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Chris Daly is about to grow his hair out like Marceline.
It’s good to see you, sweetheart. Look, I know promises were made with the best intentions in mind, but somehow this shit over here seems to have a way of getting in the way of that other shit over there, and the next thing you know, you’re in line taking pictures of your kids with Mickey Mouse dressed as Santa Claus when you’re supposed to be interviewing your favorite underground DJ. In an effort to right (write?) those wrongs and start 2019 with a clean slate, here’s all the stuff I truly and honestly intended to write about last year.
1. Long Arm–Darkly
On his third album, Long Arm quietly has become my favorite artist on the magnificent Project: Mooncircle label. I’ve been a huge fan since his debut, The Branches, and “After 4 AM” continues to make it onto a majority of my mixtapes. On Darkly, the down tempo maestro attempts his first “piano album” to great success. And as if a new album weren’t reason enough to celebrate, the Russian producer also dropped “Silent Opera,” a stunning single in the waning days of December presumably to help Santa get everyone the gifts they deserved.
2. Tigermoth–Gung Fu
If you’re going to set your targets on the competition, you might as well aim for the top. The multi-instrumentalist/beat maker takes aim at the kung-fu stylings of the Abbot himself, the RZA, over 13 tracks of Kung Fu (the show and the genre) goodness, mixing in ample Bollywood and Eastern influences. Tracks like “Sun Wu Kong” show off his chopping skills.
3. Reto A Ichi- The Lapse of the Exchange/Alone Moving Often
I’ll admit, when done correctly, I’m a sucker for concept albums. So when Prefuse 73 decided to take up the new mantle of Reto A Ichi and dedicate an album to the blind warrior, Zaotichi, I was fairly hooked before I even pushed play. While the music bears the hallmark of being heavily inspired by his surroundings, Guillermo Scott Herren moves into quieter and more contemplative territory in his new persona. Written over the course of two years in NYC and the nearby countryside, Reto explores “noisy silence” with defeaning effects.
I tried with absolutely no success to get in touch with this brilliantly lowkey label. 2018 saw big changes for CR, including a move into new HQ digs in Rotterdam, a move away from (uncleared) samples, the addition of a raccoon mascot and a nice, year-end fund raiser that donated nearly $12,000 to charity. Come for the warm and cozy vibes, stay for the Essentials Series. And if you happen to be hanging out in the Netherlands anytime soon and see those cats, tell them to give me a buzz.
5. A Tribe Called Red – “Sila”
Alright, so this track technically droppped in 2016, but it was used to soundtrack my personal favorite movie of 2018, Thoroughbreds. Go see the movie, sure, but it’s not like you should need an excuse for more Inuk throat singing in your life.
6. Wylie Cable– Buried at Sea
The venerated Dome of Doom label leader had a couple of years of ups and downs himself, including lost relationships and moving locations, but if the end result is this gorgeous album, I think we’re all better off for the journey. Named after the literal act of spreading his father’s ashes at sea, this is a cerebral journey for the heads.
7. Kenny Segal – happy little trees
I really enjoyed this quiet, meditative album, the first, solo instrumental by L.A.’s Kenny Segal. While you may or may not recognize his name, if you listen to beats or L.A. hip-hop of the past few years, odds are you’ve heard his work with anyone from Milo to Busdriver to Open Mike Eagle. When I first saw that it took inspiration from the work of artiste extraordinaire Bob Ross, I felt compelled to sing this album’s praises to the mountains. Then I read more of the press release and saw that the Bob Ross angle was to somehow demonstrate some kind of empty, souless craft, I decided I’d let someone else handle this one. The metaphor is more complex than that, but it’s seldom a good thing to confuse writers with your press releases. You can make great music, as Mr. Segal has here, but don’t fuck with Bob if you want me on your side.
8. Potatohead People – Nick & Astro’s Guide to the Galaxy
It’s a given fact that Canadians are among the best people on the planet, so let’s not even go there. Everyone knows that the ability to handle arctic temperatures is pivotal to achieving an enlightened soul. All of this does nothing to explain why the duo of Nick Wisdom and Astrological aren’t more common household names, assuming you live in a house that subsists largely on beats. With guests including Illa J, Moka Only and Nanna B, the boys have taken obvious strides musically on this follow-up to their 2015 Bastard Jazz debut. If you were looking for an excellent intersection of boom bap hip hop, jazz and down tempo beats, have I got a treat for you.
9. Prince — Piano & A Microphone
As the resident unhinged Prince fan, I’m embarrassed for not having tackled this album. The title says it all: Prince playing a piano with a microphone to no one but a sound guy. Even just fucking around, His Royal Badness’ practice sessions are worth your time. Hell, this comes across more like an intimate concert than a rehearsal. Some of the tracks remain works in progress (recorded around the time of Purple Rain, “Strange Relationship,” for example, wouldn’t be officially recorded until Sign O’ The Times a few years later), while others are straight out jams. If you’re still waiting 2 C the dawn, this is canon.
Look, I named my son in part after Finn, so if you don’t like Rebecca Sugar’s stellar songcraft, we can duke. Don’t think I won’t. If this track doesn’t do something to your squishy insides, you’re probably dead inside.
And with that, here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2019 for all of us. I look forward to sharing horrific puns, pushing rock solid Dad jokes and disappointing PR flacks for the next 365, give or take.