The Best of 2016: According to Neighbor Morgan James
In about a week or so, we will be entering a brand new year! WOO HOO! Lawd knows 2016 was a trying year! At least we had some good music though!
To help recap the year in music, we invited our dear friend Morgan James to share her favorite albums and songs of the year. Outside of being one of our favorite concert buddies (Check our Instagram page for validation), she’s currently a consultant for startups and tech companies and moonlights as a journalist for Philly’s own JUMP Magazine. Morgan also co-hosts pop culture hot-takin’ podcast Two Wise Jawns - listen and subscribe on iTunes, Soundcloud, or Stitcher. How she finds the time to do all of that, we have no clue.
2016 was rough for so, so many.
But though we were given Trump antics, newly woke fascism, and the deaths of General Tso and the Purple One himself… 2016 did kind of sort of have a lit soundtrack.
One must blank it awayyyyy, amiright?
First thing’s first, let’s give Robyn Rihanna Fenty her flowers while she’s still giving two shxts about us.
The Recording Academy slighted my girl as they’re ought to do by not nominating ANTI for “Album of the Year.” And yet somehow Justine Bieber scammed his way into a nomination. Whatevs. We haven’t trusted the GRAMMYs since they gave Macklemore “Best Rap Album,” the same year Kendrick Lamar released, well, anything.
ANTI is perhaps Rih’s most R&B offering and for that us neighbors basked in its sultry. Also the LOOKS. ANTI World Tour was what Kanye wished all three seasons of Yeezy fashions achieved. He thought.
It also felt good to say that at the top of the year the world’s two biggest pop stars released their BLACKEST projects to date. It’s the little victories.
Which leads me to my next favorite…
Say what you will about Beyonce, but Miss Knowles knows how to make a statement. The hour-long visual that accompanied the album made me want to call upon the ancestors, flip a page to a Zora Neale Hurston passage, and personally DM Celestine Knowles-Lawson a heartfelt “thank you.” The Daughters of the Dust exaltation of African American culture, specifically womanhood, is downright righteous.
Furthermore Beyonce sought out James Blake for my two favorite tracks on LEMONADE - “Forward” and “Pray You Catch Me.”
In that vein, can we talk about London’s soulful-electronic export? Yes?
The Colour in Anything, James Blake
The man is exquisite. His entire discography is the music of Olympus on a particularly introspective day. In 2016 he tip-toed in to drop The Colour in Anything. This led to a spiritual experience at his concert where myself and our very own Mr. Anderson Street clasped hands in high praise.
Solange… Solange… Solange…
Not to be that person, but I’m going to be that person. I’ve STANNED down for Solange since that one song with Lil Romeo. Jk, jk. Probably since Hadley St. Dreams or maybe when she slayed the Proud Family theme song with Beyonce? Either way, I been here. I mean, listen. Once several devoted friends and I roadied after work just to see Solange DJ at a bowling alley in Brooklyn. WE HAD THE TIME.
And clearly Solange does too. The bruja priestess took four years of self-care down yonder Bayou and followed up TRUE with A Seat at the Table. It’s replete with Solo’s distinct sound aesthetic - harmonic falsettos and quirky syncopations that keep you hip to the ways of the world. What a gem. Just you know, like, what a national treasure.
If you set A Seat at the Table to the imagery of LEMONADE what you get is an accurate cinema of how us black folk have felt for a minute - leery, but fabulous.
A Haitian man came to take names this year and he goes by Kaytranada. Vive ayiti!
Kaytranada dropped 99.9% circa May and I’ve gotten my life since. He makes music for the sis who wants to twirl around her home pretending she’s at a photoshoot for V Magazine - me. Let’s collectively acknowledge this melinated tour de force storming the electronic world. We can’t give everything to Disclosure and Diplo and Soundcloud warriors ya mean.
Passion, Pain, and Demon Slayin’, Kid Cudi
Because this is his first album in a while that’s coherent and lovely and I’m going to thank rehab and therapy and Iyanla Vanzant for it. Prayers up in Calabasas that my brother in Great Kanye follows suit.
Slay Z, Azealia Banks
Because her wordplay is impeccable. Ask your fave E-V-E.
Because she spits hot fire over dope beats all whilst educating you on the state of literally every developing nation’s struggles. Stay woke!
22, A Million, Bon Iver
Because he’s America’s answer to James Blake with less bass, more air. But more importantly, his beard this era is giving Philly cat realness and deserves!
Farewell, Starlite!, Francis and the Lights
Because he’s Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon if Justin were Edward Scissorhands.