” “Stand By Me,” and “The Lost Boys,” is also a musician. If you didn’t know that, perhaps you missed some of the viral talk show performances he did a few months back. Because that wasn’t just a publicity stunt. Corey Feldman was promoting his impossibly horrendous new 90-minute double album, Angelic 2 The Core: Angelic Funkadelic/Angelic Rockadelic.
A2TC: AF/AR is a messy, poorly conceived “concept” album about who-the-fuck-knows, and it has me concerned that Mr. Feldman needs some serious professional help. This album features Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, and Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit fame, so you know that he spent way too much money getting it made.
It’s also a fusion of the worst versions of a myriad of genres, like pop, dubstep, house music, hip-hop, funk, and countless others. It’s difficult to sit through, and even if you make it to the end you will not be hitting “replay” any time soon. This may seem a little obvious of a pick for Worst AOTY for anyone who is familiar with it, but there’s just no contest. Of all the albums I heard this year, there is no doubt that A2TC: AF/AR is the absolute worst.
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason
Pixies – Head Carrier
Justice – Woman
Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me
Goat – Requiem
Post Malone – Stoney
Jakob Ross is RDR’s 2016-2017 Music Director. Follow him on Twitter @jakobsross for more negative beliefs, random observations, and musical opinions.
The upcoming show is on November 22nd at the Showbox, Seattle and is part of R&B and soul artist SoMo’s current U.S. tour. He’s touring with singer Stanaj, and the show will hopefully be an amazing showcase of the two R&B singer/songwriters. Both artists are signed with Republic Records, and have released new music lately. SoMo recently released a single, “First” in August 2016, and also released another single “Control” earlier this year.
Stanaj had a lot of hype before releasing his first EP, The Preview, in August 2016. He’s gained much of his notoriety leading up to the actual release of his original music through his popular YouTube covers and talk of collaboration with big industry names like Drake.
Personally, I’m mostly looking forward to Stanaj’s incredible vocals, and I’m extremely curious to hear him live. If The Preview is any indication of how the show is going to go, I will not be disappointed.
After years of anticipation, Rihanna has finally released
her 8th album, “Anti”. The first single off the album: “Work”
featuring Drake. The song is available to stream here on Tidal, and below is the official “Anti” promo clip:
To be honest, I was a bit underwhelmed in the beginning. I
mean, this is Rihanna we are talking
about. She sells out arenas, she has been on the cover of every magazine. She’s anicon. So to hear her first single sound so minimal was almost a
But then I listened a second time.
I don’t know what it was about the second listen, but I
started to come around to “Work”. I began to really listen to the sounds
in the track
– the little ambient notes in the back playing over Rihanna’s raspy
voice. And I got really into it. Let me tell you, the island vibe is omnipresent in “Work”. From the
get-go, the “Sail Away Riddim” influence is as clear as Caribbean water, and
the track sounds like the rhythm of Barbados in a glass bottle. I absolutely love how Rihanna adopts
a kind of emotionless rasp for this single; I can only describe it as a half-baked, drawn out patwa. It’s lazy
but it’s fitting, and in my mind I can see a boozy beach party on the Virgin
Islands (picture the speakers playing the tune in sync with the gentle waves and swaying palm trees).
Rihanna doesn’t sound like she’s trying too hard, and that idea in itself is enough to sell the single; it’s like she’s making a statement: “I’m Rihanna. I don’t
have to try hard.” And she doesn’t. After just three hours of its release, “Work” hit #1 on iTunes in over 40 countries, and by now it has reached #1 in over 80
countries. Also, I would like to point out that this “hardly trying” effort at a song has
made a track that is undeniably seductive, smooth, and addictive.
Check out the track on Tidal, and make sure to give it
that second listen.