Ramleh's 2015 album Circular Time

A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.

Kevin Warwick, Reader associate editor

Negative Scanner, “Ambitious People” Despite the uncanny power of Rebecca Valeriano-­Flores’s voice, Chicago postpunk four-piece Negative Scanner still seem weirdly underappreciated in town—even after dropping their explosive self-­titled debut full-length on Trouble in Mind last summer. I recently picked up a seven-inch the band released in 2014, and its title track, the 103-second “Ambitious People,” is Negative Scanner at their most efficient: it pushes forward raggedly at a frenzied pace, and Valeriano-­Flores wills the song along with fiery, commanding vocals you’d consider yourself lucky to follow off the edge of a cliff.

Iggy Pop, Lust for Life I defy you to frown at Iggy’s grin. Unsurprisingly, his most commercially successful album, 1977’s Lust for Life, is also his second collaboration with our dear departed pal David Bowie, who not only wrote most of the music but contributed plenty of instrumentation and vocals. It’s somehow easy to forget how perfect Lust for Life is: the rhythms often have that Bowie-esque swing and shuffle, Iggy’s vocals make him sound like a seedy hotel-lounge singer, and the album’s late-70s glam is applied carefully, like blush—never too garish, always just right.

Ramleh They’re back. Or rather, they’ve been back since 2009, but just this past December pioneering British power-electronics group Ramleh released the behemoth Circular Time, a blend of electronics, noise, and psych—and as they put it, their first album in nearly 20 years “operating in ‘rock’ mode.” It’s a gnarly deep dive, so clear out some head space.

Kevin is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

The cover of Nas's untitled 2008 LP
The cover of Nas’s untitled 2008 LP

Alexander Fruchter, co-owner of indie hip-hop label Closed Sessions

The Beastie Boys I recently went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and tracked down every piece of Beastie Boys memorabilia. The world can be a fucked-up place, but these guys always put a smile on my face. The Beasties aren’t technically the best rap group ever, but they kind of are—I don’t know, they just kind of exist in their own space. I was in a little creative funk as the year started and got out of it listening to their jams in the CS office at high volume. RIP MCA.

Music-discovery platforms and the return of G.O.O.D. Fridays Soundcloud, Spotify, Tidal, and even lesser-known platforms such as Nusiki are changing the industry and how people find and share music. It’s fascinating, scary, exhilarating, and absolutely insane. It kind of keeps me up at night. Even big stars are releasing music for free without warning. When Kanye dropped his G.O.O.D. Friday song “Real Friends” last month, the artists who appeared in Soundcloud’s algorithm after him wound up in The Fader. It’s wild.

Nas, untitled LP I really wanted to add some new music to this list, but I’ve just been going back to old music lately. One project that I wanted to listen to with 2016 ears is Nas’s 2008 untitled LP, originally called “Ni**er” until the music industry and Wal-Mart were like, ahhhh naw. With racism and systemic oppression getting much-needed attention now, Nas’s album has taken on new meaning for me. Some tracks aren’t the best, but “Sly Fox” and “Queens Get the Money” really resonate. Nas has always been one of my favorite MCs. His voice and that LP are still necessary.

Alexander is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .

Sade onstage in Nice, France, in 2011
Sade onstage in Nice, France, in 2011Credit: Valery Hache/Getty

Kweku Collins, hip-hop artist and songwriter

Tame Impala, Currents In my opinion, Tame Impala’s Currents was the best album of 2015. It’s as cohesive as Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City or the Beatles’ Love. Not only does it hang together musically, but it also follows a story line, adding a somewhat cinematic element to the project. Currents is a psychedelic adventure, with random warps that sound like damaged vinyl and wonderfully spacious drops reminiscent of hip-hop. The vocals are equally trippy, their dense harmonies straight from the 60s, and the songwriting is excellent. Favorite songs: “Let It Happen,” “The Moment,” “Eventually.”

Sade Quite possibly my favorite artist of all time, Sade has yet to release anything mediocre. Every album explores a different sound while maintaining her high standards of musicality and overall beauty. Her voice is strong and soothing, and her harmonies are equally satisfying, fitting together like puzzle pieces. Favorite songs: “Lovers Rock,” “Babyfather,” “All About Our Love.” If you don’t know, find out.

Future Islands live Last year’s Pitchfork Music Festival booked a lot of phenomenal acts, but my favorite by far was Future Islands. Front man Samuel T. Herring gave an electrifying performance. His movements reminded me of Bob Marley’s—powerful, heartfelt, and expressive. I’d heard only one song by Future Islands beforehand, so for me this was an incredible introduction to them. If you want a peek, check out their Pitchfork rendition of “Tin Man” on YouTube.