If there's one thing that we did not do in 2015, it was forget about Dre. Released a week in advance of his own biopic of sorts (the movie Straight Outta Compton), Compton marks only the third LP in Andre Young's storied career, and while the hip hop legend was wise to skirt expectations by not naming the record Detox, the disc's unforeseen title has other justifications. Hardly ever employing the 'G-Funk' style that he pioneered in the early 90's, Dre's latest and last is sonically all over the map, employing one disparate and delicious style after another, turning the effort into a rap variety show.
Wildheart is all over the Top 10 lists of critics across the nation, which masks its brazenly uneven nature. But while songs like what's normal anyway and bonus track gfg weigh the whole of the thing down, the moments that work are among the very best of the year. Miguel Pimentel's talents as a vocalist are never to be doubted, but on standouts like waves and face the sun, they're finally matched by utterly top-notch production.
Upon the release of Earl Sweatshirt's 2013 label debut Doris, a slew of listeners complained of the album's lack of state-of-the-art sonics; wait until they get a load of this one. Don't Like Shit is as lo-fi as any number of beloved garage rock bands' aesthetic, a fuzzy, unspecific sound world that perfectly befits the MC's depressed bars. This is emo rap that doesn't make a listener feel silly, a fully-realized style change-up, as grungy as it is helpless.
What a relief it must have been for Will Butler to create, record, and release Policy. His parent band, Arcade Fire, has cut their teeth on life-changing, paradigm-altering stadium rock, but the younger brother of Win Butler's debut disc is scrappy and rascally as all get out. Consisting of only eight tracks, and lasting for less than a half hour, Policy sees Butler try on a plethora of different genres, each as exuberant and fun as the last.
The only true challenger to Beach House's decade-long reign as the champion of Dream Pop, Holter's comely tunes seem to drift into and out of existence like a beautiful fog. What separates Wilderness from her previous triumphs is a greater focus on conventional songwriting, bridging the gap between her etherial loveliness, and the comfort of verse-chorus-verse. Aided by any number of orchestral amplifiers, Holter's latest is a downright ravishing listen.
A New Place 2 Drown finally answers a question that I'm sure we've all asked ourselves at one point or another: what if the kid behind King Krule made a Flying Lotus album? Talk of Marshall as a hip hop lover and occasional participant has existed for years now, but this still strikes the ears as a drastic change of pace. The LP is practically constructed of knotty, textured beats, but Marshall's spoken word delivery, while never afforded the spotlight in earnest, takes this effort to the next level.
Is that endlessly varied instrumentation, languid pacing, and nasally vocals that I hear? It must be Destroyer! Poison Season isn't exactly a surprise, the album subsisting of the same storytelling lyrics and smooth jazz trappings that have made Dan Bejar an indie music icon, but they remain inspired. Among 2015's most exactingly recorded offerings, Destroyer's latest is yet another tour through the mind of one of our most unique troubadours.
The Waterfall is the sound of a long-successful, recently disappointing artist finally making their way back onto the horse. The album is no less cheesy or gaudy than the records that have turned myself and others away from the band in recent years, but their melodies finally stick, and their enormity checks out as enormous. These are ten new songs that they can take out on the road, and hit festival crowds right where it counts.
Sure, Sound & Color might not be the album of the year, but the voice of 2015 belongs to one Brittany Howard. The Alabama Shakes' latest visits any number of genres and stylings, but Howard's booming croon powers them all, be they Punk, Pop, Soul, or anything else on god's green earth. The disc works as a sampler plater for all the different things these guys can do, but it's Howard that sits comfortably behind their every success.
I suppose I didn't know that people still made music in the fashion of Beach Slang, a sort of middle ground between Black Flag and Blink-182. James Alex's band doesn't sound anything like either of those two artists, but the way they split the difference is mesmerizing. Invitingly melodic yet jagged and angular in its every move, Things We Do is a rollicking near-half hour that's as ready to open its arms with the intention of embrace as it is to kick in the damn door.
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