Four Tet - Morning/Evening
Though I was initially a little sketchy when Kieren Hebden embraced house rhythms full-on, his resultant work has handily dismissed my qualms. Morning/Evening inserts house’s minimalist groove under resonating synth sequences and Indian vocal samples (Lata Mangeshkar!) for a mesmerising pair of slowly unfurling twenty-minute tracks that loosely correspond to the times of day in the title.
Viet Cong - Viet Cong
Taut compositions and muscular performances with an experimental bent, gluing together disparate influences (psych, krautrock, drone, pop!) with a noisy gray post-punk glaze. This came out in January and still occupies the stereo system on the regular.
Prinzhorn Dance School - Home Economics
Even more austere and reductivist than on previous recordings, Prinzhorn add winsome melody to the mix, fusing their stark rhythm core with sly pop to great earwormy effect. This new facet is echoed in the cover art, their first in eight year to feature the duo’s faces — more, please.
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
Yeah, it’s on everyone else’s “best of 2015” list, and deservedly so — an immediate high-water mark for rap. Cinematic in scope and enormous in ambition, refined yet brusque, with Kendrick taking acute stock of his world with anger, humor and sadness.
Kamasi Washington - The Epic
One of the prime architects behind the complicated sonics of To Pimp a Butterfly steps up with a formidable debut: a triple-LP set (on Flying Lotus’ label, no less) taking cues from both John Coltrane (with charging sax solos) and Alice Coltrane (via ultralush, orchestra- and choir-heavy arrangements). A choice entry point for the jazz-uninitiated.
Eccentronic Research Council - Johnny Rocket, Narcissist & Music Machine... I’m Your Biggest Fan
Two art-school analog synth geeks and actor Maxine Peake spool out a first-person perspective “rock opera” (no, seriously) about a woman stalking a fictional rock band’s singer. By turn hilarious, creepy, and sad, the album’s high point is a number by said faux band The Moonlandingz, “Sweet Saturn Mine” — the best rock song I’ve heard all year.
Shilpa Ray - Last Year’s Savage
Following in the style of 2013’s It’s All Self Fellatio EP (on überfan Nick Cave’s label), Ray's mercurial swagger of a voice and dark sardonic lyrics fail to mask her bruised punk heart, with every song underpinned by her droning harmonium. Unique and sorely underestimated.
D’Angelo and the Vanguard - Black Messiah
Last year’s surprise Christmas present, so it’s on the list… A huge leap forward for D’Angelo, with a dense, murky sound reminiscent of What’s Going On (and that’s a good good thing).
Grimes - Art Angels
Claire Boucher has come a long distance from her earliest efforts as Grimes, embracing an overt pop aesthetic while still including plenty of eccentric avant-garde touches. Impure art-pop for now people.
Jenny Hval - Apocalypse, girl
The most disquieting and demanding recording I heard this year, through chimerical arrangements and Hval’s soft vocals and spoken word. A tough, thoroughly feminine/feminist record challenging perceptions and pursuing inquiries about sexuality and power — uneasy listening.
- The Necks - Vertigo
- Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love
- Björk - Vulnicura
- The Advisory Circle - From Out Here