Key Markets (2015)
This could've been a classic. A modern British opus of Mike Skinner ilk. Instead, Williamson's philosophical real-life tales are hamstrung by music that wouldn't be out of place in a pastry commercial. Why didn't they spend more than 3 minutes writing the songs? Ah! It ruins the snapshot of British culture we've never seen so clearly.
Best song:In Quiet Streets
As Hebden consciously moves further away from Rounds, and a more dynamic sound, he enters a weird realm. Part Moby, part Aphex Twin, part Harold Budd, there's too much variable noise to present as a consistent project. Melody is discarded, yet chaos is not embraced enough to be a truly daunting listen. It's just an odd mix of complementary styles.
Best song:Morning Side
Dreams Worth More Than Money (2015)
Meek sounds like he is rapping from a treadmill. Constant shouting was quite dramatic on his breakthrough Dreamchasers mixtape, but a career built on the exact same techniques and content makes for boring listening. His new found relationship status adds a romantic tinge that feels as fake as his girlfriend's assets.
Best song:Lord Knows
Parker delivers his dreamy opus on re-joining society via the heart. It is sonically where the triumphs and trials lay. Let It Happen is an example of the brilliant; a huge wall of sound punctuated by nuance and complimented by hazy vocals. Yet the album meanders through too much filler, that holds neither musical punch nor lyrical weight.
Best song:Let It Happen
The producer maketh the album, and Future tags along for the ride. His barely intelligible ramblings about drugs and sex, and his unflinching choice of subject matter mires the album in mediocrity. Honest was best when Future rapped; proper rapping, not syrupy crooning. DS2 uncovers no truths about the man, except he likes substances and women.
Best song:I Serve The Base
R.I.P. City (2015)
Fennec retreats into more common company on R.I.P. City. Whilst the 2014 album was a masterpiece of dense electronica, this feels more sparse and slightly less atmospheric, a more straight up and down dance release. The samples are still wonderfully executed, and a funky element has been added, but ultimately it falls short of lofty heights.
Best song:Rose Gold Night
Miguel loves his women, but he's much more than just a pervert. Good songs and even better vocals prove that above all he's a unique artist who keeps on surprising. While he's the smoothest R&B singer out there, this record almost rocks thanks to its lively instrumentation. Wildheart is a filthy, remarkable record of unexpected beauty.
Best song:The Valley
Free Weezy Album (2015)
His most diverse project since Tha Carter III, Wayne unfurls his lyrical wings and adds a depth of soul not seen since 2009. He always works best within a concept, and his label issues have bestowed upon him a new hunger. Lyrically, he is a touch off S4TW2, but the highs on FWA are dizzying and easily up there with some of his best work.
Are You Satisfied? (2015)
The Brits have always done straight-up, hard-edged real life the best. This is a stonking listen, brimmed with dangerous guitars and a groove that feels Garage but presents as the cleanest, meanest of Punk. Don't like the "Lager Lout" accent? Get out. Now. Cheer up London, it's not that bad. This isn't a sad record. It's alive.
Best song:Cheer Up London
Strange New Past (2015)
Aussie hip hop, right? It's normally trash, but Seth Sentry isn't. He doesn't just wear his heart on his sleeve, he plasters it all over the recording booth. Embarrasingly so, and it makes for a brilliantly visceral listen. Can he reveal that about himself? His wit will induce more than a few chuckles, and by the end, you'll feel a part of the family.
Best song:Fake Champagne
The Epic (2015)
Every time you think jazz is going to have a full-blown revival, it stutters. Washington provides the strongest case for a re-up, and reminds us exactly why it continues to languish in tiny bars and conservatorium campuses. It's been done, and The Epic, whilst aurally pleasing, is audibly ordinary. Epic in length, sure, just not in atmosphere.
Best song:The Rhythm Changes
Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
Frustration. Because every time Chance The Rapper graces the mic, he blows his accomplished brethren clean out of the room. If this were his project, it could be an instant classic. As it is, guest spots from some towering artists, and modern jazz musings from Donnie and his crew provide a fresh and balmy listen. This is pure Sunday candy.
Best song:Sunday Candy