As a three months for music, 2015 has contributed lots to the zeitgeist; between Kanye ‘jokingly’ attempting to take Beck’s Grammy from him, to Kanye’s Brit Awards performance being heavily censored and Kanye’s…you get the picture. While the infamous rapper might just feature on this mini-countdown (I’ll keep you in suspense for just a little bit longer), here is my take on the best of the past three months in music.
1. Kendrick Lamar- The Blacker the Berry
The only man who may be able to rise above Kanye in terms of ability and talent in the rap world, could just be Kendrick Lamar. With his release of single ‘i’ at the backend of 2014, he quickly followed up with another choice cut from recently dropped album, ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, which is an intriguing record in itself. This leads us to ‘The Blacker the Berry’, a deliciously twisted beat and rap thrown together to create a visceral track that shows us Kendrick’s sheer strength in his lyrics and the diverse nature of that voice. It may not be the best song on the album, but that LP is in early contention for record of the year, such is its early impact on me. When Kendrick really lets loose over the growing beat, that is when things really kick in and this song really explodes.
2. Prodigy- Nasty
Sure this is tried and tested ground for the Prodigy, ‘Nasty’ is not exactly an innovative record for the pioneers, but it is a return that blew the cobwebs out for the Brits. It’s the first of a few tracks that have been released from their upcoming record, and probably the best. It’s straightforward, to the point and the refrain is probably uttered at least 40-odd times. If you don’t like the Prodigy, don’t expect that to change, but as a way to wake up the music scene of 2015, it’s almost oddly refreshing to hear a track that wouldn’t have been out of place in the acid-rave prime the band were in, in the 1990’s.
3. Swim Deep- To My Brother
This psychedelic return to form for the Brummies is sorely underrated in my opinion. Let’s go back to 2013, Swim Deep were riding on a wave of hype as each sun-soaked single taken from their eagerly anticipated debut album built and built an unreasonable level of expectation. Of course the fully-fledged album didn’t entirely deliver, but there were seeds of growth. After some time away touring the thing, the band have emerged from the studio, their indie-rock sound taking on a more nurtured, dancy edge to it, again reminiscent of bands like the Happy Mondays from the late 80’s, early 90’s period. It’s a happy, bouncy tune that fails to put a smile on even the biggest sour-face around. The instrumentation is crisp and perfectly produced, and all in all, it makes me excited to hear more from Swim Deep again- and that can only be a good thing!
4. Will Butler- What I Want
A man of many talents, Will Butler takes time away from his Arcade Fire ventures to give it a go on his own. What emerges is a record of raw Arcade Fire tunes, with ‘What I Want’ a perfect four-minute slice of fast-fire rocky-pop, with a delectable backing vocal that is immeasurably catchy. Will himself sounds eerily reminiscent of his brother, Win, lead vocalist of Arcade Fire, but it’s his own voice, for sure. The middle of the song itself sees a Fire-esque breakdown, with everything getting a bit manic for the best part of a minute or so, it’s a riotous clash of sound, and while Will may find it hard to escape comparison to his ‘other band’ the record on the whole is a bit like a spin-off from the successful band’s sound, while managing to find success in it’s own right. Check out ‘Policy’.
5. Slaves- Feed the Mantaray
Slaves are on the breakthrough to something big, with this record. ‘Feed the Mantaray’ features the band’s two exciting, hilarious duo in their own 90’s spoof video. Beginning with the slackers-on-sofa routine, before developing i into a fully-fledged part shoddily animated music video with the titular mantaray. The video itself is worthy of a place on this list, but the song itself is their most catchy ditty to date. Having seen the band live a year or so ago, I feared for their drummer-shouty vocals-guitar combination, but this song allies any fears I had. The vocals are actually vocals and work incredibly well between the ever-present riff and high-pitched backing vocals. I hope Slaves gain attention because of this, because it’s so fun, bouncy and downright brilliant to not be noticed.
6. Leon Bridges- Coming Home
If you feel like this list is lacking a relaxed tone, then prepare for New Orleans’ very own Leon Bridges, the soulful American has a fantastic voice. Fantastic doesn’t quite do it justice, for the 25-year-old’s soothing vocals have so much range, the ability to soar and be understated at the same time, it’s truly magical. The song itself doesn’t feel as though it should belong in 2015, with shades of decades gone by, but you don’t find yourself questioning the song’s age, just enjoying its sheer class and quality. What is apparent is that if there’s any justice, Bridges should be about to take off into the stratosphere with this tune, it’s appeal is unnervingly large and I personally cannot stop pushing play.
7. Kanye West- All Day
I told you a certain Mr West might have something to do with this list! And let it be said that this is entirely on merit. Technically his second collaboration with a Beatle this year, Kanye has shot back into the limelight with ‘All Day’. It’s a dark, dark tune, that has disturbing lyrics, and was the aforementioned heavily censored tune at this year’s Brit Awards. However, strip it back to the basics, and this sees the nasal-toned rapper at his best, tackling the issues that are dominant in the media to date. It’s a very current tune, and you really couldn’t think of a better, more prominent man to tackle said topics. While some may forget of his sheer talent, note talent not class (!), it’s with releases like this that Kanye should be a noted entity in the music world, it’s with releases like this that got Kanye a headline slot at Glastonbury this summer, and it’s with releases like this that will see Kanye remain with us for a very long time.
So there you have it, agree, disagree or just don’t care? Comment below!