This year’s favourites had me either grooving solo on a packed dance floor or curled up crying in a bathtub with the shower running, Big Chill–style. Try to guess which ones are which. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
A deeply romantic debut from the downtempo R&B duo, featuring swirling, playful pizzicato strings, shivery synth sensuality, lite-funk beats, and other heaven-sent sounds built around the androgynous, Tobacco Vanille voice of Mike Milosh.
New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light
Guest vocals from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon arguably made this third volume of ambient-sax master Colin Stetson’s New History Warfare series the most approachable, but it’s the marquee artist’s own melancholic moans, running wordless and whale-like beneath hypnotic skronk-outs like “Hunted” and “Part of Me Apart From You”, that’ll make your heart swell.
Queens of the Stone Age
What better way to cope with an existential crisis brought on by a near-death surgery experience than by delivering your sexiest masterstroke? Josh Homme and the rest of the Queens do this with a collection mixing high-gloss goth-glam, murky balladry, slinking rhythms, and muscled-up rawk licks, all cooked to perfection beneath a desert sun.
George Reid’s production work on Body Music is a complex tapestry of wobbly bass pulses, faux pan flute blasts, and other assorted synth sounds, but when paired with fellow Brit Aluna Francis’s toffee-sticky melodies and relatable relationship wordplay, it comes out as one of the most primally danceable collections of the year.
Though slightly more together than the Copenhagen crew’s chaotic debut, You’re Nothing’s whirlwind of hardcore, postpunk, and Italian pop influences still flies by fucked-up and furious. It’s not pure anarchy, however, with the 24-Carlsbergs-later howls of Elias Bender Rønnenfelt running heartbroken on blitzes like “Morals” and “Burning Hand”.
The Pro Era
PEEP: The aPROcalypse
Joey Bada$$ may be the star of the bunch, proving his worth with his bars on tracks like the spliff-loaded “School High”, but with a roster rich with young talent like A La $ole, Kirk Knight, NYCk Caution, CJ Fly, and more, it’s only a matter of time before the entire Beast Coast crew gets its due.
It’s become incredibly unpopular to back Kanye these days, especially in Vancouver, but Yeezus’s scattershot assault of on-the-fritz electro beats and off-the-cuff one-liners still makes a case that the guy is indeed a rap god. Now someone get him his croissant already.
Baptists’ molten metalcore blasts and muck-mired doom riffs make for a most earthshaking debut. Andrew Drury’s growls take aim at the working world (“Think Tank Breed”) or drift off into a dreamworld with a feathery spirit animal (“Still Melt”), all pointing to a desire to cut the cord from society, head to the hills, and practise, well, Bushcraft.
While scrubbing away the electronic washes of 2010’s Halcyon Digest, Deerhunter slathered a little extra six-string distortion onto Monomania, with in-the-red standouts including the searing “Leather Jacket II” and the saturated-but-sweet “Sleepwalking”.
Run the Jewels
Run the Jewels
After collaborating on each other’s respective solo albums in 2012, rapper Killer Mike and producer/MC El-P got together as Run the Jewels to issue a hard-hitting love letter to hip-hop and friendship. While both bounce brawler braggadocio off of El-P’s nasty beats, the meanness just barely masks the mile-wide grins these two sport whenever they get together.