Run the Jewels
Run the Jewels 2 (Sony)
Cadillactica is a planet in a solar system near Earth’s. It was created by the 808. Big K.R.I.T is both supreme god and an everyman. He created this world and gave the people free will. Bass is the universal currency. There is a constant and soothing thunder on Cadillactica.
Madlib and Freddie Gibbs
Pinata (Madlib Medicine Show)
Pinata is a perfect collaboration between Freddie Gibbs and Madlib. Gibbs rocks thuggin rhymes with an authentic storyteller’s flow, powerful and full of personality. Madlib’s soulful beats make the raw realities of Gibbs lyrics go down so smoothly that you're asking for more before you even finish the first helping.
“Perhaps it's just a chemical reaction with my Zoloft and acidophilus. The section of my brain that forms sentences isn't operative”. PTSD is not an easy listen for all. Pharoahe Monch takes his own struggles with depression and with veteran skill and poise lyrically conflates the imagery of wars between global factions and the personal battles we all fight.
Clppng (Sub Pop)
CyHi The Prynce
Hystori: Black History Project (GOOD)
Mega Philosophy (Slimstyle)
Cormega drops a manifesto on the current status of hip hop with Mega Philosophy. In the pocket boom bap mixes with conscience lyrics about what it means to be a responsible member of the hip hop culture. “And what’s swag? I don’t care how you dress or what you drive, I want rhymes that really impress.”
DJ Premiere and Royce da 5'9"
Open Mike Eagle
Dark Comedy (Mello)
Dark Comedy is part rap album part autobiographical experimentation. Open Mike Eagle wears many masks. Lyrics come triple packed with meaning; equally earnest and ironic. The undertow is strong. “Sick days, I got two left. So I take five, Dave Brubeck. I make jazz jokes so I'm flat broke. Mad at LOST and that black smoke.”
David Dahms has been a Coast writer since 2013. He is Redicarus. In 2015 he will drop a rap album that will knock Cadillactica out of orbit, thug harder that Freddie Gibbs, be weirder then Open Mike Eagle, make Cormega seem insecure and deal with more mental health issues than PTSD.
picks by Stephanie Johns
LP1 (Young Turks)
2014 was the year for hot music, seriously. FKA twigs reinvented sexy, synthy R&B to include all of the weirdos. Graphic lyrics couched in delicate breathy vocals, convey sex, sadness, loneliness and jealousy in a risk-taking, captivating debut LP.
After that arresting David Letterman performance, Future Islands—a band that’s been around since 2006—took the spotlight that should have been theirs for a while. Tight rhythms, a croon for the ages and gentle touches like violin beef up fresh synth melodies. Genuinely emotional new wave made for grown ups, by grown ups.
Beyoncé (Platinum edition) (Columbia)
Nicki Minaj’s Instagram has been pretty tough to follow these last few months. When it’s not pictures of shapely Nicki (that part isn’t annoying) it’s image after image of her album cover, or art for a single, or screenshots of rave reviews for The Pinkprint. The anticipation was brutal, but the wait was worth it—The Pinkprint is EVERYTHING. Twenty-two tracks of everything show Minaj’s range and a new, less pastel Nicki. There’s pop, there’s fire, there’s sadness. Everything.
Old and Weird
What I Saw
To paraphrase Drake, Old and Weird’s latest shit like a greatest hits, goddamn. So many beautiful and bizarre melodies and lyrics about true experiences and manipulation of tiny moments. What I Saw is full of life, intellect and post-punk greatness.
Cassette (Mexican Summer)
For seven songs, there’s a fair amount of variety—droning (“Select Your Drone”), murky, squealing noise (“Dark Entries”), icy cool synth and repeating guitar riffs ad infinitum and warm acoustic psych (“Static Wall”). It’s all welcome.
D’Angelo and the Vanguard
Black Messiah (Sony)
Manipulator (Drag City)
Whine of the Mystic (Plastic Factory)
Stephanie Johns is the Coast’s arts editor and has been inside Gus’ Pub exactly 1000000000000 times.
picks by Doug Taylor
St. Vincent (Loma Vista/Republic)
Rarely does the hottest act in the world at that moment land in Halifax. Kudos, Jazz East! On “Huey Newton”, Annie Clark’s vocals negotiate a deceptively sweet path across a world of “online assassins” and “faith for the faithless” before busting a guitar solo for the ages. Robust notes, none wasted.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Hypnotic Eye (Reprise)
Shovels & Rope
Swimmin’ Time (Dualtone)
Most Messed Up (ATO)
“Tonight I wanna get wasted with you”, as bellowed by Rhett Miller, feels like the height of romance situated at the edge of a a “big black void”. The Texas band’s tenth album in 20 years is tight and confrontational, each facet reinforcing the other. Crown them Waylon Jennings’ spiritual heirs.
Sings the Great Diva Classics (RCA)
Only the Mighty (independent)
This Newfoundlander’s arrival in Nova Scotia bore fruit quickly. Producer Dale Murray helped assemble strong backup, then stood back and let one of the more expressive voices you’ll hear cut loose. She’s can be wild and/or innocent. Her words convey struggle and triumph, metaphorical and universal, Lush arrangements and sharp playing seal the deal.
A Double Sea of Split Peas (Mom & Pop)
Best allergic reaction song ever—and one of the better titles is “Avant Gardener.” In her deadpan way, the Australian relates the ups and downs of a brush with death. The band stays spontaneous, creating room to jam. Barnett’s guitar improvisation on “Canned Tomatoes” guides feedback to the edge of infinity.
Can’t Even Do Wrong Right (Alligator)
Island Sol (independent)
If musicians must travel, why not bring home some new moves? Cape Bretoner Mullins finds a philosophical connection between his island and Cuba. Musically, breezy rhythm runs up against rock instinct. keeping it engagingly conflicted. On “El Diablo”, Havana street strings haunt an assassin’s confession in a voice like latter-day Robert Plant.
Ej Feel Zoo (Bonsound)
Doug Taylor is a math major gone astray, a nerd-jock mutation. This is most evident in the meticulous hand-compiled stats maintained over 25 years for the Propeller (neé CKDU) softball team. He's been reviewing albums for the Coast since 1999.
picks by Adria Young
See our feature on Rich here.
Ivry (Fool’s Gold)
It’s a backhand to the face that this G-funk pimp-rap revivalist is only 21 years old. Growing up in exile on the Ivory Coast, 100s returned to California in a fresh new disco suit to mix the chronic beats of Compton with soul-train synths on Ivry, resulting in an original, funky and truly innovative mixtape.
Saturnalia Regalia (Mint)
Mastermind (Maybach/Def Jam)
If it wasn’t for “Sanctified,” with Betty Wright’s vocal hymnal, one of Kanye West’s best verses (“Wipe my forehead with a handkerchaaaaf”) and Ross referencing grilled cheese sandwiches Mastermind might have faded, despite the number of heavy players behind it. “Sanctified” and “Thug Cry” are its salvation.
Operation Torment (Inferno)
Six years since the demo Break the Barrier, all-female Singaporean metal band Tormentress hits insanely hard on Operation Torment, a 30-minute, classic thrash metal record that centralizes women’s rights, with horror fantasy (“Mutilator”) and a cover of “Tormentor” by Kreator. Plus the album art rules so much.
The Halls of Wickwire (Hand Drawn Dracula)
Salad Days (Captured Tracks)
Lovable gap-toothed dirt-bag Mac DeMarco’s second album Salad Days, stood up to the surprise success of two with a more relaxed and mature form of his trademarked jizz-jazz. Surf-inspired flourishes, lo-fi finishes and dark moods enhance DeMarco’s obvious best asset: his voice. Rich and smooth like cognac.
Meet the Factory Compilation (Plastic Factory)
The Ring Rats
Ain’t We Great (independent)
Halifax’s only wrestling theme-song cover band are my heavyweight champions with entrance jams for The Ultimate Warrior, Bret Hart, Ted DiBiase and Mr. Perfect. From Craig Hamlin and Matt Grace’s technical proficiency to Jake Thurgood’s incredible imitations, Ain’t We Great is pure money in the bank.
Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah (Bikini Kill) [reissue]
A Coast writer since 2012, Adria Young is a Paul Heyman guy.
Have a listen to our top sounds of the year: