Album of the Year Candidates – Or, Albums I Really Liked This Year

Well, it’s nearly that time of the year when music fans begin to rack their brains trying to work out what the album of the past twelve months has been. I genuinely believe that this year has produced some genuinely spectacular releases from a vast array of artists and genres. I’ve whittled my own nominations to 10 albums/releases that are worthy of the coveted prize.

Of course, this is all subjective and is my own opinion as to what the best albums of the year have been. You’re probably going to disagree with a few of them but at the end of the day, s’all subjective.

Anyway, on to the list (in alphabetical order)

Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap

“My big homie died young; just turned older than him
I seen it happen, I seen it happen, I see it always
He still be screaming, I see his demons in empty hallways”

Chance the Rapper’s mixtape is an enjoyable and  trippy listen from the stupidly upbeat intro right up until the retrospective outro brings it full circle. His wordplay on each track is cleaver and the beats, holy christ the beats on this album are excellent. The sudden change in tempo both lyrically and sonically on ‘Pusha Man’ when the disjointed Nosaj Thing beats kicks in is one of my favourite musical moments of the year.

Oh yeah, and it’s free to download and is well worth your time and attention

Video: Everybody’s Something

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

If I had my way, I would never leave
Keep building these random memories
Turning our days into melodies
But since I can’t stay…”

I don’t think there was an album released this year that had as much hype behind it as Random Access Memories had. The anticipation from fans was huge, especially with the SNL teasers of a song that would later go on to conquer the world for about 2/3 months. Whilst I think it was impossible for the album to live up to the hype fans put on it, I still believe RAM is a solid album and a refreshing change of pace for the act. It wasn’t Discovery or Homework, but it wasn’t supposed to be and it makes for a better album for not attempting to replicate those albums. Aside from the obvious recommendation of ‘Get Lucky’ (the album version is absolutely glorious), songs like ‘Giorgio’ and ‘Contact’ are highlights on this glittery journey through the history of electronic music.

Video: Lose Yourself to Dance

Darkside – Psychic

Where are you when I need you?
Where did you go?
How can I find you when I need to?
Where should I go?

This is an album I’ve grown attached to as of late. It’s a great electronic album that’s a brooding and thought-provoking listen. It mixes electronic blips, bleeps and synths with bluesey instrumentation and Jaar’s vocals and makes for an album that rewards you each time you give it a listen. In some ways, it reminds me of the Four Tet album “There is Love in You” which is one of my favourite electronic albums in that it takes influences from a multitude of genres and blends them together in a way that totally works. The final track “Metatron” is a favourite of mine in particular.

Video: Freak, Go Home (Maida Vale Session)

Earl Sweatshirt – Doris

“All my dreams got more vivid when I stopped smoking pot
Nightmares got more vivid when I stopped smoking pot

Loving you’s a little different I don’t like you a lot”

The Earl album was hotly anticipated ever since Chum dropped last year. Doris is a weird album; it’s messy, tripped out, laden with guest spots (Frank Ocean, RZA, Mac Miller, Tyler) and it’s an album that focuses less on the cartoonish violent themes you’d kind of expect from OF. It’s brooding and experimental that you would kind of expect a 19 year old talented rapper would make if they had the necessary tools.

As much as I liked Tyler’s “Wolf” that was also released this year, there is no competition as to who released the better album out of the two. Doris really was Earl’s coming out party and shows him to be the most intriguing rapper out of the OF crew. His production is pretty amazing too.

Video: Chum

Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus

Maybe one of my favourite releases of the year bar none. I really can’t hide the fact that I love this album and it saddens me to know that most people haven’t given it the time of day. Slow Focus is so good it makes my brain hurt. Fuck Buttons mellowed their sound out to make it a little more accessible than ‘Tarot Sport’ (which really was a hard album) but don’t skimp out on the quality of their music. From start to finish, this album offers you soundscapes that others only dream of.

Video: Brainfreeze 

Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge – Twelve Reasons to Die

Trying to make me aAnnotate made man, they fucked up the game plan
I blacked out on them and started my own clan
Black Gambino, black suits, black Syndicate
My crime fam was tight, every move was intricate
The coke was brought in from by bad Colombian mules
Gorgeous women that I draped down in jewels
Streets fight started, mafia wars in Italy
Crime fam against fam and no one could do diddly

Once again, this is probably overly biased, but I love most things Ghostface Killah releases as he’s one of my favourite rappers. I doubt there’s been another rapper who creates such vivid imagery with his verses like GFK does with relative ease. Adrian Younge is a renaissance man who has a distinct 70s soul sound to his music and doesn’t reek of pastiche or fraudulence.  His OST for Black Dynamite was pretty stunning and true to the Blaxploitation sound. This collaboration between the two artists is an interest listen with Ghostface doing what he does best in telling stories on this concept album. Younge’s instrumentals are excellent and will have you believing you’re listening to bootleg instrumentals from “Blacula” or “Trouble Man”. My only criticism is that it’s too short and leaves you wanting more.

Video: Rise of the Ghostface Killah

Haim – Days Are Gone

You can have my past, I´ll never get that back
I’m moving on, ´cause those days are gone

I didn’t think it was possible to really get into a whole album of Haim when I heard that E.P. they released all that time ago that got huge amounts of hype. Well, I was wrong; this album is one of my favourite pop albums in a long time, it’s full of songs that could be potential hit singles. Yeah, they sound a bit like a Stevie Nicks/80s pop-rock tribute act at times, but that’s kind of their charm. I really like this album and any band that features as much bassface as Haim deserves props.

Video: Falling (Maida Vale Session)

Kanye West – Yeezus

“Now you sittin’ courtside, wifey on the other side
Gotta keep ’em separated, I call that apartheid
Then she said she impregnated, that’s the night your heart died
Then you gotta go and tell your girl and report that
Main reason cause your pastor said you can’t abort that
Now your driver say that new Benz you can’t afford that
All that cocaine on the table you can’t snort that
That going to that owing money that the court got”

Kanye West never fails to make an album that provokes people, for better or for worse. Yeezus is a an album that divided even the most hardcore of Kanye West fans with it’s sound and general distancing from everything preceded it. It’s an album that requires a few listens before you can realistically tell if you love it or hate it. The first listen i kind of sat there, jaw open, aghast at that this was once the same backpack rapper who made ‘Through the Wire’. Now, after a ton of listens, this album really is wonderful. It’s ugly, garish and unapologetic but it’s Kanye West pushing the boundaries like only he can. This is a man who no longer cares about hit singles, he doesn’t give a fuck whether you like his music or not and is really only releasing what he wants.

Video: New Slaves

The Chic Organization – Up All Night 

Music never lets you down
Puts a smile on your face
Any time, anyplace

Dancing helps relieve the pain
Soothes your mind
Makes you happy again

I’m a big Chic fan and really, I can’t think of a better compilation released this year than this collection of The Chic Organization’s many many great hits. It’s a journey into the career of one of the tightest production outfits that has ever existed. Be it there own songs, Sister Sledge or their incredible work with Diana Ross, a fine selection of their back catalogue is available on this comp and, more incredibly, they’re mostly 12″ mixes. It’s also interesting to hear those bits of music that sound awfully familiar…oh that’s right, that’s because an abundance of musicians from the past 40 years have sampled a heap of Chic’s music.

This compilation also features one of my favourite 12″ songs of all time; Carly Simon’s “Why” which could be blissfully played on a loop for the rest of eternity.

Video: Nile Rodgers Glastonbury Set

Thundercat – Apocalypse

“I know I will see you again
In another life
Thank you for sharing your light with the world
Though You travel beyond
Your legacy lives on
Now enter the void

Thundercat’s one of the great underrated musicians currently active. Apocalypse is a gorgeous album that seems to have been lost in the shuffle this year, which is unfortunate as it’s full of beautiful songs worthy of people’s attention. It’s an absorbing listen that features some high quality instrumentation from TC and some soulful vocals. Maybe more startling is the emotional depth of this album in comparison to its predecessor (The Golden Age of Apocalypse) which was a bit of a colder listen. Whilst the whole album’s main theme is loss, the last song on the album is a gut-wrenching tribute to the singer’s late friend Austin Peralta who tragically died late last year. That song is a killer and really brings tears to my eyes.

On the flip side, you also get a song like “Oh Sheit It’s X” which is so much fucking fun. Thundercat pretty much nails the thoughts and desires of a person on MDMA in an energetic funk track. I’m really glad that this song is garnering him more attention (thanks in part to the inclusion on a very famous video game’s soundtrack). I think very few publications will give Apocalypse it’s deserved props as I think it’s definitely up there as one of the better releases of the year.

Video: Lotus and the Jondy (Live at Echoplex)

Well, there it is. My 10 selections for the best releases of the year. But then again, Death Grips have literally just dropped a new album and there’s still 2 months for the Arcade Fire album to grow on me. And I still haven’t listened to the new Janelle Monae album…So maybe this list will completely change in a month’s time. I guess we will see in due course.

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