October's finest, from the crystal-clear vocals of Zola Jesus, to Kele's racy R&B/house of Kele and Mysteries’ darkly melodic debut
CARIBOU – OUR LOVE
There’s something fascinating about a teetotal mathematician, who scored his first record deal whilst working at Hewlett Packard’s Research Facility, making such rich, misty-eyed, nightclub bangers. Although he's been an accomplished DJ and producer for the past 15 years, it’s safe to say that Dan Snaith aka Caribou knows the ebbs and flows of a dance floor. From the quietly euphoric loop of "Can’t Do Without You" to the Chicago house blips of "Your Love Will Set You Free", Our Love is an incredible record; subtly assured, largely digital and full of joy.
PHARMAKON – BESTIAL BURDEN
Bestial Burden and its grotesquely striking cover (those are chicken talons glued to her fingers, btw) is probably the most thrillingly dark creation to have been flung out of October. “The artwork came about through this desire to show the body as a lump of flesh and cells that mutate and fail you and betray you,” explained NYC noise artist Pharmakon, who this time last year was bedridden after doctors discovered a huge cyst in her organs that required immediate surgery. Musically, Bestial Burden embodies this physical nightmare through a brilliantly expressive sound structure of guttural screams, undulating, hospital-like drones and drilling rhythms. It engulfs the listener like a powerful, tar-black wave.
KELE – TRICK
When Bloc Party released Silent Alarm in the mid-noughties, their brash, spiky art rock contained just a flirtation with the dance textures that would eventually spring from frontman Kele Okereke’s fingers. Almost a decade later, there’s more than a hint of the house that jack built in Trick, his second solo album, which was released on his own label Lilac Records. Kele’s lusty, R&B infused tones and confessional lyricism glide over classic late 80s house and 90s garage structures, taking the listener on a brilliantly sleazy, nocturnal journey from the club to the bedroom.
ZOLA JESUS – TAIGA
Ice-clear vocal swoops, shimmering orchestral swells and skittering deconstructed beats collide in pop artist Zola Jesus’ atmospheric fourth album Taiga, which takes its name from the expansive snow-forests that live throughout Russia and Canada. It was only last month that the artist versed us on the obsessions that influenced this wintry creation, which ranged from fear (“For a long time fear used to fuel me”) to nudity (“I like the idea of us having this skeleton that makes us feel ashamed”). It's an album that's almost as sprawling as the forests it’s named after.
GROUPER – RUINS
Here’s another artist who takes her cues from natural beauty, in an album that is so unplugged that you can literally hear the croak of frogs, the pattering of rain, crickets and the majestic creak of the trees overhead. Amongst the ornate piano, whispered vocals and murky swirls of fuzz lies a huge amount of power, the kind that can only come from intense moments of focussed creativity. “The album is a document,” Grouper has said, “Failed structures. Living in the remains of love.”
FLYING LOTUS – YOU’RE DEAD!
In his fifth album, LA beat maker Flying Lotus creates a symphony of squelchy bass, spidery beats and jazz-like brushstrokes, managing to free-fall head first through sonic boundaries, but never once sprawl out of control. It’s hard not to feel a sense of awe from the complex instrumentation in You’re Dead!, which melds jazz, hip hop and electronica, cymbals, bells and birdsong, rendering them all part of the same, all-encompassing collage. In a wilful celebration of death, Flying Lotus has taught us to expect the unexpected.
JESSIE WARE – TOUGH LOVE
These days, pop music is cool and Jessie Ware shows us why in this sweet and sleek, eighties-inflected second album. The former Rinse FM pop priestess has enlisted a variety of collaborators for Tough Love, including producer Emile Haynie (Eminem, Lana Del Rey) and the ever-present Devonte Hynes, making for a record steeped in richness and variety. In a combination of elegant, liquidated Sade-style vocals, flourishing synths and catchy beats, Tough Love emerges as remarkably sensual, wonderfully crafted and dripping in authentic emotion.
MYSTERIES – NEW AGES MUSIC IS HERE
This is the only debut album on the list and it’s hugely exciting. Adding to the intrigue: the fact that the (possibly?) LA-based trio are thus far completely anonymous, even to their own record label, letting their already-accomplished music speak for itself. Ironically titled – ‘New Age’ music it is certainly not – the album is a chaotic freeform of frantic, jazzy percussion, dark melodies and layered vocals that swing between the lovelorn to the downright menacing.
KINDNESS – OTHERNESS
This sassy, spirited pop creation from Adam Bainbridge aka Kindness is immediately likeable. With help from a colourful host of his contemporaries (Robyn, Devonte Hynes, Kelela, M.anifest), Kindness has crafted an album of taut, pristine studio gems. From the sultry, smoky saxophone of "With You" (feat Kelela) to the West African influenced instrumentation in "For The Young" and the ethereal, Gospel-tinged tension in "Geneva", Bainbridge takes a mid-eighties palette, and traces lines to exciting and unexpected places.
SBTRKT – WONDER WHERE WE LAND
“I’m very picky about who I work with,” Aaron Jerome (the producer behind SBTRKT), told us in an extended interview last month. “I like working with people who are proper artists rather than just being singers.” And his second full-length is full of them, from Warpaint, Jessie Ware, A$AP Ferg, Chairlift's Caroline Polachek, Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig, Raury, Koreless, Denai Moore and his long-standing, silky smooth-voiced collaborator Sampha. These contributions make for an eclectic album, that moves between the tickling, futuristic beats of "Everybody Knows" to the warm, rich piano and beautifully hesitant vocals of "If It Happens" (feat Sampha).