Albums of the year – December 2016
Oh, December. What a difficult month you are for finding that rare breed in modern music; an enjoyable album to see out the year.
It seems new music goes into hibernation during the festive season, making way for an endless supply of covers, Best Of compilations and the obligatory talent show winning tripe. But a hidden gem has emerged this year, outshining the cash-ins and rivalling the madness. It comes in the form of Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love!
If you need a bit of a catch up, here’s the story so far. Raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, Donald Glover developed a love of writing and began a career in comedy. He went on to make a couple of films before creating the critically acclaimed series Atlanta. He’s dabbled in acting, will soon be part of the Stars Wars franchise, and has squeezed out a couple of rap albums including 2015’s Grammy nominated Because the Internet.
Not that any of this really matters. Because his latest offering under the moniker of Childish Gambino is a funk infused freak of an album that’s unlike anything he’s done so far.
Lead track, Me and Your Mama, is the clincher. Don’t be fooled by its opening two minutes, the angelic choir-like vocals are soon brushed aside in favour of abrupt guitar playing funk, sinister santa style laughter and crazed crooning about the mind-altering substance called Love. You can almost hear Andre 3000 fleeing in fear. Put politely, it’s a little bit bonkers.
George Clinton is the obvious comparison, particularly on Boogieman and Riot. Yet there are also elements of Rick James and Sly and the Family Stone, while the sexualised Redbone is pure Prince reincarnated.
Of course, none of this suggests Awaken, My Love! belongs in 2016. And, in a politically charged year where muscians have been tackling contemporary issues head on, the ‘let’s just love each other’ message is hardly breaking new ground. But alongside the ‘I really don’t give a funk’ attitude, it does seem rather poignant at the end of what’s been an unstable year.
The state of mind Glover was in to deliver such a psychedelic album is not for us to speculate, but he’s certainly proving to be an unstoppable creative force. What he’ll give us next, and in which format, is anyone’s guess. And that’s the most exciting thing of all.
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