Best albums of November
If you managed to keep yourself from prematurely putting Christmas albums on repeat this month, you might have noticed November was littered with album releases to get excited about. American Music Award winner Eminem released his 10th album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, which featured considerably more shouting than other albums.
Lady Gaga forced pop into a new era with her release of ARTPOP,and The Suburbs offered up the stunning album Si Sauvage. All are more than notable and worthy contenders for the top albums of November, and I recommend you spend some time listening to them. But, if you had to only listen to three of November's musical offerings, I recommend these:
Jake Bugg - Shangri La
The 19-year-old folk singer struck back after his 2012 chart-topping success. New album Shangri La gives us a tougher sound - think farmers in leather jackets and spiked boots. "All Your Reasons" is arguably the best track on the album. It resonates a grungy, country rock sound that seems nothing but natural when it's expelled from Bugg's vocal chords.
It seems to be the sound that Bugg should hold onto with boy hands and run with throughout the album, if only as minor undercurrents in complementary songs. Unfortunately, sometimes the tracks stray a little too far from the album's musical linear and the focus is lost.
The album, however, cannot be faulted for its animate storytelling ability. "A Song About Love" is one of those tracks that encourages goosebumps to raise on your arms as Bugg's haunting chorus plays. The lyrics of the tracks are exposing of Bugg's emotional connection with his music, the places it has led him and a continuing development of sound, character and experience.
One Direction - Midnight Memories
This one might seem surprising. After all, One Direction is internationally renowned for its tween fan base and integrated stereotypical pop sound. But the band's new album release, Midnight Memories,got people excited for reasons beyond Niall's new haircut and Harry's new tattoo - it shows an exciting and necessary musical shift for the boys.
Overall, the album falls into the category of pop rock. Heavy drum beats and loud electric guitar riffs are huge focal points, especially in the rockier tracks like "Midnight Memories" and "Little Black Dress." Not a group to let an album grow boring, One Direction is striking while the iron is hot and showcasing the newfound maturity of band members' voices with ballads such as "Half A Heart."
On top of this mature, richer sound, One Direction's pop influence is not lost - which is vital. The album is still incredibly fun. The upbeat, fast-tempo and chorus focus in tracks like "Strong" and "Better Than Words" showcase the progression of the boys' music, without straying too far from their norm.
It seems the band has stepped away from the industry's incessantly reproduced and manufactured pop sound. The boys of One Direction are growing up and, thankfully, so is their music.
Grizzly Bear - Shields: Expanded
Grizzly Bear is a band that relishes the authenticity of background noise. The critically acclaimed 2012 album Shields proved that to us. But now, Shields has been extended with a further eight tracks to complement the original calculated and unpredictable arrangements.
"Everyone I Know," one of the new demos, is an emotive, guitar-driven track. It's great and distinctively poignant but disappointingly short-lived as a track.
The song that makes this album stand alone as an album that deserves its "extended" title is the final remix, "Gun-Shy." It's a step or two away from Grizzly Bear's usual impassioned sound and the original recording of the track. But Edward Droste's vocals that punch in halfway through the remix make it utterly recognizable. The combination of strong vocals, jaunty piano and glittery synths make it something exceptional.
Shields: Expanded shows us what a "special edition" album really should be. It isn't forced or unoriginal. It's nostalgic without being a boring remake. It's refreshing and rightfully unapologetic in its assurance.