Firstly, I have to say that this year has been a great one for music. This year was full of comebacks, follow-ups, outstanding debuts and brilliant collaborations. To begin the countdown to what I felt was the best albums of the year, I’ve made a list of some albums I felt were still strong releases and are worth checking out. In no particular order;
British electronic artist Darren Cunningham packed a punch with ‘RIP’ churning out pulsating beats and twisted grooves, it has stood out as one of the years most solid electronic records. Showing shades of Flying Lotus’ most abstract work (Marble Plexus) to glimmers of the same kind of eccentricity Björk brings to her work (Jardin) and even a nod to straightforward house music (The Lord’s Graffiti) . It’s definitely worth a listen.
On the surface, this album would probably seem like an unoriginal project full of over-thought songs but the Minnesota band present their debut album as one of the most earnest releases of the year. Full of swelling pop songs with clean, coherent production. Now, Now blend dream pop and rock elements to form a promising debut. Their song Prehistoric sounds like a nod to Death Cab for Cutie (specifically their song Title Track) which is ironic as ‘Death Cabber’ Chris Walla signed the band to his label Trans Records.
After a lengthy tour folk singer Simone White finally pieced together the follow-up to her 2009 album ‘Yakiimo’. ‘Silver Silver’ although, not a departure from the previous album is more like a continuation of a sonic scape that works, with some experimental elements thrown in for good measure. The fragile-voiced singer teams up with fellow troubadour and tour companion Andrew Bird on the beautiful title track that runs a lengthy but rewarding 7 minutes. As well as the ethereal ‘In the Water Where the City Ends‘ and the honest ‘Never Be That Tough‘ White’s song writing shines brighter and stronger.
Somewhat of a quiet release that didn’t get the kudos it deserves. Five albums deep rapper/producer Oddisee churns out another consistent, soulful hip-hop record which sees a departure from the straight instrumental albums, this time he flexes his emcee chops with relative ease and sincerity. Back with an array of interesting and laid back beats, Oddisee definitely deserves some spins, especially the laid back ‘Maybes‘.
The mercury music prize-winning band’s debut album is interesting, which sonically has more in common with freak folk artists like Devendra Banhart and Akron/Family than their contemporaries like The Maccabees and Bombay Bicycle Club. In fact, ‘An Awesome Wave’ has the confidence and the bravado that you’d expect from a new band, without being cocky and forced.
Brandy – Two Eleven
It’s been a surprisingly big year for me in terms of R&B. I’ve always had a soft spot for Brandy, she has a great voice, husky and melodic which sets her apart from her unoriginal contemporaries. She isn’t afraid to take a risk production-wise and that’s very inspiring. The production on ‘Two Eleven’ is slick and eclectic from the woozy and slightly sexy “So Sick” and the club-ready Chris Brown collaboration “Put it Down” to the Frank Ocean-penned ballad “Scared of Beautiful” she even samples Lykke Li on “Let Me Go“, Brandy has definitely not lost her edge.
‘Coexist’ shows a confidence that was laying dormant on their debut album, which was full of hushed intimate declarations. While that hasn’t changed much in terms of song writing, The xx bring a much more dance sensibility to their new songs. Songs like “Reunion” and “Chained” gives producer Jamie xx more room to show what he’d learned working with Gil-Scott Heron and remixing but still clinging to the intimacy on moments like “Angels” and “Fiction“. A strong release.