Author: Matthew Barlow

The Best of Music, 2018, Part 1

As we sat around over the holidays discussing the past few years, we realized that we called 2016 a tire fire.  That made 2017 a dumpster fire.  So what was 2018?  We struggled with this, but ultimately, we decided it was just a clusterbombfuck.  We invented a brand new word for 2018!  Last year wasn’t as brutal with killing musicians as 2016 and 2017 was, I guess.  But we still lost some greats last year.  Pete Shelley, of the Buzzocks is gone.  Country legend Roy Clark also checked out. The legendary French chansonier, Charles Aznavour left.  And so did...

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Jah Wobble — The Butterfly Effect

Jah Wobble The Butterfly Effect Rough Trade Jah Wobble is a legend.  He was the founding bassist of Public Image Ltd., the most essential of post-punk bands.  PiL (comprised initially of John Lydon, Keith Levene, Jim Walker, and Wobble) essentially invented post-punk with their first two albums, 1978’s First Issue and 1979’s Metal Box. Wobble brought a new way of playing bass to rock music, heavily influenced as he was by reggae and dub.  His big, fat basslines were the perfect counter punch to Levene’s jarring, metallic guitars and Lydon’s singular voice. Wobble quit PiL in 1980 and seemingly faded into obscurity.  There is an apocryphal story of him working on The Tube in London in the mid-80s and announcing into the PA system, ‘I used to be somebody. I repeat, I used to be somebody.’ He resurfaced in the early 90s with The Invaders of the Heart, heavily influenced by dub, reggae, as well as Middle Eastern music.  The album, Rising Above Bedlam, featured the hit single ‘Visions of You,’ with Sinéad O’Connor on vocals.  It was and remains one of the most mesmerizing songs I’ve ever heard, as much for Sinéad’s voice as Wobble’s bass.  Since then, he has regained his musical mojo and has released more albums, eps, and singles than I can count. Wobble’s music is instantly recognizable, I don’t think there is another bassist in the history of...

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Black Eyed Peas — Masters of the Sun, Vol. I

Black Eyed Peas Masters of the Sun, Vol. I Interscope It is hard to remember, but before the Great Sell Out with the addition of Fergie around the turn of the millennium, the Black Eyed Peas were an underground hip hop collective.  Will.I.Am was the obvious and undisputed leader, but Taboo and Apl.De.Ap pulled their weight.  Amongst other things, they were notable due to the multicultural background the three members.  Will is African American, Apl. is Filipino, and Taboo is the son of Mexican immigrants. An earlier group Will was in caught the attention of the legendary Easy-E of NWA, and this got him his break in the business.  BEP’s first two albums were 90s back-pack rap, focused on positivity and organic beats.  And whilst they weren’t exactly classics, they were both standout albums, complete with beats, rhymes, and life. And then the less said about the 2000s and the mega-stardom, the better.  Fergie came into the band, replacing the previous female vocalist in the band, Kim Hill.  Fergie left the Peas sometime in 2017 or 2018.  She has been more or less replaced Jessica Reynoso. So Masters of the Sun, Vol. I is a return to BEP’s roots.  And, well, the results are pretty damn fine.  Will.I.Am, and Taboo are all nimble rappers and their rhymes are once again blended with positivity and funky beats.  Like their first...

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Shad — A Short Story About a War

Shad A Short Story About a War Secret City Records Shad is a long-time underground Canadian hip hop icon, and also hosted The Q on the CBC following the deposing of the previous host for being a pig.  He also hosted the brilliant eight-part documentary series, Hip Hop Evolution, which originally aired on HBO Canada, though it’s now streaming on Netflix globally.  Evolution was a 2016 Peabody Award winner.  In short, Shad is a heavy duty dude.  He is also one of the most versatile rappers I’ve ever heard, he can drop any kind of rhyme on time.  And he’s smooth.  Shit, if there was any justice in this world, Shad would be selling a billion albums a year and Kanye would be a nobody. Working with a veritable who’s who of Canadian hip hop, including the nearly ubiquitous DJ Kaytranada, Shad attacks our world, but, in working with a variety of people from across the country (he’s from London, ON, but is Toronto-based), he also explores some of the regionalisms of our country.  A Short Story About a War is a concept album, about a war no less.  Shad argues he is holding a mirror up to society as a whole, making us look at ourselves and issues such as migration and immigration, the environment, greed and politics, and the human spirit.  If nothing else, Shad is optimistic, usually.  Across the album,...

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Dead Can Dance — Dionysus

Dead Can Dance Dionysus Pias It seems as if Dead Can Dance have been doing this forever.  They actually kind of have.  Originally formed in Melbourne, Australia in 1981, Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry decamped for London the following year.  They did break up in 1998, though they reformed for a one-off in 2005 and for good in 2011.  Dionysus is their ninth long-player and first since 2012.  Gerrard and Perry gained fame with mesmerizing soundscapes of African, Celtic, Middle Eastern, and Asian sounds over top dance beats.  Never music for the crazed nights at the clubs, they were the pre-party, at home with friends before going out, or they were the music you put on at 4am when you got in.  As we’ve all aged, those nights have ended, of course, and now, well, I find myself coming back to Dionysus at all hours of the day.  It’s not exactly chill music, but it’s not exactly rave music. Dionysus finds our ageing veterans in fine form.  Dioynsus is the culmination of two long years of researching and recording and is centred on the Greek god of both fertility and wine & pleasure.  Dionysus was a complicated god, as all the Greeks gods were, I suppose.  His role as the god of fertility meant that he was central to the harvest and his role as the god of wine and pleasure means he was...

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