20. Bright Eyes – Down In Weeds, Where The World Once Was
What an exciting and special return it was for Bright Eyes. The Nebraska band released their first album in nearly a decade, but continues their classic emotional and smart music style. It opens with a vintage jazz social club setting and sets the mood for the album. The lyrical progression from Conor Oberst, guides you along the lo:fi-esc sounds, with drum pads echoing and pianos playing sombre notes. The vocals resonate as they drift along and the music builds up to create some powerful feelings. Moments of descending into trumpets pull at my heartstrings for an album that makes me realise that there isn’t going to be a chance to feel happiness. It’s beautifully sad and sees the band reflect on memories and life. There are elements of indie, emo and pop, which is familiar on a Bright Eyes record. Synths have their moments to break through and the guitar plays some warm chords, but damn if I ain’t reaching for that box of tissues for this unique record.
19. Julianna Barwick – Healing Is A Miracle
This is one of the most relaxing albums of the year. The gentle and bass-orientated piano lays a dreary layer for the echoing chorus of vocals that send shivers all around my body. The vocals reach an unthinkably high register and I feel like I’m being taken on a peaceful journey. Reflecting the bleak artwork, I feel I’m either falling forever, or I’m floating gently down a river. I think I know which I’d prefer, but even though I describe the themes being bleak, this album makes me feel at peace with the world.
18. Christian Lee Hutson – Beginners
Sad and soothing acoustics, warm tones with melancholic nostalgia and lyrical hardship sum up the easy going record that is Beginners. The plucking of strings are soft and comforting and Hutson’s mature writing highlights his continuously improving songwriting abilities. One notable track Keep You Down, feels so emotional with its beautiful harmonies from Sharon Silva. There’s plenty of notable mentions on this record including Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Conor Oberst.
17. Shht – Noneketanu
Where do I begin with this one? It’s probably the first album that caught my attention this year and it’s a surreal space rock adventure. It’s full of energy and crazy jamming in each song. From the nine-minute opener you’re hooked on the Belgian group’s upbeat synths, sweet harmonies and guitar, bass and drums that pound away at every morsel in your body. It’s a cluster-fuck of noise and I knew from first looking at the strange album artwork that I was in for a treat.
16. The Strokes – The New Abnormal
What a return for The Strokes! The indie legends combine Justin Casablanca’s moody vocals with fuzzy rhythms and those classic bopping lead guitar riffs. The vocals are a real treat as Casablanca is heard wailing over dancing beats and the album is full of their dynamic consistency. It might be the catchiest Strokes album yet and for a band whose been in the game for as long as them, they don’t waste a second.
15. Slift – UMMON
This space rock album takes you on a psychedelic journey with ferocious guitars and sonic build ups from the get go. The guitars take control of you and the lengthy songs tease you where moments of closure seem likely and then BOOM, you’re set to undergo a burst of high performance guitar work. The French group make their riffs feel thicker with each song. They do let you have the occasional moment to relax with wavy delayed notes that echo out. The bass guitar sound fuzzy and makes for exceptional stoner rock. It’s a long one, with sludge rock tendencies as well, but if you like huge cataclysmic riffs, then this is for you.
14. JARV IS… – Beyond The Pale
Slow seductive rhythms and dance beats sum up this exciting effort from from Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and his band of musicians. The intoxicating vocal display makes Beyond The Pale one of the catchiest albums of this year. Jarvis continues not to be defined by one specific sound or style of music with the jazzy and dark Sometimes I Am Pharaoh and the dance-driven House Music All Night Long. It’s space-filling, arty, celestial and each song stands out as its own unique piece of creative collaboration.
13. Ninja Sex Party – The Prophecy
I probably say it with every release, but NSP get better with each album and on The Prophecy there’s such a variety of styles; we’re spoiled. From the progressive opener The Magic Crystal, to funky Welcome To My Parent’s House and the rock ballads Thunder & Lightning and I Don’t Know What We’re Talking About (Which is my most played song of the year), NSP really go out and provide us with cool 80’s inspired styles. The band continue their comedic lyric writing and comedy shorts that add a nice breather to the album. The musical contributions from TWRP are the backbone of NSP’s progressive sound. The iconic frontman, ‘Danny Sexbang‘ sees his vocals soar to incredible new levels and for me is one of the best vocalists out there.
12. Thundercat – It Is What It Is
Nobody mixes together smooth with funk like Thundercat does these days. Smooth falsetto vocals and dreamy vocal harmonies put me at great ease, whilst the bass guitar that Thundercat is well known for blends so nicely. He can instantly go from fast shredding to dreamy melodies. The bass tone has a retro 70’s funk sound, the key contributions are therapeutic and the lyrics are sensual. He has really capitalised on his previous album Drunk that was a huge success and this has to be one of the chillest and coolest albums of the year. When you play a Thundercat song, you know you’re going to have a good time.
11. Nadine Shah – Kitchen Sink
An album that was released on Infectious Records and my word is this an infectious album. Its social commentary meets melodrama, as the rims of the drums clatter along and the bass booms. Shah’s voice is poetic and rambunctious and tells of a bleak and grim visualisation of life. It highlights the issues and negativity she and her fellow women have had from perverts and sexists. It’s an album with grit and teeth and the jazzy sounds are unsettling at times. You can feel the fire in her words.