From Aphex Twin’s “horny” comeback to Karen O’s bedroom ballads, we select the albums that are making waves right now
SYRO and it’s nonsensical promotional campaign (a floating blimp, a smattering of graffiti and an announcement via Tor) was probably the most exciting thing to happen this year, musically speaking. In typical Richard D. James style, when asked about how he felt about this 12-song collection, he said, “Horny. I’m feeling really horny about it” and described it as “experimental things, noise things, weird things. Shitloads of stuff”. He’s not wrong. The first album released in 13 years under the pseudonym Aphex Twin (since 2001’s Drukqs) is packed with hyper-intricate electro-funk, misty ambience and characteristically lush, layered electronics aimed squarely at the dancefloor. It’s an effortless comeback from the innovator himself.
PERFUME GENIUS – TOO BRIGHT
Amongst the ornate piano and lustrous vocals of Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius’ third album, resides a power that stands glittering, defiant and boldly queer. “I sometimes see faces of blank fear when I walk by,” he has said of seemingly ‘macho dudes’ in his presence, “If these fucking people want to give me some power – if they see me as some sea witch with penis tentacles that are always prodding and poking and seeking to convert the muggles – well, here she comes.” Working with Portishead’s Adrian Urley and PJ Harvey collaborator John Paris, Perfume Genius creates a fuzzed-out, elemental treasure of a record that mischievously relishes in deconstructing ‘gay panic’ and shattering tired, old illusions.
ESBEN AND THE WITCH – A NEW NATURE
Earlier this year, Esben and the Witch amicably parted ways with Matador Records in favour of their own Nostromo Records label, which was built with the help of Pledge Music’s direct-to-fan platform. This is Esben’s first release on the label and the result is a brilliantly raw, eerily stripped-back, cohesive gem of a third album. Fans of PJ Harvey, Sonic Youth and Portishead will appreciate Rachel Davies’ haunting vocals that are embedded amongst Thomas Fisher's sparse, thrashing guitar.
MR TWIN SISTER – MR TWIN SISTER
The cover for Mr Twin Sister’s (formerly Twin Sister) second studio album might look like the Yeezus cover, but that’s about all the dreamy Long Island band share with Kanye. This album is kind of like a snow globe: glacial, glittering and characteristically beautiful. At only eight songs long, you can relish each pop creation like a peach in cream.
KAREN O – CRUSH SONGS
Whether it was your high school English teacher or your secret obsession with Zayn Malik, we’ve all experienced the sweet intensity of a schoolgirl crush – whatever your age. The difference here is that Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ singer Karen O decided to collate these into this lo-fi collection of playful, fleeting odes, in her first solo album to date.
This ecstatically colourful debut album is the result of Glasgow-based producer Redhino spending three years preparing what he’s described as “a vision of Stevie Wonder and Roger Troutman, produced by Aphex Twin and HudMo”. It’s an explosion of cinematic robo-funk, layering talkbox vocals and flourishing synths, all glistening with a thick dollop of super production. It also feels like it's making absolutely no attempts to be cool, which is probably why it’s so much fun.
And on the other end of the spectrum we have panic attacks, flu fevers, orgasms, euthanasia, puberty, miscarriages, supermarkets, blood, gender, depression, the patriarchy, stray dogs and Iggy Pop... This astonishing second album from Elizabeth Bernholz (aka Gazelle Twin) deals with the grotesque, the beautiful and everything in between. In a sanatorium of machine gun blips, buzzing synths and dark beats, Unflesh emerges as remarkably gutsy, wonderfully executed and totally fierce.
Recorded and created in the Southern Californian Desert over a three-day period, SMD’s latest creation is as trippy and leftfield as you might imagine being surrounded by cacti and coyote’s at subterranean temperatures. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that the album was made on two modular synths, two sequencers and a mixer, and set in live time in front of 900 techno-stuffed faces.
BANKS – GODDESS
Sultry R&B vocals, soulful beats and a wonderfully gloomy production pour from Gillian Bank’s long-awaited debut album, with the singer’s distinctive elegance. Whilst this album managed to divide the internet, we love her pop-on-sedatives LA vibes. It’s also unapologetically melodramatic and glittering with slow-burning desire.
WARA FROM THE NBHD – KIDNAPPED
Wara from The NBHD's self-produced debut album is packed with a multitude of witty bars and compelling lines that are steeped in tales from his childhood. The NY rapper's stories are dripping in authenticity, conjuring up a powerful sense of community with voices of friends and family filling up the edges, his own vocals stitched over spare piano, sticky hooks and organic beats.