As the monotonous drudgery of life drags on (or maybe I should just speak for my cynical self), you can always count on the colourful, ever-changing landscape of today’s music to get you by. This year, the ladies especially killed it—and I’m not talking Iggy and Charli.
Broke With Expensive Taste
With delay after delay and feud after feud, the debut album of hip-hop firecracker Azealia Banks seemed cursed. But three years after her breakthrough hit, “212”, took pop culture by storm, Broke With Expensive Taste has arrived, bubbling over with velvety wordplay, playful bravado, and a deranged diversity of genres. Its fierce wit and prodigal aplomb are mind-boggling.
Turning heads for almost a decade with her unique take on indie rock and baroque pop, St. Vincent is a subtle virtuoso. Marrying heavenly melodies and poignant imagery with daring instrumentation, her fourth album is a polished, multifaceted gem.
Plowing Into the Field of Love
When Iceage made several best-of-2013 lists with its second record,
I disagreed with the hype, thinking the band sounded too inexperienced. But with their latest, the Danish punks have come of age, revealing a finer exploration of their brutal sound and a stirring emotional depth. Elias Bender Rønnenfelt has clearly honed his lyrics and vocals, bringing a baby-faced Nick Cave to mind.
Manic Street Preachers
Leave it to Welsh legends Manic Street Preachers to craft an album, their 12th at that, completely at odds with the current musical zeitgeist, and to pull it off strikingly well. Brimming with weighty philosophy and glammy krautrock influences, Futurology proves that while the Manics are pushing 50, their bravely eccentric vision and tunesmith chops are still intact.
No Fun City’s A-listers White Lung have been making Vancouver proud for years with their exceptional, adventurous take on purely visceral, punishing punk. The spellbinding fury of the band’s third album, Deep Fantasy, charts new emotional waters for singer and lyricist Mish Way, in the process captivating even the bigwigs at Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.
As he evolves artistically, it seems that former Britpop heartthrob Damon Albarn can do no wrong. From his ridiculously eclectic Gorillaz work to his forays into opera, Albarn is determined to be a true cultural chameleon. And his first-ever solo record—a delectable medley of western and eastern influences, fresh-yet-timeless instrumentation, and sea-deep melancholy—greatly bolsters his case.
The self-titled sophomore album of indie quartet Warpaint is more of a slow-burner than an immediate fire. But as its interwoven layers of dreamy harmonies float over its moody, fluttering rhythms, the songs take hold and don’t relinquish their grip.
Sure, it’s pop-punk or Courtney Love lite, but whatever you want to call it, Brody Dalle’s solo debut is an ironclad display of the frontwoman’s fearless howl, catchy-as-hell hooks, and badass charisma. Along with risky musical twists and some glammed-up, stadium-rock swagger, Diploid Love’s dark surprises and bewitching finesse can’t be denied.
Much has been speculated about indie darling Mac DeMarco, whose shadowy goofball persona has intrigued both serious critics and fans of sicko antics alike. But one thing’s for certain, and that’s that DeMarco’s Salad Days is strangely original and hypnotic, its sad-funny vibes and sonic diversity showcasing a maverick who’s maturing with each record.
With the odd misstep, you can always depend on the Raveonettes to churn out quality record after quality record, and their seventh is no exception. While dealing with such upsetting inspirations as the strained relationship between lyricist Sune Rose Wagner and his recently deceased dad, the noise-pop duo add harp and choir flourishes to their shimmering signature sound.