50. Jens Lekman – ‘Life Will See You Now’
What We Said…
For the last decade or so, Jens Lekman has been one of the few truly brilliant artists working the alternative pop scene today. The Swedish singer/producer has managed to make the happy-come-glossy sound of modern pop a truly enjoyable experience, and now the frontman has returned with his fourth studio album 'Life Will See You Now', possibly his best full-length to date.
Fans of Jens will already be familiar with his chirpy disposition, but for those new to his work, this new release will serve as a brilliant introduction to his insanely addictive sound. Each track seems to have been written in the happiest place known to man, but being Jens Lekman, he has managed to wind in the the sickly overtones and deliver something that would make even the moodiest individual crack a smile.
It is hard to say whether this release is the best he has ever produced, but it is certainly the most enjoyable we have heard. 'Life Will See You Now' is the ultimate antidote to these winter blues and will now doubt become the soundtrack to every barbecue later in the year.
49. Tei Shi – ‘Crawl Space’
What We Said…
After first emerging all the way back in 2013 with her debut EP 'Saudade', it is fair to say that this studio album from Argentine singer Tei Shi has been a long time coming. And after a few more years to cultivate and hone her sound, the frontwoman has returned with her debut album 'Crawl Space', a record that is as progressive as it is impressive.
While some of her older material, and even the odd track on this record, have shown her as a more minimalist artist with a stripped-back production, much of the release sees her as an electronic artist. With many of the stand-out singles like 'Justify' and 'Keep Running' adopting huge, pulsating basslines, the overall mix of directions on this album creates an extremely diverse release yet all maintained within this arc of sombre romance.
With not a single track from her previous EPs making an appearance on this release, it is clear that Tei Shi is looking to create a new image of herself on 'Crawl Space'. Something she not only achieves, but also manages to display her talents fully on a record that is just full of surprises.
48. Lana Del Rey – ‘Lust For Life’
What We Said…
Since the release of her groundbreaking breakthrough album 'Born To Die' back in 2012, Lana Del Rey has been the go-to artist for mood-driven and sometimes bleak ballads. Her tortured soul has been one of the calling cards of her career so far, but as she returns with album number five, 'Lust For Life', it is clear that has looked to brighten up her weary sound, offering a frame of mind we haven't heard from her before.
Now don't think that this is some kind of over-the-top glossy pop record as Lana's trademark production still runs thick throughout the release, but her voice certainly sounds more uplifting and even the lyrical content seem to resemble the thoughts and desires of someone in the honeymoon period of a new relationship. While her personal life isn't really up for debate here, it is clear that she is feeling like a different character these day, and singles like 'Love' and 'Coachella - Woodstock In My Mind' are proof of that.
But overall, Lana Del Rey is still delivering some of the best music today. She has hardly put a foot wrong over the last five years, and this new LP is no different. Strong and emotive from start to finish, 'Lust For Life' stands up as another milestone release for the frontwoman.
47. Noga Erez – ‘Off The Radar’
What We Said…
Having spent the best part of the last 12 months slowly sharing new music, Israeli artist Noga Erez has finally marked the first major milestone of her career by releasing her highly-anticipated debut album. And in the last few months, we have realised that trying to think of a word to best describe her sound just isn't possible as her first full-length delivers a juggernaut of diverse and interesting directions.
And while growing up in Tel Aviv has certainly made some impression on her musical influences, it is clear from the initial listen of this record that her inspirations stretch much further than her homeland. 'Off The Radar' aims to bring together a whole range of leftfield productions, and some more modest styles, in order to create a record that breathes originality and, more importantly, engages well with the listener through an experimental lens.
Even after hearing what she has to offer on these 15-tracks, we are still nowhere near to fully understanding her intentions. But that seems to be the way she likes it. Full of surprises and unexpected twists.
46. Minor Victories – ‘Orchestral Variations’
What We Said…
After delivering their incredible self-titled debut album last year, supergroup Minor Victories have returned to unveil their new full-length 'Orchestral Variations', a reimagining of their initial studio release. And while the sound of their debut was of a progressive and brooding nature, this new work seems to have completely reinvented their work as blissfully quaint classical pieces.
If you were to listen to their original album and this back to back, you would find it hard to hear the similarities between them. 'Orchestral Variations' is such a separation in both direction and intention, that the result comes across as something wonderfully heartwarming instead. Each composition is filled with this incredible array of instrumentation and depth, showing that rather than simply have an orchestra perform their songs, the band have rewritten each work to be played in a new style, giving it a whole new tone and listening experience.
And while this may not have much to do with the atmosphere created on their self-titled debut album, Minor Victories have shown that they are an extremely versatile outfit with some wonderful ideas. This record is beyond being a quirky gimmick and is, in fact, a brilliant single piece in its own right.
45. Father John Misty – ‘Pure Comedy’
What We Said…
Returning with the third studio album under his Father John Misty guise, frontman Josh Tillman has been making some serious political waves since his last full-length 'I Love You, Honeybear'. With a swathe of previews hoisting up this new release, it is clear that Tillman has been far more affected by recent world events than most other artists, and as a result aims to lampoon and mock the state of things in a way only he knows how.
Opening up with the record's title-track 'Pure Comedy', he delivers what could only be described as an ode to humanity. Taking aim at the foolish things we have done and still do throughout our existence, yet making sure that his intended target comes across more ignorant than dangerous. Essentially this is a record that looks to make fools of us all, but with a serious intent behind. The comedy that he sings about throughout the release is more akin to the feeling of hilarity you experience after seeing someone do something incredibly stupid, thus summing up our feelings towards humanity as a whole.
Yet while he paints a very gloomy picture throughout, his deposition and songwriting on this album is incredibly uplifting, creating an almost jarring juxtaposition between his music and content. But this is just who he is and after years of experience, I believe this is the moment when his musical ambitions and hilarious personality finally found an alignment. 'Pure Comedy' is a wonderful record that somehow creates sympathy for our abhorrent existence.
44. Mac DeMarco – ‘This Old Dog’
What We Said…
When Mac DeMarco released his sophomore full-length 'Salad Days' back in 2014, we honestly couldn't get enough of it. The sheer charm and brilliance of his work was palpable throughout every track and we all knew that this guy was going to become something very special. Fast forward three years and while his profile hasn't really receded since those days, Mac is back with his third studio album 'This Old Dog', and shows us that he hasn't really changed.
While 'Salad Days' had this youthful energy about it, this new release sees the laid-back songwriter adopt a more sobering direction. The title of the record may have been a clue as to where this album was heading, but despite its more sombre intentions, there are still plenty of toe-tapping moments on here. 'This Old Dog' is a soundtrack to the beach bum lifestyle, nothing but catchy grooves and humble rhythms throughout.
It certainly brings back a lot of memories when 'Salad Days' was our backdrop to those sunny days in 2014, but just like any good artist, he has managed to evolve his sound without rejecting his core style. Giving us something just as enjoyable but with a fresh twist thrown in.
43. Clean Cut Kid – ‘Felt’
What We Said…
As much as we have been enjoying the singles from this new full-length, the story behind this record is far more charming than we were expecting. After meeting and falling in love, the band's joint-singers Mike and Evelyn Halls wanted an outlet to profess their love for each other, and that outlet grew into the band Clean Cut Kid we see today. Effectively making 'Felt' their own personal love letter to each other.
Yet despite the mushy sentiment that this record stands for, it is clear that the pair had more than just a basic understanding of songwriting between them as this new album shows the beginnings of a flourishing new group. 'Felt' seems to like to jump between the elements of a solid rock band and a more intrinsic indie outfit with an ear for interesting and diverse production. The result is a wistful yet powerful pop record with all the hallmarks of a group with years of experience behind them.
It seems clear that this debut release has been in the works for sometime, what with their competent direction and uplifting disposition, but 'Felt' still has a very fresh quality to it. An extremely likeable first record from a band we hope has plenty more to offer.
42. Sinkane – ‘Life & Livin’ It’
What We Said…
Since releasing his much-loved 'Mean Love' album back in 2014, the life of Sinkane aka Ahmed Gallab has taken some very drastic turns. For the last few years, he has found himself at the front of The Atomic Bomb Band, the outfit put together to perform the works of reclusive electro-funk artist William Onyeabor. But now the frontman and producer has returned to his own project to release his latest full-length, and it appears that his time in charge of a eclectic ensemble has certainly had an influence on his new material.
While 'Mean Love' was much more of an electro-pop record with a strong Sudanese twist, this new release sees him adopt a stronger live band presence. With less reliance on pre-programmed loops, 'Life & Livin' It' has this much richer sound throughout a diverse instrumentation. While there is definitely an Onyeabor influence on this new record, Sinkane has still managed to project his own sensibilities onto it and the result is a wonderful hybrid of lively, upbeat rhythms and jams.
Possibly more westernised than his previous work, 'Life & Livin' It' is most definitely the songwriter's most accessible record to date. Relying on a catchy simplicity, Sinkane has returned with a gem of a record that simply needs to be heard.
41. Broken Social Scene – ‘Hug Of Thunder’
What We Said…
With seventeen members currently occupying the group, it is no wonder we have had to wait so long for a new Broken Social Scene album. With seven years passed since their last full-length 'Forgiveness Rock Record', the individual members have all been off exploring new avenues in their careers during their hiatus. But just like all gap years, going away and trying something different ultimately leads to new inspirations on your return home, and this new record is filled with interesting and dexterous influences.
While their previous albums were mainly occupied with subtle harmonies and a more subdued approach, 'Hug Of Thunder' is one enjoyable and explosive track after the next. It is clear that a huge amount of positive energy has come over the group in writing this release, giving it a whole new atmosphere that will not only appease their long-waiting fanbase, but see them reestablish themselves in this new era of contemporary music.
And in a year that has already seen its fair share of comeback records, Broken Social Scene's return is so far one of the biggest stand-outs of the year. A brilliantly written and produced record that manages the show of the band's eclectic ambitions yet remain succinct throughout.