Bobby Womack The Bravest Man in the Universe Eighteen years on from his last set of originals, the singer for whom the phrase ‘soul legend’ seems inadequate returns. His power is undiminished by either age or a recent battle with pneumonia, with an LP of soul that acknowledges this iconic status without hanging a ‘classic’ sign around his neck.
Jimmy Edgar Majenta Hip Detroit producer (and fashion photographer) Edgar borrows the minimalism of Kraftwerk and the distinctive clean, throbbing style of his hometown’s techno masters, then applies sleazy electro-funk, filtered disco, electronic punk, fly cosmic house and Kanye-style R&B.
Esperanza Spalding Radio Music Society Four albums in and the rise of jazz singer/bassist Esperanza continues apace as she sets her post-Grammy-winning sights on world domination. Rather than exploring the gently string-laden sounds of its predecessor, Chamber Music Society, this follow-up kicks such introspection into touch, coming on like a funk-fuelled block party.
Grimes Visions For her first global LP release, Clare Boucher, a 23-year-old member of a Montreal art collective, locked herself in a blacked-out bedroom, emerging three weeks later with this spooked, synth-centric pixiepop. This LP announces the arrival of a thrilling talent with a unique vision.
Frank Ocean Channel Orange The debut LP from Ocean, a member of LA hip-hop collective Odd Future, surprised us with its lush, oddly timeless pop hooks, soldered to R&B beats in songs that expressed a ruminative, emotional vulnerability that’s rare in the genre. A truly dazzling debut.
Leila U & I An electronic genius who collaborated with Björk on three albums, Leila’s fourth solo venture (in a 14-year career) defies categorisation, overwriting the electro template with chopped-and-screwed bangers and jackbooted stomps, but also darkly groovy synth noisescapes and something best described as Gregorian ghost house.
NZCA/Lines NZCA/Lines British multi-instrumentalist Michael Lovett melds R&B and retro-futuristic synth-pop, while singing stories about UFOs and formatting hard drives in stirring falsetto harmonies. Supreme nerdiness married to a press-repeat groove. NZCA/Lines is exacting, soulful, and highly imaginative.
Squarepusher Ufabulum Having indulged almost every instrumental whim over the past ten years, Squarepusher aka Brit musician Tom Jenkinson – drops his first exclusively electronic long-player in a decade, an onslaught of dubstep-ish bass frequencies, melancholic synths and dystopian dance textures from one of music’s most imaginative extremists.
Simian Mobile Disco Unpatterns For their third release, SMD pull off the difficult trick of reviving recent(-ish) dance history without indulging in craven retroism. It’s a blissed-out, brilliantly buoyant reimagining of the UK’s summer of love and an astute take on rave. The destination, though, is house – hard, deep or piano – but always sweet house.
Spoek Mathambo Father Creeper With his second LP, South African, Sub Pop-signed ‘post-hip-hop poster boy’ Mathambo retains his electro/hip-hop core, while moving with a sharp-edged modernism that embraces house, synth pop, drone/ambient electronica, high-life, Zulu guitar styles, and even funk-metal. The sound of a maverick re-marking his distinctive territory.
The xx Coexist After their fantastic, 2010 Mercury-winning debut, producer Jamie xx went all post-dubstep and remixed an album with Gill Scott Heron, and we had no idea what to expect next. Almost surprisingly, Coexist is more of the same; wispy R&B vocals and lonely lyrics over floaty arrangements and gritty beats. Isolation never sounded so good.
Rocket Juice and the Moon Rocket Juice and the Moon It sounds too good to be true: legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen, Blur frontman and Gorillaz founder Damon Albarn, and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bass showoff Flea, all on the same record. Recorded in three weeks, it’s a loose affair, with Flea’s melodically rich bass-playing and Allen’s twitchy funk drumming the undoubted scene-stealers here.