Lorde brings a lot to the table with her album “Melodrama,” her best effort yet. “Pure Heroine” was an interesting pop album with many shapes and sounds and it certainly stood alone in the pop genre. But, “Melodrama” succeeds in playing to strengths of older pop music, especially from the 1980′s. The synths, drums, and production all sound as if Lorde is trying to put this on in a nightclub and dance a little bit. This doesn’t always work for modern pop artists, but with Lorde, it shows maturity and growth, as she passionately croons about lost relationships and struggles of becoming an adult. After all, it only took 18 years and one album for her to become a pop star. The album’s lyrics about growing up somehow fit perfectly with these purposely dated instrumentals, and tracks like “Green Light,” “Homemade Dynamite” and “Liability” have that perfect balance of pop immediacy and lyrical quality. It’s an impressive feat, and I look forward to hearing what she does next.
Perhaps the most forgettable comeback album of the year was Phoenix’s “Ti Amo.” The record had a few decent singles, but nothing that wowed in lyrical matter or its instrumentals. For such a short run time, it felt less like a big comeback and more like a weak entrance, and I couldn’t help but be utterly bored by the majority of the record. Other than that, I don’t have much to say about it other than that it felt like mostly filler that greatly paled in comparison to grandiose and well-produced tracks like “1901,” Lisztomania” and “Entertainment”.
Freddie Gibbs has a very interesting story that is actually not quite over. After all, “Bandana,” the long-awaited follow-up to the 2014 gangsta rap/jazz rap collaborative masterpiece, “Pinata,” with the loop digga himself, Madlib, is still expected by the end of the year. But, let’s not forget about Gibbs’ more interesting statement on “You Only Live 2wice,” the half-hour long project that marked his first music since imprisonment in Austria under rape allegations. Freddie had been cooking up some very poignant lyrics while in jail, and now that he’s free, he’s made good use of them. He enlists prominent Toronto artists BadBadNotGood and Kaytranada, who are frequent collaborators on each other’s work, for the super hot instrumental on “Alexys,” the album’s most fiery track and best single. Then there’s the album’s opener, which kicks the album off with some harsh words toward those who Freddie once thought of as friends, and much of this carries over to the next two tracks. “Crushed Glass” has some biting lyrics and a glamorous beat and string section. “Homesick” has Freddie shedding his gangster title just a tad, showing some real emotion to close the record. It’s a short project, meaning there’s more to come from Gibbs, and that’s a good thing. While some of the album is pretty forgettable, it’s short and to the point, and we can only expect “Bandana” to be a living, breathing classic.
Death From Above
Coming off the long awaited hype of their last release in 2014, “The Physical World,” buzz was nowhere to be found surrounding their latest album, “Outrage! Is Now.” But, as soon as this album’s singles were out, the buzz was on. This record satisfies through outstanding punchy beats and memorable riff-age, as well as some very timely and relevant lyrics. The duo of Sebastian Grainger and Jesse Keeler again bring some of their best tunes yet, this album is one that certainly gets close to as phenomenal as their debut. The tracklist is way less spotty, and Death From Above strive at writing hooks, especially on tracks like “Never Swim Alone,” “Nomad,” “Freeze Me” and “Statues.” The duo’s more dance-punk focus is apparent and it’s proving to be a great sound for them.
Washed Out returned in June with his first album since 2013′s “Paracosm” (released on Sub Pop Records), which showed him taking his sound past his trip hop and psychedelic pop influence that led to “chillwave.” His latest, “Mister Mellow” (released on the legendary underground art rap label Stones Throw Records) feels like Washed Out coming into his own with a set of tracks that get more personal and are sonically old-school. It’s almost like this album would be considered a “classic” in the chillwave genre, but it’s just so fresh and exciting. “Hard To Say Goodbye” and “Get Lost” are easily the high points of the record, and there are a few more standout tracks in “Floating By,” “Burn Out Blues”and the closer “Million Miles Away.” The bummed-out vibe of “Mister Mellow” shows up in the instrumentals and the sad psychedelic tone is pretty beautiful and well produced. In addition, the album’s artiness makes it a perfect release for a label like Stones Throw Records. As a side note, it’s very cool to see Stones Throw bringing in psychedelic soul, jazz, and chillwave artists to expand their genre boundaries.
Perhaps the second biggest pop comeback album was Kesha’s “Rainbow.” This all after the case of Kesha v. Dr. Luke, where Kesha brought charges of sexual assault and battery, as well as sexual harassment over their 10 years working together against her agent. She stated that Luke repeatedly drugged her, raped her, and which contributed her eating disorder. However, the court ruling in favor of the accused perpetrator. This entire experience inspired what would became “Rainbow,” an album of many different sounds and ideas. Kesha has much to say on most of the tracks and she does a solid job of incorporating different guest musicians, such as THE DAP-KINGS HORNS. I couldn’t believe the two other features, from Eagles of Death Metal and Dolly Parton. This is very purposely a completely different project from any of Kesha’s previous work. I myself am not a Kesha fan, so hearing her as a completely new artist made for a pretty enjoyable listen. “Rainbow” isn’t druggy pop anymore, and tracks like “Bastard,” “Let ‘Em Talk,” “Hymn” and especially the album’s lone single “Praying,” hit quite hard, and stick in a way that none of “Your Love Is My Drug” and “Tik Tok” did. Congrats to Kesha for making what is by far a much better record than she’s ever made before, and a damn good pop album at that.
That’s all the comeback records I can think of so far, but I’ll be continuing to add to the list as we get closer and closer to the end of the year.