On the flip side: volume 4

Diego Sultan, Staff Reporter

As we dive into another year of mind-bending, rule-breaking and genre-redefining music, this column will continue to ensure a few of those albums will not go under the radar.

Trust the process

Sampha- Process

Sampha is an R&B singer out of the UK who grew his following through work with SBTRKT, Solange and Drake.  Process is full of powerful vocal and smooth instrumentals.  Sampha has a talent for ballads, like on the song “No One Knows Me (Like the Piano),” where he shows his vocal range over somber piano production.

He also is not afraid to use punchy or weird production: on “Kora Sings,” he features glitchy, yet melodic, electronics.  Another example is “Blood On Me,” which has a bouncy drum beat driving the song forward.  All of these elements combine with well-written, catchy songs to make this my early album of the year.


Indie folk standout

Jesca Hoop- Memories Are Now

Jesca Hoop is an indie folk artist, and this is her first album out of the Sub Pop, a label known for releasing wildly experimental music.  Although this album may sound different than their other artists, Hoop took major risks.  The only instrumentation on this album comes from either guitar, bass or vocal layering.

Despite how bare the mix might sound on this album, Hoop manages to make catchy songs, and she has proven herself to be a good songwriter.  The quietness of this album is part of what makes it unique, but it is not a fault because of the beautiful arrangement of instrumentals and the well-written song structures.

Ballads and beats

The xx- I See You

One of things that held me back from liking The xx is how quiet their music was, because nothing about their songs left an impact on me.  But since then, their producer, Jamie xx, released a successful solo beat tape, and his punchy beats played a bigger role on the sound of this album.  This is far from a party album, but some of the songs have actual beats which balance out the album better for me.

Vocalists Romy Croft and Oliver Sim give good vocal performances over pretty instrumentals, and the emotion can be easily felt.  I do think they get carried by the quality of the instrumental at times, but regardless this is a good set of indie pop ballads.

Garage rock with a microtonal twist

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard- Flying Microtonal Banana

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard made this new album completely with microtonal instruments, which are instruments tuned using intervals popular in central Asian and Middle Eastern music, and then combined those sounds with their fast-paced, low-fi psychedelic garage rock.  This combination supplies fun rock songs with lots of different sounds and textures that may be foreign to a lot of people.

The combination of textures added to the high-energy rock music makes this album stand out.  King Gizzard promised five albums this year, and if this first project is a sign of what to come, then they will have a successful 2017.