Looking back on the year so far, 2015 has served an incredible amount of new music. From surprise releases to audacious marketing campaigns, I’ve taken it upon myself to keep up with the compelling work of artists (both locally and internationally) to deliver some wholesome recommendations for your hungry ears. Sorted alphabetically and curated by online discussions and my own personal tastes, here are the top albums you should be listening to.
Björk – Vulnicura
Dabbling in the crux of a breakup album, Björk traces the intensity and confusion of emotional phantom pain and synchronizes these feelings to her own beat. Wrapped in electronic pulses and boundless intimacy, Vulcinura is an often violent and shattered monologue, unraveling with different tones of love and loss. Like a bleeding mechanism, the emotional landscapes of the record engulf you inside the aural experience, evaporating each instrument as it pulsates and struggles to find a bonded rhythm. With moments of gleaming synths, orchestral bursts and violent breakdowns, each track reveals a little part of Björk more and more until there’s nothing left.
Listen If You Like: FKA twigs, iamamiwhoami, The Knife
Key Tracks: ‘Lionsong’, ‘History of Touches’ and ‘Atom Dance’
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit
Reaping the success from the ordinary, it has been one hell of a breakthrough year for local Courtney Barnett. Peripatetic by way of routine, the motions of life are often sprawled across swift instances of wit and meditation. Thick with plunging chords and slippery one-liners, Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit works at a modest, unaffected pace localized through Melbourne and the middle class Australian norm. With characters, places and song titles like ‘Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party’ cementing her garage roots and mid-line melodies, each track unravels as a succinct dose of rock that shackles both your attention and your ears.
Listen If You Like: Speedy Ortiz, Parquet Courts, The Orwells
Key Tracks: ‘Depreston’, ‘Kim’s Caravan’ and ‘Dead Fox’
Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
Tender and angry, I Love You, Honeybear is a smouldering release full of sincerity and blunt edges. Putting on the cloak of Father John Misty, the release hears Josh Tillman’s enthralling and poetic writing in full force; splitting conflicts between registered jokes, notable folksinger roots and a variety of weaponized guitar plucking. While there are a few moments where Misty lays down the beats and murmurs of sex, these in themselves are moments of cleansing, detoxifying negative ideas and recycling it as a distant intimacy or possible commentary on his own recent marriage.
Listen If You Like: Band of Horses, Alabama Shakes, My Morning Jacket
Key Tracks: ‘True Affection’, ‘I Love You Honeybear’ and ‘Holy Shit’
Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon
Dense in aural grooves and sonic punches, the central temperament of Choose Your Weapon is often cosmic and fanatically extensive. Fluttering between swinging vocals and blooming synths, each track imprints deep into your memory bank and half removes itself as it faintly ebbs. Tied together with gorgeous baselines and progressive rhythms, the fluid emotion of Hiatus Kaiyote’s sound will entice you to pay closer attention to each individual texture; plucking away at your attention with molten choruses and swift piano quips. Like ‘Building A Ladder’ to a gleaming animated paradise, Choose Your Weapon will invite you to place your head in the clouds and get lost in the atmosphere.
Listen If You Like: The Harpoons, Georgia Anne Muldrow, James Tillman
Key Tracks: ‘Molasses’, ‘Laputa’ and ‘Borderline My Atoms’
Jamie xx – In Colour
Bursting with vigorous and sophisticated elements of brooding dance, glitchy bangers and bass-heavy ballads, In Colour is an aural experience that ravishes dancers into overwrought journeymen. Being Jamie xx’s full-length solo debut, the record provides a diverse and rich dancehall in comparison to The xx’s typical minimalism. Pulsating with flickering synths, surprising breakbeats and deeply inclusive house, the charm arises effortlessly from the malleability of each track as they exercise emotions of solitude and yearning. While there are many contrasting moments that incorporate the fluidity of sampled vocals and melodies, every moment unravels a new texture and promptly injects a definite sensation through it.
Listen If You Like: The xx, Ta-Ku, Kilter
Key Tracks: ‘Obvs’, ‘Stranger In A Room’ and ‘Sleep Sound’
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Polarizing the manifestation of black politics, responsibility and insecurity, To Pimp A Butterfly is a flawless and unpredictable record that fortifies itself as an iconic and imperative artifact of hip-hop culture. Steered by Kendrick Lamar, the record expands on both black and personal power struggles, interlocking the underlining narrative with a variety of rich theatrical, chaotic and often poetic motions. With surges of jazz, rap and fluid spoken-word, each track underpins a unique direction that eventually come together to reveal the ‘Mortal Man.’ Worth every ounce of hype it has received, To Pimp A Butterfly moves past the confines of rap music and unapologetically buckles you in for the entire ride.
Listen If You Like: NAS, Flying Lotus, George Clinton
Key Tracks: ‘These Walls’, ‘King Kunta’ and ‘Alright’
Leon Bridges – Coming Home
Drenched in soul and warm Columbian sun, Coming Home celebrates visceral elements of classic R&B and echoes the tropes with nostalgic affection. Thick with reverb, horn arrangements, doo-wops and ballads of love, longing and beautiful women; Leon Bridges pays true homage to the roots of his sounds and influences. Incredibly talented, the gentleness in his voice is its most powerful appeal – developing and flowing through instrumental arrangements with gospel heavyweight as if he himself were the wild Mississippi River. On top of this natural ability, Coming Home rarely rushes and savors each tender tone, lyric and chance to dance.
Listen If You Like: Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Bobby Womack
Key Tracks: ‘Brown Skin Girl’, ‘Better Man’ and ‘Twistin’ & Groovin”
Marina and The Diamonds – Froot
Waving goodbye to the personification of the American dream – I mean, character – of what was Electra Heart, songstress Marina and The Diamonds delivers a robust and technicolour record that oozes rich pop and theatrical pleasure. Dressed in flamboyant neon and silk, Froot showcases the ripened abilities of Marina as more dynamic, more climactic and more cognitive. Positioning herself a critic to her own packaged character arc, each song is built around the luxuries of pop and meditations of sex through gimmicky confidence, synth keys and confessional soliloquies.
Listen If You Like: Lana Del Rey, Tove Lo, Sky Ferreira
Key Tracks: ‘Immortal’, ‘I’m A Ruin’ and ‘Froot’
Purity Ring – Another Eternity
Like a warm and all encompassing afterglow, Purity Ring have delivered yet another electronic paroxysm full of addictive hooks and beats. Exploding with feverish rhythms and swirling honeyed hooks; Another Eternity is an elevated experience from start to finish. While it does fail to rise on a singular level, as a whole the record is incredibly effervescent, bubbling with frailty and dance to create an easy electronica quick fix.
Listen If You Like: AlunaGeorge, Little Dragon, Kučka
Key Tracks: ‘Bodyache’, ‘Repetition’ and ‘Push Pull’
Shamir – Ratchet
Strutting through the oblivion of luminous dance-rap, Ratchet is the deliciously boisterous debut from Shamir Bailey. Confident and unruly, the record blends elements of R&B, house and inserts itself into the sensualities of pop. Often poetic and indefinitely sassy, Ratchet nods to the flamboyant history of black pop music and shifts into it’s own dark, broody fast lane. With sweeping melodies and a glimmering charm, each song offers a unique aesthetic that vibrates your core.
Listen If You Like: Blood Orange, Prince, Future Brown
Key Tracks: ‘Make A Scene’, ‘On The Regular’ and ‘Darker’
Slaves – Are You Satisfied?
Ain’t nothing more satisfying than a group of Londoner’s yelling about how disappointing life can be. Taking a stand with light-hearted humour and a Sex Pistols attitude, Are You Satisfied? sinks its fangs deep into an aggravated and howling beast of guitars and punchy lyrics. As if grinning in a pool of their own political vile, Slaves allow vocals to take center stage as songs rush into sonic anger, laziness and shock. Energetic and mostly wild, Are You Satisfied? hollers at you to scramble up their messages and revolt as someone young, broke and a little frustrated.
Listen If You Like: Royal Blood, The Clash, Sex Pistols
Key Tracks: ‘Cheer Up London’, ‘The Hunter’ and ‘Wow!!!7AM’
Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
Crossing the lines between ear-splitting indie rock and frisky hardcore, No Cities To Love is a savage and energetic release that hallmarks Sleater-Kinney as one of the best of their kind. Plugging in fast and hard, the crushing power of chords and Corin Tucker’s vibrato is a force to be reckoned with – exposing sleek tempo changes, distinct hooks and sonic turns. Neo-grunge and experimental in their speedy delivery, each track ripples with veracious guitars, snappish drums and spirited crunch. Having just reunited, fans and new listeners alike will realize there is absolutely no still air between the women, instead, more ambition, energy and precision than ever before.
Listen If You Like: Wild Flag, Chasity Belt, Helium
Key Tracks: ‘Gimme Love’, ‘Fangless’ and ‘A New Wave’
SOAK – Before We Forget How To Dream
Wistful, thoughtful, and with a whole lot of grace, Before We Forget How To Dream is the first full-length release from 18-year-old Bridie Monds-Watson, AKA Soak. Free of expectations, the record is a collection of observations that immerse and drift between austere imagery, breathy instrumentals, acoustic riffs and raw lyrics. While its simple execution often slides towards a larger, pop-orientated liaison between guitars and vocals, the debut is polished and effortlessly organic, gathering up moments of Bridie’s melodies and sweeping them up into the air.
Listen If You Like: Sea Oleena, The Flaws, Elaine Mai
Key Tracks: ‘Blud’, ‘Hailstones Don’t Hurt’ and ‘Garden’
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Rummaging through Polaroid’s and memories of childhood moments, overwhelming anguish, loneliness and devotion, Carrie & Lowell is a serene exposition of peace, space and time. Whirling around like fireflies, the ghostly presence of the people who impacted Sufjan Stevens personal years linger over the record, silently placing their hands on your shoulder as each track passes you by. Deeply somber, poetic and authentic, each melody is a translucent declaration that tenderly presses on the dark, brooding containments of life, death and rebirth. While Carrie & Lowell is in itself a simply mastered record comprised of quickly plucked acoustic chords, pulses of synths and dreamy piano breaks, the simplicity is seamless, and for a long time, will resonate in your thoughts and fever dreams.
Listen If You Like: Iron & Wine, Conor Oberst, Crywank
Key Tracks: ‘Fourth of July’, ‘Should Have Known Better’ and ‘Blue Bucket of Gold’
Title Fight – Hyperview
Shifting away from their bicoastal hardcore and notorious post-punk, Title Fight serve a propelled and self-aware sound in their latest Hyperview. With textures glazed with bleached-out guitars and bolstering vocals, the dissonance between the band’s preceding sound champions it a new era for the band and their crossover aesthetic. Reconnected by indie elements of shoegaze, the record handles intensity like a slow-burner; drawing on whispered lyrics, frustrated chords and a lucid air of independence.
Listen If You Like: Basement, Tigers Jaw, Flyying Colours
Key Tracks: ‘Your Pain Is Mine Now’, ‘New Vision’ and ‘Rose Of Sharon’
Totally Mild – Down Time
Aching with ambition and a kind of self-appointed longing, the hypnotic world of Down Time is suspended in the golden hour of the setting sun. Connected through the sweltering howls of Elizabeth Mitchell, the record’s desire is openly literal and easily convincing, drawing on slow charms and daily life as a means of inspiration. Seductive in its simplicity and eager half-smile, Totally Mild does not overlook the complicated details of the mundane, often trailing off with soft reverb and pure, hazy synths. Naturally beautiful and gently blemished, it is in the unraveling of Down Time that draws you in and quietly, like a vision of Sofia Coppola’s girl next door, gazes into your subconscious and makes you feel drunk and dreamy.
Listen If You Like: Brous, The Whitest Boy Alive, AIR
Key Tracks: ‘Nights’, ‘Work It Out’ and ‘Battleship’
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi Love
All about polyamourous love, Multi-Love is an unforgiving record that saturates synths, hazy guitars and slim analog textures. Playfully pop in their funk deliveries and 60’s sounding psychedellia, each instrument trips over the next, fluttering about Ruban Nielson’s own phrases and production mixing. Cramped with flourishes and details, Unknown Mortal Orchestra tackle polyamory emotionally and spiritually without attempting to be expository. With guitars and psych norms in overdrive, the record sounds seamless but can also be viewed as anything but.
Listen If You Like: Tame Impala, POND, Mac DeMarco
Key Tracks: ‘Multi-Love’, ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’ and ‘Like Acid Rain’
Until The Ribbon Breaks – A Lesson Unlearnt
Completely versatile, innovative and unforgettable, A Lesson Unlearnt is one of those rare records that delivers a new sound and feeling with each track. Full of sharp transitions, sultry electronic pulses and danceable breakdowns, the release is a full aural experience that demands concentration from the body and mind. From modern disco samples to raw and localized hip-hop features, Until The Ribbon Breaks goes beyond making feverish dance music and produces a world of dark fairy tales, emotional apocalypses and jealousy-driven melodrama.
Listen If You Like: Oscar Key Sung, Run The Jewels, The Weeknd
Key Tracks: ‘Perspective’, ‘Romeo’ and ‘Persia’
And of course, below are some honourable mentions that I didn’t write about but you should most definitely check out! They were very well-received and confident in what they do:
Best Coast – California Nights
Chasity Belt – Time To Go Home
Daniel Johns – Talk
Death Grips – The Powers That B
Disasterpeace – It Follows OST
Django Django – Born Under Saturn
Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf
Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
Ella Thompson – Janus
Florence & The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?
Kamasi Washington – The Epic
Kasey Musgraves – Pageant Material
Madonna – Rebel Heart
Rae Sremmund – SremmLife
San Cisco – Gracetown
Saskwatch – Sorry I Let It Come Between Us
Shlohmo – Dark Red
Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer
Tove Stryke – Kiddo
You can find Monique on Twitter: @aumonique_