Jazz and blues fans have had a lot to like this year. That is because this year has produced so much enjoyable and memorable music from the two genres, which are so closely aligned. From Yellowjackets’ new album Jackets XL to Joe Bonamassa’s new album Royal Tea to he Rev. Shawn Amos’ latest album Blue Sky and more, this year has seen so much great music released. That being said, with the year winding down, critics are already releasing their lists of the year’s top new albums in these categories. This critic is joining those ranks with a list of the best of the year’s new jazz and blues albums.
As with each list released by Phil’s Picks, this list features the Top 10 new albums from the two genres and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 albums. Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Jazz and Blues Albums.
PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW JAZ & BLUES ALBUMS
Yellowjackets – Jackets XL
Joe Bonamassa – Royal Tea
Lisa Hilton – More Than Another Day
The Rev. Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood – Blue Sky
Analog Players Society – Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film
Melody Gardot – Sunset In Blue
Dion – Blues With Friends
Ronie Earl & The Broadcasters – Rise Up
Shadow & The Thrill – Sugarbowl
Diana Krall – This Dream Of You
Sugar Ray & The Bluetones – Too Far From The Bar
Carol Welsman – Dance With Me
The Rough Guide to the Roots of Country Blues
The Roots of Blues
The Rough Guide to Spiritual Blues
Next up from Phil’s Picks is the Top 10 New World Music Albums from 2020. Stay tuned for that.
Rap and hip-hop fans have had quite a bit to be happy about this year. That is because over the course of the now fading year, a lot of notable entries have made their way to audiences within the genre. They have come from independent and well-known acts alike, too. From the familiar socio-politically charged content featured in Public Enemy’s new album What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down, to the lighter yet still engaging content featured in Aesop Rock’s new album Spirit World Field Guide, to the unique hybrid jazz/hip-hop instrumental offering from Analog Players Society, Soundtrack For A Nonexistent Film, and more, this year’s field of new rap and hip-hop records has proven quite diverse and entertaining. Even Eminem released his own new album (albeit by surprise) in the form of Music to be Murdered By early this year. Between that record and so many others, this year’s field of new albums was full of interesting, impressive new albums, both mainstream and independent. Phil’s Picks has kept track of them once again this year and produced a list of the year’s best new product.
As with past years and each list, this collection features the Top 10 new titles in the category, as well as five honorable mentions, for a total of 15 titles. Here for your consideration is the Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 new Rap & Hip-Hop Albums.
PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW RAP & HIP-HOP ALBUMS
Public Enemy – What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down?
Run The Jewels – RTJ4
RJD2 – The Fun Ones
Common – A Beautiful Revolution Pt. 1
Jamo Gang – Walking With Lions
Aesop Rock – Spirit World Field Guide
Eminem – Music to be Murdered By
Analog Players Society – Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film
Atmosphere – The Day Before Halloween
GNL Zamba – The Spear
Denzel Curry – Unlocked
Prof – Powderhorn Suites
Busta Rhymes – Extinction Level Event 2
Aesop Rock – Music From The Game Freedom Finger
Black Eyed Peas – Translation
Next up from Phil’s Picks is a listing of the year’s top new jazz and blues albums. Stay tuned for that.
Independent jazz/hip-hop group Analog Players Society’s latest album Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film is a unique fusion of genres and sounds. Released Nov. 13 through Ropeadope, the 11-song instrumental record takes listeners on a wonderful musical journey that stands on its own merits, one of which is its musical arrangements. They will be discussed shortly. The sequencing of said arrangements builds on the foundation formed by the arrangements and will be discussed a little later. The record’s production is important to note in its own right and will also be examined later. When it is considered along with the album’s featured arrangements and their sequencing, all three elements join to make this album a presentation that will find wide appeal among jazz and hip-hop fans with ease.
Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film is a record that is well worth hearing among jazz and hip-hop fans alike. That is proven in part through the musical arrangements that make up the body of the 25-minute record. As already noted, the arrangements pair the best elements of jazz and hip-hop to make a presentation that will appeal to fans of acts, such as Robert Glasper, Jaga Jazzist, and others of that ilk. To another extent, Gorillaz and others have utilized the style of arrangement featured here just as much as the other noted acts. The use of the hip-hop beats against the jazz approach at the album’s base makes for such an interesting presentation. One of the album’s most notable works is the pairing of its opener/lead single ‘Chase’ and its “companion” composition, ‘Safe Place.’ The opener is a chaotic yet controlled work that presents a certain modern free jazz style approach. ‘Safe Place’ meanwhile is more controlled, but still boasts some of its own freeform styling. Ironically, through it all, there is a certain control to the chaos, making for even more interest. On a completely different note, a song, such as ‘Space and Time’ takes listeners back to the 1950s and 60s with its subtle piano line and drumming. While the drumming is subtle in its own right, its energy and full on improvisational style makes for such a wonderful listen. That is even with the song barely topping a run time of ninety second (1:38 to be exact). It is one of those exhibitions that proves less can be and often is so much more. It also shows in its own way, the far-reaching diversity in the album’s featured arrangements. ‘Celestial Message’ comes later in the album’s run, but shows in its own way even more of that diversity. The use of the standup bass alongside the hip-hop style beats, the piano line and fully improved saxophone line makes this arrangement unique, too. In this case, it is the hip-hop side that takes precedence over the jazz elements. The whole makes the arrangement such that any rap/hip-hop artist could use it as a music bed for their work. It’s just one more way in which the musical arrangements featured in this album prove so important to the record’s presentation. They in themselves make for plenty of appeal for audiences, and are just a part of what makes the album interesting. The sequencing of the featured arrangements builds on the appeal created through the arrangements to make for even more engagement and entertainment.
The sequencing for Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film is important to note because of the balance in the energy that it exhibits. The record starts out at a frenetic pace, as already noted. From there, the album’s energy gradually becomes more relaxed, but no less engaging along the way. This is evidenced in the transition between ‘The Water is Rising’ and ‘Act Cool.’ The latter is solid, but still so relaxed in its own way, which is the noted continuation of the noted gradual change in pacing. That element – the pacing – plays into the bigger picture of the album’s sequencing and will be noted shortly. ‘Bump in the Road,’ which comes immediately after ‘Act Cool,’ changes things again and sends the album in a “harder” direction what with its heavier emphasis on bass, drums and electronics. It is a distinct change of style and pace, too, which in turn keeps the album engaging and entertaining, too. From there, the album relaxes again, but only to a point, in ‘Space and Time.’ The gradual easing of the album’s energy continues on again its follow-up, ‘Starry Night’ before things go full-on hip-hop again in ‘Celestial Message.’ The song’s groove is solid, but just not as laid back as the record’s other works, ensuring once more, listeners’ maintained engagement and entertainment. The record’s stylistic and energy changes continue on from there to its finale, doing just as much to keep listeners engaged and entertained. In the bigger picture of the sequencing, the perfectly placed ups and downs, and the stylistic changes do their own share to make this record so appealing. At the same time, that maintained balance throughout helps to keep the record’s pacing solid. The result is that by the time the 25-minute record ends, audiences will not even have realized it has passed so quickly and fully. It will leave listeners wanting more in the best way possible. It is one more way in which the album stands out and still is not the last of its positives. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements.
The production of Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film is important to note because of how much attention to detail clearly had to take place to make everything happen and sound so impressive. As noted, there are a lot of subtleties featured in each of the album’s works. From the use of the piano and the electronics, to the balance of the drums to those noted elements, a lot of attention had to be paid to each element. Those painstaking efforts paid off from one song to the next. At no point does one instrument outperform the other. Each instrument gives just the right amount of accent to its counterparts, whether in the album’s frenetic opener or the more cool sound of ‘Space and Time’ or even in the solid, chill ‘Rock the Block.’ Each work gives listeners such enjoyment because each instrument and aspect gets just enough attention. The result of all the work put into the production is a work that is just as appealing for its production as for its primary content. Keeping all of that in mind, the album gives listeners plenty to appreciate and proves itself a widely appealing work among jaz and hip-hop fans alike.
Analog Players Society’s new album Soundtrack for a Nonexistent Film is a unique, intriguing presentation from the veteran collective. That is evidenced in part through the record’s arrangements, which combine the best of the jazz and hip-hop realm for a presentation that in itself gives listeners a lot to like. The sequencing of the record’s featured arrangements builds on the appeal ensured by the arrangements themselves. The record’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation. It takes into account every tiny nuance of each arrangement from each instrument and element, and in the process, ensures every little element is balanced with one another. The result is, again, a record that is just as worth hearing for its production as for its primary content. The record is available now. More information on the album is available along with all of Analog Players Society’s latest news at: