Like Glastonbury, I’m taking something of a fallow year from live music coverage, and I have to say it’s done wonders for my re-sown oats. (Feel like I’m mixing a few metaphors here, but you get the point.)
The best reason for staying in and replenishing my music supply instead of chasing whatever act’s in town? I’ve been able to take in a lot of new releases without thinking about them in a work context, and I must say I like what I’m hearing. After a few years of gloomy, minimal production work being the dominant sound, dancehall, reggaeton and afrobeats have enlivened my everyday din considerably. Pop is always global, but that’s especially true these days.
This uptick in fun tunes has coincided with the annual hunt for a defining track of the summer, the one blaring out of every car stereo and street corner. Cardi B nailed it again with “I Like It,” but this post is more about my personal selections as opposed to consensus ones. My faves are not hits, and maybe not even all that summer-y, yet I’ve had them on repeat since the snow melted, and I’m hoping they’ll keep me going till the first pumpkin spice products rear their heads. Here are my songs of the summer:
“Giddem” by Burna Boy
In a perfect world, this would be the hot single on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Nigerian singer Damini Ogulu dropped one of my favourite albums of the year with Outside, and this ode to getting on the mic and spitting is the most direct, hooky track of the bunch. Don’t let this deceptively simple song define the album for you, there’s quite a lot to unpack on Outside.
“Party Here” by Octavian
My favourite hook of the year comes from this late 2017 release: “You’re gonna blow, it’s just timing.” Little did this UK rapper know his song about being about to explode would end up catching the ear of Drake, making his ascent an inevitability. When locked in, Octavian’s melodic flow can be a beautiful, mind-altering thing. With barely a beat to hang on to, the 21-year-old weaves an origin story for the ages before landing on a satisfying, yet still minimal, drop for his party pals. You sort of notice it here, but it’s on “Hands” where it becomes really clear Octavian is rap’s James Blake: contorting his voice in real and synthetic ways with mostly a ferocious bass as a guide.
“La Cosa” by Orquesta Akokan
The album I’ve listened to most in 2018, mostly because I bought a physical copy, but also it’s the kind of easy flowing album you can keep on repeat without it getting boring. Drove out to Lac-Megantic earlier this spring and it was the only album I needed for the four hour roadtrip. A recognizable Cuban sound delivered in a pristine recording thanks to Daptone Records, Orquesta Akokan is neither retro nor aged: it just exists, irrespective of time. After losing their two biggest names (Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley) in close succession, I find it heartening that for a big 2018 release, Daptone has turned to a Cuban band that bends with the notion of time altogether. It’s perhaps hard to explain properly, so I’d recommend you listen without prejudice, but what I think is the trick here is Orquesta Akokan made this masterpiece without guile or a marketing agenda. It’s just incredible music they made for each other, only you get to sit in on the epic recording session.
Other summer tracks I’m digging:
“Pick Me Up” by DJDS
“It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)” by Peggy Gou
“Real Life Shit” by Buddy
“You Know How It Is” by Kero Kero Bonito
“Black Snow” by Oneohtrix Point Never
“Buck Shots” by ASAP Rocky
“Delicate” by Taylor Swift