Hundred Waters – Murmurs
Though technically released in 2014, ‘Murmurs’ is the lead single from Hundred Waters’ sophomore album The Moon Rang Like a Bell. A deeply personal rehash of a relationship that fizzles out like a candle blown out on one’s birthday, ‘Murmurs’ is an affecting and compelling song. The hollow drums, stormy reverb and an intriguing sound that appears to be an ostrich choking on its own tears combine with Nicole Miglis’ breathy voice that makes us wish that we could see as clearly and delicately as how she sees, rather than her imploring us to do the same. I just adore the lyric ‘Yesterday was your birthday, happy birthday’ for its simplicity in meaning and unexplainable complexity in delivery. Humble yet heartbreaking, this is the breakthrough single the band has been nearing since their formation.
Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker the Berry
Do I even bother? The most anticipated album of 2015 is a tight contest between Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar but after hearing this ferocious whirlwind of brutality, it is fair to say that Lamar’s will certainly not disappoint. The older, bitter cousin of ‘i’, ‘The Blacker the Berry’ could be the prequel or the sequel depending on your view of the world.’You hate me don’t you? I know you hate me as much as you hate yourself.’ This is a classy, analytical and determined come-on to those who view the African American community with disdain and distrust. The man is currently untouchable and his control and delivery is diverse, magnetic and outrageously pure. It is hard to separate these factors with his lyrical content however it is his characterisation and story-telling that makes him truly special. He is a poet first, artist second… But God damn, he’s making both sides look far too easy.
Joey Bada$$ – Paper Trail$
Nas’ heir apparent, Bada$$ is just killing it currently. Barely 20 years old, with the flow and beats of a man older but no wiser, Bada$$ is a bit of an enigma. He hasn’t exactly struggled to come to prominence and his childhood seemingly wasn’t shrouded in poverty and gangbanging, and he was born and the raised in the Caribbean. You can hear the influences of his Caribbean upbringing in his flow and his open-mouthed, abrupt enunciation that clang out with force. And yet, with his rise to eminence before he even reached high-school graduate age, the influences of the street and the artists who broke ground before him are clear. Biggie, Nas, Eric B and Rakim are just some of those influences. And yet Bada$$ is combining the elements of hip-hop, funk and reggae to produce a sound that blends great lyricism, head-nodding flow and references to Dragon Ball Z (‘Christ Conscious’). One to watch.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
I just love this band. I’m strangely fascinated by New Zealand in the wake of listening to their coming of age second album, aptly named II. And here we are again, shaking off the cobwebs of a critically acclaimed album to release a sultry, jaunty and frankly, perfect first single off their upcoming third album. The balance between clever songwriting and original and quirky musical arrangements make Unknown Mortal Orchestra a quantity that is no longer unknown. However, they still like to surprise and I for one was a little taken aback by the nature of the song. It is still dreamy and lackadaisical, but not in the vein of ‘So Good at Being in Trouble’ from their last album. This is funky, bouncy, more worrisome and maintains their love of a quality bridge. A tremendous offering.
Father John Misty – Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)
I don’t think why should be the question here. The question should be when? and the answer should be right now. Father John Misty’s new album, I Love You, Honeybear, is as haunting as it is inquisitive and intelligent. The man is a tremendous figure in the new-folk movement of the noughties and the album is yet another triumph. Chateau Lobby #4 is one of the most adorable love songs I have read. Of course, if you are aware of Joshua Tillman’s previous work with Saxon Shore, Fleet Foxes and his current solo project, you’ll know that his songs are anything but conventional. His feelings are never lukewarm, he throws his heart and soul into his work and for that, I thank him. If there is a better song on a better album in 2015, we are in for a real treat.
Loon Lake – Surfin’
Hey man, who hasn’t wanted to go surfing instead of seeing their girlfriend? This is hedonism in its most innocent form. Leisure is the fruit of life, so why not let it engulf our soul. It is a simple song, but most of us are pretty simple beings at the heart of the matter… or the heart of our own matter to be more precise.
Frank Ocean – (At Your Best) You Are Love – Aaliyah/Isley Brothers cover
Although simply a cover that Ocean posted to his Tumblr, this is an indication of what we’ve been waiting for. I mean, I’m not expecting an album that features wonderful odes to the Isley Brothers’ and Aaliyah, although that sounds like one of the most wondrous concept album ideas, however it is nice to hear Frank’s voice again. His appearances have been sporadic since he tore a vocal chord (something that can have irreparable effects on one’s vocal ability) and yet he has remained as intuitive and thought-evoking as ever on his tumblr page. All fingers point to go in regard to the release of his new album but let’s reflect on his immense talent for a moment…
Sufjan Stevens – No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross
I’ve never quite felt cool enough to proclaim myself as a hardcore Sufjan Stevens’ fan. However, alike how I recently shed my fear of Sigur Ros, I’ve really embraced the reawakening vibes and open expanses of sound that never feel rushed. I’m sure there is a far more apt and magnificent way of summarising how it makes me feel, but y’know, it is really nice on my ears, fingers and toes… like dew in the morning sun. Boom. Anyway, the same spacial awareness is utilised delicately by Sufjan, bizarrely accompanied by the running of his air-conditioning unit to give rise to his personable and piercing honesty lyrically. It works.
Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best
Duh, it’s Courtney Barnett. She’s witty, a wicked guitarist and a woman so many of us can relate to. This is her best song since Avant Gardener saw her burst onto the scene. It is just the way that she spins common phrases, flushing her own personality on these tired metaphors and cliches that makes her such a relatable, intriguing character to listen to. ‘Under-worked, oversexed, I must express my disinterest, the rats are back inside my head, what would Freud say?’ It is a busy song full of self-angst, confused moods and an impending personal implosion but you can’t help but jig to her unfortunate state of mind.
Pearls – Big Shot
Pearls, a three-piece from Melbourne, have released a patient, intriguing ode to 1970s glam rock, although to push their album into the one basket would be doing the eclectic outfit a discredit. From the opening track ‘Big Shot’, you hear a strange amalgamation between something out of Kasabian’s Empire and ‘Elephant’ from Tame Impala’s sophomore album Lonerism. It is a ballsy, cocky opening to an album that doesn’t necessarily follow such themes throughout. Comparisons to T-Rex’s ‘Get It On’ are welcomed and they couldn’t really have produced a better opening track to a debut LP. One to watch.