Best albums of 2015: honourable mentions

AOTY 2015 - Hon college: Shareefa Energy, Masayoshi Fujita, Wondaland, Tara Busch (1448x815)Where did 2015 go, ay? It seems like only yesterday that I was writing about my lofty ambitions to hear 150-plus albums this year, and pointing out the absurdity of that goal. Well, I managed to listen to a fair number of the albums on my original preview list, and I’ve soaked up an even greater number than last year. But still, with an ever-growing to-listen-to-list, I’ve been in a state of never-ending improbability to hear all of the records that have come into my orbit this year.

Still, here we are once again, after a year of trials and tribulations, hurt and pain, success stories and retirements, sorrows and separations, fading dreams and whispers of hope, quiet triumphs and steady commitments – and that’s just the news.

In the world of music, things have been as turbulent and trying as ever, while still being encouraged and unimaginably fruitful. They’ve been new streaming services, new business models, new artists and, of course, new albums. Once again, I’m here to offer my thoughts on latter, with the hope that you’ll discover a piece of music that makes your life that much brighter.

Saturday begins my annual albums of the year round-up in earnest, where I run down 50 albums I’ve heard this year and deem to be among the year’s best. But, starting this year, I’ve decided to precede my main list with a selection of honourable mentions.

This unranked appetiser, which includes albums, EPs, mixtapes and even a spoken word poetry piece, is a chance to recommend a shade more 2015 releases that are worth listening to. Continue reading

MOBO Awards 2015: uniting with one hand, dividing with the other

MOBO Awards 2015, Section Boyz, by MOBO/PR( 900x506)It’s got moxie, that’s for sure. Because even after 20 years of handing out awards for music of black origin, and taking flak left, right and centre for it, the MOBO Awards are still with us. The MOBOs shouldn’t, and never will, be all things to all people. But, even as it unites its award-winners in celebration, it continues to divide its audience. Continue reading

Björk – Vulnicura review

Bjork - Vulnicura, 2015 press photo (650x366)With age comes experience, and age has had a powerful effect on Björk’s emotional aural portrait of a break-up, Vulnicura.

Björk is an artist who sees it as her duty to pour herself into projects, no matter what the medium or how outlandish they may appear. For her previous 2011 album, Biophilia, she participated in the creation of a series of interactive apps that formed part of a multimedia experience intended to enhance the album’s theme of musicology. In exposing her vulnerable core in a Vulnicura, she has been just as meticulous and self-critical, as evidenced by the fact that she sat on demos of these songs for some two years before deciding it was the right time to shape them into an album. Continue reading

Jam of the Week: Kelela – A Message

Kelela - A Message, single (800x450)We’ve not heard much from silky-voiced alternative R&B singer Kelela Mizanekristos since her acclaimed 2013 mixtape, Cut 4 Me. This week, Kelela returned with a brooding new track taken from her forthcoming EP, Hallucinogen. The EP is described as a “six-song cycle that explores the light and darkness of love and sexuality”. Alejandro Ghersi, better known as Arca, produced the EP after the singer struck up a friendship with the Venezuelan producer in 2012. Continue reading

Brits Awards 2015: Madonna’s tumble the high point of a show that’s lost its mojo

Madonna falls, Brit Awards 2015, Feb 25, 2015 screenshot, ITV (620x349)“Oh, Madonna. Did you learn NOTHING from the heroes who fell before you?” asked a quizzical tweet, attached with an image of The Incredibles’s eccentric fashion designer Edna Mode. Those who watched the 2015 Brit Awards live on ITV last night saw it – and then saw it again moments later on Twitter. Madonna, in an austere black suit, a long cloak draped behind her, yanked from her feet midway through her assent to the main stage.

The Twitter crowd had been restless for entirety of the show, but, thanks to the ill-fated timing of a backup dancer, the bait had been thrown and video snippets of Madonna’s tumble – quickly coined ‘#capegate’ – started circulating. The 56-year-old entertainer recovered quickly, carrying on as if it had been little more than a graze. But it was too late. The music had already been forgotten. Continue reading

Best albums of 2014: 40 to 31

Clockwise from top left) Temples, Azealia Banks, Pharrell Williams, SZAIn day two of my 2014 round-up, we have albums about nothing but fun times, getting faded and discombobulated, and ripping the heads off childhood toys. Go with it.

40. Pharrell Williams – G I R L
39. Dan Croll – Sweet Disarray
38. Thumpers – Galore
37. Alt-J – This is All Yours
36. FKA Twigs – LP1
35. Gil Scott-Heron – Nothing New
34. SZA – Z EP
33. Temples – Sun Structures
32. Azealia Banks – Broke with Expensive Taste
31. Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo Continue reading