This year’s 56th Annual Grammy Awards followed the standard award show model, complete with predictable wins and unexpected upsets. Like any award show, there were winners and there were losers. Though these albums didn’t nab a coveted golden gramophone, they are definitely worth a listen.
Nomination Category: Best Dance/Electronica Album
Standout Track: “White Noise” (feat. AlunaGeorge)
Disclosure, an English duo comprised of two brothers, made waves with their first studio album “Settle.” The album, with its infectiously energetic rhythms and cleverly manipulated vocals, is the true epitome of a dance album. The album is clearly influenced by 90’s house music, as demonstrated by tracks such as “When a Fire Starts to Burn” and “Defeated No More.” Other tracks, including “Latch” and “You & Me,” pair soulful vocals with synth beats, creating a kind of nouveau electronic R&B.
“Settle” also features several brilliant collaborations. Aluna Francis, one half of the duo AlunaGeorge, lends her unique, silvery voice to “White Noise,” while London Grammar’s lead vocalist Hannah Reid’s smooth, operatic vocals can be heard on “Help Me Lose My Mind.” A fun and innovative album, “Settle” is sure to make the feet of even the most uptight stiff tap with enjoyment.
“Lonerism,” Tame Impala
Nomination Category: Best Alternative Music Album
Standout Track: “Apocalypse Dreams”
Despite being unmistakably alternative, Tame Impala’s “Lonerism” has broad appeal. The album is the auditory equivalent of a summer stroll on a California boardwalk. It has a distinct sound, reminiscent of 60’s psychedelic rock, complete with fuzzy synth effects and guitar twangs. Lead vocalist, Kevin Parker’s echoing vocals are light and slightly plaintive.
“Lonerism” is a bold album as it features a considerable amount of musical experimentation. Interesting and unusual musical elements can be heard in tracks like “Keep On Lying,” which incorporates an eerie recording of laughter that is gradually manipulated into unintelligible, otherworldly sounds. Further down the track list is “Elephant,” which lays spooky electronic sound effects over a heavy and menacing bass. The album concludes in true experimental psych-rock fashion with “Sun’s Coming Up.” The track opens with a haunting vaudevillian waltz and halfway through morphs into a kaleidoscopic amalgam of sounds. Daring and inventive, “Lonerism” is the result of one band’s willingness to push musical boundaries.
“Paradise,” Lana Del Rey
Nomination Category: Best Pop Vocal Album
Standout Track: “Cola”
Indie-pop sweetheart, Lana Del Rey’s impressive EP “Paradise” is a cinematic collection of forceful tracks. Despite the debate surrounding her authenticity and image, it’s hard to deny her vocal talent. With her expressive lyrics and retro sound, Del Rey sends listeners into a dark and forbidden Disneyesque wonderland.
Themes of mid-20th century American melancholia and pop culture are present on this album, contributing its moody, vintage quality. Weightier songs, including “Burning Desire” and “Body Electric,” reflect the overall solemn tone of the album. Del Rey reveals her vocal range on tracks such as “American,” “Yayo,” and “Bel Air,” occasionally deviating from her signature smoky vocals to a delicate falsetto. Her voice, paired with sinister yet beautiful melodies, blend to create a phantasmagoria of both mystery and wonder. “Paradise” is imaginative and stirring and is certainly not one to be missed.
“El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco,” Café Tacvba
Nomination Category: Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album
Standout Track: “Espuma”
One could describe Mexican alternative rock band, Café Tacvba’s latest studio album as a type of musical quilt; its songs each have their own distinctive sound but come together to form one cohesive album. The band uses a wide range of musical effects and draws inspiration from various cultures and genres. Listeners can hear the delightfully breezy sound of the West-African balafon on “Espuma.” The rock ballad “Zopilotes,” which appears later in the album, features heartfelt vocals and powerful background percussion.
Listeners will appreciate the energy of “El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco.” The album has no set sound; instead, it uses a range of instruments, sound effects, and vocal tones to create an exciting array of musical tracks. As a result, the album has a little bit of something for everyone.