I WON’T lie, this quarter was tricky.
What started out as a relatively quiet summer turned into heaps upon heaps of artists releasing great records. I’ve included what I can on this list, but there’s a few that didn’t quite make the cut that are still worth checking out (see our honourable mentions list below).
You know the drill: Get on these.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
We all knew Nick Cave could give us dark music, but Skeleton Tree takes this to a whole new level. Perhaps one of the most notable things about this record is how subtle it is; with hauntingly soft synthesizers and a raw vocal performance from Cave, you’d have to be made of stone not to feel anything from the music. While far from Cave’s most accessible, it’s still a thing of outstanding beauty and sadness.
Angel Olsen – My Woman
Angel Olsen’s last record was excellent, but My Woman just gets better. Tracks like ‘Never Be Mine’ and ‘Not Gonna Kill You’ shows Olsen’s vocals at their most passionate, while ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ is perhaps one of the catchiest tracks on the record, with a really killer vocal performance. If you’re into your Rock music – straight, catchy, no filler – My Woman is most definitely the album for you.
Frank Ocean – Blonde
After four long years, Frank Ocean finally dropped not one, but two records. Visual album Endless came first, but it was Blonde that really captured the imagination of its audience. With stripped back, skeletal songs, Blonde was strides away from Channel Orange but still managed to be as appealing. It could have been crushed by the sheer weight of expectation, but Ocean came through and put together a really great record.
Merchandise – A Corpse Wired For Sound
A Corpse Wired For Sound sees Merchandise continue their trend of woozy, Manchester-like rock sound. Merchandise churn out tune after tune, their sounds sprawling and hypnotic. While A Corpse Wired For Sound doesn’t necessarily see Merchandise totally change direction, it does continue their streak of really, really good psych-rock albums that keep them ahead of their contemporaries.
BadBadNotGood – IV
The Canadian group had already established themselves as one of the leading voices in modern day Jazz. With IV, they only strengthened that claim, with an album that dabbled in more traditional sounds, as opposed to hip-hip infused albums we’d grown used to. The result includes some great cuts, including ‘Time Moves Slow’, which featured vocals from Future Islands front man Sam Herring, and ‘Confessions Pt. II’, featuring Colin Stetson.
Metronomy – Summer 08
Metronomy have always been a band who created music with a ‘fun’ edge, and Summer 08 is no different. More of a Joe Mount solo project than a fully formed band, Summer 08 still contains those trademark Metronomy-isms: funk bass, quirky vocal performances and danceable beats. Perhaps the icing on the cake, however, is the duet with Robyn, which pairs the two indie icons together in a match made in heaven.
Bon Iver – 22, A Million
It would appear that all those Kanye West cameos really had an effect on Justin Vernon. Bon Iver’s third album nearly abandons the Folk roots they begun on, for the distorted, electronica of this new sound. 22, A Million looked incomprehensible on paper, but is really a beautiful album, which opens up a little more with every listen. It’s an album that combines lo-fi vocals with exquisite music to make some
Wilco – Schmilco
Schmilco sees Wilco at their most toned down, with some more acoustic based tracks and Jeff Tweedy’s humble vocals. There’s still enough Wilco quirk on here to satisfy the most hardcore fans (so much so it seeps through into the name), but newbies will enjoy this too, especially cuts such as ‘Normal American Kids’ and ‘Cry All Day’. Wilco are one of the most prolific Alt-Country outfits out there, and this album solidifies that.
The Avalanches – Wildflower
After 16 years, the Australian group finally returned. Wildflower is a burst of colour that both looks back at Since I Left You, and forward into a positive future, something that doesn’t happen enough. There are some bangers on this album; ‘Subways’, ‘Frankie Sinatra’ and ”Colours’ to name a few, while other tracks focus on ethereal soundscapes and looped samples. Wildflower is truly an album to lose yourself in.
Haley Bonar – Impossible Dream
Impossible Dream sees Haley Bonar putting her own spin on the Dream Pop genre that has become so popular over the last few years. While her style echoes that of Jenny Lewis, or Beach House, Haley Bonar has a unique, country-like charm to her music that resonates through these ten tracks (clocking in at only half an hour). This is an album that will go down well with hardcore fans and casual listeners alike.
Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch
Jenny Hval has never been an easy listen, and Blood Bitch follows this trend. Hval really pushes both the music and her own voice to the max, often lulling the listener into a false sense of ease before throwing harsh instrumentals and expressive lyrics upon her audience. Tracks such as ‘Female Vampire’ and ‘Untamed Region’ really show Hval pushing the concept of the record. Many might be put off by the sheer severity of her music, but those who aren’t will find real beauty within this album.
Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
Danny Brown’s newest album takes us to a place we never thought we’d find ourselves. Pulling from Post-Punk (most notably Joy Division), Atrocity Exhibition is abrasive at times, intense at others, but always intriguing. Despite some class cameos from Kendrick Lamar and Earl Sweatshirt, Danny is the main attraction on this release and spits some killer rhymes on this, his fourth studio album. A must have for any hip hop fans.
Honourable Mentions: Nao – For All We Know, The Hecks – The Hecks, Lorelle Meets The Obsolete – Balance, Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits, Preoccupations – Preoccupations, Warpaint – Heads Up, Glass Animals – How To Be A Human Being, St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Sea Of Noise, Pixies – Head Carrier, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – Y Proffwyd Dwyll, Lucy Dacus – No Burden
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