David MacLean’s alternative Grammy Awards
Album of the Year: Turnstile – Time & Space
This album is nothing short of a hardcore masterpiece. I’ll have to cut myself off at some point, otherwise I’ll just talk on about how incredible this piece of work really is. Quite a few music journalists have had Time & Space near the top of their end-of-year lists. Everyone’s been talking about Turnstile, everyone’s been caught up in the hype. I haven’t heard one quip.
The Grammys have a habit of throwing in an odd choice for AOTY (see Arcade Fire). So why not nominate a hardcore band? Sure, that level of mainstream success hasn’t really happened since Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come started to become the cult phenomenon it is today.
I only bring up Turnstile because they’ve created a genuine world-beater. Time & Space combines a frantic hardcore razorbladed pace with a whole mess of things that don’t make sense: lounge music, trip-hop, some bongos. But whacky isn’t a gimmick for Turnstile. It’s all in the name of energy.
Around the same length as Reign in Blood, Time & Space is a genre-defining record that only comes about every decade or so. You’re in and out of it in a few breaths, and breathless by the end.
Best Rap Album: Milo – budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies
Poor Milo, he’s got a bit of a rep. His rhymes always seem to dance between grabbingly clever and offputtingly pretentious. Stereotypes aside, budding ornithologists is well worth your time. Remove his voice, the disjointed sampling crackles, a wool blanket covered in static.
Every track acts hypnotic, dragging you into a lull. And at your most vulnerable, he says his piece. There are no mumble-rap tropes here, just plain ol’ boring beautiful poetry. Lines are rarely repeated, no hooks to be found.
As a listener, you’re here for the dissertation. Milo’s ability to mix nuance with sarcasm, complexity with tongue-in-cheek quips, is incredible. I’ll admit, I’m still working through budding ornithologists.
After my first listen, I was happy. But after my second, third, fourth, I still feel as though there’s lines I missed. If we’re to argue rap as poetry, this album will be our year’s best. Astroworld will probably win, Swimming is posthumous, budding ornithologists is brilliant.
Best New Artist: Marmozets
They’re the most exciting young band in the world. No hyperbole, no lying, they’re the best. I’ll add one better: Becca MacIntyre is one of the most talented singers in the game. Big talk, eh?
In the United Kingdom, everyone’s been talking about Marmozets. Their 2014 release, The Weird and Wonderful was a statement of intent. They’re here to be the biggest band on the planet, and they’re Motorhead – they play rock and roll. And so we’re left to ask, “how will they ever follow it up?” Well, 2018’s Knowing What You Know Now confirmed their place as the next big thing. If I’m to put a label on their sound: Queens of the Stone Age riffs and sensibilities, Deftones vocal-oddities, and stadium-level choruses. Just listen to “Major System Error,” listen to how she sings the word “together.” Listen to “Play,” the riffing demands you jump around. This was Marmozets’ year and they’ll take over the rest of the world soon.
And I’ll be damned if Greta Van Fleet wins.
Best Jazz Instrumental Album: Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile
Odd choice for a final category, I know. But I’ll take any chance I get to talk about Sons of Kemet’s newest release. Each track on Your Queen is a Reptile has it’s namesake from prominent women of colour. Now, I’m not entirely sure if the songs themselves are structured by the way in which these women lived their lives, but lord the pace is high.
Our first track, “My Queen is Ada Eastman” should give you a half decent indication of where the rest of the album will head. The infectious percussion has me catching myself nodding a bit too hard in public places. Hips move unintentionally, feet begin to tap. My personal favourite, “My Queen is Anna Julia Cooper,” is almost annoying: I’m tiring of dancing, but I can’t stop. The interplay between each musician is both jaw dropping and catchy, a hard thing to pull off.
Sons of Kemet have created an important album. Often albums with “messages” sacrifice musical integrity to preach and scream “I’M UPSET” into a clunky megaphone. But Your Queen is a Reptile gives you titles and music. Beauty - nothing more, nothing less.