Top 5 Dead or Alive (2015)
Jadakiss promises bars. His previous 3 albums were genuine attempts to make a successful LP. This one is for the street. So why is it underwhelming? He can rap his ass off on freestyles. On guest spots. But albums are Jadakiss kryptonite. T5DOA is such a middling release, and Kiss' "bars" don't provoke conversation so much as smother it.
The time has come to take Justin Bieber seriously. Thanks to friends like Skrillex, the first 4 singles off Purpose are among the best tracks of the year. It's a real shame the others don't even come close to that level, with too many cheesy ballads bringing down the tempo. Still, the former teen idol's fourth record is way better than we could've expected.
Best song:What Do You Mean?
Church in These Streets (2015)
Call it mature trap. There's no promethazine-induced seizures, and there's precious few tracks that would spin in the club if Jeezy wasn't already a household name. Instead, it's the good life tinged with the consequences. Jeezy will never leave the streets, they run through his veins and his soul. His music is a reflection of that.
Best song:Gold Bottles
Making Time (2015)
Jamie Woon wants to be James Blake or D'Angelo, but he's more like Chet Faker: a second-rate R&B crooner with too little personality to leave a mark. While the music is groovy enough and the bass is smooth, it's all too anonymous. Jamie's voice stays behind and his words don't come across. At all. Is this what he worked on for 4,5 years?
Mutant sits on the fence between true glitch and melodic IDM. Gratitud is a wonderful example. A songwriter yearns desperately to escape, but attempts are stunted and blocked. It's a less enjoyable listen than Xen. It's difficult to tack on to a rhythm or mood, and good ideas lay half explored, along with bad ones. Such an aggressive record!
Best song:Front Load
Post rock taken to the edge by an electronic fetish. Maserati have always done things slightly different in a rule-driven genre. Rehumanizer is no exception. Less focused on epic soundscapes, they've allowed an experimental palate the room to breathe, flattening the peaks and elminating the troughs. There's even a touch of Joy Division...
Best song:Living Cell
Teeth of the Sea
Highly Deadly Black Tarantula (2015)
At first it's cold, unwelcoming. But once it recognises you as one of its own, it allows you inside to revel in the madness. From there, the record descends into the experimental zone, with glitch electronics and ambient touches eradicating all momentum. It'd be a feat to maintain the rage for a full record, one worth hearing.
Best song:Animal Manservant
Like Curren$y, Busdriver has such a distinctive delivery that, if you're a fan, would be difficult to deny. Luckily, his insane wordplay and intellect drags in more than just the die hards. Thumbs searches the man's personality for subjects dear to his heart, and provides a canvas for equally talented guests to stretch their tongues. Good project.
Fat Freddy's Drop
2014's Blackbird was so successful, it spawned a Munich live concert CD. On the back of unprecedented international hype, Bays could've been a rushed explosion of genre-bending cynicism. That's half right. Genre-bending it is, with Razor and Cortina Motors tracking new land. Cynical it isn't, nor rushed. It's their tightest release yet.
Best song:10 Feet Tall
Cee Lo Green
Heart Blanche (2015)
How to resurrect self-induced freefall? Head back to basics. 15 wonderful pop songs prove Green has a decadent ear for melody. It's less revealing, less personal than most of his other work (Goodie Mob included). There's no rapping, just that "Idol" style voice. Love songs, deep introspection, plus the occasional call to arms. It's invigorating.
Best song:Working Class Heroes (Work)
I Changed A Lot (2015)
No you didn't. Devoid of industry-stopping smashes that propelled his initial success (We Takin' Over), I Changed A Lot is similar to most of his albums, and his reliance on old hands to do the bulk of the work turns it into a less dynamic package. That Jay Z verse stands out as a true anomaly, ironically ruined by Meek Mill's relevant verse.
Best song:How Many Times
Are You Alone? (2015)
Devon Welsh is so incredibly honest it hurts to listen to him. He's on the verge of being kitsch, but if you're open to it, his wisdom is both heartbreaking and soothing. The bare musical accompaniment might not be incredibly exciting, but it's the perfect athmospheric backdrop. This record is a painful confrontation, one you need to have once in a while.
Best song:Silver Car Crash