SCM Music’s Album Picks: January to March – Blackstars, Suicide Songs and United Crushers

WELCOME to the first music round up of 2016, a year that has, so far, been unusual and distressing. We’ve lost some big names many of which have left holes in the world that will never be filled. Many albums have come out, some have lived up to expectation, whilst others have not, and many have even surprised us. Let’s look at some of the finest of the year, so far…

David BowieBlackstar

Come one, who didn’t see this coming? Bowie’s swan song is one of his finest modern releases, with some disturbingly clairvoyant lyrics. The music draws from the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Death Grips, with a touch of aging Bowie to round things off. Songs such as ‘Girl Loves Me’ and ‘Blackstar’ plunge into the unusual and experimental, while ‘Lazarus’ is one of Bowie’s most chillingly beautiful songs to date. It’s a must listen, both for veteran Bowie lovers and new fans alike.

Anderson Paak – Malibu

Californian singer/rapper Anderson Paak’s second album under this moniker is 16 tracks of sun blazed funk. Taking inspiration from the likes of D’Angelo and Kendrick Lamar, Malibu features excerpts from films, with references to Californian life. Several prominent names can be seen by just scanning the track listing; Rapsody, Schoolboy Q and The Game all make appearances. Malibu is catchy, enjoyable, and a brilliant commercial breakthrough for Anderson Paak.

Daughter – Not To Disappear

Daughter return with another haunting album that rattles the senses. Not To Disappear is filled with reverb laden guitar and ghostly vocals that lend heaps of emotion to the feel of the album. It’s a slow burner, and definitely not an album to listen to when you’re emotional. But those factor’s aside and you have a really good Indie/Electronic album that will appeal to both seasoned fans and newcomers to the band.

Money – Suicide Songs

Not the cheeriest entry on this list, but Money’s Suicide Songs is still excellent. Combing aspects of Alternative Rock with aspects of a more Psychedelic nature, it laments life, while at the same time taking a sideways look at it. While it’s certainly beautiful at times, it’s also a difficult listen, the one should be warned of it’s distressing message; see ‘I’m Not Here’ for just one example. But even with this, Suicide Songs is definitely worth checking out, and stands as one of the best albums of the year so far.

Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger

Ty Segall’s Emotional Mugger is a hodge-podge of Garage Rock and fuzzed out guitars. But that’s a good thing. Segall’s creature like vocals creep and crawl over the music like a spider and the result is excellent. Emotional Mugger flows together excellently to form a coherent work of madness and mayhem that works surprisingly well. If you’re into crazy works of artistic Indie, then this album is for you.

Field Music – Commontime

With influences that range from the funk sensibilities of Talking Heads, orchestral country of Lambchop and Pop skills of Genesis comes Field Music’s Commontime. It’s charming, yet sensible, funky, yet straight forward. It’s a formula that shouldn’t work, but somehow Commontime’s music is brilliant. There isn’t a bad song on this record,  it just revels in enjoyment, great beats and some light hearted yet decent lyrics.

Polica – United Crushers

United Crushers is perhaps Polica’s most rhythmic album to date, certainly more than 2013’s Shulamith. Without abandoning their trademark sound, the band feels larger and more embracing in their music, with bigger choruses and more pulsating synthersizers. Channy Leaneagh’s vocals take on a different tone to the bands past releases, with almost an optimistic tone. It’s a charming progression for the band, and United Crushers is their warmest and most welcoming release yet.

Beach Fatigue – Beach Fatigue

The Swansea rockers produced an album soaked in Surf Rock swagger, with songs that wouldn’t be out of place in any Quentin Tarantino movie. Lyrics pull from the sadistic and the dangerous, with the snarl of front woman Amy Zachariah perfectly matching the crunchy instrumentation of the band. Songs like the opener, ‘Deathproof’, waste no time in jumping into fast paced, adrenaline filled Alt-Rock, pulling the listener into a whirlpool of sound.

Kendrick Lamaruntitled. unmastered.

It’s interesting to note how Kendrick’s outtake album from 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly is actually better than Kanye West’s last studio album The Life of Pablo. Untitled Unmastered to merely a slither of Kendrick’s genius, and gives an insight, not just into his recording process, but also how his last release could have sounded. Despite essentially being a demo tape, it still, miraculously, contains some classic Kendrick, including some numbers that could be considered some of his best.

Honourable mentions: Jesu/Sun Kil Moon – Jesu/Sun Kil Moon, Howes – 3.5 Degrees, Animal CollectivePainting With, Quilt – Plaza, Yndi Halda – Under Summer, Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression, White Denim – Stiff.

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