As 2015 winds down, here are my top five albums of the year in no particular order.
‘Currents’ – Tame Impala
In a Nutshell: The album art appropriately visualises the kind of record you’re about to get into. ‘Currents’ is an intriguing album, drawing listeners in with a seven-minute opener ‘Let It Happen’ which sets us up for a vivid but woozy ride. A huge part of the record’s appeal is how perfectly Kevin Parker has nailed an authentic psychedelic sound that has millienials nostalgic for the 60s. This album is a refreshing departure from anything that’s been put out this year.
Good for: Tripping out without actually taking any illegal substances.
Essential track: This interlude captures the album’s overall sound.
UK tour?: Mid-Feb in London and Manchester.
‘Purpose’ – Justin Bieber
In a Nutshell: If you weren’t a Belieber back when it wasn’t cool to be, this album will make sure of it. ‘Purpose’ has cemented Justin Bieber as an artist to be taken seriously as he graduates from saccharine to sophisticate on his fourth album. ‘Purpose’ is Bieber’s admission of guilt for past misdemeanours, turning them into in reflective lyrics over melancholic production. Guest stars include Jack U, Travis Scott and Halsey with writing credits to Ed Sheeran on ‘Love Yourself’.
Perfect for: Turning sceptics into Beliebers (lol, sorry.)
Essential track: No Sense for trap ~vibes~, courtesy of the Travis Scott feature.
UK tour?: Oct 11 – Nov 2 and Nov 28-29. (Question is, who’s coming with me?)
’25’ – Adele
In a Nutshell: 19, 21 and now 25, Adele has loved through pivotal ages. 25 documents Adele’s transition into maturity, a natural direction from her 2011 album. The now 27 year-old delivers past heartaches and present sentiments in a sophisticated arrangement of ballads. Although a late 2015 release, 25 has dominated the music industry by breaking records and has now sold over seven million copies in its fifth week (and counting).
Perfect for: Letting go of past loverz and reviving the music industry
Essential track: Million Years Ago for the film noir effect. (Adele is not streaming any of ’25’ but just trust me on this one.)
UK Tour?: Yes. I’m insanely jealous of anyone who’s going too.
To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
In a Nutshell: Fearless in form, production and lyricism, the follow up to 2012’s Good Kid Mad City does not disappoint. The album unapologetically speaks on the black experience in modern America. Racism, injustice, violence and the residue of slavery are the issues explored across musical genres. It’s almost unfair to summarise an album layered with so much meaning in a short paragraph, but it couldn’t go without mentioning. This is one of the most important releases this decade and beyond; a masterpiece that will outlive us all.
Perfect for: Delivering a timely social message in a timeless format. This is a classic.
Essential track: Activists at Cleveland State University began chanting the chorus to this during a protest against police harassment.
UK tour?: Currently billed for Hyde Park’s BST Fest in July.
‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’ – Drake
In a Nutshell: Album? Mixtape? Who knows? Drake quietly released a 17-track mixtape that holds together like a promoed album. Rumour has it that this project was intended to fulfil his 4-album deal with Cash Money Records after falling out with label boss Birdman. Nonetheless, quality isn’t compromised on IYRTITL. Drake continues to wear his heart on his sleeve; lyricism ranges from braggadocious on tracks like ‘Legend’ and ‘No Tellin’’, to emotional on ‘Jungle’ and ‘You and the 6’. The project is supported by long-time collaborators Noah ‘40’ Shebib and Boi 1-DA on production.
Good for: The ‘two birds, one stone’ strategy; satisfying the fans whilst also departing from the Cash Money roster.
Essential track: Preach. Samples Henry Krinkle’s ‘Stay’, which is the same song Nicki Minaj used for ‘Buy a Heart’.
Side note: Honourable mention goes to ‘Hotline Bling’, for conquering the summer and beyond, whilst giving the fans a pastel aesthetic to thirst over. It also inspired a whole mixtape from Erykah Badu. May the legend of Hotline Bling live on *forever*.
Kanye West has quietly uploaded two new tracks to his Soundcloud account – a new version of ‘Say You Will’ and ‘When I See It’.
2013 has been a big year for music. Here’s a quick year-end review of my top albums of the year (a few hours before it’s due to end!)
The sixth studio album from the most polarising man in hip-hop was leaked a week before scheduled release back in June 2013. I pressed play on ‘On Sight’, a sonic assault produced by Daft Punk, and was thoroughly confused about what was going on. ‘Good Lord, is this what the whole thing is gonna sound like?’ I asked myself. His egotistical screaming on ‘I Am a God’ was jarring but for me, he redeemed himself on the politically-fuelled ‘New Slaves’ and ‘Blood on the Leaves’. Yeezus plays out with ‘Bound 2’, the most recognisable Kanye-sounding track of the album. The first disc rotation left me kind of disappointed, but I’ve eventually come to appreciate the off-kilter production and progressive sonic arrangement.
The Lawrence brothers are one just of the artists that brought sub-genres UK garage and House into the commercial forefront. The album itself kicks off with ‘Intro’ that seamlessly transitions to the motivating stomp ‘When A Fire Starts to Burn’. Disclosure dominated 2013 by striking a balance between pop and dance music with the likes of ‘Latch’, ‘White Noise’ and new single ‘Voices’. However, the standout track for me was ‘Defeated No More’ featuring Ed Mac from Friendly Fires. Everything from the vocals to the synths meant it’s been on repeat since summer. Every track they released in 2013 has not disappointed, and it’s no wonder that it earned a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize.
‘AM’ has once again consolidated the Sheffield quartet’s reputation as one of the greatest bands ever. I’ve always been a distant fan of the Monkeys but this album truly convinced me of their brilliance. ‘AM’ is built with sinister riffs, thrilling drums and topped off with the regional drawls of their frontman Alex Turner. The band has cited hard rock, blues and hip hop as just some of the influences for the fifth album that, like ‘Settle’, was nominated for the 2013 Mercury Music Prize. My favourite tracks have to be ‘Knee Socks’ ,‘I Want It All’ and the ironically-titled ‘No.1 Party Anthem’.
Nothing Was The Same
Another highly anticipated hip hop album that got leaked in 2013. The follow-up to ‘Take Care’ looked promising to me. However, I didn’t take to Drake’s third album like I did to the 2011 release. Where were ‘Girls Love Beyoncé’ and ‘No New Friends’ in the release? Nonetheless, the more I listen to ‘NWTS’, the more I appreciate it and it didn’t feel right leaving it out of my end-of-year album round up. It’s the vocal versatility and incredibly produced beats in tracks like ‘Pound Cake’, ‘Connect’ and ‘Worst Behaviour’ that remind me why I love Drake as an artist in the first place. I’m looking forward to his tour rocking up to Nottingham – seeing an artist perform their latest LP live usually changes my mind for the better.
It’s been a great year musically and I look forward to what new and returning artists have to offer in 2014
Happy New Year!
Friday 13th December 2013. Beyoncé eclipsed superstition by surprising us with her fifth record. When did she have time to film an album between touring the world, raising a child (cute cameo, Blue!) and being a wife? Most days I can’t even find time to go to the gym. For shame.
So, I woke up to a text telling me that the seventeen-time Grammy winner had rolled out the self-titled album. Could it bey? Doth mine eyes deceive me? I headed to twitter for confirmation. Nope, it wasn’t a drill; my timeline was a mess of URL links to purchase, a running commentary of the visuals and the occasional naysayer. It was getting to the point that I was going to enter @Beyonce’s mentions to ask what of Album Number Five.
I wasn’t even awake 15 minutes and I was buying BEYONCÉ. Can you imagine? Smouldering all over the iTunes Store in its rose pink and noir sophistication. Who even needs cover art when you’ve got a complete record and music videos to accompany? Marketing was off the agenda also. I just know B was like ‘what promo? Y’all better enjoy this project as is!’ There it was in my iTunes like Christmas came early. But that was after it took its sweet damn time to download while eating away 1GB of my iCloud storage and almost imploding my iPhone. I swear her diva-isms don’t stop. Those attempted downloads brought me back to when I was trapped in the virtual waiting room with the rest of the stans trying to get a glimpse of a ticket for her show.
Bey even announced a second European leg of her Mrs Carter World Tour earlier this week. I seriously doubted whether I should part with my hard-earned GBP to see her AGAIN with no new material. Did I have the energy to stan for 4 like I did that fine May evening? I wasn’t so sure. Then suddenly I wake up to a thirty-two piece course to digest (still getting through it). Well I need to dance it all off, right? All I’m saying is I’ll be recreating the ‘***Flawless’ choreography somewhere in the Midlands come late Feb.
The stress didn’t even end there. I mean, does one watch the music videos or listen to the songs first? When you’re met with an original concept like this, you have to embrace the most unusual aspect of it. This is the first time anyone can say they watched an entire album on the day of its release. I was so close to plugging my phone into the TV and gathering the family round to take it all in. Lord knows breakfast would have been incredibly awkward whilst ‘Yonce was gyrating throughout the album *sips tea*.
Onto the next issue; this is a record that’s kind of almost straddling the annum threshold. BK from Texas has skewed every published year-end list and 2013 music review, the cheek. She’s probably irked many of the music blogs since they’re faced with whether to go back to the drawing board and draft her in or soldier on with a piece that distinctly lacks the surprise LP. We’ve had long enough to spin the likes of AM and Nothing Was The Same to come to an informed decision for 2013 ranking. It’s so late in the year, one wonders whether this should count as a 2014 release. However, Robert Stringer, chairman of Columbia Records, did hint that Bey would drop an album come late 2013-early 2014. And is there going to be ‘Part 2’ of the self-titled project, since yesterday’s release is called ‘Part 1’?
Phew. I’ve been round the visual BEYONCÉ merry-go-round twice and I plan to get back on it again. However, I’ve not had a chance to actually listen to the tracks and get a proper feel for them – I’ve been so distracted by the videos! I haven’t made an informed decision as to whether this album is her best yet, but I absolutely applaud her execution.
Slay on, slayer.
Luhrmann takes us to lavish and opulent lifestyles of post-WWI America in Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby: reckless decadence reflects the decline of social values as America spirals towards the Great Depression. Visual grandiose, high drama and an all-star cast awaits.
Adapted from Max Brooks’s novel, post-apocalyptic World War Z promises a swarm of zombies. At the helm is Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a UN employee enlisted to help stop the pandemic. An unsettling blend of dystopia and action looms for June 2013.
A cure for The Hangover in part three looks unlikely as the Wolfpack et al return to raise hell and pick up the pieces one last time. But seriously, what else could go wrong? Shock-value is guaranteed where this franchise is concerned.
Park Chan-Wook’s Korean thriller Oldboy was a hit in 2003. Fast-forward a decade, and we have the renound Spike Lee’s Americanised revival making its debut this autumn. Questions and debates regarding East versus West and East meets West will ensue.
Oz the Great and Powerful is the 2013 prequel to the 1900 novel. Kansas magician Oscar Diggs is swept away to Technicolor Oz this March. He must defeat the Wicked Witch before he is granted the royal treasure of Oz. Is he really the wonderful wizard?