Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

It’s topping polls left, right and centre and for good reason. An enormous, sprawling hip hop opus that captures the grim reality of black America, wealth and fame. It’s far from the easiest listen, but the rewards are there for the giving TPAB the attention it thoroughly deserves. There is even something to admire in that attrition aspect, the poignancy of the commitment required to reach last track Mortal Man. If he wanted it to be a walk in the park, it would have all sounded like ‘i’, and I don’t think anyone fancied that. There is something to discover in every listen and it’ll command praise and admiration forevermore. A truly remarkable LP which has defined 2015.

Ezra Furman – Perpetual People Motion

Frenetic, nervous energy pervades Ezra Furman’s latest ode to life outside the mainstream. The influences are again familiar (Modern Lovers, Springsteen, Velvet Underground) but a more polished songwriting allows for doo wop harmonies to punctuate the songs. Lyrically the Chicagoan is at his most confident to date, facing his troubles head-on whilst littering the songs with charm and wit. There is even room for rap bravado in opener Restless Year – “when you catch my coat-tails I’ll be miles away”. The potential of 2013’s The Day of the Dog has realised fully.

Lousy Connection

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

The Aussie singer’s debut album proper fulfilled the expectation from early singles and then some. It’s more diverse than much of the shorthand applied, particularly the frequent slacker claims. Much of that is down to the deliberate drawl of Barnett’s delivery but her flawless narration of the mundane is supported by great upbeat ditties.

Pedestrian at Best

Vince Staples – Summertime ‘06

Staples is undoubtedly a great storyteller, regaling tales from his hood-running youth.. Clams Casino and No ID serve up moody, minimalist production is the perfect backdrop for yarns not out of place as storylines in The Wire. What sets Staples apart is his wonderful use of refrains, the sort dying to be shouted back to him by middle class kids in hoodies regardless of their veracity, “I ain’t never ran from nothing but the police” for example…

Norf Norf

 Grimes – Art Angels

Stunning maximised pop. From K-pop to late 90s nostalgia, the full spectrum of recent chart music is blended seamlessly with Claire Boucher playing every instrument herself. Another hotly anticipated record well worth the wait.

Flesh Without Blood

Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness

Julia Holter’s fourth album in five years is unquestionably the most accessible. The Nico-inspired strings remain, but the invitation to the wilderness comes with a generally brighter record, coinciding with being her best work to date.


Shamir – Ratchet

Outstanding debut from the Madonna-meets-Hot Chip 21 year old Shamir Bailey. Like a 21st century Grace Jones, the RnB tinged left field pop is both dancefloor ready and wonderfully introverted. A fascinating countertenor voice and gender fluid identity only adds to the abundant charm.

On the Regular

Father John Misty – I Love you, Honeybear

There can’t have been many people expecting records by the drummer in Fleet Foxes to be much cop, let along laugh-out-loud-album-of-the-year territory. Pithy observations and a warm croon make Misty’s latest irresistible.

The Ideal Husband

Algiers – Algiers

Like TV on the Radio before them, Algiers use of Franklin James Fisher’s impressive soulful voice complements their melting pot of blues, new wave and funk into something that really differentiates them from their contemporaries. If they can add a killer single, there could be no stopping them.

Irony. Utility. Pretext

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style

Teens of Style is a compilation of sorts, a label funded studio recording of old bandcamp songs. To all intents and purposes it’s a new release as anything put out on bandcamp is so under the radar that it wouldn’t be shot down in Russian airspace. Anyone pining for the days of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! And Broken Social Scene dominating file sharing forums will be in their element. I know I am.

Time to Die



David Bowie – Blackstar

Bowie is pretty much the best at everything he tries his hand at and even at 68 he’s still managed a reinvention of sorts, as demonstrated by a return of the bizarre in this gargantuan Scott Walker inspired ten minute epic. I’m left salivating at the prospect of the new album.

Jamie XX – Loud Places

For all the praise of In Colour, though deserved, it’s hard to argue against the finest moment coming when reunited with fellow XX member Romy.

Lucid Dream – Mona Lisa

A sweeping psych rock monster. Following the drifting opening, Gang of Four style bass riff, Krautrock drums and swirling guitars culminate in a phenomenal crescendo – one of those rare treats where you want to air-play every instrument all at once.

Public Service Broadcasting – Go!

A highlight of the current setlist, which climaxes with the crowd recreating the landing cheers on the record.

Ought – New Calm pt2

An EP and an album in the year following their outstanding debut is no mean feat and Ought may have benefitted from combining the two in one release. The highlight though is definitely the frantic New Calm pt2, a relentless wave of ramshackle rock’n’roll.

Koreless – TT

Superb, gradual layering and build from the Glaswegian signed to Young Turks. Gutted it only lasts five minutes.

Kamasi Washington – Changing of the Guard

Snubbed for a Grammy nomination, Kamasi Washington’s three hour colossus The Epic is apparently ‘too busy’ for Jazz enthusiasts. Not sure that put a spoke in Pharaoh Sanders wheels. You’d think there would be some appreciation for acting as a gateway to a genre that’s harder to get into Donald Trump’s America.  You’ll need some annual leave to get through the album in one sitting though, so opener Changing of the Guard is an easy pick for the tracks list.

 Wolf Alice – You’re a Germ

It’s to the band’s credit they took their time on getting the debut album right, but in doing so much of the highlights were already freely available. You’re a Germ on the other hand, released just before My Love Is Cool, set the tone for the Londoners to conquer the summer.


De Lux – Oh Man the Future

Ok, so it sounds like they’ve been rummaging through James Murphy’s bins but no one can deny there is always a place for more perfectly executed, rambling, danceable post-punk. And it’s not like Murphy wasn’t partial to the odd dumpster-dive before hitting the studio.


White Reaper – Last 4th of July

There was a time in my teens when the NME convinced me that only garage rock revivalists mattered. It’s a shame for White Reaper that was thirteen years ago as there is no telling what they’d do with exposure like that. Here’s 90 seconds of pure joy.

 Track – Last 4th of July



Ezra Furman

New blond hair and the now ever-present skirt, Ezra’s current live show is as exhilarating as it gets. He mentioned last year’s Soup Kitchen gig as saving his musical career, and it was one that lit the torch paper on my love for Mr Furman. With career defining Perpetual Motion People strengthening his pool of songs, a near two hour show of original material, peppered with covers

Sleaford Mods

Modern Britain torn apart with wit and fury.

D’Angelo – Apollo

Before To Pimp a Butterfly, there was Black Messiah. Rush released in December in the wake of Ferguson, D’Angelo’s long awaited follow up was angrier and more political than anyone could have possibly imagined. December releases never get the attention they deserve and a half empty Apollo was treated to a full on Family Stone style funk and soul show.

SFA – Albert Hall

I’d all but given up on seeing the Super Furries again with no talk of reunion and several successful solo projects in the works. So a hit laden career spanning 26 song set at Albert Hall was a wonderful reminder of the brilliance of one of the best bands of the last 20 years.

Algiers – Gullivers

Great stage presence and incredible sound from a band and performance who deserve a much bigger audience than Gullivers.

Joseph Curran

Features Editor and gig reviewer