Of Monsters and Men's Beneath The Skin
I have a long-established love for OMAM's My Head is an Animal. And Beneath the Skin is better. The album is tighter with its lyrics, and more adventurous with its sound. There's a better balance to their sophomore effort, and more songs that share vocals. Also, all the little references within the lyrics create a unity to the album; it's like reading a well-edited anthology. (There's a sense of structural thought that didn't feel as well-developed on their first album.)
This is the album I've listened to the most this year. The one that I am always pleased to hear. The one that I never skip a track because they're all so great.
Recommended tracks: (All of them) Crystals, Hunger, Empire, I Of The Storm, We Sink.
Zella Day's Kicker
Her album opens with a murder ballad, contains a love song to a Clint Eastwood movie, and ends with a ballad that will steal the breath from your lungs to return it to them. You probably know Mustang Kids (Featuring Baby E) from it being featured prominently in a campaign for MTV's Teen Wolf.
But the truth of what makes Zella Day great, aside from her impressive talent, is that she composes story-songs and tries on different genres. (She has the most of the quintessential Bastille-ness of Bastille that I've found in another artist.) Zella Day is everything. And she's amazing live.
Recommended Tracks: (All of them) Jerome, High, East of Eden, Hypnotic, Compass.
CHVRCHES's Every Eye Open
With the first CHVRCHES album, I had about three favourite tracks that I could listen to forever... but I never felt compelled to listen to the album as a whole. It worked as one, but it wasn't an album for me at the time. When I got Every Eye Open, I was delighted by how it shimmers and glows. It may have been the right album, right time. However, it's one of those albums meant to be listened to in its entirety.
If OMAM's Beneath the Skin is an anthology, CHVRCHES's Every Eye Open is a novel. It's constructed and deliberate, and it will leave you feeling immensely satisfied. And it'll do all this without ever including a guitar solo.
Recommended tracks: (All of them) Leave a Trace, Make Them Gold, Empty Threat, Bury It, Get Away.
Florence + The Machine's How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
In the latest—and aptly titled album—Florence Welch and crew have created a soaring, big sound that reverberates with varied emotions. There's an expansive quality to the album, maybe best exemplified in the title track or Various Storms & Saints. It sounds distinctly like Florence + The Machine without sounding exactly like Ceremonials.
Recommended Tracks (all of them): Ship to Wreck, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, Queen of Peace, Various Storms & Saints, St. Jude, Third Eye.
Carly Rae Jepsen's E*MO*TION
This album gets this year's Fine, Twitter, You Were Right About Taylor Swift's 1989 mention. As well-engineered 80's inspired synthpop, Jepsen's album is designed to listen to again and again—while walking, grocery shopping, driving, or whatever. It's not as structurally rewarding as CHVRCHES, but E*MO*TION knows what it is, and it does it well.
Recommended Tracks: Run Away With Me, E*mo*tion, Boy Problems, LA Hallucinations.
Metric's Pagans in Vegas
For this album, Metric does Metric songs but with a more techno sound. New sound, similar stories. While I'm not sold on the final two tracks (The Face Pt I and The Face Pt II), the rest of the album works well enough to make up for it.
Recommended tracks: Lie, Lie, Lie, Fortunes, The Shade, Too Bad So Sad, The Governess.
Oh Wonder (Self-Titled)
Driven by piano and vocals, Oh Wonder gained attention by releasing a song a month on soundcloud. It worked. There was no wondering if you'd enjoy their album, because you heard all of it. By the time it released, you were already a fan of this UK duo and their soulful sound.
Indiepop EP bonus streaming round:
Recommended Tracks: Bleeding Love, Part of Me.
Ji Nilsson's Blue is the Saddest Colour
Recommended Tracks: Nothing, Heartbreak Free, Belong To.
Rationale's Fuel to the Fire
Recommended Tracks: Fast Lane, Fuel to the Fire.
Recommended Tracks: Deep Nights, Over It Now, Lone Black.
Micky Blue's Wild Things
Recommended: The Good The Bad The Ugly, Champagne Reign.