2017 was a pretty intense year all around, but there was still time for lots of music. For me personally, it included covering bands that I had never dreamed I'd get to photograph, crossing many entries off from my bucket list of artists to see, and even traveling overseas for several festivals. Choosing the "best" shows from among the numerous ones that I attended and covered for ChunkyGlasses was a daunting task, not least because I'm pretty selective about which shows I'll even do, meaning that I rarely see a bad one. Still, there were several that definitely stood out as being the best of the best. Here are my picks for my top ten shows (and festivals) of this year.
In an interview following the release of The Fall in 2011, Damon Albarn was quoted as saying that it was unlikely that Gorillaz, his collaboration with artist Jamie Hewlett, would put out another album. But times change, and after an even more improbable reunion when Blur put out The Magic Whip in 2015, Albarn announced in October of that year that he and Hewlett had begun work on a new record. The results of those efforts finally came out in April of this year with the release of Humanz, a 20-track tour de force that saw Albarn digging even deeper into the electronica and hip-hop influences behind the project, and deeper into the political climate (even though the album was recorded prior to the votes for Brexit and for Trump, parts of it seem almost prescient), than he ever had before. Along with the album came the announcement of a world tour, and the excitement was so high that the band’s stop at Merriweather Post Pavilion (not a small venue) sold out almost instantly, months in advance.
With a string of mixtapes, EP's, and one LP behind him, hip-hop's Vince Staples has been making a mark on the new-rap landscape for years now. On his new album Big Fish Theory, he's taking the art form into the future and bringing us all along for the ride.
Kevin, Marcus Dowling (Decades/Capital Wrestling), and Joe Lapan (Songbyrd Music House) dig into this landmark effort from the young MC, and consider what this means for the future of hip-hop, where Staples is going to land once he comes down from the stratosphere, and much, much more.
PLUS! Get to know the superfly jams of R&B/jazz/hip-hop supergroup The Pollyseeds before their album Sounds of Crenshaw, Vol 1 drops on 7/14. (This Friday!)
Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett's virtual super-group Gorillaz are back for another round on their latest LP Humanz. Never ones to shy away from collaboration, this time their bringing along the likes of Vince Staples, Popcaan, D.R.A.M., Grace Jones, Anthony Hamilton, De La Soul, Danny Brown, Kelela, Mavis Staples, Pusha T, Benjamin Clementine. and more to bring their often dark vision of a barely distant future to life once again. In the age of Trump, is Humanz the right album at exactly the right time, or are we still left waiting for a hero to arrive? Marcus Dowling joins Kevin in the basement to suss it out.
PLUS! Jason A. Mullinax's Time Being is here, and we've got your ticket to a trip through some avante-pop goodness.
The 90s was the decade of grunge in the US, but in the UK, it was the decade of Britpop. Along with the likes of compatriots (and often rivals) such Oasis, Suede, and Pulp, Blur helped to define and popularize the genre. The band – consisting of Damon Albarn on vocals, Graham Coxon on guitar, Alex James on Bass, and Dave Rowntree on drums – recorded a total of seven albums over the course of their original run before splitting in 2003. Coxon left to pursue a solo career. Albarn moved on to find success with his “virtual band” with artist Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz. James took up cheesemaking, and Rowntree became a solicitor. Fans all but gave up on the idea that the band would play together again.
Until, that is, the end of 2008, when the band announced that they were reuniting for a pair of concerts at Hyde Park in London. From there, the band went on to make a number of festival appearances throughout Europe, and even played Coachella in 2013. All the while, though, the band put down all rumors of a new album, releasing only a few new songs as singles. That changed early this year, though, with the release of the single “Go Out” in February along with the announcement of the band’s eighth album, The Magic Whip, to follow in March. Soon after, the band finally announced the US shows that North American fans had been waiting for, though with only two dates, at the Hollywood Bowl in LA and Madison Square Garden in New York City, the two biggest concerts the band had ever played in the US. Last week, after months of anticipation, those shows finally arrived.
Oh new releases, why do you tease us so. Last week was a positively stellar week for new music with releases from the like of TV On The Radio, Alison Kraus and, who can forget, John 'The Moustache" Oates. Yep, those were the days.
This week...well lets see. Wayne Brady, a Gorillaz album that everyone already has (and was less than impressive) and The Freakin' Steve Miller Band. That's just sort of..hmmm.
Oh wait..here to save the day is DUFF McKAGAN!!!!
Look. I tried.
All kidding aside, I hear that The Head and the Heart album is actually quite good, and I'm never one to scoff at Llamas, especially when they are HIGH. Sorry. Too easy. I actually like those guys though so you should check them out if you get the chance.
That's it for this week. Sorry to be so brief, but as well as being an overzealous music fan, I am also an overzealous fan of the game Portal, which saw it's sequel released today, so if you need me...just don't need me. OK?
Oh wait..THERE IS SOME GOOD STUFF. Please definitley check out the album ROAR by Dirty Gold and WHOKILL by Tune-Yards. We'll be reviewing both before the week is out.
Now really. I've got to get off this computer and practice some science.