Preceded by the unstoppable global hit Uptown Funk, which reached the No 1spot pretty much everywhere, Mark Ronson’s fourth solo effort has a lot to live up to.
Uptown Special features a starstudded cast of musical talent: Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, Andrew Wyatt and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, all coupled surprisingly with the lyricwriting talents of Pulitzer Prizewinning author Michael Chabon.
Ronson has produced an album drowning in funk and soul that sounds like a forgotten classic from the ‘60s, yet could also have just beamed back from the future. It opens with Mr Wonder’s harmonica before New Orleans rapper Mystikal obliterates the loose funk jam of Feel Right, the best song The Godfather of Soul never released.
The aforementioned Bruno Mars single derives its brassy funk groove from Ray Parker Jnr, and you’d be forgiven for congratulating soul diva Chaka Khan on her vocal performance on the fruity 1980s dance track I Can’t Lose, but that would be newcomer Keyone Starr.
I doubt you’ll find a brighter, funkier DJ mix party album released all year.
Reaching the pinnacle of his popularity in the early noughties with the haunting ballad Strange and Beautiful, followed by the Coldplay-esque single Brighter Than Sunshine three years later in 2005, English singer songwriter Matt Hales has been busy composing for other artists this past decade.
He's returning with 10 Futures, his first album since retiring in 2010 to focus on producing. And the piano and falsetto of Seventeens, a meditation on loss and longing backed by a gently pulsating synth, reminds us exactly what we've been missing all these years.
The album starts in fine form with the light dubstep loop of Tape 2 Tape before Lianne La Havas adds sultry vocals and guitar to the delicate electronic soul of Eggshells - Hales singing about metaphorical eggshells to the rhythm of Another One Bites The Dust. Clean is awash with melancholy, a tender prayer for new beginnings with a sorrowful cello from Sweet Billy Pilgrim, while New Low could have been written by Hot Chip or LCD Soundsystem. Hales sounds reinvigorated on a diverse album that is both strange and beautiful.
One Little Indian
Rush-released due to an online leak, Vulnicura is an obvious documentation of the demise and aftermath of Bjork's relationship with her long-term partner, American sculptor and avant-garde filmaker filmmaker Matthew Barney. But as the title suggests (Latin for "cure for wounds"), the emotional narrative of this introspective darkness is at first despair, followed by anguish and heartbreak and finally a rebirth of hope. This is Bjork's album of personal transformation.
Stonemilker opens with sorrowful strings over electronic percussive beats as Bjork's vocals begin to cut: "What is it that I have/ That makes me feel your pain/ Like milking a stone/ To get you to say it". The sparseness of the music only emphasises the raw vocals.
By the third track, History of Touches, the electronic synths feel as bleak as the crumbling relationship. Black Lake is the album's operatic centrepiece, the fragile strings and ice cold beats only adding further torment to the love being torn away. It's profoundly sad and beautifully mesmerising. Music doesn't get any more human and sincere than this.