Given how easy it is to release an album in the digital age of art, it’s easy to miss some gems. Don’t fret — The Daily Texan is here to help you figure out what you missed from the past year in music.
Carrie & Lowell Live - Sufjan Stevens
Although this might just be a live rendition of his already impressive 2015 album Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens proves on this album he’s not just a studio wonder. In fact, Carrie & Lowell Live is magnitudes better than its studio companion, with Stevens’ performances of “Death with Dignity” and “Drawn to the Blood” taking on a completely new energy with dynamic and exciting renditions of his latest classics.
Concluding a tense and riveting setlist with his own acoustic-based cover of Drake’s mega-hit “Hotline Bling,” Stevens displays his prowess as a musician throughout the entire album. Carrie & Lowell Live brings an entirely new-and-improved feeling to one of Stevens’ best albums, making it flat out one of the most impressive albums of the year.
Relatives in Descent - Protomartyr
Although Protomartyr has a history of releasing fun post-punk albums, Relatives in Descent takes their dark sound and existential focus to a completely new level. The foursome manages to avoid the retro clichés of many other modern punk and post-punk bands, tastefully pulling from inspirations such as Wire and Constantines while blazing their own trail in the genre.
The songs of Relatives in Descent are unconventional, taking an instrument-heavy approach to a philosophical and political album. Vocalist Joe Casey has to be the biggest pessimist of the year, drawing the current political state of affairs to mind with songs such as “My Children” and “Up The Tower”.
Brick Body Kids Still Daydream - Open Mike Eagle
After making waves in the underground rap scene for nearly a decade, Open Mike Eagle finally struck gold with his sixth LP Brick Body Kids Still Day dream. The 37-year old Chicago native flexed his chops with 2014’s Dark Comedy, but this most recent album is his biggest and best yet.
Revolving around the housing project Open Mike Eagle grew up in, Brick Body Kids paints a picture of beauty around the typically neglected building. Open Mike Eagle uses his nuanced rhymes and simplistic delivery to recognize the darker moments of his childhood, something few artists could accomplish.
Forced Witness - Alex Cameron
Forced Witness is as far from forced as any listener could imagine — the record is so natural and simple yet so entertaining. The album focuses on beautiful, layered synthpop, using simple fluttering nuances of an occasional guitar and brass instrument to accent key moments.
Although the instrumentals certainly impress on this record, Forced Witness’ longevity is a result of Cameron’s relatability and internal debate. At times, this album’s contradictions and self-criticism become overbearing and occasionally cringe-worthy in Cameron’s more desperate moments, but once the tension is released and instruments ease up, it’s back to fun, danceable tunes like “Country Figs” and “Runnin’ Outta Luck.”
Los Angeles - Rosalia
Named not after the famous U.S. city, but after “The Angels,” Rosalia’s debut album is an angelic experience fit for the indie breakout star. Los Angeles takes on the art form known as flamenco, but unlike most flamenco, Rosalia’s take is dark and brooding.
From the start, it’s obvious Rosalia’s unafraid to display her heritage. Hailing from Spain, Rosalia uses her Spanish influences to build up an introspective atmosphere. Lying in the background are softly strummed acoustic guitars and the occasional drum. This allows Rosalia to showcase her vocal talents and demand the attention of listeners, moving from soft whispers to wailing cries in any given song. Although English speakers might need Google Translate for this album, it’s well worth the time.