Top 5 Albums of 2014

Here are my personal top 5 full album projects from 2014. Sure there was plenty more and few honorable mentions are at the bottom but for one reason or another these albums from start to finish stood above the rest for me. There are a few albums I still want to check out but here goes my list of the top 5 for 2014.

(These 5 are in no particular hierarchical order)

Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear

Sia_-_1000_Forms_of_Fear_(Official_Album_Cover)Sia came out from behind the writing desk for Rihanna, David Guetta, Christina Aguilera and more  with this triumphant album in July. Sia’s first studio album in four years showcased her ability to sing over high production songs that she’s done for so many hits while also experimenting freely. She also prefers to perform without facing the audience letting her pint-sized dance phenom Maddie take center stage. In a world with millions of social media followers and instantaneous access to celebrities I appreciate Sia’s ability to stay true to herself and music while creating huge hits and this album.

Hit Song: Chandelier also one of the best videos of the year.
Hidden Gem: Straight for the Knife

 

Black Milk – If There’s a Hell Below

iftheresahellbeloBlack is consistently putting out amazing projects that pushes his musicality every album from Tronic to Album of the Year to last year’s No Poison No Paradise. Each one better than the last, and Tronic will forever be a Detroit classic, period. This is the latest edition Black joins in the revival of Detroit Booty by hip hop heads along with his classic boom bat production. His raps have grown immeasurably as well where you can hear the interplay between the beat production and his writing where he’s able to hold his own against a slew of ‘underground’ heavy hitters: Sean Price, Guilty Simpson, and an Underground King Bun-B. Black’s work ethic is on fine display in this album, can’t wait for the tour and the next album.

Hit Song: Gold Piece ft. Bun-B
Hidden Gem: Detroit’s New Dance Song
Side note: Black also dropped Glitches in the Break this year, which is an amazing album too, just not in my top 5.

 

Prince – ART OFFICIAL AGE

BreakfastCanWaitPrince also dropped two albums this year and I also like the 3RDEYEGIRL album but this one here, I will dance to these songs for years. Prince does what he does best, fusion of funk, hip hop, love songs, with an overreaching storyline of future life. He even poked fun at himself using the Prince character from the famous Chapelle show skits for the cover art of for the single, “Breakfast Can Wait.” Oh and it’s Prince’s 33rd studio album, who does that? Prince does.

Hit Song: Breakfast Can Wait
Hidden Gem: FUNKNROLL

 

D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah

dangelo-black-messiahAlmost 12 years after his last studio album Black Messiah was released surprisingly quickly this year making it the late entry into the 2014 class, but possibly one of the best. Musicality at it’s finest D’Angelo’s interplay with his voice to The Vanguard’s instrumentation/production is something the world didn’t even realize it was missing until you heard this album. It is easily a Grammy album of the year contender.

Hit Song: Sugah Daddy
Hidden Gem: The Door, but you could really pick any song

 

The Black Opera – The Great Year

The-Great-Year TBO as a group has been tackling political hip hop for the better part of the past 5 years. I’ve been able to see this group transform from when they first formed to most recently touring with Jaded Incorporated. Consisting of a number of members TBO’s core members remained anonymous for their first two albums. It didn’t take long though for folks to realize who was behind this force articulating difficult concepts over production from the likes of 14KT, Waajeed, Astronote, and more. They bring political and societal critiques to the forefront of their message and it’s something sorely missing these days from the popular music scene. *Full disclosure I consider a number of the members of TBO friends but they are also my favorite MCs so deal.

Hit Song: Beginning of the End ft. Georgia Anne Muldrow
Hidden Gem: Talking Revolution/Up and Up

 

Honorable Mentions:
The following albums were incredible but didn’t crack my top 5 for one reason or another but will also be albums I can rock with for years to come. Again in no particular order.
Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
Jaded Incorporated – The Big Knock
Dej Loaf – Sell Sole
ScHoolboy Q – Oxymoron
Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica
*Late entry* J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive

07/30 Sound of the Surf

 

Sound of the surf

 

Iron ore freighter

Glides across river glass

Horn echoes.

Tires peeling on Jefferson

Ambulance sirens

Brakes applied to avoid tickets.

Clicks of garage gate opens.

Barbershop catcalls,

Dogs shitting

Curses of owners

Rustle with plastic baggie.

Gate crashes closed with car in lot.

Truck trailer screeches open

Clinks the load of beer

Trailer door slams closed.

Tiny wheels of backpacks click

Clack down the sidewalk

Behind the swish of scrub pant legs

Horn of empty freighter.

06/30 Sonnet Attempt

So I am admittedly very poor with structure poems so I figured why not give the sonnet a try. Here’s a very rough attempt.

 

Untitled (Spring sonnet)

 

Sun makes for outward bound days filled with glee

The type where you discover new places.

Finding out what’s possible and might be

Or rediscovering many faces.

 

The sun shines like a beacon in the sky,

Ready to warm the souls eager to part

Far-too-long hibernation spent inside

Now a mass of people beating with new heart.

 

Lethargy of winter, a time behind

Energy of spring with new time abound

Worries of work, school, and bills paid no mind

Friendships restarted, conversations found.

 

Start of spring now everyone walking

Unplugged from phones, laptops, begin talking.

 

05/30 Destruction

05/30

Destruction

 

Shrapnel juts out of bones and plaster

haphazard direction.

Filling of iron shards

Inches from the spinal cord

Scrap of exploded kitchen metal.

Next door to the alleged training center

Home in Miram Shah Pakistan

Official count:

7 deaths, 4 injured, 0 children death, 0 civilian deaths, in strike on a house.

 

This weaponry is new

Video game controller guides fiberglass and steel

Armed and fired with the “X” button,

Desert of Nevada.

Young man who grew up with controller in hand

Call of Duty one day,

Duty calls the next.

Collateral damage,

Home in mountains in Pakistan

4 injured, 7 confirmed deaths.

Alleged training facility in a country where no war has been declared.

 

Collateral damage

Psyche of a boy at a controller,

Given power and anonymity

Following orders

Executing 10,000 miles around the world.

 

Source http://drones.pitchinteractive.com/

 

 

04/30 – One bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer

A very rough cut, edits coming shortly but I wanted to get this up.

One bourbon, One scotch, One beer

47% of all drinkers drink in excess more than once a month.

Excess: More than 14 drinks a week, more than 4 in a day.

I’ve done this repeatedly.

Gulleted down a pint of brown liquor

stomach gnashed through the voluntary poison.

Relaxed, put mind to ease.

Social anxiety released, confidence slides into sloppiness.

Night becomes a blur.

Dreams dulled or non-existent

the mind doesn’t want to wander anymore.

 

Sober nights, lucid dreams.

Control over people and situations.

Aimless mind,

wants old friends and loved ones.

My aunt will be in her favorite pajamas drinking coffee

A hug for Joe on what would have been his birthday night.

Nice but worrisome.

Stressors creep in,

Unsure mind attacks the stressors,

Sweat builds on my forehead

Matting my body to sheets and pillows,

Twisted knot of clear dreams and restless body.

Release with the alarm buzzer.

Mind a dulled mess of emotion, a sober wake up feeling like a hangover.

 

03/30 Greener Grass

This poem came from a workshop I taught where you take an idiom and try to flip it around, here’s my attempt at that.

Greener Grass

I remember the wind

How it carried the ball

Pushed it higher than it should’ve been

Me, running to the fence two, three times.

The outfield is a place for no man who doesn’t like to run

But I do.

Careening  arc of the ball

A rocket aimed from infield desert sand to outfield forest grass.

 

That day we played against the travel team.

Every single player with new Mizuno sponsored gear,

Pressed all black matching leather gloves,

Fitted ball caps with stitched on numbers

Stitched last names between shoulder blades on starch clean jerseys.

We, were not that type of travel team.

Derelict jerseys with the ironed on numbers peeling away.

Snap back hats, before their revival, that were all larges

Some kids had to have the plastic tabs down on the last button

Plastic X on the back of their heads,

tan lines in our red necks.

Various ranges of gear

Nick with his doctor dad actually sprang for a custom bag with our logo on it.

James with his pastor father didn’t even have a bag, just a mitt on the end of his bat.

Me, somewhere in between

A new bat for Christmas but cleats a half size too small, didn’t need to lace them

 

They say the grass in greener on the other side.

This grass, spray paint perfect.

Squared groomed outfield, raked and water sprayed infield.

The Diamondbacks versus the Silver Spoons.

Actually they were the Braves

But we all knew their actual team name.

We were snakes in the grass

Able to strike without being seen.

Bottom of the order batting around each inning.

Us spraying their fielders everywhere from the plate.

Them, shut down by our 70 mile hour hurling future high school quarterback.

Pleased to pile back into carpooled vans for pizza after beating the Silver Spoons.

Me picking perfect green grass out of my cleats and flinging it out the window.

02/30 Mango

Mango

I’ve never cut a raw mango before

Never hacked the fruit away from the immense pit.

Attempt to peel the green and red skin from the orange pulp.

Can count on one hand the number of times I’ve eaten mango

But that moment, a beacon on the chalkboard sign

“On Sale: $1.50” and I said Can’t be that hard.

My sticky counter and dulled knife now argue that hypothesis.

 

Black faux granite shining with juices

Spilt over cutting board and hangnails

With just enough juice seeped in to make it sting

My own skin not split quite wide enough to actually rinse out.

Mangos don’t come with instructions

like pineapples do.

Little cardboard attachment to stalk

Info card attachment to stalk

One side cutting methods

Converse to random facts

Did you know the pineapple is actually multiple fruits fused together?

I did not.

Mango is singular

Enough fruit post-hack job for one.

 

Fairly certain I’ve hacked enough toughness out of the center

I sit down and feed a piece to my girlfriend.

She exclaims That’s pretty good

Stinging in my fingers dulled for the moment.

 

01/30 Riders

Spent quite a bit of time on the bus this winter, here’s a quick poem about one day.

 

Riders 

Harsh wind bites at any piece of flesh showing.

Scarves wrapped three times round.

Windpants, (yeah windpants) pulled up over jeans and covering boots laced high

Over two layers of thermal socks, long john underwear, thermal shirt, flannel, sweater, dark colored jacket

$1.75 in pocket, two days from payday.

Two degrees on the huge lit up board display after the time

Which seems ungodly, the time and temperature.

It has only been 3 minutes since I last checked the sign.

 

Riders crash together stood from back bench to the driver’s yellow line.

We’d all complain about being too close if the group heat wasn’t helping

No matter the scent of the man near the front

Or the constant drum beat of the headphones on the teenager

I can watch the volume deafening him each moment that passes.

One arm held aloft to the bar

The other huddled in tight clutching transfer card and pulsing fingers

Hoping to get sensation back before the transfer.

It doesn’t happen.

 

Transfer in the gleam of the Blue Cross Blue Shield building

A frost on the one side of Jefferson while Beubien has a sliver of reflected sunlight

We all huddle onto that sliver the fifteen minutes we can waiting,

Hoping that each air brake system we hear around the corner is the 53.

One SMART bus rolls by, and then another.

Streak of red and 70’s orange in the wrong direction and we all grumble our own pieces

Finally a signal in the distance as the bus lets its last southbound passengers off

We press to the door, it remains locked.

The collective dirty look the bus driver receives as he answers his phone while we wait could turned a pristine ER room to a junkyard.

Finally he relents, opens the doors wide and the warm air spills onto what feeling skin we still do have.

We hop on quickly to a friendly, ‘no fare, keep going’

And my day begins.

30/30 in 2014

National Poetry Month April

It’s that time of year again! April is National Poetry month and I am making a real effort after the worst winter of my life to come out of hibernation strong with poetry events, writing, and reading.

Via Poets.org

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets throughout the United States band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.

To start I’ve begun writing for 30/30 slowly with a few drafts of poems that will be posted here shortly. Since its the 3rd my goal by the end of the day is to have all three posted and although rough cuts I’ll come back and edit. I know many of my friends are using Facebook for their 30/30 collection and I love opening it up in the morning and being flooded with notifications and new poems. I however am still wary of Zuck taking my proprietary rights and the whole issue of writing for writers instead of yourself and own needs.

Natasha T. Miller spoke on that very idea via her Twitter account yesterday and it made me decide that this space was the best to write, collect, and edit my pieces for the month.

T. Miller Twitter post

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 8.37.42 AM

I’ll make sure to get a piece done every day and hopefully up on this site by the end of the day. It’ll be a struggle but the structure is a good thing. I’ve tried now three years running and last year was fraught with personal difficulties. This year however I’m in a much better space, have no finals, and have quite a bit more material to unpack since my 7 months being back in Detroit.

I am also judging the Ann Arbor Youth Poetry Slam Finals later tonight, attending the PCAP release of this year’s literary journal this Saturday at 1515 Broadway, and starting a new writing group at the Hamtramck Free School. Overall this week and month has been stacked for me to getting back to writing in earnest and with some built in checks to get new stuff written.

Here we go.