20. Aesop Rock – Skelethon
On his sixth full-length, hip-hop veteran Ian Bavitz, A.K.A. Aesop Rock, proves that he’s got no intention of tripping up any time soon. Filled with clever wordplay, solid production and 100 mile-an-hour delivery that would make any listener feel inadequate indelivery, Skelethon can be put up there with the best of his work. Built on a foundation of loss and change, the album displays a vast array of emotion, while the lack of any guest features from other hip-hop artists on the album keeps the spotlight solely on him. The appearance of Kimya Dawson pleased my inner Juno-fanboy while also adding a nice hook to ‘Crows 1′. It’s the most introspective of his work thus far, and definitely one of his most accessible.
19. The Men – Open Your Heart
With the follow-up to 2011’s Leave Home, The Men finally truly capitalise on the potential that shone through on the previous record(s). Where the former was jagged and untamed, Open Your Heart showed a more polished, confident sound. On ‘Animal‘, frontman Mark Perro‘s vocals resemble ex-Gallows man Frank Carter while ‘Candy‘ has a classic rock vibe that we haven’t seen from from him prior. This chameleon-like nature of his voice suits the album well, creating a collection of songs that are massively fun to listen to. The Men basically threw all the things they love about their favourite genres into a melting pot and Open Your Heart was the result – a fun, unpredictable and impressively ambitious record.
18. Holograms – Holograms
Captured Tracks were absolutely one of the highlights of the year for the artists they harbour and the albums they put out. Not only did they release records from the likes of Mac Demarco, DIIV, Wild Nothing and Naomi Punk, but they discovered Sweden’s Holograms and let the world hear their stellar debut album. The self-titled album is filled with a variety of styles all centred around 70’s and 80’s British punk music with a modern sheen. Yeah I know, been there, done that, right? Not quite. Holograms provide refreshing passion and enviable charm that injects the otherwise bleak subject matter with some much needed entertainment. The juxtaposition caused by the subjects covered in the lyrics, and the relatively upbeat nature of the music creates a delicate balance that the band keep afloat with aplomb. Frontman Anton Spetze doesn’t cower behind a veil of distortion, like so many other bands in similar brackets, and his voice has a raw quality that really suits the music. ‘Astray‘ is carried along by Ramones-esque guitar work while ‘Stress‘ has a bridge akin to Dead Kennedys. It’s obvious where Holograms‘ passions lie, and it’s exciting to think what they might accomplish next.
17. Flying Lotus – Until The Quiet Comes
Until The Quiet Comes was such a highly anticipated album for me after the wonder that was Cosmogramma, and it delivered on all fronts. The kind of electronic music Steven Ellison conjures up as Flying Lotus on this record is so unique and soulful, there really isn’t anyone else making music quite like it. Ranging from Aphex Twin-esque ambience of ‘Tiny Tortures‘ to the cosmic space grooves of ‘The Nightcaller‘, it acts as a whistlestop tour of every bit of talent that Ellison possesses. Combining elements of jazz, hip-hop and everything in between, Until The Quiet Comes is a more than worthy follow-up to everything that has come before. The album features collaborations with returning artists such as Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Thundercat, but it all seems to be subtler, less bombastic than Cosmogramma. The cohesive nature of the album is what really drew me to it in the first place; it feels like drifting through a woozy soundscape rather than just a collection of songs. The immaculate production and sheer variety on display here creates such vivid images without actually saying many words at all. With this as well as that Captain Murphy mixtape he released a while ago, Flying Lotus has had a pretty good year, right?
16. Liars – WIXIW
Liars have to be commended on how versatile they truly are. Never ones to shy away from reinvention, WIXIW showed a side of the band that had never been seen before. Often ominous, the vast electronic spectrum that the band traverse was entirely different to previous albums, but retained the identity that the band have built up over their impressive career. WIXIW is perhaps their most divisive release to date, much like Radiohead‘s Kid A, with some hailing the brave change of direction and others cowering before the change. The album starts with a song that is perhaps suspciously bliss-filled, before submerging the listener in Liars‘ trademark sense of unease. Some moments hark back to the days when John Carpenter made good movies (‘Octagon‘), while others see the band treading on Underworld-esque territory (‘Brats‘). While some deplored the direction that Liars had chosen, WIXIW drew me in the way no Liars album has been able to before. What the band will sound like in another 2 years time is anyone’s guess, but I can’t wait to hear.