Words by: Laurent Shervington
Image credit: Vevo
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
What kind of list would this be without the inclusion of the most ambitious and thought provoking hip‐hop artist of the year, potentially even the decade? Many people were wondering how it was at all possible for Lamar to top the excellent “good kid m.A.A.d city” and TPAB answered; from its lyrical issues touching on incredibly relevant social issues to the excellent production and takeaway themes presented.
To Pimp A Butterfly in itself is a celebration of self worth and pride in ethnicity, as well as being the manifestation of an artist at his true creative peak.
Heems - Eat Pray Thug
Himanshu Kumar Suri , better known as one third of the joke-‐ rap/not joke-‐rap hip hop group Das Racist came out with a solid return in March this year with “Eat Pray Thug”, an album which is will be marked the Brooklyn rappers most personal work, with a portion of the tracks focuses on his experiences as an Indian-‐ American in a post-‐9/11 world. Tracks like “Flag Shopping” and “Patriot Act” bring out social commentator that Heems has been before in tracks like “NYC Cops” but in a more deep and personal way.
Despite some tracks delving into aforementioned heavy themes, Heems still has time to have some fun with opener “Sometimes” which does well to reference the rappers duality in his career and while it could be argued that this track goes against the mood of the album as a whole, I challenge you to find a better track from 2015 that can reference Indian Emperor Akbar and The Wrens in the same song.
Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
Don’t let the title of this album throw you, this isn’t some white guy with a guitar/piano professing his over exaggerated love for his schmoopie in a cringe worthy and creepy way, but instead a concept album of songwriter Josh Tillman’s personal life and the tumultuous relationship he and his wife have had as time has passed.
Driven by sarcastic ballads such as ” Bored in the USA” and the Velvet Underground-‐esque “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment” the album’s flow and ability to come off as both sarcastic and emotionally potent are a true testament to Tillman’s song writing ability.
The Mountain Goats - Beat the Champ
Imagining John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats in an animal mask and jumpsuit, about to participate in some kind grand wrestling bout bring forth feelings of equal confusion and interest. This is essentially the beauty of “Beat the Champ”, showing off the prolific power of Darnielle as a lyricist and songwriter and contrasting it to the wide world of pro wrestling.
Musically the horns on “Foreign Object” bring swagger and a sense of cool to Darnielle’s vocal performance which centres around him giving a very stern warning to his opponent about his intentions in the ring. Similarly the track ” The Legend of Chavo Guerrero” paints a vivid image of the theme of the album and shows that this is a topic close to Darnielle’s heart, not a topic chosen at random for a laugh.
2015 has been a very solid year so far in terms of singer-‐songwriter projects (Father John Misty, Mount Eerie, Tobias Jesso Jr, Sufjan etc etc) but Beat the Champ has done something none of these projects have done in the scope of its themes and lyricism.
Jeff Rosenstock - We Cool?
Front man for The Arrogant Sons of Bitches, Bomb the Music Industry and Kudrow, the punk/indie/ska superstar Jeff Rosenstock has come out with an album this year which beer soaked soundtrack of his negligence to confront the future and the problems it entails with a slightly concerning sense of self assurance.
We Cool? Is a collection of 12 songs which will satisfy anyone’s thirst for slightly self deprecating indie/punk, with a good amount of energy and delivery. Take the track “Nausea” for example, its playful intro of piano chords and whelping vocals carry the track well into the discerning chorus of “I get so tired of discussing my future/I’ve started avoiding the people I love”. This track is an excellent example of the unique nature of Rosenstock’s song-‐writing ability as well as being expressing the light hearted side of the subject matter as we are given the image of Jeff switching between porn and Robocop while in a hot tub after a bong hit.