- Arca – Arca
Venezuelan producer Arca has lurked on the fringes of his artistry in more ways than one. ‘Til now he has remained behind the producers desk, creating all manners of glitchy and brooding beats both under his own name and for bigger artists like Kanye West and Bjork. His self-titled album sees him stepping into the limelight for the first time and lending his voice to his works. Though he opts to sing in Spanish, Arca’s voice manages to breach the language barrier in a massive way. Much of the album communicates loss and pain with Arca reaching out to the struggling youth of Venezuela and shedding light on their social and economic struggles. There is also a tangible sense of survivor’s guilt, as if Arca is frustrated with himself for finding a way out of the ailing country. This manifests itself through the unsettling production choices used throughout the album, with even the softest moments being shrouded with a sense of dread. Through documenting the struggles of his fellow queer youth in his home country, Arca creates a strikingly poignant album for us all in this time of uncertainty.
- Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
It’s incredibly difficult to briefly sum up a Kendrick Lamar project, since GKMC the rapper has perfected the art of making a concept album and as expected DAMN is full of hidden meanings and reflective songwriting. That’s not where its biggest surprises lay though. We’ve all been so hard-wired to expect Kendrick to play to his philosophical persona that his more straight forward style on provides exactly the kind of shock it’s intended to. Though the more bombastic approach on this album hardly radiates insecurity, there definite themes of isolation and anger in Kendrick’s delivery. With nothing left to prove, it’s as if Kendrick has reached the top of the game and found it wanting. He points the finger to Fox News and other outlets that misconstrue his message, up to God for the injustices he has endured and witnessed and to himself, perhaps for being too naïve to see it all coming. Though it doesn’t quite reach the instant classic status of TPAB, it’s evident that it was never meant to mirror that experience, DAMN instead provides a cursory but affecting glance into Kendrick’s psyche.
- Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
While Kendrick limits his artistic scope, Father John Misty has expands his to planet wide proportions. Pure Comedy is a one hour and twenty minute epic that breaks down the state of the human race on all levels. Taking such a broad concept and applying it to a fairly simple platform like a singer-songwriter album seems like a surefire misstep for most artists, and while this album isn’t for everyone, there’s no denying FJM brings something unique to the idea. The magic of the album emanates from FJM’s cynical and sardonic outlook on the world and bitter self-awareness. Compositionally FJM is very aware of what his audience has come to hear and thus lets his instrumentation guide his tracks but never dominate them. Though it is sure to leave many listeners bored to tears, the people Pure Comedy does connect with will find something deeply worthwhile inside FJM’s snarky jibes.
- Andrés – Strange Memories on This Nervous Night
Andrés is a singer/guitarist out of Bakersfield, California who plays a unique style of R&B infused Pop-Rock that features plenty of smooth mathy guitar licks for good measure. While the Math-Pop sound has started becoming redundant thanks to the slew of twinkly Emo Pop-Punk groups springing up all over the place, Andrés does well to swerve out of that lane. The lyrics of the album are content with tackling the commons frustrations we all face in relationships with a noticeably “tongue in cheek” tone. Though that hardly sounds groundbreaking, Andrés has the infectious charisma to pull it off effortlessly. A perfect example of this is the song “Sunday School” which is grounded in high school crush melodrama we can all relate to or recollect but is also laced with off-kilter Sci-Fi references and is one of the many instances Andrés’ clear distaste for social media shines through. When the mainstream Pop sphere seems so determined to sound as homogenous as possible, the character Andrés forms on his debut album is impossible not to appreciate.
- While She Sleeps – You Are We
There was once a time where I would have been very hesitant to credit any Metalcore band for decently watering down their initially heavy sound. But While She Sleeps continue their impeccable streak for churning out passionate and melodic Metalcore all while creating probably the most stadium ready album in the genre since BMTH’s “Sempiternal”. Though the choruses are more frequent and anthemic this time ‘round, the band gives themselves time to flesh out every song on here with blistering riffs giving way to rousing breakdowns and guitar solos. While She Sleeps might just show up on your little sibling’s iPod with their latest effort but don’t you dare believe they’ve compromised the blue-collar qualities that made them so endearing in the first place.
The Chainsmokers – Memories…Do Not Open
Got a free-spirited teenager feeling disengaged with the world around them and crushing on that cute boy/girl in their maths class? Have we got the album for you! The Chainsmokers are two inoffensive looking white men who play Electronic Dance Music (or EDM as it’s known on the internet) and also write very relatable lyrics about young love and young love. Let those angsty fucks dance away their tears as the most meekly voiced man on the radio plays slight variations of the same drop in succession. We focus-tested these songs on middle-class adolescents across the country and found that 9/10 of them reported feeling like the album “spoke to them #spiritually”. Not yet convinced? Well the album also features popular Rock band Coldplay who…