Jet Jaguar – Grounded (Datadoor Records)
Michael Upton, aka Jet Jaguar, has been releasing music since the 90s, and with this his fifth longplayer, continues to explore the ins and outs of chilled electronica. Always dreamy, yet also slightly awkward, Jet Jaguar’s music blends found sound, blissful pads, and intricate drum programming, into something that’s almost folksy. Beautifully constructed yet constantly demanding of your attention, Grounded exists outside any current trends, refusing to follow the pack yet somehow timelessly elegant. It’s inspiring stuff from a producer who won’t ever break into the big time, but is surely one of New Zealand’s finest producers of the last two decades.
Felix the Thyrd – 808s and Heartstrings (Self Released)
Clearly influenced by Kanye West, Auckland-based Zimbabwean-born Felix the Thyrd has concentrated on the amazing music, not the douchebag behind it. Although this new EP uses trap as its rhythmic backing, it is thankfully a lot deeper than most club servings of the genre, and for the most parts shows a young man expressing life in a sincere and often humorous way. Not afraid to broaden his musical scope, Felix’s songwriting is certainly a strength, alongside his precise production. 808s and Heartstrings showcases an act that can likely break through into the international market.
The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic)
Often quoted as the millennials version of Bruce Springsteen, there’s no doubting that The War on Drugs music has an element of classic blue collar rock to it, the richly observed lyrics holding a potent realism, the backing sophisticated and lush. Yet unlike much of the 80s Americana the band are often compared to, Adam Granduciel’s group have that modern production edge, and with this fourth album have produced arguably this most complete work yet. Far less lonely and introspective than their previous output, A Deeper Understanding suggests that chief songwriter Granduciel is more comfortable with his talents than ever, delivering an album that’s the equal of the legends his band are too often compared with.