1. Chromatics - Kill For Love
The indie record label Italians Do It Better has been putting out some of the best chill-pop around. They manage to mold some newer electronic vibes with a very vintage Italian discopop feel to them. They may have released their magnum-opus with Chromatics' sophomore LP Kill For Love. You might recognize this sound because frontman Johnny Jewel contributed to the Drive soundtrack. Some albums are great collections of songs, others take you on a sonic journey. Kill For Love is of the latter category. This moody monster of a record moves at a laid back pace through crafty pop songs and ambient noise. This might be up there with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon in terms of nighttime music. It's an incredibly confident record for such a relatively young band.
2. Death Grips - The Money Store
Death Grips make terrifying music. That's the best way to describe this guerrilla punk hip-hop group. They make Odd Future look like The Everly Brothers in terms of being hardcore. I'm not going to like this is a tough record to get into it's very harsh on the ears for a casual listener and it has no club hits for typical hip-hop fans. However, I cannot name another group that sounds anything close to Death Grips. If this group is not the anthem that the disgruntled skater youth are flying their freak flag to then I don't know what to think anymore.
3. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.
Fiona Apple has returned to the spotlight with her first record since 2005, The Idler Wheel... I am not a Fiona Apple scholar by any means but I do understand drama, and this is one of the most heart-wrenching albums I have heard in a long time. Since her last record Extraordinary Machine there have been countless of these Starbucks friendly singer-songwriter chicks who all sing about falling in and out of love. Not one of them holds a fucking candle to Fiona. This beautiful lady has been through a lot and she lets it all out through her voice, lyrics and piano. That's one thing I love about this album is it's so stripped down, there is only piano, light drums and the occasional acoustic bass. Her stories are so passionate and vivid that you really don't need anything additional than just her. She is the definition of a prolific artist.
4. Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
One of OutKast's longtime compatriots, Killer Mike finally steps into the limelight thanks to stellar production by El-P. I have complained for the longest time that hip-hop has unfortunately drifted away from making important political and social observations and instead throwing focus on personal wealth and gain. Well, today I can rest in peace that my favorite kind of hip-hop is still thriving. R.A.P. Music tackles politics, religion, and social injustice with a poet's wit. He takes aim at everyone: blacks, whites, cops, thug life, the uneducated and spousal abuse to name a few. While every song is strong two really stick out in my mind. "Reagan" is the most blunt anti-politics song I have heard in years where Mike praises the death of Ronald Reagan and laments over the current state of government and America's slave-like affair with big oil. "Willie Burke Sherwood" is a song where he talks about being insecure for being into literature and enjoying school. He does all this while twisting the plot of Lord of the Flies to fit his own childhood. Yeah. That is amazing.
5. Beach House - Bloom
If you loved Beach House's previous three records then you're going to adore Bloom. If not, move along. Beach House are one of those bands that have decided what they wanted to be a long time ago and have stuck to being exactly that. They are one of the most solid groups in the indie world. Their steadfastness has paid off, this record debuted really well on the charts. What I love about this group is though their sound is pretty much uniform, they are able to make each song unique and catchy. "Lazuli" is the centerpiece to Bloom and is quite frankly the best song the band has recorded to date. I took a drive along the PCH here in Los Angeles the other day with the windows down and this record playing. It was quite heavenly.