Bishop Briggs is my new obsession. It takes an extraordinarily impressive artist to break through the chaos of life as we now know it and lure me to listen to a full album—let alone write about it. Bishop Briggs’ new self-titled release is that album.
Bishop Briggs is the stage name of 25-year old British musician Sarah Grace McLaughlin.
Her music is truly unique. You can compare elements of her robust voice and trippy beats to Lorde, The Mynabirds, VV Brown, and Ibeyi, but there’s no one artist that sums up her complex and alluring sound.
“Wild Horses” is the album’s spectacularly multi-faceted centerpiece. Other standout tracks are “River” and “Dead Man’s Arms,” but it’s an album I’ve enjoyed listening to all the way through on repeat. Definitely one for my best of the year list.
Fantastic Negrito’s debut full-length album, The Last Days of Oakland, churns classic blues, soul, and funk with modern garage rock like somebody spun Lead Belly, Buddy Guy, Otis Redding, and Black Joe Lewis records in a blender.
Fantastic Negrito, led by singer and multi-instrumentalist Xavier Dphrepaulezz, first caught my attention jammin’ with Jamal in a club on Fox’s Empire. At the time they only had a couple of EPs out, so I was very excited for this album’s release. It more than lives up to the anticipation.
The entire album is a nonstop brilliant and bombastic rumination on injustice and inequality of both social and economic natures. My personal favorite tracks…
“Working Poor” has a fiercely catchy guitar riff and twisted refrain of Little Richard’s “Keep on Knockin'” with lyrics about the working class’ struggle to survive despite working as hard as we possibly can.
When I was curating Muruch.com for RAINN, I tried and failed to arrange a worthy cover of the traditional Appalachian folk song “In the Pines” (aka “Black Girl” aka Lead Belly/Nirvana’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”), so my heart just about exploded when I saw the song title on The Last Days of Oakland‘s tracklist.
Fantastic Negrito not only delivers a magnificently revamped, reverberating rendition of “In the Pines,” they also composed a new, gut-punch verse envisioning the “Black Girl” as the single mother of a son shot by police. It is the most perfect cover, beyond anything I could have imagined.
Other highlights are “Hump Through the Winter,” which follows the same theme as “Working Poor,” “Rant on Rushmore,” and the song they jammed with Jamal, “Lost in a Crowd”…
If, like me, you love Rufus Wainwright and Shakespeare, then this album will make you very, very happy. If, however, you like neither Shakespeare nor Rufus, it’s probably not your cup of tea. This unique collection of Shakespearean sonnets set to theatrical rock music features guests Florence Welch, Martha Wainwright, Anna Prohaska, Siân Phillips, Helena Bonham Carter, Carrie Fisher and William Shatner. But the true stars are Rufus Wainwright and William Shakespeare.
The first two tracks are okay, but a somewhat lackluster start. The album truly begins with the dazzling title track, which is far more Rufus than the Bard.
The standout track is “Unperfect Actor,” in which Helena Bonham Carter gives brief poetic recitation before the song explodes into rock symphony featuring Martha Wainwright and Fiona Cutler.
Other highlights are “When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men’s Eyes,” which is sang as a lovely ballad by Florence Welch, and Anna Prohaska’s operatic “Farewell.”
The album also features new, alternative versions of three sonnets Rufus originally recorded for his Songs for Lulu album: “When Most I Wink,” “For Shame” and “A Woman’s Face.”
I debated including the Muruch-curated albums, but they are truly the two albums I have listened to most frequently and loved most intensely this year. Besides, it’s the artists and their music that make them so undeniably spectacular. I was just the DJ. That being said, every time I’ve been asked during the year what I think my #1 album of 2015 would be, my immediate answer has been: “Brandi Carlile’s The Firewatcher’s Daughter.” I love it more with each listen and it has the timelessness of the greatest classic albums.