Ciara bares all – and turns up – Johnny Jewel crafts opiate-soaked synths for Lost River, and Kehlani’s atonishing debut
CIARA – JACKIE
Wanna feel old? Ciara’s “1,2 Step” was released eleven years ago. You could have made and raised a small child in that time. In fact, Ciara did. Anyway, she’s now on her sixth album, and it’s properly nostalgic – all electronic clicks and sizzling vocals and lyrics like: “Your body’s in sync to the beat of my heart.” The album artwork is like a slick, 90’s Calvin Klein ad, too. Although some of the record feels a little scattershot, the highlights – “Kiss & Tell”, “I Got You” and “I Bet” – make it a strong showing for the one-time Princess of Crunk'n'B.
TYLER, THE CREATOR – CHERRY BOMB
“Boy I’m a king and I ain’t lying, boy, hakuna matata / Better Watch for them Hyena’s, if you flex then they swarm,” raps Tyler over hazy, saxophone melodies and blunt-soaked beats in “2Seater”. It’s not the first time he references The Lion King (1994) in Cherry Bomb either. In fact, this album is full of sporadic references and obscure, poetical lyricism that sinks into your head and lingers. It’s an album that’s as colourful as it is totally chaotic.
YOUNG THUG – BARTER 6
Young Thug must have been gutted when he tried to play bat-and-ball with his idol Lil Wayne (who is calling his upcoming album Carter V), only to be hit with a fat lawsuit, forcing him to change his album title from Carter 6 to Barter 6. Throwing shade with semantics aside, the Atlanta rapper’s debut is deliriously, brilliantly unique. He toys with bars and autotune like lines in a colouring book, serving up a fizzing example of what rap can actually be.
SHLOHMO – DARK RED
If you’ve ever felt hopeless, dark or lost, it can be hard to find the words that give the feeling justice. LA beatmaker Shlohmo has turned his own grief, after a series of personal losses, into a warped and electrifying web of sound. Combining thrashing beats against twisted synths and rumbling bass, Dark Red is an uncompromising musical creation.
ILOVEMAKONNEN – DRINK MORE WATER 5
Dazed 100 alumnus and all round hip hop provocateur Makonnen Sharen told us last year that, “The American underground scene needs to step their fucking shit up!” Whilst he may have bubbled up to the mainstream a while back (thanks Drake!), he’s certainly stepped some of that shit up himself. Drink More Water 5 plays like a lesson in prolific future rap, his bars sometimes so fast and clean you barely have time to keep up. Plus, he’s right: we should all be drinking more water.
JOHNNY JEWEL – LOST RIVER OST
Johnny Jewel serves up sweetly rich, opiate-soaked gems from the likes of Chromatics, Desire, Symmetry and, err, himself in this original soundtrack for Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River. The 90-minute record balances perfectly between delight and discomfort, the glassy atmospherics and synthy, dark tones revealing that Gosling was more than a little enamoured with director Nicolas Winding Refn’s own musical tastes in Drive (2011).
KEHLANI – YOU SHOULD BE HERE
We’re currently a bit obsessed with silken-voiced Bay Area sensation Kehlani for more reasons than one. Along with skating and blunt-smoking, she’s just gone and released the best R&B album of the year so far, and we can’t stop listening to it on repeat. “I regret bringing your ass to all those after parties,” she sings over a slinky, Jahaan Sweet-produced beat in “Jealous”, knocking down an ex in one glorious, hook-heavy swoop. Damn.
YOUNG FATHERS – WHITE MEN ARE BLACK MEN TOO
Young Fathers couldn’t have created a harder debut to follow if they tried. But after winning the Mercury Prize last year for Dead (and not giving two fucks about it), the Edinburgh trio spent the cash prize on making this raucous, euphoric follow-up in Berlin. Speaking about the themes of the album to The Guardian, singer Kayus said “I think for me it embodies more than race. It also feels about sexuality, it also feels about class. It’s common that you say something and the response is, ‘It’s just black and white.’ But everyone knows the truth is never like that.”
LAPALUX – LUSTMORE
It may seem strange that such aquatic, beautifully spacey beats would come out of Essex, but then again suburbia has always given way to the most compelling of sounds. In this second album, producer Lapalux has made a record that sounds sleepy without sounding boring – kinda like the moment before you wake up on a weekend morning – with electronically mastered tracks that seem to loop, glide and warp out of the speakers.
DEATH GRIPS – JENNY DEATH
Things have been a bit eclectic for abrasive Cali trio Death Grips as of late. First they announced they’d split up via napkin, then they released a 14-track instrumental out of nowhere, before Jenny Death, their newest musical addition, was leaked. Amidst the shenanigans aside, this album – part 2 of the Powers that B – emerges as pretty great indeed.