It’s arguably a touch early to make this call, but: Lil Yachty’s Let’s Start Here is the album of the year. It’s incredible! And the opening track, the BLACK semihole encapsulate everything that’s great about it, moving from Steve Lacy-esque funk rock to Echoes-era Pink Floyd, complete with mid-song tempo shift. Time will tell whether I’ve been grossly premature – and to be fair I’ve only listened to it twice – but for now, this is the album by which all others should be judged.
Here’s something else from last year I missed, taken from Holodec’s LP All Dogs Come From Wolves that landed in November. Just U is part garage, part post-dubstep, and all woman, baby! Boomkat described the album as “a definitive statement by a quietly gifted artist who operates inside the long shadow of late ‘90s US R&B”, and they’re way better at writing about music than me, so let’s go with that.
Recently longlisted for the BBC’s Sound of 2023 – which seems a bit late to the party, given she’s been putting out, often very well-received music for at least half a decade now – Biig Piig’s Bubblegum came out last week, and it’s great, although I’m not entirely sure why it’s a mixtape, rather than an EP. People cleverer than me will know, but like I said: it’s great, and Only One is a low-key vibe.
Kelela’s mixtape CUT 4 Me, debut LP Take Me Apart, and especially her 2015 EP Hallucinogen remain high watermarks in alternative r&b, so it was great to see her putting out new music last year after a few years off-radar: a break that was long enough to instigate a Where is Kelela? Reddit. Her new album Raven is scheduled to land 10 February, and has been proceeded by a run of singles, the latest of which is Contact. And while so far I’m not convinced the production is quite as interesting as it has been in the past, her voice still sounds incredible, so hopes are high.
Lol at everyone who’s already published their end of year list! (TPW’s is coming tomorrow – thanks for asking). SZA’s SOS is one of two albums released last week that will definitely making my list, so my slackness in publishing has turned out to be quite a canny move. Usually if an album pushes over the hour mark it’s a warning sign for some damaging indulgence and self-regard, but there are so many good tracks – Conceited not least among them – that in this case the extended running time is entirely justified.
Pink Siifu and producer Ahwlee return to release new music as their enigmatic hip-hop/neo-soul duo B. Cool-Aid: the first official release in more than 3 years following their last full-length project Syrup back in 2019. It’s very good!
Maryam Said performing as poolblood has shared the latest single from their forthcoming debut album mole. Meditative and sombre, the song deals with “the anxieties of love and learning how to self soothe”, which makes it sound like it has the potential to be quite a angsty slog, but is instead moving, delicate and very lovely indeed.
South Carolina-based Contour lands on London’s Touching Bass with Onwards!, billed as “an evocative, twelve-track journey through black art both past and contemporary with soul, electronics and archival material at its core.” Nigga Won’t Reach Mars is enjoyably downbeat, and sounds like a lost Dummy-era Portishead b-side, albeit with Contour’s smooth vocal replacing Beth Gibbons’ harrowing wail.
There’s something immediately, hauntingly arresting about the scratchy, low-fi guitar strumming on this that I was sold even before Wright’s broken, beautiful vocal comes in. Then the beat drops, the melody surges, and I’m melting.
Quinton Barnes’s fantastic new album For The Love Of Drugs landed last week, and while my overall takeaway from the LP is that Quinton has bascially had enough of everyone’s shit, there are a few gentler, borderline romantic moments, of which Fuck On U is arguably the strongest. Boasting the crunchy synth lines that characterise much of the album’s production paired with some truly gorgeous piano, it sees QB showing his vulnerable side to powerful effect.