Uptown Special (2015)
Mark Ronson sure knows how to write a funky song. The mastermind behind these earworms picks the exact right guests too: Bruno Mars for the certified hit single, Tame Impala's Kevin Parker for the pseudo-psychedelic deep cuts. Unfortunately, there are too few gems, and you'll soon be skipping through the misses to get back to Uptown Funk.
Best song:Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars)
Viet Cong (2015)
Chants, drones, counterrhythms, an 11-minute epic closing track: Viet Cong is not for the faint of heart. In just 7 songs they drag you into their dark world, but only if you're willing. Though the Canadians, including former members of Women, are no pop group, their tunes are strangely catchy at times. The record mesmerizes but doesn't always please.
Best song:Bunker Buster
Kenny Dennis LP III (2014)
The rapping is off-kilter, there's spoken word story telling and the beats are throwbacks, yet you can't help but love Kenny Dennis. His personality is like an abrasive friend: always quick to temper, always quick with motivation, always loud. It's brilliant! It's some of the most entertaining music that was released in 2014.
Best song:Buddy Guy
What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World (2015)
Long gone are the concept albums full of epic drama; The Decemberists are back at their roots, playing pretty traditional folk and Americana. They may have toned down, but at times their tunes are still larger than life. The personal lyrics and smaller emotions suit them too, but the band's 7th doesn't offer the experience a Decemberists record once did.
Best song:Carolina Low
Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
An album that takes precedence from myths and fiction, Highway 61 Revisited gusts through you, taking your breath. Bob Dylan's highest achievement, possibly the highest achievement in modern music, ends with instructions to send mail to nowhere. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but with "Desolation Row," a whimper to end all whimpers.
Best song:Desolation Row
Inherent Vice Soundtrack (2014)
Whether Jonny Greenwood is making his desert island Hollywood movie score or Can is blasting away on "Vitamin C," the soundtrack to one of the most promising movies in five years or more is exciting in some areas and oddly too typical in others. The Joanna Newsom narrations are stellar - if only she could just do that for the entire thing.
Royce and DJ Premier: it should be a match made in heaven... But Royce's recent output, whilst prolific, has been kind of under the weather. Premier absolutely holds up his end, with some throwback classic boom bap that rekindles that 90s flame. Royce just falls slightly flat. He sounds too comfortable, as if classic status is already ensured.
Best song:You Should Know (Feat. Dwele)
Mr. Face EP (2015)
The fourth review of a Ty Segall release over the past two years - all of them manage to show an interesting side of Mr. Segall, or, the Rock God of the Current Generation. (Arguable? No.) Mr. Face brings four continually trailblazing songs on this EP; he also brings the only workable pair of 3D glasses in the single. A gimmick? More like a treat.
Best song:Mr. Face
The Young OG Project (2014)
Fab has never truly hit his straps. His is a story of almost, but not quite, and on his latest record the same applies. Lituation is a prime example. Excellent beat selection, let down by lacklustre rhymes. Even apeing Jay-Z's classic "Nigga What", and lifting an Illmatic beat, can't propel this to the lofty heights Fab sets himself. A letdown.
Best song:Rap & Sex
Meets The Grim Reaper (2015)
When listening, I imagine that Panda Bear sacrifices himself to the Grim Reaper as a means to save his family, but that's just one version of the story I cook up in my head while the most heady psych-pop washes over me. Brilliantly paced, the ingenious Noah Lennox (who needs Brian Wilson?) manages to create his greatest record in the process.
Best song:Come To Your Senses
This young Atlanta-based hip hop duo brings us the early-January surprise we needed. Gritty enough for the streets thanks to bass-heavy production by Mike WiLL Made-It, yet with unmistakeable pop sensibility, SremmLife just might please very diverse audiences. No need to be very serious about this record, just turn up the volume and unlock the swag.
Best song:Unlock The Swag
D'Angelo And The Vanguard
Black Messiah (2014)
D'Angelo has a peerless gift for finding the melody in even the most scattered jazz beat. When you pair this with a musical intelligence far out-reaching anything else in the genre at this time, it's a wonderful explosion of free-thinking noise that exemplifies just why music is such a wonderful method of expression. The title is no exaggeration.
Best song:Sugah Daddy