As we all start to enjoy the summer that has finally decided to show its face, what better way to brighten it further than with an array of the year’s music to date? Firstly we have Elliot Burr’s ten favourite albums of the year so far, arranged in date order, with Tom Geraghty & Stephen Barrett’s choices due to arrive on Wednesday & Friday. You’ll notice below each album is a single track – each has been selected by the author as their pick of the album.
Earthbound – Bury Tomorrow – 29th January
If you like your music to be a repeated punch in the face, this is the album for you. Southampton’s Bury Tomorrow have easily established themselves as one of the forerunners in the UK metal scene, as well as being an absolutely lovely set of blokes. Their last album Runes was my favourite in their back catalogue, and this new record follows suit. Lead guitarist Kristan Dawson has added a new element of metal mastery to the band’s already solid rhythm section since joining in 2013; his shredding riffs hark back to Killswitch Engage’s glory days, but are as refreshing to the listener as they are relentless. Dani Winter-Bates’ screams are visceral and controlled (much improved from their debut album), and Jason Cameron’s voice is as husky as ever, with a seriously impressive range. The choruses are massive, the breakdowns are intense, and they will continue to destroy venues up and down the country for years to come. They may not even be at the top of their game yet. Go to a show, you won’t regret it. And follow Dav Winter-Bates on Twitter: he has some gems.
The Life of Pablo – Kanye West – 14th February
Pretentious? Yes. Genius? Hmm. Enjoyable? Completely. Yeezy’s most recent collection of tunes is exactly that, a sporadic display of his wholly original production without complete substance. Yet that is somehow the appeal of The Life of Pablo; whilst seeming like a storyboard of musical ideas, it works very well, some songs being some of Kanye’s best in recent years. Even the guest appearance from Rihanna on Famous actually impressed me. Despite the criticism for Kanye’s overly arty and arrogant attitude to his music, it isn’t wholly misplaced. He is clearly an accomplished producer, and his desire to meticulously pick apart his own work is fairly admirable in the world of mechanically produced pop music. With flashes of hip-hop, R&B, soul, gospel and electro-pop, this album is an eclectic playground of music, with Kanye’s visionary techniques making for a challenging, yet pleasurable listen.
White Album – Weezer – 1st April
They’re back! And with their trademark ‘self-titled album that is related to a colour’ making a return, fans of the band were surely anticipating a return to a nostalgic Weezer sound. Luckily, that’s exactly what we have here. The past decade has certainly not been their finest (Can’t Stop Partyingfeat. Lil Wayne, anyone?), but all fans should agree that the days of The Blue Album and Pinkerton were Weezer in their alt-rock prime. I actually really liked Maladroit too. Is that bad? Their 2016 effort The White Album showcases their pop-y appeal, combined with the droning, distorted guitars that characterised their 90s sound, and it really is satisfying. L.A. Girlz feels like a throwback to Say It Ain’t So in its pre-chorus, with Rivers Cuomo still lamenting about teenage heartbreak well into his 40s across the album’s course. Why change, Rivers? “Only 19 year olds are cool” he sings, but I disagree. The band have released their most geeky and energetic album for a long time (therefore their best), so hopefully they won’t make another Raditude.
Gore – Deftones – 8th April
Deftones will forever be one of my favourite bands. For a band almost 30 years into their career, it would be assumed that their music would slowly fade into repetition. This band has managed to entirely avoid this, instead continuing their meteoric rise to the status of metal legends. Gore is as doom-laden and heavy as their nü-metal days, with the added euphoria of hauntingly beautiful synth work that characterised their previous three efforts. The coalescence of sludgy guitars and angelic vocals courtesy of Chino Moreno is what lifts Deftones to a cut above the rest; they are the godfathers of modern metal and continue to innovate. Every track is an example of their succinct songwriting. The tussle between Stephen Carpenter’s desire for pure metal riffs and Abe Cunningham’s refusal to even consider a double kick pedal is obvious, yet every element of their sound has culminated in a masterful record which continues their undeniably consistent discography. Pretty album cover, too.
The Colour in Anything – James Blake -6th May
Modest electro-pop cherub James Blake this year released his most consistent album yet with The Colour in Anything, a display of Blake’s ability to create one solid entity from start to finish. Whilst perhaps overly long (it has a 76 minute runtime), the spacey synths and ethereal vocals make for an interesting, hallucinogenic experience. Blake pulls you in with some hypnotic vocal hooks then leaves you wanting more as his sparse instrumentation takes over. The production is phenomenal, unsurprising due to the role of Rick Rubin, and single I Need a Forest Fire remains a standout track amongst the soundscape; its chorus repeats in the mind for days on end. Some tracks fall slightly short of the mark, perhaps due to comparisons to the album’s many strong points, but fans of James Blake past and present will be far from disappointed. It’s somehow the perfect accompaniment for either a hot summer’s day or a dreary autumnal scene. An album to be enjoyed year round.
Konnichiwa – Skepta – 6th May
Despite the shift in music taste throughout my teenage years, I still fondly remember the days when grime was all the rage in London during the early noughties. Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in da Corner, Kano’s Nite Nite, Lethal Bizzle’s Pow: all ragers. And so, the resurgence of grime came as a bit of a pleasant surprise, gladly fronted by ex-Roll Deep member, Skepta. The homemade, low production beats bring a great sense of nostalgia and despite Skepta’s newfound success across the pond, his lyrics are laced with local slang that cement the genre as a product of London streets. Featuring guest vocals from Wiley, Pharrell and ASAP Nast, it remains an eclectic mix of vocal and lyrical talent, and I really couldn’t complain when hearing Shutdown or That’s Not Me playing in university nightclubs. In all honesty, hearing a sample from Queens of the Stone Age’s 1998 stoner rock hit Regular John on Man was probably the most satisfying musical epiphany of the year. Grime is back for good.
Headspace – Issues – 20th May
This is the most original record you will hear all year. Taking elements of nü metal, R&B, and jazz, Issues have certainly broken the mould in the stagnant metalcore scene. Tyler Carter’s soulful vocals absolutely shine on this record, as does the musical abilities of bassist Ty Acord and guitarist AJ Rebollo who have furthered their study of music to craft songs that transcend all musical tastes. From the breakdown heavy mosh-starter Blue Wall to love ballad Home Soon, Headspace makes you revisit time and time again, each song becoming your favourite with every new listen. After 3 listens, you’re hooked. This band may divide opinion (is it right that metal and R&B should mix?), but sometimes a fun record feels just right and these guys have nailed it. It’s interesting to see where the band will go from here to continue their reimagining of heavy music, but their discography is already building into one of the most enjoyable in the scene, despite their short time as a band. Long may they continue.
All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us – Architects – 27th May
Hell yes. No band, in my opinion, has made quite the comeback like Architects have. After the utter disappointment that was 2011’s The Here and Now, Architects went straight back to the heavy drawing board before releasing Daybreaker (decent), followed up by the hugely successful Lost Forever // Lost Together, placing them at the absolute peak of UK metal. And there’s still no stopping them; All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us is an absolute barnstormer of a record, easily their best since 2009’s angsty Hollow Crown (one of my most admired albums). Like a continuation of LF // LT, the Brighton boys have managed to take every riff, every breakdown and lift them to punishing new heights to create what is perhaps the greatest metalcore album of the past decade. Sam Carter’s vocals are absolutely spot on, an amazing accessory to the Searle twins’ precise guitars and drums, which are devastatingly heavy and bouncy on this record. They even managed an 8-minute track with Memento Mori, not a bore at all, instead showcasing their accomplished maturity through the dichotomy of orchestral strings and crushing guitars. Blast this record as loud as you can.
Aggressive – Beartooth – 3rd June
Caleb Shomo’s “crabcore” days in Attack Attack! seem like an age ago compared to his mature hardcore punk project Beartooth, who released yet another honest, brutal, and catchy record to rival their debut, Disgusting. Shomo is once again alone in his handling of all instruments, and co-produces the album; an incredible feat that should not go unnoticed. His bass-heavy punk anthems that defined earlier tracks have been furthered for our listening delight. The bouncy riffs, feedback, and chordal sequences are punchy as hell, with choruses that are catchy and anthemic in live settings. Despite Shomo’s lyrics about addiction, anxiety and depression, the future looks extremely bright for this musical protégé and his gnarly cohort. Having seen these guys in a small bar last year, I would wholly recommend going along to stage dive for the entire set with the members who love to party. If you’re not banging your head to this record at the back of the bus then what are you?
If I’m the Devil… – letlive. – 10th June
‘Soul punk’ lives. The critically acclaimed LA post-hardcore outfit maintain that they’re in a league of their own with their latest effort If I’m the Devil…. Focusing on a more subdued, refined sound, Jason Aalon Butler’s introspective lyricism is brought to the forefront, and his vocals are just as impressive as ever. Less frenetic and chaotic than the incredible Fake History, but with more production value than The Blackest Beautiful, this album sees the band explore more soulful influences, yet still retains their bite with political discussion and an aggressive tone, as songs such as Another Offensive Song demonstrate. At times it feels like Butler and co. have opted for more mainstream appeal, but this doesn’t detract from the fact that they are one of the most original bands in the scene. Also considered one of the most dangerous acts you can witness live, do check them out. They’re a band with a message that is impossible to ignore.
Images: Nuclear Blast; GOOD Music; Crush Music; Warner Bros.; Universal Music; Boy Better Know; Rise Records; Epitaph Records; Red Bull Records