12/31/2019

2A’s favorite albums of 2019

By: Kyle Luikart + the 2A Team

At 2A we’re used to hearing about how disruptive technological innovation can be good for business and sometimes down-right necessary. It’s interesting to look back 20 years and remember how the early days of MP3s and file sharing began to “destroy the music industry”. Platforms like Napster meant leaked albums spread like wildfire and bands like Metallica (or more so, their record labels) were losing out on millions of dollars. As a result, the RIAA waged all-out war on consumers under the guise of protecting artists, which alienated fans.

It was a digital transformation that none of the involved businesses wanted to take place and fought hard to prevent. However, two decades after a couple of college kids had a questionable use case for peer-to-peer software, we have a revolutionized, stable industry that flourishes in ways previously unimagined. Services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Amazon Music allow their end users to explore and consume music on a scale like nothing before. The walls have fallen on both sides too; artists enjoy significantly reduced barriers to reaching a global audience. And even more, this revolution has rippled throughout all things media (see Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus), and even influenced software platform models, à la software as a service.

It begs the question – when it comes to technology, when do we switch from worrying about what will be lost and start exploring what can be gained? This is one of many concepts in digital transformation we tackle when we develop marketing strategy for our enterprise tech clients. While you ponder the future of disruptive tech in entertainment, why not queue up some of the albums the 2A team found on heavy rotations this year, ‘coz hey—after all that’s changed, people are still making music.

  • Nilüfer Yanya – Miss Universe (Indie rock/soul) “On her debut album, Nilüfer Yanya creates jazz-infused, scrappy pop that bounces back and forth between soulful slow-burners and hooky, guitar-driven jams. I saw her live this year and she rocked.” – Nick Dwyer
  • Sault – 5 (Funk/neo soul) “Propulsive, mysterious and a little rough, Sault’s 2019 album caught me by surprise and I can’t stop listening.” – Abby Breckenridge
  • Ezra Furman – Twelve Nudes (Rock/art pop) “This album is a queer and trans refuge to hide inside when overwhelmed by the world and the constant weight of the news. It’s got a punk edge that is much more visceral and raw than his previous works.” – Annie Unruh
  • The Strumbellas – Rattlesnake (Indie rock/alt country) “Their second album really shows how they’ve grown with their families and as a group. Plus, they’re Canadian.” – Don Selkirk
  • Blanco Brown – Honeysuckle & Lightning Bugs (Country/hip hop) “Blanco Brown’s debut album sits comfortably at the cross roads of hip hop and country music, exploring the soul that underpins both genres with heartwarming charm. Plus, my kid LOVES The Git Up!” – Drue Stewart
  • Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated (Synth-pop/dance) “A bright and danceable album, with a lovelorn tinge of melancholy infused among the polished synthpop tracks.” – Thad Allen
  • Octo Octa – Resonant Body (House/breakbeat)“Octo Octa’s work dances around iconic rave textures, vocals samples, and drum loops to create a hazy 90s warehouse party vibe that hits the spot anytime of the day. It’s 3am somewhere!” – Kyle Luikart
  • Maggie Rogers – Heard it in a Past Life (Pop/folk pop) “There’s something entrancing about Maggie’s voice that makes all the millennial girls close their eyes and sway their arms in the air.” – Rachel Sacks
  • Kate Tempest – The Book of Traps and Lessons (Spoken word/hip hop) “Kate’s lyrical talents and emotionally charged delivery call out the realities of racism, self-destructive habits, social media, climate change and Brexit-era complications while resolving on a theme of love and the necessity of connection.” – Melanie Hodgman
  • Rhye – Spirit (R&B/downtempo) “I saw them open for Leon Bridges at The Hollywood Bowl July 5th this year. They use all sorts of string instruments to generate def beats.” – Julie Lowy
  • Burna Boy – African Giant (Reggae/dancehall) “My buddy Dre Skull did a song with Burna Boy on this beautiful and generous album.” – Daniel Schmeichler

01/03/2019

2A’s favorite albums of 2018

By: Kyle Luikart + the 2A Team

The 2A team is made up of lovers of music. On Monday mornings we chat about what concert we hit over the weekend and on Friday afternoons we jam out to the 2A Spotify playlist curated by DJ Evan. In a world where albums may be a thing of the past, 2Aers appreciate the storytelling power of a thoughtful, musical selection.

There’s obvious storytelling in lyrics, but the texture and melodies of songs paint a landscape of sound beyond something words can articulate. And the album adds yet another level. A good album may start with an intro to set the tone, or explode abruptly with a powerful, catchy track. It may start slow and rise, or have interludes that intertwine songs. And chances are, somebody put a lot of thought into the sequence and selection of songs to tell a better, more complete story.

Many say the early 21st century is seeing the death of albums as we know them—that the world of streaming apps and shortened attention spans has changed the way we enjoy music. But 2Aers still revel in the storytelling power of the album. Here are our favorites from 2018!

  • Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Tearing at the Seams (Blues rock/Folk rock) “Nathaniel Rateliff has done what few bands can achieve, deliver a sophomore album just as good or better than the first. The formula hasn’t changed: write good songs with real, tangible emotions that you can tap your foot to.” – Gary Bacon

  • Mitski – Be the Cowboy (Indie pop/Indie electronic) “Mitski’s eerie vocals and dark tones make it a great album to come back to and get something new every time you listen.” – Annie Unruh

  • Abhi the Nomad – Marbled (R&B/Hip Hop) “On the debut, full-length album Marbled, Abhi the Nomad easily navigates from bangers to cuts to jams.” – Evan Aeschlimann

  • Glorietta – Glorietta (Folk rock/Indie rock) “Glorietta is the result of a nine-day jam session between folk/indie musician friends in an AirBnB in rural New Mexico. Loose and relaxed, the album ranges from ragged rockers to beautiful, whisper-quiet ballads.” – Nick Dwyer

  • George Clanton – Slide (Electronic/Vaporwave) “Slide is a hauntingly poppy vaporwave trip. Clanton builds lush, nostalgia-rich synthesized atmospheres and ties them to the ground with lazy head-bobbing break beats.” – Kyle Luikart

  • Charles Bradley – Black Velvet (Soul/Funk) “A crooner from a bygone era, Charles Bradley’s mix of funk and soul will leave you grateful to have heard his amazing talent for putting the trials and triumphs of life into song, then leave you wishing for more.” – Melanie Hodgman

  • Beach House – 7 (Dream pop/Indie rock) “Seventh album from one of my absolute favorite bands. A synth-heavy wall of sound that begs to envelop you completely in dreamy, warm goodness.” – Clinton Bowman

  • Joji – BALLADS1 (R&B/Electronic) “BALLADS1 is a great album for a rainy commute home with its melancholic tunes and lo-fi beats. Favorite song is Slow Dancing in the Dark.” – Radhika Patel

  • Gorillaz – The Now Now (Pop/Funk) “The British digital cartoon band—now joined by Ace from The Powerpuff Girls—returns for a mellow yet upbeat jam session featuring their distinctive collage of genres.” – Thad Allen

  • Popcaan – Forever (Dancehall/Hip Hop) “A dancehall record for the masses, full of humble swagger and charisma. Plus, my buddy produced it!” – Daniel Schmeichler

  • Greta Van Fleet – Anthem of the Peaceful Army (Hard rock/Blues rock) “Saw them perform live this year and hands down one of the best shows I have ever seen. Very Zeppelin sound.” – Don Selkirk

  • Hana Vu – How Many Times Have You Driven By (Indie rock/Indie pop) “There are moments on this album that really make me feel like my personal experience is important, and I want to walk through the city with a little attitude.” – Abby Breckenridge

  • Sugarland – Bigger (Country/Pop) “This album is a mental cup of coffee. It’s uplifting and energizing with a hearty dose of fun songs, but maintains depth with thoughtfully written ballads.” – Drue Stewart