Kendrick Lamar – Damn (Interscope/Top Dawg Entertainment)
Damn. That’s pretty much it. Stop right there. What else can you really say? In the tide of mediocrity and cynical posturing common to contemporary rap, Kendrick Lamar has become the genre’s shining light. Savvy and spectacular based purely on his talents as an MC, he’s also an incredibly gifted storyteller, which comes to the fore on this quite exceptional fourth studio album. Success and failure are the main themes here, often linked through Lamar’s semi-autobiographical narratives. An easier listen than To Pimp a Butterfly, it’s also a record you’re likely to listen to more. A truly bold statement, from the impeccably crafted beats to the introspectively exemplary raps, you kind of just go – “damn!”
Teeth – Teeth (Slow Boat Records)
Wellington’s music scene has always thrown up jam bands that kind of read like alternative supergroups on paper. Teeth, comprising Lukasz Buda and Tom Callwood (The Phoenix Foundation), David Long (Mutton Birds) and legendary drummer Anthony Donaldson, have developed a reputation as a formidable live act, and here in their self-titled studio debut, show they can shape those expansive improvisations into a tight set of enjoyable songs. Part Krautrock, surprisingly melodic and always a little tongue in cheek, Teeth’s music is full of colour, rhythmically compulsive, and well worth your attention.
Arca – Arca (XL)
This self-titled third studio album from London-based Venezuelan producer Arca is not so much an absolute departure from his status as much-hyped enfant terrible of noise, as much as it is a required plot point in his career. The impressively harsh sound collages of his previous work still remain, yet here for the first time we hear swathes of warmth, pop reduced to its barebones, powerful music that reveals a softer touch. For a producer who has written music for Kanye, FKA twigs, Björk, and Kelela, this shouldn’t really come as a huge surprise. But somehow this impressive record signals a major step forward, another chapter in Arca’s ongoing development.