As the world becomes more and more united through technology, humanity’s inherent good shines through in a glut of musical cooperation this year.
Of course, this may have less to do with collective goodwill bubbling over and be more attributable to how easy it is to record and email a high-quality vocal track in this digital age, but I’m not cynic.
What I lack in cynicism, so I’ve decided to rank this year’s collaborative efforts from worst to best.
5. Jack Ü by Jack Ü ( Skrillex and Diplo)
This album isn’t for me, and I suspect it isn’t for anyone.
I had a long, angry diatribe about bad haircuts, crappy music and how these two kindred spirits might be the musicians(?) I’d be least happy to meet, but it was obnoxiously mean-spirited.
Instead, I’ll just say their album isn’t good and shouldn’t be listened to.
4.What a Time to Be Alive by Drake and Future
It isn’t quite as instantly disposable as the average Aubrey Graham effort, but it’s also not as good as, say a middling Future mixtape.
If you’re a modern Hip-Hop completist, give it a spin, but otherwise, it’s incredible easy and advisable to give this a pass.
3.Caracal by Disclosure
I suppose this is cheating, because technically, the brothers Lawrence aren’t collaborating with anyone in particularl, but almost every song on their sophomore effort features a guest providing vocals to match the glossy house beats.
The names are bigger this time around with Lorde and The Weeknd appearing, as well as old collaborator Sam Smith, but there’s nothing quite as catchy as Settle‘s earworms.
It’s not bad, but it is a bit let down. Instead of another A-album, Caracal represents a solid B.
2.Wavves x Cloud Nothings by Wavves X Cloud Nothings
This would have been a dream match-up for me in 2009, and in 2015, it’s actually still awesome. Nathan Williams and Dylan Baldi conspire together to create some super fun sneering, searing hooks. It’s a throwback to the fuzzy garage rock both Wavves and Cloud Nothings began with. It’s infectious as hell too.
1.Big Grams by Big Grams (Big Boi and Phantogram)
Phantogram showed up on Big Boi’s eclectic Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors to fairly positive effect, but the duo’s contributions were lost in the shuffle of a scattered album, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
Whatever vague notions I did have about the Big Grams project certainly didn’t prepare me for how much thoroughly I enjoy this spacey electro-rock-rap mix.
The surprise was especially compounded because Big Grams begins fairly inauspiciously.
Opening track”Run for Your Life” is basically a Big Boi song with a decidedly not hip-hop beat. While Big Boi’s mercurial cadence could probably keep time with anything, somehow his flow and the beat never quite mesh. It’s not a total fiasco, but it didn’t really inspire great confidence.
Of course, the next song absolutely knocks it out of the park and rights the ship dramatically.
Second track”Lights On” is more or less a Phantogram song with a few Big Boi bars tacked on the end, but his verse happens to be an appendage for an utterly fantastic Phantogram song that somehow manages to remind me of both Keyboard Cat and “Trip Inside this House” by Primal Scream.
From Track 3 on things seem to totally gel, particularly on “Goldmine Junkie”. It’s a slightly raunchy, very sweet love song that features Sarah Barthel and Big Boi exchanging talk-sing rap verses. It’s all oddly perfect.
To add a level of collaboration to the whole affair, Run the Jewels tandem El-P and Killer Mike show up for “Born to Shine” and add appropriate bravado.
Big Grams totally subverted and surpassed my expectations.
Go listen to Big Grams.