These recommendations are carefully ‘ear’-picked each month from a selection of bold, contemporary artists who are experimenting at the boundaries of genre and sound. Some of what we’ve been listening to, some that’s kept us moving, inspired. A few even offering a pertinent lens through which to view issues of identity & belonging within the geopolitics of our fragmenting world. With each complete album, there’s a story waiting to be told – offering a holistic peak into the artist’s ruminations.
This month we begin with debut album O by Azadi Records artist Tienas. We’re greeted to a sonic experience that not only showcases the unique vision of the Mumbai-based MC but also the layered quality of the Indian Hip-Hop scene. We had the pleasure of hosting Tienas and the roster of artists from Azadi Records for the official launch of this album – which ended up being a small teaser of the various different up and coming artists that Azadi represents, fosters, and supports. This debut album leans more towards woozy, R&B tones with storytelling very much at its core.
Up next, we continue with the story-telling thread with 2018 project Home Is Where the Art Is by London-based rapper, Barney Artist. His sound can best be described as jazzy, old-school boom-bap type rapping. In this project, Barney hones in on both his rapping and lyricism as well as the atmospheric quality of his jazz infused beats. Some tracks present a happier and vibrant scene like opener “Return of the Real” or “Lullaby (feat. Tom Misch)” while others lean into the darker side of relationships such as “Look at Your Man Now! (feat. George the Poet)”, but together they create a complex tapestry and narrative that best describes Barney’s persona, personal story, and his environment.
Then we go to the latest studio album, Origin, by the smooth and silky voiced Jordan Rakei. There is perhaps very little to be said about Jordan Rakei that hasn’t already been said before. However, with this latest project, he solidifies his understanding of modern production while leaning on traditional pillars of soul, R&B, and pop. There is an understated nature about the New Zealand singer and songwriter, that comes through in this accomplished album that invites listeners to not only listen carefully and repeatedly, but also to weigh up questions of what a technology filled future may hold for us all.
We take things up a notch with the Candian producer and DJ, Kaytranada’s latest project BUBBA – a testament to a clear vision and collaboration. Only with the former do you make the most of the latter, and Kaytranada does it ever so well. Each song stands it’s own stead while also flowing into one another, just as you would expect from a live DJ-set. BUBBA provides listeners with that and more. Some of the notable collaborators on this project include Tinashe, SiR, Goldlink, Masego, Kali Uchis –oh and Pharrell.
Finally we end the month with the fitting i,i by band Bon Iver – a work that firmly solidifies their sound. If 22, a million was experimental and seemed disjointed in it’s output, this project is reassured and confident in its unique sound. Over the various Bon Iver projects, Justin Vernon has shown his production skills when it comes to his interaction with the various instruments we are treated to, but the one he seems to have honed most is the one instrument we most overlook: his voice. The mesmerizing production and incisive lyrics come together perfectly thanks to Vernon’s supple and earthy baritone that even in its perhaps angriest of moments seems instead to offer forgiveness. A fitting album to close the month!
tienas – O
Mumbai-based MC Tanmay Saxena, known popularly as Tienas, released his debut studio album O with Azadi Records at G5A, in June 2019. It occupies a niche space between Hip-Hop/Rap and RnB that’s usually missing in the Independent Hip-Hop scene in India – a breath of fresh air in the city’s hip-hop community.
barney artist – home is where the art is
East London’s Hip-Hop/Rap musician Barney Artist’s debut album released in September 2018. After gaining acclaim through self produced mix-tapes he’s created Home is Where The Art Is – a deeply personal collection of 13 tracks featuring some stellar collaborations.
jordan rakei – origin
New Zealand-Australian musician, singer, songwriter and record producer Jordan Rakei, currently based in in the UK came out with his third album – soulful, intimate and expansive all at once, “Origin”, cuts straight to the point.
kayatranda – BUBBA
The second studio album by Canadian electronic music producer Kaytranada – BUBBA – released on December 13, 2019. A unique blend of neo-soul, hip-hop, afrobeat and other varying genres in a dance style that the artist describes as funky, the album peaked at No. 1on Billboard’s list of US Top Dance/Electronic albums.
bon iver – i,i
The fourth studio album by American indie folk band Bon Iver was released track by track on August 08, 2019, followed by a physical release on at the end of the month. It received Grammy nominations for Album of The Year and Best Alternative Music Album, among others, and also claimed the No. 1 spot on Billboards list of US Top Folk/Independent albums.