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DJ Bylamplight writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2014: DJ Bylampight

CHIRP Radio Best of 2014

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2014. Our next list is from DJ Bylamplight.

My main focus in devouring music this year has been on 80s funk and boogie. If you're not familiar, boogie is what happened when disco went out of fashion yet the same producers continued making funky dance floor jams. Mainly, they slowed down the tempo and replaced orchestral strings with funky synths and electronic drum kits! Over the recent years there has been a resurgence of modern boogie and 2014 is thankfully no different. Here are some modern funk albums that have caught my ear as well as other random new releases.

#1Reflection by Brian Ellis (Voltaire)
Brian Ellis ReflectionBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

This is modern funk at its finest! Brian is on the 80s revival scene doing production and live performances with electro legend Egyptian Lover but this album is a side project that I think will turn into a full band soon called Reflection. The arrangements are classic but super catchy and well thought out. The DMX drums are punchy and the OG Moog bass will bounce west coast lowriders for days. My favorite songs are the ones with guest vocalists. Brian is a super skilled keyboardist, having grown up in a musical family and played in many bands. You can tell that there is serious theory and skill behind all his production.

#2Yes No Maybe by Moniquea (Mofunk)
Moniquea Yes No MaybeBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

The first Moniquea track I heard was Can't Be Without My Baby at the end of Eddy Funkster's Funk To The Future mixtape. The vocals were in this wobbly female falsetto (for lack of a better term) and honestly at first I couldn't get into it. The production was tight though. After several listens, this became my favorite song because of the vocals! It is such a unique style and evokes the mystique of rare, low-fi boogie that I appreciate. As it turns out, her whole album is stellar and her vocal style varies throughout. Keyboard extraordinaire XL Middleton produced the album in a classic 80s style but it's way more than a throwback album. The songs are very catchy and well done. Another standout track is Not Enough (Extended Album Mix). It has a harmonic progression that is pure genius and the breakdown is nicer than on the 45 mix. I have yet to catch their live show but they play a lot of shows in California to much acclaim.

#3The Spectrum by Bus Crates (Omega Supreme)
Bus Crates The SpectrumBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

This is a modern funk album more on the Lamb Chops slow boogie vibe. The arrangements are classic but fresh and with keen attention paid to detail. There is something about this album that popped out after many listens, something in how each track seems like every moment is deliberate. I love this about modern recording techniques -- session players no longer need to cut a record live in the studio. Some people say that's a problem with modern music but I see it as the opposite; producers have full control over every second of every track. The only thing is I wish this album had vocals because it would carry more weight on the dance floor.

#4Money Green Viper by Zackey Force Funk (Hit + Run)
Zackey Force Funk Money Green ViperBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

When Zackey's Press Play single came out, modern funk fiends lost it! It was the smooth boogie vibe we were all salivating for. It can easily fill the dance floor just as much as it can smooth out the smoking lounge. Zackey's album diverged slightly from that vibe and into the wonky west coast beat sound as well as a dubstep-ish vibe on a few cuts. His psychedelic vocals tie it all together making it a really interesting 2014 release.

#5Piñata by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib (Madlib Invazion)
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib PiñataBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

When I saw this duo play live in Chicago, it was an epic psychedelic journey. After only a couple tracks, both of them lit up spliffs on stage and continued to chain smoke spliffs the entire time. Pretty soon there was a haze of weed smoke so thick that Freddie Gibbs hovered above us in a dream like state, a world where his crazy drunk uncle provides comedic interludes and his crowd work dips into casual not casual statements like "my friend just got shot by the police. F*ck the police!" The album is equally as meditative and showcases Madlib's knack for selecting the best parts of obscure jazzfunk to compliment raps.

#6Give The People What They Want by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (Daptone)
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings Give The People What They WantBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

This album has a really interesting back story that I probably won't do justice to so you should look it up. Sharon Jones got hit hard with cancer this year but fought back and won. If you've ever seen her perform live you know that she is an unstoppable force of soulful power. Due to the timing of this and that, it seems like these songs sat around for a long time and had a chance to evolve on their own. You can really tell! The arrangements are possibly the best work yet from the group. It's done in a classic sweet soul style but little details like the timing of intertwined backing vocals just blow my mind. They did that hard panned stereo thing which I don't care for but otherwise this is a very memorable Sharon Jones release.

#7Boogie Till Ya Puke by Dry Heaves (self-released)
Dry Heaves Boogie Till Ya PukeBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

I’ll always be a sucker for the energetic, hazy garage/psych sound that seems to revolve around Ty Segall but I haven't been keeping up with it this year. Somehow this Bandcamp release fell into my lap. It's intense. It's wild. It's in your face and down your throat. I can't stop listening to it. It's abrasive but wrapped in a warm blanket made out of Roland Space Chorus. It gets me pumped up every time I hear it.

#8Yellow Memories by Fatima (Eglo)
Fatima Yellow MemoriesBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

There's this thing called future R&B which at first sounded like something I'd really be into but I'm not. I listened to a BBC program all about it and became depressed about the current state of music. Do not look that up. Anyway, Fatima is kind of what I want future R&B to be: a powerful new take on sweet soul but with modern production. It's a beautiful album that explores a lot of different laid back vibes. Her voice really grew on me.

#9Lese Majesty by Shabazz Palaces (Sub Pop)
Shabazz Palaces Lese MajestyBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

This album didn't top their 2011 debut Black Up but that was a tough one to follow. Black Up still gets a lot of plays from me. This new one explores a lot of the same concepts: hazy, psychedelic dubstep (?) or wonk or whatever. They have managed to carve out a really unique sound that is free (as in structure) and very organic sounding. They are a lot of fun to see live as well.

#10High Life by Eno & Hyde (Warp)
Eno & Hyde High LifeBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

I have distinct memories as a pre-teen in the 80s of lounging while my parents played Eno's ambient records around the house. One of my friends said "your parents' music sounds like a vacuum cleaner." It was true. Besides nostalgia, I am not a fan of Eno's ambient work. It wasn't until later that I discovered Taking Tiger Mountain is easily my favorite Eno record ever made and that's the standard I hold him to now. I'm wary but curious of all his modern work, especially the collaborations. This is one of his most interesting modern collaborations. It hasn't gotten a lot of listens but the songs are very unique and have a cool vibe to them.

 

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2014

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