ITS FUCKING SPRING which means music festival season is upon- my absolute favorite time of the year- has rolled around once again and what better way to celebrate than by sharing five of my favorite albums ever? Each of these gems holds personal significance, and are beautiful and unique in their own way. Please buy the albums immediately if you don’t already own them- they’re all ridiculously perfect.
FELA KUTI / na poi
Na Poi was banned by the Nigerian Broadcasting Company when it was first released, its critics thought of Fela as vulgar for the record’s taboo sexual lyrics, which is part of what makes the album so wonderful, though it wasn’t that he possessed a poet’s soul, an instinct for dark string arrangements and oblique percussive interludes. The album interchanges spoken word and sung lyrics over the Africa 70 horn play, spanning not only the complete a-side of the record, but the first part of the b-side as well — clocking in over 25 minutes. The record finishes with “You No Go Die…Unless”, a powerful funk bop that displays Fela’s bravado as he tells people not to fear death, because they won’t die until they’re ready to die.
SOLANGE / a seat at the table
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you are familiar with Solange’s third studio album. A Seat at the Table is a musical moment in a sea of mediocrity- a bold, stylistically intriguing effort brimming with creative intent, which will certainly fuel your own imagination. The album opens with “Rise” on which Solange comes off Minnie Riperton – all piercing falsetto, sneering consonants, snatched breaths, and moaning gasps, held together with swooping vocal gymnastics. That first track encapsulates the tone of the entire album: tense between pain, pride, sorrow, and fierce dignity.
AMY WINEHOUSE/ back to black
Back to Black is lyrically heartbreaking, as one would expect from Amy Winehouse, but in light of her passing at the peak of its success, infinitely more poignant. The album feels like a friend talking to you. Some will argue that the album was a one hit wonder- brazenly retro, lacking innovation. But its strengths were never about tearing down boundaries. Back to Black was an expression of inner pain that rivals the likes of Billie Holiday, Amy’s very own idol, sang with a genuine soul voice that had the strife of a collapsing relationship etched across it.
LAURYN HILL/ the miseducation of lauryn hill
Honest, harrowing and tough, The Miseducation is an autobiographical account of triumph. It may not have marked a beginning to a better career for Lauryn Hill, one more of the more important voices of our time, but this album, born from injustices of the music business- and Lauryn’s ensuing battles with the array of fools, sexists and sceptics massed against her- is nonetheless a masterpiece. Her poetry, at times delivered with the kind of blistering emotion that is reminiscent of Johnny Cash’s “If You Could Read My Mind”, is balanced with sparse, considered rhythm and blues that the resulting songs feel uncomfortably intimate like reading someone’s diary when you know you shouldn’t.
CRYSTAL CASTLES / II
Crystal Castles came into fame around the tail end of the blog-house/nu-rave rage but managed to transcend past being fad to indie stars, and more is the fact more evident than on II. The reason is simple: Crystal Castles are a singular act who rarely sound like anyone other than themselves. II thrives off the duo’s knack for combining upbeat disco pop with haunted “cult” music. Crystal Castles show a lot of growth on this album; there’s less distortion and more fluid, coherent melodies. What is most noticeable is how Alice Glass has matured as a vocalist. From the wonderfully titled Pap Smear, the swoon-some, pillow-soft Celestica to the album’s moment of perfection ‘Year of Silence’, it remains creatively unmatched today.
Creative Direction, Styling & Words: Tanlume
Photography & Artwork : Giancarlo Calaméo LaGuerta