#13. Rodeo – Travis Scott
Travis Scott is not a good rapper in the traditional sense. Let’s get that out of the way. But in 2015’s hip-hop scene, that doesn’t matter as much. What does matter is a rapper’s ‘sound’, his ear for production and skill in curating talent. And Travis Scott is exceptional on all these counts; his sound being one of apparent contradiction. The sounds of Rodeo are intoxicant-laden, yet have clarity. The production is heavy, but interspersed with subtle details, Travis’ vocals are slurred but have melody and rhythm, and the features overflow yet stick to the grander ideas. This album is less about Travis and more about the greater pool of musicians he helps bring together, but with him as the conductor, orchestrating the mass into forms that are beyond satisfying. And Rodeo is all the better for it.
Listen to: 3500, Maria I’m Drunk, 90210
#12. Surf – Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment
Chance the Rapper may be the most recognizable voice on Surf, but the project is credited to Donnie Trumpet and his Social Experiment band for the simple reason that the soundscape they provide is truly the backbone of this album. Consequently, it serves as a diverse palette of musical influences and gorgeous sonic textures, bouncing between funk, jazz, blues, hip-hop and more; drawing on, and building upon their hometown of Chicago’s rich musical traditions. Besides Chano, the guest features are meticulously chosen, and almost all of them bring their A-game, which is particularly gratifying considering the relatively unconventional production. This LP represents the pinnacle of a 20th century-influenced revitalization of hip-hop. Surf is warm, playful, thoughtful, and one hell of an album.
#11. Elaenia – Floating Points
One word: ethereal. Sam Shepherd, musical auteur/neuroscientist has, with Elaenia, produced a body of work that is precise in its purpose: but that purpose is that the music remain utterly amorphous. There is little to be said for form in this album. Sound bytes float in and out of the atmosphere, sonic elements glitch and apparate at seemingly random points, and yet the entirety of this album crescendoes towards an almost supernatural conclusion. It would be a discredit to the music here to pin it to a genre, and therein lies its beauty. The listener should not seek to listen to Elaenia as much as immerse oneself in its sparse, stark magnificence. Let the nerves of this piece bind themselves around your spine, and send chills running up it.