Beauty Behind the Madness
Abel Tesfaye’s sophomore album launched him from underground figurehead to full-time, adored RnB-pop headliner. BBtM dares to lean into a future of funk-revival and dusky RnB, while maintaining the sooty rhythms and forthright lyricism of his early mixtapes.
One of the most underrated records of the year is !!!’s As If, in which the indie-disco veterans add newfound emphasis on a later-night timbre. Spanning quasi-deep house in ‘I Feel So Free’ and political power pop in ‘Freedom! ’15’, it’s an irresistible dancing soundtrack.
Syd that Kid and Matt Martians emerged from Odd Future this year with one of the sexiest releases of the year. In Ego Death, Syd yearns and lures over complex time changes, walking basslines and spectric guitar chords, reminding us all of the seductive power of soul music.
To Pimp A Butterfly
Kendrick’s been on fire for years, but this third album is nothing short of magic. Mixing laid-bare, percussive monologues with sparkling jazz, the Compton rapper has set a precedent for hip hop’s sonic boundaries. Track ‘King Kunta’ breathes down your neck even after it’s over.
No one expected New Order’s first album in a decade to be quite so tear-jerking. It’s nostalgic of their earliest days, incorporating their signature guitar linearisms into cutting new-age techno and electro-pop anthems. Highlight, ‘Nothing But A Fool’, pulls at our heartstrings.
The Magic Whip
The fact our city inspired this album is exciting in itself, but its quality was a blissful surprise. The Magic Whip captures HK’s phosphorescence; it stays up into the twilight hours of Wan Chai, and struggles against loneliness in a vast populace. All this conveyed in the cheeky-chappy tones that define the British icons.
My Love Is Cool
Wolf Alice’s debut album caused quite the stir this year, channeling the strifes of youth and naiveté within them. Ellie Rowsell’s voice beams like a laser over either giant grunge backdrops or slow-burning, Del Rey-esque echoes. It’s refreshingly raw, and utterly hypnotising.
The first of two shock releases by indie duo Beach House this year, Depression Cherry, is to be slowly inhaled. The tracks build meticulously, composed of synth drones, soft guitar layers and sparse bass notes. Grand and patient, it soothes like a panorama of an Icelandic coast.
Sometimes I Sit and Think,
and Sometimes I Just Sit
Melbourne girl-next-door Courtney Barnett paints feathery everyday narratives with effortless, wandering lyrics. The pièce de résistance, however, is her ability to wrench us from this lightheartedness – at any moment – into her most profound thought, leaving us somewhat silenced.
The elusive Kevin Parker’s psychedelic pop brought the industry to its knees with breakup record Currents, which dives headfirst into an aching sense of desperation. Every element of opening track ’Let It Happen’ screams out for resolution, from its labyrinthine drum patterns and illusionary loops, to its purposeful push and pull between dance and indie balladry. Parker perfectly builds voluptuous soul in ‘‘Cause I’m A Man’ and apologetic apathy in ‘Yes I’m Changing’. Front to back and back to front, Currents is challenging and refreshing; it’s both heartbreak medicine and a great party soundtrack.