2015 has been a blast for music thus far, with some iconic moments and performances, here’s some of the year’s choice LP’s thus far…
Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick Lamar might be dangerously close to becoming hip-hop’s next global superstar. His third LP, To Pimp A Butterfly goes above and beyond what was expected of the West Coast rapper, with certainly some avant-garde sentiments thrown in with some dark lyrics and then the delights of motown, for good measure. It culminates into an animated, feature-length record that really needs to be heard to be believed.
The record is about as ambitious as it comes for a third record, although if it was going to be anyone challenging the general ebb and flow of the business, then it was always going to be Kendrick. From the initial releases of i and The Blacker the Berry, it was not at all obvious in which direction this exciting introvert was going to go next. The former’s use of The Isley Brothers as a sample opened up his music to a whole new audience, and also hinted at a future as a nasal-voiced crooner. The latter is a dark, yet rousing anthem, almost churchlike with its beats and vicious lyrics.
It’s a varied, manic ride that is a difficult one to nail down and track, such is its eclectic, funky flavours. If it was a food, it’d be a packet of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans from Harry Potter, each song is a different unique take, and while it might not be an entirely progressive, album, as a group of individual tunes it signifies the coronation of Kendrick…all rise.
Public Service Broadcasting: The Race for Space
Taking a slightly sideways step into something a little bit different now, with British band Public Service Broadcasting’s release, The Race for Space. It followed 2013’s Inform. Educate. Entertain and continued the band’s intriguing concept; instrumental tunes, with utilised vocals from old war-based footage, for the first album, and for the second, excerpts from the entitled space race. For me, the first album had some gems, and having caught the live show, which focuses on displaying video clips on screens behind the band’s two main stars, J. Willgoose Esq. and Wrigglesworth, who don’t speak directly to the audience, but use a comedic laptop to do it for them, I thought they had potential, for a second album to hone their techniques and deliver a product worthy of their talents.
And deliver they did! With the space race concept, it left the door open for fresh electronic influences and that mantle has been taken on. It adds a totally new dynamic to the songs put out by PSB, and with songs like Gagarin and Go! there’s something a newbie can pick up, listen to and fall in love with right away.
Wolf Alice: My Love is Cool
The debut album, which has seemingly been in gestation for a year and a half, was certainly worth the wait from the North Londoners. Leader singer Ellie Roswell is electric, conveying so many emotions through her wayside singing style and the instrumentation is fantastic. It starts out slowly, but steadily gathers pace and ratchets up the quality the deeper you sink into it. It’s telling crowd favourites Fluffy and Bros are still the standout tracks, but it’s indicative of the time that has been put into developing the LP, that you don’t feel the rest of the album is of a lesser quality of any sort.
It’s a fun, indie-rock ride that promises to culminate in a promising headline autumn tour, with mates Drenge joining them. I know I’ve got my ticket!
Jamie xx: In Colour
One third of the xx, Jamie xx has delivered an album that perhaps rivals fellow DJ Mark Ronson for the title of ‘song of the year’. In Loud Places he has created one of those feel-good songs that feels like it should be listened to while bathed in sunshine only in a similar vein to Ronson’s Uptown Funk and even Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. But In Colour is by no means a one-trick pony. No, what has been produced here is in some ways similar to the xx’s minimal style of artistry, especially on opener Gosh, the one-two beat switching constantly, but all the way on the other side of the xx is I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times), a bustling, brashly confident summer song yet again.
Sure, there’s a lot here that’s not the most original, recycled beats and samples do become a problem at times, but the wonderful thing about In Colour is that it totally lives up to the name, it’s got a whole lot going on, all at once and is drenched in a variety of sound. What comes next will be very interesting to see, for sure.
Slaves: Are You Satisfied?
Slaves have really come out of nowhere to become the band of 2015, from supporting Jamie T on his comeback tour last year, the duo have toured the country up and down, a couple of times, released a new album and made several waves, both controversial and positive critique. They’re also at almost every single summer festival going this year, which helps. This LP then, is a enjoyable, if not rocky ride, with song titles like Cheer up London, Where’s Your Car Debbie? and Feed the Mantaray, the level of humour and lack of seriousness is extremely apparent throughout this record.
Parts of the record are slightly one-not though, but what is going to need to change for the duo to expand in the future is some sort of epiphany, electro maybe? For now, though, they are revelling in their new found love from fans and some critics, and who can blame the two lads from Tunbridge Wells?
Alabama Shakes: Sound & Colour
With the Alabama ensemble never really troubling UK shores during their first breakout run, it was in grave danger that Sound & Color might too be missed out on by the majority of the UK public. Whether that’s truly the case or not is questionable, they’ve featured at Glastonbury and on BBC TV, but no matter what I’m exceptionally happy I have experienced this exceptional piece of work. Brittany Howard’s powerful voice can surely never be quite the same as it was the first time around, that much is for certain, so rather than trying to massively change that, the band have smartly just changed around their music.
It’s still familiar, but with a bit of extra psychedelia influences on some tracks, or an updated slice of RnB on others, and most importantly it works. Howard’s voice undoubtedly leads the way with its tender, howling qualities, that much will always remain aslong as the band continue to run and run and run- which you can bet they will.
Leon Bridges: Coming Home
Last but certainly not least, Leon Bridges is single-handedly dragging soul music into the 21st century kicking and screaming. His debut release builds upon the hype whipped up by the storm of lead single Coming Home, the beautiful love-lorn song that put Bridges on the map. The album was recorded on vintage equipment and the rustic qualities of this record, unbelievably released in 2015 rather than 1965, are there for all to see. Shine and Smooth Sailin’ are indicators Bridges is here for the long run, too, as they show he can be quietly tender, aswell as a boisterous crooner.
Having seen his fresh live show, I’d say it’s even better on a live platform, the band are on fire, with a saxophonist, awesome backing vocalist and some tight drumming. Long live the reign of Leon Bridges, is what I have to say.
Agree or disagree? Sound off below…