For their eight album, Jamiroquai frontman Jay Kay had revealed that he wanted to share his thoughts on the current state of our human existence in an increasingly technological world, namely the loss of our ability to interact face-to-face in favor of interactions over the internet. But he also finds time on the new record to sing about his love for women, the night life, his daughter, and himself. Highlights include Automaton, Cloud 9, Superfresh, Hot Property, and We Can Do It.
Linkin Park - One More Light
From the moment I'd heard the lead single, I could tell that the new Linkin Park album, One More Light, was going to spark a lot of outrage. In their attempt to craft a wholly pop album, they'd left fans of their heavier material disappointed. I was one of those fans, and I admit that I was quick to dismiss the effort as selling out. But given a few more listens, the record began to grow on me and some real gems started to materialize. Highlights include Heavy, Good Goodbye, and Sharp Edges.
Nothing More - The Stories We Tell Ourselves
What does it take to craft a solid rock album? Deep, reflective subject matter? Check. Choruses that are singalong worthy and larger than life? Check. A degree of musical showmanship that leaves "nothing more" to be desired? Check. By all accounts, it would appear that The Stories We Tell Ourselves has got all the essential ingredients. But it is ultimately Nothing More's love for their craft that shines through. Highlights include Don't Stop, Funny Little Creatures, Go To War, Tunnels, and Fade In/Fade Out.
Paramore - After Laughter
After Laughter was Paramore's long-awaited follow-up to their 2013 self titled release. The new record was a sort of homage to the music of the 80s, leaving behind the punk rock and emo trappings of prior albums. None of the old edge was lost though, with Hailey Williams sounding her most vulnerable as she shared her experiences with love and heartache. Highlights include Told You So, 26, Pool, Grudges, Caught in the Middle, Idle Worship, and No Friend.
Lorde - Melodrama
Another album that was highly anticipated this past year was Lorde's Melodrama. And as far as follow-up albums go, the album managed to beat the dreaded sophomore slump by taking everything that worked on Pure Heroine, like its minimalist production for example, and turning it on its head. The result is an album that is undoubtedly more commercial, but one that still manages to retain Lorde's signature sound. Highlights include Homemade Dynamite, The Lourve, and Hard Feelings/Loveless.
Katy Perry - Witness
Creepy album covers aside, Katy Perry is one artist that hardly disappoints when it comes to the quality of her studio albums. Her ability to churn out radio-friendly fare like clockwork exemplifies everything fans love about her brand of pop music. Witness is an album filled with said radio-friendly fare. Highlights include Chained to the Rhythm, Roulette, Bon Appétit, Déjà Vu, and Swish Swish.
Kesha - Rainbow
For her third album, Rainbow, Kesha ditches her go-to subject matter of unrestrained, excessive partying for themes of forgiveness and female empowerment. Similarly, she also expands her sonic repertoire beyond the electropop with which she'd found fame, incorporating glam rock, neo soul, and most notably country music into the fold. And in so doing, she exhibits the kind of maturity that few pop artists can claim to have made after just three albums. Highlights include Let 'Em Talk, Finding You, and Boots.
Papa Roach - Crooked Teeth
This past year, I rediscovered my love for Papa Roach and their nu metal sound of old. But ever since their 2004 album, Getting Away with Murder, the band had opted to drop that sound in favor of a more modern hard rock sound. Crooked Teeth serves as a sort of middle ground between both eras of the band, catering to the needs of both fans of the old and new. Highlights include Periscope, Help, and Sunrise Trailer Park.
Taylor Swift - reputation
For her previous record, Taylor Swift had drawn inspiration from the decade of her birth. This time around, that inspiration comes from her superstar status, or reputation as the album is named. The album builds upon the synthpop of her 1989 album, and introduces some more contemporary flavors into the mix, as she further distances herself from her country roots. Highlights include ...Ready For It, End Game, Getaway Car, and Dancing with our Hands Tied.
Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
No year-end albums list would be complete without the inclusion of Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. Revered by critics for managing to surpass the highs already established by good kid, m.A.A.d city and To Pimp A Butterfly, the album finds Mr. Duckworth once again at the top of his rap game. A definite forerunner for Album of the Year at next year's Grammys. Highlights include DNA, LOYALTY, HUMBLE, LOVE, and XXX.
And the winner is...
Nothing More - The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Very few bands today are able to craft a record as diverse and yet cohesive as Nothing More's The Stories We Tell Ourselves. The album takes listeners on a journey, one that feels just as personal as it feels all-encompassing. We can just as easily relate to Jonny Hawkin's call for change in "Do You Really Want It?" as we can with his father's words in the beautiful album closer, "Fade In/Fade Out." The fact that the record starts off on a high note and doesn't seem to lose any steam by its end points to the craftsmanship of a band that is at the top of its game. Whoever said that rock was dead?