Alt J – Relaxer (1 June)
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The Leeds-formed trio have called in Marika Hackman and Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell for their short and strange third album, and these voices give the narrative-driven tracks new characters to play with.
'3WW' and 'House Of The Rising Sun' are soft, lilting melodies where Newman's voice slowly washes over you. Elsewhere 'Hit Me With That Snare' has a twisting darkness to it, and 'Pleader' features London Metropolitan Orchestra, boy choristers and police siren samples. Certainly not just more of the same.
Skip to: 'In Cold Blood' - The story of a pool party gone wrong grows from a throbbing guitar riff which the band say "rallies in a tennis match", alongside the notes of an old Casio keyboard and electric live brass instruments.
London Grammar – Truth Is A Beautiful Thing (9 June)
The British dreamy trip-hop threesome have bottled a particular type of sadness in their music which feels less depressing and more reflective, a sorrow you can revel in and unwind with.
Hannah Reid's haunting vocals steal the show on the 18-track release, soaring particularly on 'Wild Eyed' and the angst-ridden 'What A Day'.
Skip to: 'Oh Woman Oh Man" - With a sound recognisable from their 2013 album If You Wait, this takes the album from its melancholy to a more uplifting place.
Phoenix – Ti Amo (9 June)
With a name like this, the second album from French alternative disco-pop outfit Phoenix ought to grate far more than it does.
Even the scrawled heart on the album artwork can be ignored thanks to the nods to Daft Punk, Passion Pit and Friendly Fires on tracks like 'Love Life' and 'Fleur De Lys'. Ti Amo transplants a grin on your face and offers the simple antidote of cheesy upbeat music.
Skip to: 'J Boy' - A euphoric, hazy slice of summer to distract from the pissing rain outside, where the "just because of you" hook will ring around your head like a highlights reel of happy sunny days.
Lorde – Melodrama (16 June)
Managing to do what so few pop-stars can, 20 year-old Ella Yelich-O'Connor captures the turbulent, fun, traumatic and confusing experience of girlhood with profundity and genuine excitement.
Skip to: 'Supercut' - Here lyrics about a first love tumble with intensity and build to the chorus, where the line "In my head, I play a supercut of us" echoes beautifully . Similar to "Ribs" from her last album, it's a track that manages to be both catchy and moving.
Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory (23 June)
After various cameos on artists work and the widely acclaimed Summertime 06, the second album from the California-born rapper has all the hallmarks of a turning point in his career. Deservedly so, as this emotional and sincere album has a weight to it, from the voiceovers of Amy Winehouse on the pulsing 'Alyssa Interlude' to criticisms of the "propaganda press" in 'Party People', and the multiple affecting references to death and suicide.
Skip to: 'Big Fish' - An unexpected electronic intro drops into verses where lyrics like "No sleepin', late nights no eatin' / Gun squeezing, I'm a real Artesian" reverberate and bend together seamlessly.
Slowdive – Slowdive (5 May)
As you'd expect for an album 22 years in the making, the British shoegaze band's latest offering is a carefully crafted and considered affair. The self-titled fourth album is nostalgic for their earlier albums, with that same swirling vocals and low pulsing bass notes. True to the genre, tracks like "Slomo" and "Sugar For The Pill" feature ethereal sounds and conjure spiritual imagery.
Skip to: "Star Roving" - a more vibrant offering with eighties high-velocity guitars that manage to sit aside gentle vocals that keep the track in same universe as the rest of the album.
Carl Craig and Francesco Tristano – Versus (5 May)
Detroit techno and Parisian orchestral music might not seem the most natural of bedfellows but they blend seamlessly in Versus, which contains orchestral versions of Craig's hits and electronic reworkings of pieces by pianist Tristano . There's plenty of variety, from the the pulsing club-ready rework of "Sandstorm" to the balletic translation of "Barceloneta Trist" with its humming strings. The album is a masterpiece that shows the beauty and technicalities of dance music and how well it lends itself to the concert-style performances of classical music.
Skip to: "Desire" - The point in the album where the mixture of classic and electronic music is the most interesting and elegant, eight minutes of bliss that wouldn't be out of place in Fabric or the Royal Albert Hall.
Perfume Genius – No Shape (5 May)
Seattle-based solo artist Mike Hadreas' fourth album is one of two halves - one part gorgeous piano trills and whispered vocals ("Otherside", "Die 4 You") the other tangled guitar melodies and frenzied drums ("Choir", "Wreath"). Just as Prince and Bowie were able to explore issues of sexuality and gender identity with both devastating subtlety and wild brashness, No Shape does too.
Skip to: "Slip Away" - Described by Pitchfork as, "a song that sounds perpetually under siege in a majestic fantasy battle", this reverberating and rousing track is where the album blazes most brightly.
Harry Styles – Harry Styles (10 May)
Yes, yes we know what you're thinking. We hardly thought we'd see the day we included a former One Direction band member in here either. But to give Mr Styles credit, his album is an impressive collection which showcases his stirring voice. The lead single 'Sweet Creature' is a lusty love ballad - possibly to Harry himself, but you forgive him for it. Elsewhere is swooning slow number 'Two Ghosts' - reportedly about Ms Swift - and the swaggering groove of 'Carolina'. An impressive first stab at being a grown up.
Skip to: 'Ever Since New York' - Styles takes on the persona of an aging country singer, and somehow pulls it off.
Gucci Mane – Droptopwop (26 May)
The 10 track collaborative mixtape from America rapper Gucci Mane is a muted and melancholic contribution to the trap scene with snaking bass, isolated high hats and snares all paired with dark lyrics. Tracks like 'Finesse The Plug Interlude' sound like they're playing in slow-motion and the dark samples looping throughout it are both haunting and contagious.
Skip to: 'Met Gala' - A collaboration with Migos' Offset adds pace and flavour to fiercely spat track which combines tight rapping, frantic rhythms and more of those looped samples.
Father John Misty – Pure Comedy (7 April)
Wailing Maryland guitarist and vocalist Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, sounds like Bon Iver perhaps might had his break-up been slightly less heart-wrenching. Pure Comedy is his third indie-rock album in six years and though the 13 track release shows he's as prolific is ever, it's also notedly more experimental in its melancholy. From the TV theme-tune sample that opens the title track to the cymbal crashes and dark lyrics of 'Two Wildly Different Perspectives', there's far fewer jolly folk tracks than in prior albums but multiple gems nonetheless.
Skip to: 'Ballad of The Dying Man' - Gently rocking guitar notes and lullaby backing vocals come together perfectly here in an antidote to the albums crazier moments. The sort of track that might close a Toy Story film, in the nicest possible way.
Future Islands – The Far Field (7 April)
Another gift from Maryland in the form of Baltimore synth-pop outfit Future Islands, a band famous for having the most energetic frontman in music. From the infectious synths of 'Beauty of The Road' to the frantic bass-line of 'Cave', the album has a frenetic energy that pulses through it and puts a smile on your face with soaring guitar chords, warped vocals and crashing drums. An album that shows what great pop music can sound like and a band that will likely see swathes of new fans dancing to their music this summer
Skip to: 'Aladdin' - One octave less frenzied than the tracks that follow it and with lyrics that are less garbled and more expressive. A moment where all the instruments shine, particularly the closing keyboard chords.
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN (14 April)
Even with the impossible job of matching expectations after To Pimp a Butterfly, the fourth studio album for K.Dot doesn't disappoint. Right from stripped back spoken word and orchestral beginning on opening track 'BLOOD', the album is an epic feat of storytelling. Guest appearances from Rihanna and, more surprisingly, U2 both hold their own, proving he can push the boundaries by blending rap, hip-hop, jazz, spoken word and soul and constantly create new hybrids.
Skip to: 'FEEL' - Though 'HUMBLE' is billed as the title track, this is where his seamless rapping comes into its own with meticulously formed lyrics like "The feelin' of bad dope / A quarter ounce manipulated from soap / The feelin', the feelin' of false freedom / I'll force-feed 'em the poison that fill 'em up in the prison." 'FEEL' evolves with every listen.
Little Dragon – Season High (14 April)
Yukimi Nagano and her Swedish electronic band Little Dragon have produced an album of balanced extremes in their fifth studio release. Hazy and mellow tracks like 'High' are a mixture of ambient drumbeats and experimental sound effects and more uptempo numbers like 'Should I Care?' or 'Push' have a warm eighties sound similar to the dreamy pop of Blood Orange or indie-electronica of Kindness.
Skip to: 'Strobe Light' - A rising bass and faster tempo makes this a less controlled and more loose sounding track on the album. Lyrics are at their maddest and best too with a chorus promising "Then I'm gonna kiss your tummy / Then I'm gonna kiss your pineapple."
Gorillaz – Humanz (28 April)
After a cool seven years out the game, Gorillaz returned this month with Humanz, a feast of carefully selected collaborations, timely lyrics and commanding chorus melodies. Guest appearance include De La Soul on 'Momentz' - part happy hardcore part demented battle cry - and Grace Jones on the violently bouncing and whirling psychedelic trip that is 'Charger'.
Skip to: 'Fade Away' - Though technically not on the album, the Andromeda releases from earlier this month are well worth a listen too. This collaboration with Bonobo and rapper D.R.A.M has an amazing mounting chorus, a rumbling bass rhythm and layers of glittering instrumentals. You'll want to play it over and over.
Temples – Volcano (3 March)
With a sound more exotic than their native Kettering, Temples second album is a return to the form of debut release Sun Structures. Their psychedelic rock sound and heavy synths will be familiar to fans of Tame Impala, particularly on tracks like 'Born Into The Sunset' and 'In My Pocket' which are more experimental but still just the right side of pop. An album you'll be desperate to see live.
Skip to: 'Certainty' - An obvious choice for the first single with its MGMT-like squelchy bass and abstract lyrics that we'll all be singing this summer.
Laura Marling – Semper Femina (10 March)
Compiled of just nine tracks, Laura Marling's sixth studio album shows how far the London folk singer has come from her pithy acoustic love songs strummed on a guitar. Tracks like 'Don't Pass Me By' and 'Soothing' are bolder with snaking bass notes and soulful vocals. Elsewhere 'Next Time' and 'Always This Way' are romantic and stripped back like Marling's most recognisable songs.
Skip to: 'The Valley' - Strikingly different in part because of is building guitar and wistful violins, Marling finds a whole new way to make organic sounds feel romantic.
The Shins – Heartworm (10 March)
Despite James Mercer replacing the entire band two albums ago, Heartworm still feels a natural extensions of The Shins' sound, probably because his songwriting has always been at the heart of it. 'Fantasy Island' is synth-pop anthem that would fit any of their releases and 'Cherry Islands' has 80s disco-rock undertones reminiscent of Modest Mouse or Future Islands.
Skip to: 'Name For You' - Album opener and buoyantly upbeat with a marching drum beat and pop lyrics sweetly written for Mercer's three daughters. It'll stick.
ANONHI – Paradise (17 March)
You'll recognise ANOHNI - or Antony Hegarty - as the powerful and moving vocals on chamber pop band Antony and the Johnsons. The British transgender singer's new musical project creates the same brutal and beautiful sounds in Paradise with tracks like 'Jesus Will Kill You' - a medley of ethereal and abrasive sound effects. The closing track 'She Doesn't Mourn Her Loss' catches you off-guard with hauntingly beautiful vocals and a speech delivered to the UN asking what is happening to the world (we're not sure).
Skip to: 'Paradise' - the title track is a mash-up of delicate vocals, kick drums and heavy bass where the production of Hudson Mohawke really shows.
Drake – More Life (18 March)
Drake described More Life as "A body of work to bridge the gap between major releases", otherwise known as an album. The variation on the 22 track release makes it hard to pinpoint any one direction, from the murky rapping on 'Free Smoke' to the warmer house rhythms in 'Passionfruit' and the breadth of collaborations with the likes of Sampha and Kanye.
Skip to: 'Get It Together' - Rising South African house producer Black Coffee and 19-year-old singer Jorja Smith shine on this infectious track that feels like a hit from the first play.
Sampha – Process (3 February)
Sampha Sisay's warm and soothing vocals have an unmistakable sound, and listening to his debut album you'll recognise it from his appearances on tracks by Drake, SBTRKT and Solange. But Process demonstrates his talents go beyond guest appearances, whether it's the glitchy effects and beats on 'Reverse Fault' or the layered vocals and experimental trap beats in 'Under' which echo James Blake and Jamie XX.
Skip to: '(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano' - the first single off the album is a beautiful stripped back piano melody that manages to show off with seemingly little effort.
Ryan Adams – Prisoner (17 February)
Having spent 2015 covering Taylor Swift's 1989 with much more angst than the blonde starlet managed herself, Adams has continued this emo thread with his latest release, Prisoner. It's a classic Ryan Adams heartbreak record - likely something to do with his recent divorce from Mandy Moore - complete with crashing guitars, crooning vocals and well articulated lyrics of despair.
Skip to: 'Do You Still Love Me?' - Heavy guitars reign here and the chorus repeats "Do you still love me, babe?" Straight to the point and surprisingly moving.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – The Tourist (24 February)
2017 looks to be the year of the indie rock return having already seen awaited releases from Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors. The Tourist, like previous CYHSY albums, nods to musical inspirations like Tom Waits , Paul Simon and Nick Cave and is the perfect dose of nostalgia. 'Better Off' and 'The Vanity Of Trying' illustrate the mixture of complicated keyboard and tight drumming that make the album so hypnotic.
Skip to: 'Down (is where I want to be)' - marches forward madly with wailing vocals and rising guitar riffs. Think Talking Heads meets The Walkmen.
Stormzy – Gang Signs & Prayer (24 February)
With the praise Stormzy has rapidly garnered within the grime scene, you'd be forgiven for assuming that he would look to fit some big names on suitably big tracks. Quite the contrary, collaborations with MNEK and Wretch 32 are slightly middle of the road slow jams and Stormzy is the main man for the album's stand-out moments. Having said that, 'Don't Cry For Me' with Game of Throne's Raleigh Ritchie is a soulful highlight.
Skip to: 'Blinded By Your Grace' - sublime and simple vocal harmonies shine in this ballad which despite its short length really shows his range of talent.
Future – Hndrxx (24 February)
The second of two albums released within a week last month, you certainly can't question the output of the Atlanta rapper. The latter of the two, Hndrxx, features tracks with The Weeknd and Rihanna which complement the dark swaying hip-hop beats rather than turning it into a pop album. The 17 track release is hard to pin down but features rapid glitchy tracks like 'Incredible' which echoes recent Kendrick Lamar and slow soulful laments like opening track 'My Collection.'
Skip to: 'Solo' - here Future's experimental use of auto-tune, which has won over critics, offers a truly unique sound.
Bonobo – Migration (11 January)
January saw the sixth album release for English DJ Bonobo whose skill at blending ambient and electronic music has earned him critical acclaim beyond East London hipsters - much to their annoyance. Migration doesn't stray from his failsafe formula of intricate instrumentals and haunting vocals but improves upon the occasional elevator music meandering of his previous album, The North Borders. The title track is impressive with its mounting percussion and piano, as are the glitchy looping strings on 'Kerala'.
Skip to: 'No Reason' - the best collaboration and longest track on the record are where his most stirring melodies are found.
The XX – I See You (13 January)
The third album was always going to be a big test for the English trio who enjoyed wild - and unpredicted - global success with previous albums XX and Coexist. I See You breaks from their stripped back and muted tracks and adds some more uplifting melodic flourishes, but you can still see their original DNA on 'On Hold', reminiscent of warmer tracks like 'Islands' and 'Basic Space'. The tearjerkers are there too, if you look hard enough.
Skip to: 'Lips' - The angelic opening chorus pairs surprisingly well with the trademark moody vocals to create a more sophisticated single than their earlier work.
The Flaming Lips - Oczly Modly (13 January)
The title might sound like the name for a Turkish internet café but the Oakland psychedelic rock band's new release proves, 14 albums later, they're still capable of reinventing themselves. Tracks on the extreme end of the experimental spectrum like 'Galaxy I Sink' feature wobbling guitars, reverberating synths and echoed chanting to brilliant overall effect. Having recently made some strange music with Miley Cyrus you can see their ever-broadening sound on Oczly Modly, but it works.
Skip to: 'We A Famly'- the slow beat, glitchy sound effects and longer lyrics are a highlight of the release.
Wiley - Godfather (13 January)
With the recent wildfire success of Stormzy and Skepta's Mercury Prize it's easy to forget that Wiley, "The godfather of Grime", has been pulling the strings of the scene for 20 years. His 17 track release earlier this month feels like a mixtape with its stack of short explosive tracks and video game sounds rippling through them. The rapping stands out on 'Name Brand' where he's joined by Roll Deep's JME and Boy Better Know's Frisco.
Skip to: 'Pattern Up Properly' - another collaboration, this time with grime stalwart Flowdan, packs frenzied beats and bars into 3 brilliant minutes.
Austra – Future Politics (20 January)
Despite not straying far from their previous material, Canadian group Austra's third album is captivating with dreamy melodies and anthemic beats. Katie Stelmanis' vocals are high and delicate without grating (think Kate Bush or Florence and The Machine). Tracks like 'Freepower' sound like a softer and sweeter Banks without the annoying commercial R'n'B echoes thrown over the top.
Skip to: 'We Were Alive' - The opening track of the record features synths, broken piano chords and elegant drawn out vocals.