Making a case for this year’s slept-on musical creations, from Kali Uchis to Gaika and G.L.O.S.S
As you already know, this year saw an overwhelming avalanche of stand-out music releases, from Björk’s uncompromisingly intimate ninth studio album Vulnicura to FKA twigs’ career-defining audio-visual masterpiece M3LLI55X and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly – the hip hop odyssey that we fixed firmly onto the number one spot of our ‘Top 20 Albums of 2015’. Although, as ever, it can be easy to forget some of the more under-the-radar musical gems that have rolled towards us and away, getting lost in a tumultuous sea of end-of-year hype and commercial successes. And because we think those releases are just as important, we thought we’d revisit some of our most underrated favourites.
KALI UCHIS – POR VIDA
We were first introduced to Kali Uchis a year ago when Snoop Dogg gave us a heads up. “I knew Kali had something special,” he told Dazed. “She has that authentic look that reminded me of old-school low-rider culture.” Months down the line, and Colombia’s badass pop princess still retains that painfully cool pastel-coloured, Miami-style aesthetic, but it was her debut studio project Por Vida which really made us sit up and pay attention. Featuring collabs from Tyler, The Creator, Kaytranada, and BADBADNOTGOOD, Por Vida combines a sugary, neo-soul sweetness with Kali’s distinctive attitude-packed vibe. “Baby understand, I don’t need a man / Fuck me over, I’ll fuck you worse then take off to Japan,” she sings in “Ridin’ Round”, her voice melting over the laidback, sun-splashed beat like ice cream on a hot day. Overlooked? Yes. Underappreciated? Not by us.
G.L.O.S.S. – DEMO
Following in the shit-kicking footsteps of riot grrrl/punk bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney, Washington band G.L.O.S.S. (which stands for “Girls Living Outside of Society’s Shit”) have something to say. At only five songs, nine minutes long, Demo hits you like a short, sharp punch to the gut (but in a good way). “They told us we were girls, so we claimed our female lives,” screams singer Sadie, unloading years of infuriation into one raging line. “Now they tell us we aren’t girls, our femininity doesn’t fit / we’re fucking future girls, living outside society’s shit!” G.L.O.S.S. are a band that stand for us girls, queers and misfits, and sparkle all the more for it.
GAIKA – MACHINE
Emerging straight out of Brixton in South London, Gaika was the underground, unsigned artist that really shook our attention this year with his debut mixtape Machine. Taking core elements of grime, hip hop, dance hall, garage and R&B and twisting them into fresh new electronic shapes, Machine is a forward-facing creation that blurs the lines between genres. “To me, making a piece of music is the same as making a visual composition – it’s all about layers,” Gaika told Dazed. “I don’t really think about the context, I just think about the sound. So a Melvins track might be the same shade of red as some trap record, but it’s only afterwards you realise they come from two disparate worlds.”
LSDXOXO – SACANAGEM
Right at the beginning of the year, Brooklyn producer LDSXOXO dropped his gorgeously gloomy, house-rap mixtape Sacanagem, and we fell hard for it. Featuring collabs from underground rappers Bbymutha and Cakes Da Killa, and Camp & Street singer Rahel, the mixtape takes a mirror and points it deep into his soul. “After my last release, I sank into a bit of a dark space,” LSDXOXO said to Dazed at the time. “My initial approach with new material was to put all of the unexpressed anger into music...but no one likes a bitter Betty, so I put the project to the side for a while, and let life play out until I wasn't as in my feelings. If you listen closely, you can sort of hear my moods change throughout. That’s a Gemini for you!”
TINASHE – AMETHYST
Dazed cover girl Tinashe might be on her way to R&B superstardom, but she started off as our favourite cult mixtape queen, and in this year’s Amethyst (named after her birthstone) she strips it back to her DIY underground roots. Reportedly recorded in her bedroom over the Christmas holidays last year, the 7-track collection features production from thin-skinned beatmaker Ryan Hemsworth, as well as Cali producer IAMSU and Ritz Reynolds. Combining her warm, smooth-as-honey vocals over minimal, lo-fi production, Amethyst achieves the perfect late night sweetness that has defined Tinashe’s sound. “I be twerkin’ alone looking for it, on the phone looking for it,” she sighs in “Looking 4 it” like someone getting bored of their weed-fuelled tinder binge – we hear ya! Read our cover feature with Tinashe here.