The Year In Ethereal Space Queens And Floating R&B Acid Trips
I like music that transports me to a floating cloud full of champagne and freshly fluffed pillows. There’s a specific musical dysphoria in dreamy music when it manages to balance finely-tuned skill with a commitment to atmospheric lyricism. I like voices that can sit hard on the ground and cut into you with their ferocity, but choose to fly to the top of the glass kaleidoscopes they echo inside of.
This is why I find myself consistently seeking out a certain ethereal female aesthetic in music, the high-voices and the dreamy echoes that feel both comforting and artful are compatible with almost any mood or emotional state I find myself in, and I am not unique in this — there is a consistent cultural draw towards hypnotic and distinctly feminine voices.
With this in mind, I have compiled ten albums of 2015 that I feel beautifully and distinctly continued this tradition, in no particular order.
1. FKA Twigs, M3LL155X
FKA Twigs has rightfully become a full-blown icon of milky-way R&B dreambabe music that has the power to make you feel like you’ve been both seduced and proselytized by a femme ghost. She continues to deliver the magic in her latest 18 minute album M3LL155x, which sounds like an aural trip inside a waterfall haunted by sirens, aliens, and breathable sensuality.
2. Joanna Newsom -Divers
Joanna Newsom could have the voice of a pile of rocks and would still be considered ethereal by merit of her masterful harp-playing and penchant for velvet dresses. Luckily for her, Andy Samberg, and the music world at large, her voice matches the rest of her ouevre with the ability to pull you into it’s circles of flight like a hot-air balloon of vocal swells. Divers will make you feel like you’ve gone on vacation inside a piece of finely shined glass, beautiful, reflective, and at points delicate.
3. Jenny Hval, Apocalypse Girl
Norwegian born artist Jenny Hval blurs the already grey lines of personal reflection and political statement in Apocalypse Girl, a hypnagogic lullaby of sorts — which weaves her lovely voice and spacious instrumentals in with fits of lyrical passion. Addressing everything from self-care to the state of socialism, Hval’s lyrics feel like a melting pot of convictions gently presented to listeners in a hot pool of sound.
4. Lolawolf, Every Fuckin’ Day
Flirting heavy with double-tracking vocals, Lolawolf’s new five song release is a punchy delight in genre fusing, that manages to marry pop vocal styling with bright trap beats and a constant return to vocal echoes which makes you feel like you’ve gone on a Magic School Bus journey inside a constellation of starry blunts. Lolawolf is an artist who truly knows how to leverage the range of her sound ways that feel simultaneously spacious and compact.
5. Grimes, Art Angels
Grimes’ latest release sounds like it was conceived while she was coming down from MDMA on a beach while in the middle of a Nabokov book, which for me feels like a good look for her. The creator of her own soprano world of melancholy took a poppier turn with bangers like “Kill Vs Maim”, putting out an artfully dysphoric combination of bright and lovely sounds mashing on violence.
6. Made In Heights, Without My Enemy What Would I Do
The second collaboration between Blue Scholars hip-hop producer Sabzi and elegant vocalist Kelsey Bulkin shows itself to be a brilliant album where minimalism meets meticulous lyricism. Matching clean beats with Bulkin’s high and light voice, the catchy melancholy of this album feels like a morbid forest scene was copied out of nature, and pasted back into the echoes of a production room.
7. Nadine Shah, Fast Food
Nadine Shah’s voice has a soulful strength that manages to layer lyrics about romantic loss and mental health struggles in heavy coats of well-measured air. The album Fast Food feels like Shah intimately leading you to the back of a rock venue, where she proceeds to open the ceiling and exhibit her voice’s ability to easily fuse the melodic vocal stylings of rock, jazz, and singer-songwriter.
8. Zola Jesus, Nail
The goth veteran of fusing electronic soundbites and instruments into melancholic musical poems released a three track single this year that starts out sounding like a prayer and ends sounding more like a cunning nightmare. Zola’s simultaneously wistful and commandingly lovely voice successfully flirts with the spaces and flexibility of industrial and nearly operatic themes in this short release.
9. Class Actress, Movies
Listening to Movies feels like swimming in a pool of dilluted elements of 80s pop music strung back together in lighter ways. Less about the individual punches than the full journey, Class Actress is a mixed drink that manages to be neither too sweet nor too strong, just enough energy and subtlety to keep you sipping.
10. Little Simz, A Curious Tale Of Trials + Persons
English rapper Little Simz has curated a world of enchanted instrumentals and clean beats that serve as ideal backing for her detailed poetics. Mashing comforting piano scales with gentle violin samples and light beats, the album focuses on the echoes and chants of her both heavy and empathic lyrics.
If you personally feel there is a female-led dreamy album of 2015 I completely missed, feel free to add in the comments, I want to listen to them all!