Fantastic Negrito: The Last Days of Oakland (Album Review, Videos & Full Album Stream)

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 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.

photo credit: Robbie Welsh

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”…

Fantastic Negrito Official Site

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Rufus Wainwright: Take All My Loves (9 Shakespeare Sonnets)

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.”

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Rufus Wainwright’s Top Albums of 2015

20 Beth May: The Family Arsonist (poetry)

19 Wolf Alice: My Love is Cool

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Wolf Alice Official Site

18 Elise Cabrét (EP)

17 Anielle Reid: Ain’t Like Them (EP)

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Anielle Reid Official Site

16 Kat Robichaud & The Darling Misfits

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Kat Robichaud Official Site

15 Dengue Fever: The Deepest Lake

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Dengue Fever Official Site

14 The Innocence Mission: Hello I Feel the Same

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The Innocence Mission Official Site

13 Darlingside: Birds Say

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Darlingside Official Site

12 Alela Diane & Ryan Francesconi: Cold Moon

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Alela Diane Official Site

11 Hayley Cannon: Who Are You

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Hayley Cannon Official Site

10 Allison Crowe: Sylvan Hour

9 Alessia Cara: Know It All

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Alessia Cara Official Site

8 Chris Stapleton: Traveler

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Chris Stapleton Official Site

7 Andra Day: Cheers to the Fall

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Andra Day Official Site

6 Rhiannen Giddens: Tomorrow is My Turn

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Rhiannen Giddens Official Site

5 Lizabett Russo: Running With the Wolves

(album review)

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Lizabett Russo Official Site

4 V V Brown: Glitch

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V V Brown Official Site

3 Presents: Allison Crowe

(best of)

Allison Crowe Official Site

2 for RAINN benefit album

(more info)

Donate $10 (or more) at Muruch’s fundraising page to receive the free 25-mp3 album.

1 Brandi Carlile: The Firewatcher’s Daughter

(album review)

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Brandi Carlile Official Site

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.

Introducing Miner…

L.A. folk-rock band Miner have been accurately compared to The Avett Brothers. I especially like the song “Carousel” from their debut album, Into the Morning.

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