By Daniel J Broadley
As 2015 comes to an end, we can happily look back on a year that has done us good by music. Not the commercialised drivel of the UKTOP40 or MTV, REAL music. Music with soul and feeling! Here are ten albums – in no particular order – from punk to jazz – that I see as some of 2015’s finest compositions.
Tame Impala – Currents
The Perth based psychedelic rock band returned this year with Currents, moving away from 2012’s guitar riff centered Lonerism in favour of dreamy synths, sweet melodies and heavenly vocals. As the guitars ride in the back, the keyboards take the front seat. Kevin Parker has let his guard down, proclaimed his love of pop and allowed it into his work. Of all psychedelic leaning music, Tame Impala’s is the least slavishly tied to the 60s – taking it in to the unknown and the modern.
FIDLAR – Too
Following the success of their self-entitled debut, FIDLAR (Fuck It Dog Life’s A Risk) have stuck to their Californian skate punk roots. Featuring scuzzy guitars and rough vocals, it’s an album all about getting, and being, fucked up. Since frontman Zac Carper has cleaned up his act – kicking everything from heroin to booze – we also see a more level headed FIDLAR, gaining them more fans whilst staying true to their beginnings.
Mac Demarco – Another One
At the end of this mini-LP, Mac Demarco offers an invitation to come round for a cup of coffee. This encapsulates the kind of person Mac is and the kind of music he makes. Another One glows with a stoned satisfaction. It’s smooth, easy to digest and offers refinement to the Canadian songwriter’s abilities as he grows more and more popular. Mac Demarco has an infectious charm about him, certainly one of 2015’s best.
Homeshake – Midnight Snack
Mac Demarco’s ex-guitar player Peter Sagar has certainly done well since starting his own project Homeshake. Their latest album Midnight Snack is slick and steamy as warm synths, muggy guitar and a drum machine satisfy like the first drink of the night.
Thundercat – The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam
This may be a bold statement, but I’d say Thundercat is the equivalent bassist as Hendrix was guitarist. Thundercat (Stephen Bruhner) is an unbelievable talent. From the groove masterpiece Them Changes to the more ethereal opener Hard Times. This album is just one more work of art added to Thundercat’s discography after working with the likes of Flying Lotus, Erykah Badu and Kendrick Lamar.
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
The is Kendrick’s third studio album and, with collaboration from giants such as Dr Dre and the godfather of funk himself George Clinton, it perfectly captures African American life in America. The track Alright for example thunders through a history of black oppression and brutalisation. A masterpiece of funk-fuelled hip-hop, this album is easily one of the most political of the year.
Kamasi Washington – The Epic
Earlier this year the film Whiplash – which follows a determined jazz drummer – stated that jazz is dying. Well, not if you’ve been listening to Kamasi Washington’s three hour jazz epic. As a contributor to To Pimp A Butteryfly, the saxophonist has reeled in listeners who may have previously had no interest in jazz. It respectfully nods to practically all jazz legends, and has now been nominated for Gilles Peterson’s WorldWide Album of The Year award.
Hiatus Kayote – Choose Your Weapon
The Grammy nominated future soul outfit returned in 2015 with Choose Your Weapon, and it’s easy to see why. A complex puzzle of jazz and soul spread over eighteen tracks, filled with polyrhythmic time structures, electronic flourishes and psychedelic adventures. Nai Palm – guitarist and singer – is the driving force behind this exciting band and who knows where they’ll be in a few years.
Romare – Projections
The dancefloor collagist’s full length debut Projections dropped this year, and didn’t disappoint. “I wanted to make a sort of musical essay”, stated Romare in an interview with Clash, “where the samples would act like footnotes and convey a particular theme to the listener”. Drawing influences from Afrobeat, New Orleans jazz and techno, the already established DJ has produced something remarkable for a debut album.
Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul
The Wu Tang legend teamed up with Toronto based jazz outfit BADBADNOTGOOD to produce one of the greatest genre collaborations in history; jazz and hip-hop. With the likes of DOOM also making an appearance, Sour Soul is sublime as BBNG have more than proven their worth as Ghostface’s backing band.