Key tracks: Caint Use My Phone (Suite), Cel U Lar Device, Phone Down, Dial A’Freaq, Hello
Pusha T – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude
IT’S JUST A PRELUDE?! Pusha T has claimed the late-year honours with this substantial yet punchy 30-minute album, acting as a precursor to King Push which is expected to drop early 2016. Of all the elements you look for in a hip hop record, I think the verses and wordplay here are what really sells it, I’ve listened to it multiple times and keep hearing new lines or quips that surprise me. The production and feature spots are also major strengths, at times it sounds like a best-of Kanye’s production (mainly College Dropout & Late Registration but there are elements of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy too) which makes sense considering Pusha’s now the president of GOOD Music.
Key Tracks: Untouchable, M.F.T.R., M.P.A., Keep Dealing, Sunshine
Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion
Three years in the making, and it shows! Another example of how much great electronic and synthpop there was this year. I still remember hearing “Run Away With Me” for the first time and nearly falling off my seat. Described by her as a love-letter to 80s pop music, but I think it transcends that aesthetic. Everything on this album is vibrant and packed with well-crafted melodies and Carly delivers some of the best hooks I’ve heard this year. Be warned, a large majority of the album is infested with earworms. It’s a massive progression in her development as a musician, she’s taken huge strides since the days of “Call Me Maybe”.
Key Tracks: Run Away With Me, Emotion, Gimme Love, All That, Boy Problems
Royal Headache – High
Rock & Roll in 2015? Still sounding fresh? That’s exactly what High delivers, an excellent follow-up to Royal Headache’s self-titled 2011 debut. It’s a mix of British-style punk rock, garage rock that takes cues from The Strokes, and as with the previous album, lead singer Shogun is what seperates this band from the rest. His vocal style, which ranges from punkish yells and screams (“My Own Fantasy”, “Another World”), to sombre, soulful crooning (“Wouldn’t You Know”). The last album was kinda noisy and lo-fi, this one’s more polished with some better production without ruining the group’s sound.
Key Tracks: My Own Fantasy, Need You, Another World, Wouldn’t You Know, Carolina, Little Star
The Chills – Silver Bullets
The first Chills album since 1996, and Martin Phillipps delivered in every regard. I’d rank this right up there with their best output, slotting in easily alongside Submarine Bells. From those first resonant chords of “Warm Waveform” right up until the bright, upbeat guitar throughout “Molten Gold”, Silver Bullets is simultaneously familiar and fresh.
Key Tracks: Warm Waveform, Silver Bullets, Underwater Wasteland, America Says Hello, I Can’t Help You, Molten Gold
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett proves she can do just about anything with a guitar and a captivating set of lyrics on Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, the quintessential folk-rock portrayal of quarter-life crises that people in their mid-20s often experience in this part of the world. Ranges from rollicking & energetic (“Pedestrian at Best”, “Aqua Profunda!”) to melodic & heartfelt (“Depreston”, “Small Poppies”), a tour de force in the truest sense.
Key Tracks: Pedestrian at Best, Small Poppies, Depreston, Aqua Profunda!, Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
What can I say that hasn’t been said? I was anticipating this album ever since good kid, m.A.A.d city and it exceeded my expectations in every way possible. So pleased to see Kendrick’s efforts pay off by breaking through into mainstream appeal and acceptance. It’s staggeringly well produced, features a range of eclectic sounds, instrumentation and sampling, and Kendrick’s rapping and wordplay has reached another level. It’s really just a celebration of African American music, and another chapter in Kendrick Lamar’s engrossing journey.
Key Tracks: Wesley’s Theory, King Kunta, These Walls, Alright, The Blacker The Berry, i
Neon Indian – VEGA INTL. Night School
VEGA INTL. Night School is loosely a concept album, fashioned in the style of 1980s synthpop around the façade of a neon-lit nightclub, just as the artwork suggests. Chillwave tends to get a bit of a bad rep for its obsession with nostalgia and older aesthetics, but I think this album is incredibly fresh and original, outshining a few contemporary releases that blatantly re-hashed 1980s synthpop. (CHVRCHES, looking at you) The middle section in particular is spectacular, starting with the infectiously groovy “The Glitzy Hive” and ending with prog-synth extended piece “Slumlord” and “Slumlord’s Re-lease”.
Annie, The Glitzy Hive, Dear Skorpio Magazine, Slumlord, Slumlord’s Re-lease, 61 Cygni Ave