Best International Releases of 2015

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.