Artpop – Lady Gaga
Artpop isn’t a perfect album, but Gaga still has the chops to pull off a genuinely thrilling, often funny, exciting album. It’s high-energy dance music, whether it’s dark, like Swine, or anthemic, like Gypsy, or even just a little weird, like Venus. There are a couple of misfires, but when the album takes a left-turn on you, as with the gorgeous, sorrowful Dope, you forgive those.
A Beautiful Glow – Rock N Roll Worship Circus
A Beautiful Glow is an album with a pure vision: revitalizing Christian rock via an infusion of the good time rock of the sixties and seventies. The album has everything from sitar-drenched epics to wild, exuberant Bo-Diddly raves. And don’t overlook the grim and merciless Scary Drifter. The Worship Circus blazed a path into new, exciting territory for Christian music. Of course no one followed them, but good for the pioneers.
The Best of Bond…James Bond – Various Artists
This two-CD set collects every Bond theme song through Quantum of Solace on one CD and then loads the second CD with instrumentals, alternate theme songs and other curiosities. The music of Bond over the years hasn’t been exactly consistent, but there’s something really revelatory and fun about hearing two-and-a-half hours of it all in a bunch. Cool, cool, super-super cool.
Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan
Blonde on Blonde is considered by some to be Dylan’s masterpiece. It’s certainly great, but not that great, perhaps too ambitious for its reach. But that thin, wild, mercury sound, as Dylan would later call it, is compelling for certain and Dylan’s voice reaches new levels of passion and power.
Hell Yes – Beck
On this EP, Beck turned over four songs from his album Guero to a couple of remix artists with instructions only to utilize retro game sound effects in their remixes. The result is a short, sweet, unbelievably fun EP, with great songs from Beck fed through an old-school Atari or a Gameboy. It’s proof that the EP format still has something to offer; it’s a masterpiece.
M3LL155X – FKA twigs
And on this EP, iconoclastic artist FKA twigs creates a strange, otherworldly atmosphere, a jittery, often ominous soundscape of bizarre sounds and vocal distortions. Twigs has the pipes to be a mainstream R&B diva, but she’s decidedly uninterested in that, preferring to walk on the dark and weird side. Thank God.
Matangi – M.I.A.
M.I.A. still refuses to compromise. Matangi is perhaps her most abrasive and antagonistic album yet, all dissonant sounds, thundering beats and vocals spit with real vitriol. You can either like what M.I.A. is doing here or get the **** out and, while the album is not the easiest listen and certainly not a crowd-pleaser like some of her past work, it’s assuredly the work of a brilliant artist.
Official Live: 101 Proof – Pantera
Pantera has no time to **** around. They thunder out of the gate on this live album like a band possessed and they hardly slow down for the remainder of this astounding album. It’s ferocious, angry, hard-core to the max and captures a group of astonishing talents operating at near-peak levels. Even if you’re not into this sound, the pure musicianship on display here is nothing short of breathtaking.
Pure Heroine – Lorde
Lorde creates a palpable atmosphere on her wonderful debut album. Her strange, unique voice floats there amongst a bed of uneasy synths and electronic sounds, of minimal beats and beautiful tones. Her lyrics are often elliptical, but just as often amazingly incisive. It’s a hypnotic, transporting album.
Random Access Memories – Daft Punk
Random Access Memories is unfortunately over-long and features a few epics that don’t really work. But when the album works, it’s brilliant. A beat and synth driven album, RAM is taken with the spirit of disco and electronica of years past, but they give it their own particular sound, creating a brilliant sound I can only call “futuristic retro,” the kind of retro album a group might come out with in thirty years. It’s rather annoying to realize that there’s a much tighter and shorter album hidden inside this one, but the one we have isn’t anything to sneeze at.