It is perhaps inevitable in any year that we get particularly excited about a few new music releases (Deft Punk, My Bloody Valentine, Queens of the Stone Age, etc.) to the point where a few other albums worthy of equal if not greater attention slip by us. “Overlooked” is a pretty loose term, but the strict criteria for this list was to give you five albums from acts we have not discussed at all on the LA Music Blog this year. So without further ado…
Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
Chicago native Chancellor Bennett isn’t going to stay relatively unknown for very long if he keeps releasing music as good as Acid Rap. The album was released as a free download earlier this year but deserves to be included in album-of-the-year discussions for displaying the kind of wide-eyed and wide-ranging approach to rap that we have rarely seen since the glory years of Outkast. His ability to slip into a whole host of moods makes Acid Rap a kaleidoscopic and unpredictable listen, but it’s also remarkably fluid and Bennett knows his way around a great tune. He is destined for huge things with the right backing. Plus he gets a wonderful dig in at the Lakers, which is fine by me.
Jon Hopkins – Immunity
In all the recent hype about the respective returns of Daft Punk and Boards of Canada, the new album from London-based electronic composer Jon Hopkins kind of slipped out unnoticed. A shame, as his hour-long opus is arguably a better album than either of those more recognized names. Composer really is the best description for the man; the eight pieces on the album are meticulously constructed to the point of showing some underlying narrative arc, with the album building towards the central song, “Collider,” before fading into more contemplative territory. The word “journey” is horribly overused when describing albums, but Immunity is befitting of the term, and it is well worth getting lost in.
Young Galaxy – Ultramarine
The recent glut of new acts out of Montreal (among them Grimes and Majical Cloudz) has somewhat dulled the conversation around the release of Young Galaxy’s fourth album, but Ultramarine is one of the year’s best pure pop albums so far. The group’s brand of electro-pop doesn’t rely on simply aping the sounds of the eighties and hoping that will be enough. Instead they have the old-fashioned basics: great tunes (especially with the dreamy “New Summer”), a confidence gained from honing their sound over several albums, and a vocalist in Catherine McCandless who can really make these songs breathe. The album may be a little top-heavy, but it’s still a real breezy pleasure.
Autechre – Exai
Okay, so a two-hour-long double album that does not feature anything close to resembling a recognizable tune might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Nevertheless, the 11th album from one of Warp Records’ most enduring and respected acts showed them harnessing all of their powers for a work that is demanding and rewarding in equal measure. The swampy, crunchy textures of Exai will either leave you completely cold and wondering “What the hell is this?” or have the kind of hypnotic quality that renders any sense of track-listing or time entirely pointless. If you have the patience for it, it’s a record with a fiercely independent spirit.
Deafheaven – Sunbather
Due to scheduling recently I have not had the opportunity to write about Deafheaven’s sophomore album, and that is a woeful oversight on my part. The San Francisco band has created a hybrid built up of shoegaze, post-rock, and black metal (amongst other things), and the result is an album so huge in scope and weight that it has its own gravitational pull. The all-encompassing sound is breathtaking, and the fact that the execution matches the insane ambition makes Sunbather an absolutely thrilling triumph, a pure cathartic release, and a brutal yet beautiful beast. It’s also (in the opinion of this writer) the best album of the year so far. Unclassifiable it may be, but it’s the definition of an instant classic.