10= Beyoncé – Lemonade
Beyoncé has always displayed herself as fearless, empowered and righteous. What Lemonade has done has exposed a softer underbelly; a message of ‘I’m only human but I’m owning my weaknesses’ projected out for the entire world to hear. In Hold Up she even proclaims “…I’m not too perfect to feel this worthless”. This maturing, probably come from age and experience, lends a brave fragility to Lemonade that makes it a must-hear.
10= Charles Bradley – Changes
Channeling James Brown as he did when he first started his forays into music, Bradley is taking it back to basics with Changes. Old school soul saunters out of the trumpets and in Good to be Back Home his voice meanders wilfully spanning decades to evoke the ghost of soul music past. 60s guitars peppered throughout also add to the the illusion that this album is from another era and the title track, a cover of Black Sabbath’s Changes has an emotive and not unsophisticated air about it lauding a return to form for the old Brown-impersonating maverick.
9. The Lemon Twigs – Do Hollywood
Bubblegum pop tinged rock n’ roll from teenage twosome brothers from Long Island, Do Hollywood is an optimistic debut. 50s, 60s, 70s and even vaguely 80s sounds are all covered here. And whilst this mish-mash of eras wouldn’t have worked even five years ago a switch in the musical geography since then away from purist defined sanctions to a more fluid way of using music history has meant Do Hollywood has succeeded. Almost satirical in parts but always engagingly fresh Do Hollywood tips its hat to Bowie, Rundgren and even Elvis. As Long As We’re Together is the standout ballad-esque track that bravely struts, glam-peacock like, out of the speakers to imaginary rapturous club-kid applause.
8. Heron Oblivion – S/T
Psyche tinged folk in the vein of Pentagram, Heron Oblivion melds doom, fuzzed-out noise rock with melodic folky vocals. Desert wandering guitars pick out blissed out but purposeful riffs on Oriar whilst Faro sees the band dip into shoegaze territory, even drawing on Bleach-era Nirvana guitars. Vocalist Meg Baird’s delicate vocals barely cut through the fuzz but instead of detracting this lends a “far out” quality that evokes a bygone era of handing acid-laden flowers to strangers on Haight Ashbury, music blasting from every open window.
7. Nine Inch Nails – Not the Actual Events
Trent Reznor’s latest offering is a fuzzed out EP that burns with an understated energy, equal parts aggression, revenge and swagger. Burning Bright (Field on Fire) presents a wall of sound matched only by forefathers of noise My Bloody Valentine. Trent’s barely audible commanding vocals lace through the track sounding like a preacher on the corner of a New York street competing with the noises of the city. Not the Actual Events proves that Nine Inch Nails still burn very brightly.
6. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Power rock punches are thrown in the latest from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Math rock guitars combined with 60s psych pop beats clang through the speakers at lightning speeds. Tight musicianship enables the band to create multiple layers that instead of becoming a tuneless cacophony translates into an adroit assault; an adept attempt at pushing the notion of what an album is or should be. With tracks so skilfully composed they meld into one long epic opera, Nonagon Infinity is a listening event not to be forgotten.
5. Mark Stoermer – Dark Arts
Dark Arts is an epic epistemological journey through spiritual realms that explores far-reaching themes of death, loss, darkness and human limitation. Strings soar and punctuate Avarice/What’s Coming and lend it a filmic Bond-esque quality. Tongue-in-cheek, cleverly composed lyrics play out on multiple levels throughout challenging the listener to extend themselves, pull back the veil and step over the threshold. Dark Arts plumbs the depths of the human psyche and transports the listener on a playful trip to the other side.
4. Emma Ruth Rundle – Marked For Death
Marriages’ Emma Ruth Rundle’s latest offering is a beautiful and melancholic ode to loss. Haunting vocals nestle in-between echoing guitars and folk-inspired melodies soar atop stripped back beats. Marked for Death is a composed and yet scattered collection of tracks with a title track that deftly and emotively catapults the listener out into the ether. Read our track review of Marked for Death here.
3. David Bowie – Blackstar
Blackstar is a tender farewell to earth from the star that never really belonged to it. Radiohead-esque beats underpin mellifluous vocal lines and bursts of brass and wind instrumentals. Blackstar can be viewed as a challenge; an almost call to arms directed at future musicians to match him, to keep it creative, to keep it forward-thinking, to push boundaries, to shine brighter than he – the original Starman. Ain’t that just like him.
2. Deftones – Gore
Gore is the latest rich and complex offering from old school, alt rock purveyors Deftones. An album containing as many layers as an onion that takes the listener to the edges of the stratosphere on tracks like Acid Hologram and slams them back down to earth on tracks like Doomed User. Chronically overlooked when it was released Gore will be lauded as a forward-thinking experiment of balancing the heavy with the sublime by future generations.
1. Ryley Walker – Golden Sings That Have Been Sung
A third album in three years places Ryley Walker as an oddity in today’s music world. Prolifically spouting out genuine, textural, jazz tinged folk and still finding time to tour incessantly all over the western world simply isn’t the norm anymore. But Walker pulls it out of the bag as if he’s been doing it since the 1960s. Well-versed in the richest of music histories Walker writes consistently emotive, melodic music that has etched his name indelibly on the one-to-watch list. Going from strength to strength and showing no sign of slowing down, Ryley will be a national treasure for the U.S. in no time.