Nat Newton is a future honours student at Victoria University who studies politics but would rather listen to music. He manages a student-run radio station based on campus called Human FM which you can find out more about here. Nat currently plays with The Interns. Here are five albums he’s loving right now…
1 – Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.a.a.d. city: No doubt you’ve at least heard of this one. It seems in every corner of the internet someone is gushing about Kendrick Lamar’s latest work. Thing is, it’s earned. To me, Lamar’s biographical “short film” is possibly the best hip-hop release to come out in some years. It’s all concept, narrative, solid production and liquid lyricism throughout. The narrative is not just from Lamar’s eyes either: the jaw-dropping 12 minute two parter, Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst has three narrators all with different stories, flows and cadences. Much like The Roots’ Undun (2011), you can pick out separate songs and they’re strong in their own right, but the real magic lies in the full album.
2 – Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio: Live instrumentation hip-hop albums are great. After The Roots’ How I Got Over (2010) I wondered if I’d hear one I liked at that level ever again. Enter the Robert Glasper Experiment. Black Radio is a brilliant album. The guests are mostly adequate, but that seems relatively unimportant. What really works here is the production. Glasper plays beautifully and knows when to take a back seat and when to take charge. The exceptional Chris Dave drives it all on the drums. Not to mention what is surely the best cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit ever committed to wax (sorry Patti). Great.
3 – Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie XX , We’re New Here: I admit before I heard this album Gil Scott-Heron wasn’t on my radar. I’d heard The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and placed it in a pile of things I thought were “cool” but weren’t likely to be picked up again. Similarly, by this year I’d grown tired of pretending I really liked The XX at parties and that Coexist (2012) wasn’t that disappointing (it was). At the insistence of a friend and the internet I picked this up. I was surprised. Gil’s words engaged me and Jamie’s beats showed production chops sorely missing from his more famous work.
4 – Johnsonville City Nights, Johnsonville City Nights: Having moved away from the Big Kumara and its ilk in my first year of uni I discovered that quite a few people my age were actually quite talented musicians. One of these is Finn Johansson who leads up the Johnsonville City Nights crew. Personal affiliations aside, it’s great to hear a local band who is writing songs (really well I should add) that I enjoy outside of my usual hip-hop staples. It fits like an old shoe and can be drunk to and danced to in equal measure. Check ‘em out.
5 – L’Orange, Old Soul: As is the way of the internet, L’Orange is a producer looking to make it in a world with every sixteen year old and their Casio keyboard labelling themselves a “producer.” I am a sucker for jazz samples in hip-hop so this free tape is right up my alley (for at least the next week or two). Old Soul takes Billie Holiday as its leading inspiration, with tinkering piano samples and chopped up vocals throughout each song. L’Orange’s production recalls the likes of DJ Krush, keeping the drums relatively low-key and the production sounding sparse but present. The vocal samples outside of Billie’s crooning are another familiar electronic/beat tape technique, but it gives the album its intended feel. This is late night jazz for the internet generation.