Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
It’s smooth, it’s sexy, it’s the best R&B album and, quite possibly, the best album released this year. Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE showcases the Los Angeles singer’s talents in his biggest year yet. Rising to prominence with last year’s success wave of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, Ocean took advantage of having his name out there and made the most of it, going an entirely different path from this group mates and crafting one of the most timeless albums of the year.
Album Highlights: “Thinkin Bout You,” “Pyramids,” “Lost”
Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid m.A.A.d. city
I feel like it’s been a while since we’ve heard music from a rapper who doesn’t constantly emphasize what a Grade A badass he is. Instead, Lamar’s autobiographical second album deals with the internal struggles of staying pure while growing up in a city run by gang violence and drugs. Because of this, the album is full of emotional stories coupled with flawless narratives that make it thrilling and gripping with every listen.
Album Highlights: “Sherane,” “The Art of Peer Pressure,” “Swimming Pools”
Jack White – Blunderbuss
Jack White is one of the only true rock stars left who hasn’t been plagued by old age or is living off the successes of his past work. White’s debut solo album showcases his blues side like we’ve never seen before and encompasses styles of almost all rock genres before him.
Album Highlights: “Sixteen Saltines,” “Freedom at 21,” “I’m Shakin’”
Wild Nothing – Nocturne
Listening to the first shoe gaze guitar line of Wild Nothing’s sophomore album, Nocturne, instantly makes the listener feel like they’ve been transported to a dream like world full of nights of glistening stars and first loves. Jack Tatum’s guitar lines are some of the most complex and poetic I’ve heard this year, and, when coupled with his celestial voice, makes this album truly feel like a piece of fantasy.
Album Highlights: “Shadow,” “Nocturne,” “Paradise”
Purity Ring – Shrines
Shrines encompass everything that indie music has been about lately: minimalism, synths, and a female vocalist. Because of this Purity Ring grew to prominence almost overnight (and because of this I feel like we’ll never hear about them again, but I won’t get into that) as being a sensation in online music cycles. Shrines is the perfect album to turn on and zone out to, whether it be background music to studying or late night driving, Shrines is best listened to when alone and just wanting to unwind and get lost in the music.
Album Highlights: “Crawlersout,” “Fineshrine,” “Loftcries”
Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Remember guitars? Remember rocking out? Remember having testosterone blasted in your face when you turned on a song? Well if you forget, listen to Canadian duo Japandroids’s latest album. From the start to the finish, the album is constant shredding and noise, reminiscent of an era in music when noise and energy was prized above nothing else. Japandroids skillfully reminds us of this era without being showy or egotistical like many others musicians who performed in their genre in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Album Highlights: “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” “Fire’s Highway,” “The House That Heaven Built”
Tame Impala – Lonerism
Lonerism has the ability to make the listener feel like they’re on psychedelics just through the music alone. It’s like taking The Beatles circa 1967/1968 and putting them in 2012. Lonerism sounds like an album that belongs in the early 1970’s and would be comparable to the mellower sides of Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and other psychedelic rock groups of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
Album Highlights: “Be Above It,” “Apocalypse Dreams,” “Elephant”
Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
It’s almost impossible to place An Awesome Wave into a genre; it’s folky, it’s jazzy, some of it sounds like ballads, and other parts sound like psychedelic rock. Either way, Alt-J’s debut is a full throttle force of a band that sounds like they came straight out of art school. Winner of the Mercury Prize Award, “An Awesome Wave” showcases Alt-J’s talents in many different genres resulting in an album that has something new on every listen.
Album highlights: “Tessellate,” “Something Good,” “Dissolve Me”
DIIV – Oshin
Like label mate’s Wild Nothing (DIIV actually opened for Wild Nothing on their most recent tour), DIIV creates music that feels like it belongs in your happiest childhood memory. The trancelike vocals that are almost always in the background help to create a sedated like state for the listener and making the album feel like one giant composition, instead of a collection of separate songs.
Album Highlights: “(Drunn),” “Past Lives,” “How Long Have You Known”
Passion Pit – Gossamer
Who would’ve thought the singer of upbeat “Sleepyhead” has been going in and out of psychiatric wards the past couple of years? The autobiographical subjects of Gossamer dealing with lead singer and songwriter Michael Angelakos dealing with alcohol addiction, suicide, mental health issues (mainly being bipolar) and economic struggles as his fiancé tries to cope with living with him and help him along the way makes it one of the most emotional and passionate albums released this year. Almost every song deals with Angelakos trying to get his life together. He sings about being blackout and beating up his fiancé: “See what I’ve done now I don’t understand / She says I’m screaming and I raise my hand / But I never meant to wasn’t even there/I never meant to I would never dare”. He sings about believing that the angel Gabriel saved his life after he cut himself and lied down to die in his bathtub: “And then I’m lifted up / Of the crimson tub / the bath begins to drain / and from the floor he prays away / all my pain.” The extremely personal nature and emotional tone of the lyrics will result in chills and goose bumps with every listen and, personally, makes it my album of the year.
Album Highlights: “I’ll Be Alright,” “It’s Not My Fault,” “I’m Happy,” “Where We Belong”
Photos courtesy of WikiCommons