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Welcome to Rob Hakimian’s website, collecting together the best of his writing from over the years.

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Blood Orange - Freetown Sound

[Domino]

So here we are! Number 1: Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound, Dev Hynes’ third album under the moniker, and by far his most expansive and luscious yet. It still blows my mind that this man first burst on to the music scene with Test Icicles, quickly followed by his twee-folk alter ego Lightspeed Champion. To go from those enjoyable but goofy projects, to Freetown Sound, is really quite a feat.

Let’s start with the basic reason why Freetown Sound is album of the year: It has 17 tracks and every single one of them is a marvel. Even the intro track “By Ourselves,” and the sketch-like interludes like“With Him” are essential to this album. The interstitials sampling different black people talking about their life experiences help to flesh out the ideas presented in the songs. Freetown Sound is a journal of black culture in 2016; and yes I’m white, but from the opening track wherein he melds John Coltrane’s “Myself When I Am Real” with a sample of poet Ashlee Haze’s impassioned recital of her verse “For Colored Girls (The Missy Elliott Poem),” I’m locked in. It is about breaking down the stereotypes of black culture, but also exalting them – having pride in them. As an outsider, I am still fascinated to learn about this perspective, and moreover appreciate all the great things that have come out of black history and influence a huge portion of all culture today. On an even deeper, human level, this album is about acceptance, personal pride and love for your fellow man: these are all things that everyone should appreciate.

Now for the music itself: Hynes has created a chameleonic blend of soul, R&B, jazz and pop that sounds fresh and smooth in all of the myriad forms that it takes through the album. He switches gears effortlessly between punchy, pop-soul bangers like “Augustine” and “Best To You” and soulful, reflective pearls like “Chance” and “Hadron Collider.” Perhaps best is when he manages to find the luminously captivating middle ground on weightless electro-soul jams like “Desiree” and “Hands Up.”

Part of what makes Freetown Sound so much fun is the variety of voices that are on this album. Hynes’ own voice has never sounded as honeyed and rich as it does here, but it shines largely thanks to the female voices that he’s surrounded himself with. He’s managed to get Blondie’s Debbie Harry to make a ghostly turn on “E.V.P.” The heartbreaking interplay between himself and Empress Of’s Lorely Rodriguez makes “Best To You” into the best miserable dance classic since Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own.” The skyscraping intertwining vocals between himself and Nelly Furtado on “Hadron Collider” is mesmerising and attention-demanding no matter how many times you listen to it. The list of collaborators also includes Carly Rae Jepsen, Ava Rainn, BEA1991, Kelsey Lu, Zuri Marley, who all bring their own fresh sounds and perspectives to their tracks, making Freetown Sound into a truly collaborative album.

Freetown Sound is an elegant patchwork of ideas, sounds, styles and cultures. There’s no possible way to pigeonhole it as a single genre, but it all fits together to make a magnificent whole. Listening to Freetown Sound is not only purely enjoyable, but it’s uplifting, educational, hopeful and ringing with pride. That is why it’s the album of 2016.

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Below you can see my top 50 albums of the year list in full.

50| Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - EARS
49| Thee Oh Sees - A Weird Exits
48| Daughter - Not To Disappear
47| The Avalanches - Wildflower
46| Beyonce - Lemonade
45| Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
44| Gold Panda - Good Luck and Do Your Best
43| James Blake - The Colour In Anything
42| Lambchop - FLOTUS
41| Ty Segall - Emotional Mugger
40| Nothing - Tired Of Tomorrow
39| Camp Cope - Camp Cope
38| Cymbals Eat Guitars - Pretty Years
37| Aphex Twin - Cheetah EP
36| Mary Lattimore - At The Dam
35| Woods - City Sun Eater In The River Of Light
34| White Lung - Paradise
33| Solange - A Seat At The Table
32| Wild Beasts - Boy King
31| Danny Brown - Atrocity Exhibition
30| Marissa Nadler - Strangers
29| Weyes Blood - Front Row Seat To Earth
28| Kevin Morby - Singing Saw
27| Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered.
26| Whitney - Light Upon The Lake
25| Kedr Livanskiy - January Sun
24| Frankie Cosmos - Next Thing
23| Steve Gunn - Eyes On The Lines
22| Pantha du Prince - The Triad
21| Cass McCombs - Mangy Love
20| Cavern of Anti-Matter - void beats/invocation trex
19| Olga Bell - Tempo
18| Chairlift - Moth
17| Mitski - Puberty 2
16| Anderson .Paak - Malibu
15| Underworld - Barbara, Barbara we face a shining future
14| Xenia Rubinos - Black Terry Cat
13| Savages - Adore Life
12| DIIV - Is The Is Are
11| Frank Ocean - Blonde
10| Jenny Hval - Blood Bitch
09| MONEY - Suicide Songs
08| Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial
07| A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
06| Nicolas Jaar - Sirens
05| Angel Olsen - My Woman
04| Parquet Courts - Human Performance
03| Preoccupations - Preoccupations
02| ANOHNI - Hopelessness
01| Blood Orange - Freetown Sound

Album Review: Cherry Glazerr - Apocalipstick

Album Review: Cherry Glazerr - Apocalipstick

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