With only 9 days till 2016 kicks off, 9 of our writers (1 each day) will be taking a look back at their favourite albums from the year. Today, the station’s Deputy Manager Alfie Thompson talks a bit about the 5 records that soundtracked his year:
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Prior to ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ I had been merely an observer of the work of Kendrick Lamar, the rapper with a rapidly rising rapport. That is until I was informed by a friend that I had to listen to his new album. It was simply a masterpiece of modern music. The aspect that truly grabbed me was the fact that this wasn’t just an album of songs – it had a narrative. A deep storyline of personal problems, with one song seamlessly continuing the tale when its predecessor had finished. Throw into the mix a cluster bomb of musical genres influencing each and every track, from funk to jazz to classic west coast hip-hop and even spoken word poetry, and Kendrick Lamar had created a piece of art. In a world of rap stereotyped by guns, fast cars, drugs and sex, Lamar promoted through ‘To Pimp A Butterfly a deeply relevant political message about the social state of modern America. An all round winner for me.
Top 2 tracks – ‘Complexion (A Zulu Love)’ and ‘Hood Politics’
Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color
Over the summer I was roped into performing a series of menial tasks and labour jobs for my parents as a means of earning money in a village where there are no jobs available. Ever. As a means of suffocating my boredom, I hunted for an album that I could keep in the car and grow to love, and ‘Sound and Color’ became just that. The opening and title track, ‘Sound and Color’ really sets the tone for the rest of the album, and the band prove very successfully that the unique sound of American rhythm and blues is far from dead, but is in fact a very malleable genre which has allowed Alabama Shakes to perfect a particularly distinctive sound. Couple all this with the unique, gravelly vocals of frontwoman Brittany Howard, and Sound and Color catapults itself into my list of the best albums of 2015.
Top 2 tracks – ‘Sound and Color’ and ‘Future People’
Drenge – Undertow
‘Undertow’ brought out a lot of musical memories for me. I was a child raised by parents who were big fans of the music of the 80’s and the 90’s. This meant growing up on an aural diet of, amongst other artists, the work of Blur and Nirvana. Listening to ‘Undertow’ made me feel like I was in the car listening to ‘Parklife’ or ‘In Utero’ with my parents. I for one feel particularly thrilled that heavier music has begun to thrust its way back into popular British music through the likes of the Drenge boys, as well as other duos like Royal Blood and Slaves. The album is a screaming, noisy Parade of growling guitar and British vocals, and a phenomenally rich sound for such a simple drums guitar vocals combination. In my opinion it perhaps lacked a standout song like its predecessor, 2013’s self titled ‘Drenge’, but over all, a good hard lump of rock that was much needed to continue the resurgence of rock music into 2015.
Top 2 tracks – ‘We Can Do What We Want’ and ‘Running Wild’
Dutch Uncles – O Shudder
I first came across Dutch Unlces when their single ‘Cadenza’ was iTunes free single of the week (remember iTunes?) in 2011. ‘O Shudder’ takes that fantastic ‘mathrock’ sound that Dutch Uncles have peddled since the beginning, combining it with inventive time signatures and clever melodies to create an album that is as interesting as is it catchy. Throw some strings in there alongside the four-piece band for good measure and you have the workings of a great sound. ‘Upsilon’ is a track that I would highlight as a particular favourite, showcasing all of these elements in what is a truly addictive little track that I found myself listening to repeatedly. We’re talking here about a low key band who have pulled some serious music video pedigree, with comedian Charlie Brooker appearing as a wedding guest in the music video for ‘Face In’. A good album, worthy of note on the list.
Top 2 tracks – ‘Upsilon’ and ‘Given Thing’
Jono Mcleery – Pagodes
This was an artist I stumbled upon purely by accident, but fell in love with. With a gentle mix of acoustic guitar, loops of piano melody and some truly catchy beats, the whole album has an incredibly ghostly, vacuous feel to it, as if it had been recorded inside a church or a cave. Jono Mcleery’s vocals are haunting and elegant – it’s the sort of album you could happily leave on in the background whilst reading or working, and then find yourself becoming distracted and rewinding parts of songs gone by to give them your undivided attention and re-listen.
Top 2 tracks – ‘Ballade’ and ‘Halfway’