Only 5 albums? Yes. Only 5. There were many others I liked during the year but the following held my attention for the longest.
Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded/ Pink Friday: Roman Reload – The Re-Up
Ok, calm down! I know she’s sh*t a lot of the time. But when she’s on it, she’s f**cking on it! ‘Stupid Hoe’ is one of the craziest, mind-bending and boundary-pushing pop-rap songs/singles ever released! Brave, avant-garde, ridiculous and sublime. You could (and, in fact, should) delete at least 15 of the 27 tracks featured on ‘The Re-Up’ reissue version of the album but damn, you’ve got to give credit where credit’s due: she’s a great rapper. In short, she should stick at being a dirty-mouthed, low-down, misogynistic ‘male’ rapper and quit the more unimaginative club anthems. But, at the end of the day, I guess she has to sell records, so I’ll forgive her the sh*tty parts.
Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
Flawless album? God no. Amazing album? Far from it. Meandering, boring and sometimes downright forgettable? Positively. So why put it in your list then? Well, essentially, I think it’s a really good calling card. His voice is beautiful (when it’s not putting you to sleep) and, tonally speaking, it’s so expressive (not to mention affecting). And yes, ok, I admit it, when I’m not being cynical about the purpose of his public confession, the whole watershed moment of his coming out as a young gay (or is it bi-sexual?) black R&B artist influenced my decision to include him here. He certainly needs a less spaced-out and less flat approach to the production and song writing for the next album though. More hooks please Mr. Ocean!
Patrick Wolf – Sundark and Riverlight
Great acoustic re-recordings of Wolf’s back catalogue. His voice effortlessly soars and dives against the spacious backdrop provided by the emotive acoustic music. In my opinion, it is his best album to date (he’s had five before this and he’s only feckin’ 29!). But I won’t go on too much about it as I’ve already expressed my joy with the album on this very site back in October! See my review of it here.
Antony & the Johnsons – Cut the World
Oh Antony, your voice doth haunt me with despair and beauty in a measure that is equal! This is essentially a live album recorded in Copenhagen with a full orchestra and, like Patrick Wolf’s effort above, functions as a sort of ‘Best of’ album. The opening track, ‘Cut the World,’ is not part of the live and lush recordings that make up the rest of the album but it really is a stand-out gem. It is also true that Antony has never quite managed to equal the impact or gravity of his breakthrough (second) album ‘I Am A Bird Now,’ but, if this title track is anything to go by, the future looks bright indeed. On top of that, Antony is one of those rare artists who shines even brighter when performing live and luckily this album captures that natural flare perfectly. Personally speaking, I would have ditched the whole (not always critically accurate) ‘Future Feminism’ monologue from the album (or at least moved it to the end) because it just interferes with the flow of the songs. But hey, that’s life!
Kanye West Presents GOOD Music – Cruel Summer
Yes, I know. It has received mixed reviews. But godammit I can’t stop listening to it! I never thought Kanye would equal the magnificence of 2010’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ but he’s almost managed it here. And yes, I also know that it’s not a fully-fledged Kanye album but I don’t care for pedantic observations right now! The sonics are ridiculous and it is truly a thing of beauty to behold the flawless, and I really mean FLAWLESS, production. It is bombastic but also measured and as equally intriguing as it is frightening. It is lyrically limited at times but that simply doesn’t matter. Kanye clearly works well with others and makes fiercely GOOD contemporary R&B/Rap/Pop music. This is a beast of a collaborative album and it crushes all the competition with its bloated sense of (largely justified) self-importance. Mercy, mercy me!
(Point of observation: both Antony’s ‘Cut the World’ video and GOOD Music’s ‘Mercy’ video were directed/made by NABIL).
Matthew Barks (and sometimes bites).