New year, new me. This is going to be my year. Oh, sorry, you already claimed it? Never mind then, I'll wait until the next one comes along, and hopefully I'll be quicker off the mark. Big changes are afoot for the 405, friends, but you can rely on me to stubbornly refuse to change. Unless this is your most hated feature, in which case, I'll continue to obnoxiously fuel your hate-reading.

I may remain, yet music has changed irrevocably – the Goblin King Jareth Weird King of Pop, Mr David Bowie, has finally returned from a decade-long holiday (in space) with a new song. It's alright, innit? Whilst everyone's been fannying about with that, though, some of the best new albums of the year – yes, already! – have snuck past them. Luckily I was keeping an eye out and managed to pounce on them, wrestle them to the ground, and present them to you here. Bon appétit!

Jean Grae – Things I Found Under My Bed (Bandcamp)

Amidst the infrequently disappointing and under-done beef between Azelia Banks and Angel Haze, it's a good time to be reminded of talented, hard-working and justifiably seething New York rappers. Like Jean Grae, whose rarities collection Things I Found Under My Bed is her eighth album in as many calendar years. Her style is aggressive and lyrical, the production hints at the crackly vinyl samples of early Wu Tang – but with more interest in the grindhouse soundtracks of blaxploitation than kung-fu – both exemplified by the boastful, hook-heavy title track. Other highlights include the pounding 'What The Hell' and tinny, nostalgic 'The Setup' – a good way of catching up with her career before this year's two “proper” releases, Gotham Down and Cake or Death.

Yo La Tengo – Fade (Pitchfork)

Shamefully, I know very little of Yo La Tengo, other than their contributions to the Adventureland soundtrack, and the fact that their name is Spanish for "You've been Tangoed". And a quick Google shows me that I'm wrong on the latter (it actually means "I Have It"), so, really, I don't know squat. So excuse the opinion of a rookie, who isn't familiar with their other twelve (!) albums, but this is pretty lovely. It's certainly the sort of impeccable-sounding record only a band that know each other really well can make – the harmonies are gorgeous, the fuzzy guitars slot together well with some beautiful finger picking, the rhythms are odd and expertly played, and it never outstays it's welcome. It's also elegiac in a way a hip young gun slinger can only read about in books. Or, er, hear here.

Free Energy – Love Sign (Consequence of Sound)

"If it’s going to be big and dumb, it should be the biggest and dumbest it ever could be," is how Free Energy frontman Paul Sprangers introduces his band's second album. It doesn't sound like the most noble of artistic pursuits but, let me say this – fuck art. These songs revel in that most uncool (despite – because of? – Glee's best efforts) of genres: eighties stadium rock. The lyrics are uncomplicated, and full of big statements. There are more guitar solos than necessary. There is, if anything, too much cowbell. There's hints of Boston, Journey, and Bachman–Turner Overdrive. There's a lot of Toto-style "woah-oh-ing". It's brilliant.

Spectres – Nothing To Nowhere (Bandcamp)

Sometimes I like to imagine, dear reader, that we've built up something of a relationship during the course of my writing this feature. We've shared some laughs, we've shed some tears, and you've – hopefully – gained some understanding of the sort of music I listen to. So, you should know "death rock" isn't a genre I'm particularly familiar with. Anyway, that's the music Spectres play, and as far as I can make out it's a bit like the less dancey Joy Division tracks, with the ghost of Martin Hannett tweaking every drum sound, guitars that always have at least two FX pedals blocking their route into the recording desk, and some tuneless vocals echoing down the dark corridor of Nothing To Nowhere. It's not half bad.

Pantha du Prince & the Bell Laboratory – Elements of Light (The Guardian)

Easily the best album to be released this year centred around a three-tonne instrument made up of 50 bronze bells – until Björk catches wind of it, anyway – Elements of Light is EDM producer Henrik Webber confounds expectations (that's the phrase they always use, innit) by following up Pantha du Prince's last album of minimal techno with an album of minimal...well, bells. With occasional, even more minimal, techno interludes (bassy beats and synths). Webber provides the tech, and the composing; guess what the Bell Laboratory provide. 'Particle' strikes the balance between the bell carillon and the dance music just right.

J Dilla – Donuts (Box Set) (Pitchfork)

The second taste of Pitchfork's "ground breaking" new streaming service (it er, lets you look at a big picture of the artwork – that's the only new feature I've noticed so far) is an album which isn't actually new on two main counts. Firstly, the guy who made it died of a heart attack six years ago; secondly, this album – though posthumous – has already been released. The cult of J Dilla was bubbling when he was still walking the earth but it practically exploded upon his death, and Donuts became his masterpiece. Stones Throw have re-released the record a lavish box set of 7”s, with bonus tracks – a highlight being MF Doom and Ghostface Killah rapping over a Dilla beat – as if we needed an excuse to return to it. A "rap album without rappers", Donuts surpasses any other instrumental hip-hop record in that the absence of any rhymes isn't particularly noticeable; partly due to the brevity of the 30+ tracks, but also because they're so joyously inventive and catchy on their own, they don't need anything else.