Favourite Albums of 2015 – #13 to #11

 

#13. Rodeo – Travis Scott

 

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Travis Scott is not a good rapper in the traditional sense. Let’s get that out of the way. But in 2015’s hip-hop scene, that doesn’t matter as much. What does matter is a rapper’s ‘sound’, his ear for production and skill in curating talent. And Travis Scott is exceptional on all these counts; his sound being one of apparent contradiction. The sounds of Rodeo are intoxicant-laden, yet have clarity. The production is heavy, but interspersed with subtle details, Travis’ vocals are slurred but have melody and rhythm, and the features overflow yet stick to the grander ideas. This album is less about Travis and more about the greater pool of musicians he helps bring together, but with him as the conductor, orchestrating the mass into forms that are beyond satisfying. And Rodeo is all the better for it.

Listen to: 3500, Maria I’m Drunk, 90210

#12. Surf – Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment

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Chance the Rapper may be the most recognizable voice on Surf, but the project is credited to Donnie Trumpet and his Social Experiment band for the simple reason that the soundscape they provide is truly the backbone of this album. Consequently, it serves as a diverse palette of musical influences and gorgeous sonic textures, bouncing between funk, jazz, blues, hip-hop and more; drawing on, and building upon their hometown of Chicago’s rich musical traditions. Besides Chano, the guest features are meticulously chosen, and almost all of them bring their A-game, which is particularly gratifying considering the relatively unconventional production. This LP represents the pinnacle of a 20th century-influenced revitalization of hip-hop. Surf is warm, playful, thoughtful, and one hell of an album.

Listen to: Slip Slide, Wanna Be Cool, Familiar

#11. Elaenia – Floating Points

One word: ethereal. Sam Shepherd, musical auteur/neuroscientist has, with Elaenia, produced a body of work that is precise in its purpose: but that purpose is that the music remain utterly amorphous. There is little to be said for form in this album. Sound bytes float in and out of the atmosphere, sonic elements glitch and apparate at seemingly random points, and yet the entirety of this album crescendoes towards an almost supernatural conclusion. It would be a discredit to the music here to pin it to a genre, and therein lies its beauty. The listener should not seek to listen to Elaenia as much as immerse oneself in its sparse, stark magnificence. Let the nerves of this piece bind themselves around your spine, and send chills running up it.

Listen to: Silhouettes(I,II and III), Thin Air

Favourite Albums of 2015 – #13 to #11

Favourite Albums of 2015 – #16 to #14

#16. Thank Your Lucky Stars/Depression Cherry – Beach House

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Thank you Beach House, for dropping two incredible albums in the same year. Championing a genre that deserves greater exposure, Beach House puts shoegaze front and center in these projects. The production is intricate and textured, but never jarring. Gliding and swirling through the layers is vocalist Victoria Legrand’s tranquil voice. The music on these albums is thematically complex, but its reupholstering of dream pop makes it a serene listen. Wonderfully, these albums complement each other. If Depression Cherry is the surreal dream, Thank Your Lucky Stars is the jolt back to a harsher reality. All you need for this experience is to close your eyes and let the music engulf you.

 

#15. Sound & Color – Alabama Shakes

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If the grooves and funk that slinks its way in and out of the spaces of this album don’t make you feel incredibly alive, kindly visit a doctor for your soul.  This is an album that will tug at your heartstrings just as well as it might cause you to pull a hamstring while dancing.  It feels epic, without losing any of Alabama Shakes’ everyman soul. Sound & Color is truly an appropriate title; rather than music, this is on par with a vibrant theatrical performance. And as with any good performance piece, there’s little else to be said about this album. Experience it. It’s worth every second.

Listen to: Don’t Wanna Fight, Shoegaze, Future People 

 

#14. A.L.L.A – A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky has been an intriguing character from the start of his career. His music, Houston-inspired despite him being from New York, placed him as an outlier in the culture, just as much as his fashion sense did. Yet, Rocky’s been having massive success. A.L.L.A however, unravels quite a bit of the person behind the success and conflicts. Still recovering from A$AP Yams’ sudden death and a breakup, while still dealing with his fame, Rocky infuses A.L.L.A  with lyrics that are in turns mournful, frustrated, celebratory, and brash, backed by production dripping with psychedelic influences. It isn’t possible to nail down a single persona for A$AP Rocky, and that seems to be the point. A.L.L.A is self-assured, often arrogant, an album that revels in its darkness; much like the man responsible for the music.

Listen to: L$D (Love $ex Dreams), Canal St, Everyday

Favourite Albums of 2015 – #16 to #14

Favourite Albums of 2015 – #19 to #17

#19. The Magic Whip – Blur

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It’s been 12 years since the last Blur album. 12 years that’s been marked by accelerated technological development, glitz and a popular culture that is the antithesis of the mood that alt-rock bands like Blur and its ilk purveyed. The Magic Whip is Damon Albarn and Co’s viewing glass into this world that we live in, and spoiler alert: they’re not exactly taken by it. Continuing themes from Everyday Robots, Albarn’s 2014 solo project, the LP bleaches the neon glamour of our smartphone-driven culture, seeking to lay bare the ennui. Sometimes soft, sometimes grand, The Magic Whip is often unsure of its purpose; but given the mood of the album , I wonder if it wasn’t deliberate.

Listen to: There Are Too Many Of Us, Thought I Was A Spaceman

 

18. American Beauty/American Psycho – Fall Out Boy

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Stadium rock. meet hip-hop . Now both of you, meet the new Fall Out Boy. You’ll all get along splendidly. Perfecting the formula they hit upon with Save Rock & Roll, FOB takes the tight, razor-sharp structures of hip-hop and layers it with high-octane guitars, pounding drums and soaring choruses to deliver visceral, anthemic, rock that can only be described as a shot of pure adrenaline. American Beauty/American Psycho is magnificent, and chaotic. Subtle it is not, but the trade-off for nuance is that every emotion on display here is cranked up to a million. And honestly, I see little reason to come down from the high.

Listen To: Irresistible, Jet Pack Blues

#17. Compton – Dr Dre

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Goddamn Dre, where have you been? This album isn’t (the now-scrapped) Detox, but that scarcely matters. Compton is an event all in itself, and the good Doctor shows the listener why he should never be forgotten as a musician and producer. Truly a West Coast project, Dre employs a number of his protegees, from Snoop Dogg and Eminem, to Game and Kendrick, as well as newer entrants like Anderson.Paak, to recount an epic tale of his hometown, from its darkest holes to its most hopeful beacons. His lyrics may be ghost-written, but Dre’s incredible mic presence and grit are a force to be reckoned with. Ultimately though, it isn’t a Dr Dre album without the impeccable production. It isn’t the absolute innovator that projects like the Chronic  have been, but that doesn’t change the fact that few albums coalesce the current sound with the curator’s stamp as well as Compton does. Dre finally seems to have said all that he needs to say, and I’m glad he chose to make this statement on wax.

Listen To: Talk About It, Deep Water

Favourite Albums of 2015 – #19 to #17

Favourite Albums of 2015 – #22 to #20

#22. Wildheart – Miguel

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Full disclosure: I don’t usually care much for RnB. Despite this, I count myself as a fan of Miguel for his ability to incorporate diverse influences, beyond tradtional RnB, into his music, while still being centered on his incredible, authentic vocals. The result of this artistic dabbling is one of the richest-sounding albums of the year. From the hip-hop swagger on N.W.A to Coffee’s vivid emotiveness, Wildheart is a bold statement on positive sexuality and pleasure, and marks a definitive moment in contemporary music.

Listen to: Coffee, face the sun

#21. Big Grams – Big Grams

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The brainchild of Big Boi (one-half of the legendary OutKast) and electronic group Phantogram, Big Grams is quite simply one of my favourite collaborative efforts, and favourite musical surprises, of the year. The sensual, slow-burning electronica and Sarah Barthel vocals are a perfect foil to Big Boi’s cocky, self-assured mic presence on tracks like Run For Your Life and Fell In The Sun; while they veer towards braggodicious hip-hop powered by skittering beats on tracks such as Born To Shine. Golden as the cover art, Big Grams is one of the coolest albums of the year. My only real complaint with this project is that there isn’t more of it.

Listen To: Run For Your Life, Drum Machine

#20. Genesis Series EP – ZHU

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ZHU, the person, may still be quite the enigma, but his music has a clear purpose: seduce the entire damn dance floor. Thanks to a much higher profile this year, ZHU accentuates this EP’s sound through an array of impeccably chosen collaborators, while ensuing his sound is not lost in the crowd. The signature synths and keys are guaranteed to get you grooving, while the featured vocals interplay with ZHU’s falsetto in exciting ways. Whether you’re an audiophile or a club regular, the Genesis Series EP will treat you ears to auditory sensuality.

Listen To: Hold Up Wait A Minute , Modern Conversation 

Favourite Albums of 2015 – #22 to #20

Favourite Albums of 2015 (#25 to #23)

I’ve been posting my favourite albums of the year for two years now on Instagram, primarily as a way to reminisce, but also (hopefully) to get my friends to listen to some great music. This was pretty much the only way I shared my music with people; so I thought it’d also be the ideal start to my blog, which is wholly about the music I enjoy.  So here we go.

 

#25. Mutant – Arca

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Arca’s Mutant is the most eccentric, twisted album that I enjoyed this year. The repulsive cover art probably cued you to its contents; Mutant is unapologetically harsh and difficult to listen to. But its true appeal lies in its ability to reconcile this aggressiveness with some incredibly gorgeous, operatic sounds. Mutant is a medium for the gifted producer to revel in the idea that it escapes comprehension, demands that you give it a listen, and reinforces the absurdity of life as he sees it.

Listen to: Vanity, Alive

 

#24. DS2 – Future

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Everyone knows exactly what to expect from Future: lean-saturated, warbly melodies floating on bass-heavy beats. But the music is so goddamn fun. Whether he’s insisting you ‘fuck up some commas’ or detailing hes sexual escapades in Gucci flip-flops, Future Hendrix keeps dropping the quotables. And yet, Future’s fascinating brand of sharp honesty prevents the music from crossing into the territory of inane droll. The codeine haze may or may not murky the depths of DS2, but the music is simply too exuberant for you to care.

Listen to: Stick TalkWhere Ya At

#24. The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us – Beach Slang

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To anyone who complains that punk is lost today, listen to this album.  The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us is filled with the same aggressiveness that made 90s punk the phenomenon it was, but is tempered by the middle-age wisdom of singer-songwriter James Alex, and is driven by glimmers of hope. Driven by unrelenting guitar and searing vocals, this album is lean(9/10 songs clock in under 3 minutes) and mean. This LP is as much a statement of brutally honest introspection as a piece of music. What the listener gets, then, is loud, guttural music, built on emotions to match.

Listen: Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas, I Break Guitars 

(I’ll be posting about 3 albums per day, till I get to #1. Stick around)

Favourite Albums of 2015 (#25 to #23)