Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The QH Blend's Records of 2008

2008, 2008, 2008! What can be said about another year that dealt hands of hope and despair equally in terms of music? Madonna lost the groove (but she still gets love from The Blend), Britney attempted to reacquire it, Usher was outclassed, Kanye West let his ego supercede his talent, and of course BeyoncĂ© attempted to upstage everyone.

There were glimmers of promise where veteran acts continued to step their game up, and a few new surprises really made an impact than not expected. Here at The QH Blend while I acknowledge genre walls, it's quality that brings together the acts in this list. These artists embodied artistry because they stared down musical mediocrity without flinching. I present the 13 Records of 2008, QH Blend style.

#13. Common: Universal Mind Control

Even a cool, hip-hop monk such as Common has to have fun sometimes. Over a bubbly and kinetic production map, courtesy of the re-energized Neptunes, Common wants to chill, make-out, and pose a few socially conscious questions to the girl he was chatting up. The flows here aren't always brilliant, but they are always clever and executed efficiently.

#12. Jewel: Perfectly Clear

Jewel's vocal strength has been that she can wear a variety of vocal hats: girlishly soft or harsh and strained. The dusty, sensuous gleam of Perfectly Clear is grounded in the various country doused, guitar-laden settings. Brazen and flirtatious in equal measure, Jewel's presence is always one of curvaceous romanticism.

#11. Donna Summer: Crayons

Pop doesn’t sound this good, unless you're Donna Summer. The Queen herself returned with her first original LP in over a decade and didn't disappoint. With a voice that defied gravity and any sort of genre boxing, Summer touched on dance, bossa nova, and R&B, these being the tip of the iceberg when discussing Crayons' sonic contents.

#10. Alanis Morissette: Flavors of Entanglement

Not content with anger for anger's sake, Morissette has entered a new, amber-hued sphere of her alternative rock/pop sound. Courting a more uptempo sound in spots, bordering on trip-hop, Morissette's vocal exorcisms and affirmations brought a much needed human warmth to the proceedings.

#9. Estelle: Shine

Neneh Cherry is somewhere smiling in approval. The torch of the female emcee who can spit and croon in ample amounts has found a new owner: Estelle. Sonic summer in terms of its reggae bumps and grinds, Euro-disco one-off's, and British hip-hop swagger, all of these sounds hold Estelle's buoyancy effortlessly.

#8. Lenny Kravitz: It is Time for a Love Revolution

Kravitz always parties like the '60's and '70's never ended, depending on what album you catch him on. On Revolution, Kravitz has internalized his influences bringing enough of himself to his old school rock and soul tricks. Revolution also displayed Kravitz as an under appreciated male vocalist.

#7. Brandy: Human

If not certain before, with Human, Brandy now casts away any doubt at her vocal interpretation abilities when bringing her own story to a song. Paired again with Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, her musical partner, Brandy's maturity is sound tracked appropriately and updated perfectly.

#6. Janet Jackson: Discipline

Janet Jackson is matched only by Prince in producing a noticeable enough change to her sound to draw ears to each new record she releases. Discipline is a platter of Quiet Storm come-on's, post-coital slow jams, and polished urban dance music with emphasis on Jackson's quality over quantity position.

#5. Swing Out Sister: Beautiful Mess

Swing Out Sister wear their love of Mendes and Bacharach on their sleeves, as their ninth LP demonstrates this effectively. Corinne Drewery vamped and vocally pulled out every stop in partner Andy Connell's arrangements, which drew from the duos aforementioned inspirations. Over 21 years strong, British pop isn't nearly as divine as this.

#4. Q-Tip: The Renaissance

There is more to hip-hop than ego, and in a time when that seems to be the only requirement for this movement, Q-Tip arrived to walk the walk. A spacious, airy, groovy party record, with occasional thoughts to concerns of love and the world, Tip's cadenced rhymes don't lack for anything.

#3. k.d. lang: Watershed

k.d. lang is the manifestation of the chanteuse. Check out the smoky, moody, sensual stylings of her 10th and first self-produced LP. Her rich voice wrapped itself around sparse country twang, ‘60’s lounge, and contemporary adult pop fluff with a maximum of panache and a minimum of fuss.

#2. Solange: Sol-Angel and Hadley St. Dreams

Candy-coated gems that showcased Solange's impressive vocalizing litter Hadley St. Dreams. Whether dividing between the retro swing of "I Decided, Part 1" or organic soul flourishes like "T.O.N.Y" and "6 'O' Clock Blues," Solange assuredly released one of the better R&B records of 2008.

#1. Cyndi Lauper: Bring Ya to the Brink

Cyndi Lauper is still around and that she’s around making work as cutting edge and engaging as this album is not a real shocker. Taking her excellent songwriting skills to the dance music arena, Lauper managed a mean mix of introspection and escape. Vocally, she hasn’t lost any of her chutzpah, and that alone is worth the price of admission.-QH


Moanerplicity said...

Nice versatility in your list. I don't own a single one of these, but I've heard cuts from a few. I think (good or bad) Common has made his most commercial CD to date. Now that he's branched out into film, I saw this day coming where the ARTfulness of his music would suffer.

I like Brandy, and yes, she has matured vocally & stylistically. It's aways cool to see an artist take new chances, & yet not veer too far from what they do best. This CD kicks Beyonce's latest in dee musical azz. Sorry Bee. Not hatin', only stating.

To answer your question: yes, Writers Market features all kinds of publications, including music, though it's not as expansive as it could be. Your best bet might be to submit your writing to those pubs you personally dig, and let them see what you're capable of creating. Since much of this page is dedicated to retro sounds, maybe you could actually suggest creating a section that informs younger listeners & hips them to what came before & what much of today's music BORROWS & samples from. It could be very educational. *ponder*

Happy Holiday, Brotha!

Snatch JOY!


RhythmicSoul said...

Ok..SO! I havent been able to tend to RhythmicWords the way ive wanted to for awhile now due to! naturally i wasnt able to do my year end top 10 album list like ive always done...since yanno like 06 not being able to do one this year pretty much ate at me so i decided to post it anyway! but in a smaller format...for now anyway! heres my top 10 picks...not nearly as eclectic as yours...but dammit this year i was feeling mighty 1 note lol...soulful with a pinch of dance fever...shoooooooo

10. Common - Universal Mind Control
the only rap album that came out this year that was actually enjoyable, fun, didn't involve a vocador and overall sparked my interest.

9. Raheem Devaughn - Love Behind the Melody
This album became the very first album of 08 that grabbed my attention and made me an official fan of the r&b crooner. Do Yourself a favor and listen to the highlight of the album, the Motown-ish "Mo-Better"

8. Janet jackson - Discipline
Discipline managed to take everything that a fan could love about janet and amplify it... the amazing urban dance grooves, the pop tinged upbeat numbers and the sultry ballads.

7. Raphael Saadiq - The Way I See It
raphael takes you on a sweet soul odyssey that rings the memory of a vintage soul record from the 50s and 60s with production and lyrics that further displays his musical genius.

6. Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple
the year kicked off with the sophomore effort by the dynamic duo gnarls barkley...the brought the same genius to this album that they did to their grammy award winning debut, but only this time the focus was placed abit more on the album as a whole, a cohesion through out the album that was missed on the debut, although with that said..without the strong stand outs of the last album like "crazy," "smiley faces," and go go gadget gospel" this one suffered a bit.

5. Jamie Lidell - Jim
With a heavy influence from Jamiroquai, Jamie Lidell mixes soul, electronica, and dance effortlessly, with an amazing voice that would even make jay kay step it up alittle...but yanno...only a little.

4. Adele - 19
Adeles voice is as smooth as velvet and as strong as steel..her vocal ability is only matched with the lyrical content and music of her songs, want to know what i "Melt my heart to stone"....legally ofcourse!

3. Estelle - Shine
This album was just pure musical fun for me..with estelles ability to balance clever mc like on "no Substitute for love" or seductive soul siren on "come over," she gave me everything i needed in one neat little package...shes definitely my pick for import of the year.

2. Solange - Sol Angel and the Hadley street dreams
Literally one of the biggest surprises for me of the year...not only did solange set herself apart from her bigger, louder and overproduced sister...she actually made GOOD music...soulful with a slight playfulness that was refreshing.

1. Al Green - Lay it Down
A soulful masterpiece that features help from the likes of John Legend, Corrine bailey rae and Anthony hamilton, but all being upstaged by the true legend himself...Al Green...with Questlove of the roots behind the boards, this album became easily my favorite album of 2008, and one of my favorites in the past 10 years...vintage soul never sounded so fresh....