This year, I bought 91 albums. I heard way more than that but those 91 were the ones I chose to invest in, to own.
So, it’s with great sadness that I had to take 51 outside and quietly push them off the cliff of NO REMEMBRANCE.
If an album appears below, it’s a winner. It made the cut. *phew*
40. Blanck Mass – Dumb Flesh
Glorious walls of pulsating, wet, thundering noise.
39. ASC – Imagine the Future
The mantras enfold you, as do the hypnorhythms.
38. Kid Wave – Wonderlust
Far more straight ’80s indie than the shoegaze they’re tagged with, glory in Lea Emmery’s marvellously disdainful crooning.
37. Colder – Many Colours
Slightly, er, warmer than previous Colder, there are still many stark moments of beauty and lovely Frenchitude here.
36. Action Bronson – Mr. Wonderful
I played Brand New Car to a goth mate of mine in the car. She nearly cried. What higher recommendation can I sling your way. Hip hop with not so much a swagger as a burp.
35. Container – LP
Look, you either love Container’s noise or you don’t. If you haven’t heard it, it’s a bit like throwing a load of coins in a clothes dryer and then sticking your head in till you die. Lovely.
34. Fort Romeau – Insides
Deceptively accessible, there’s some lovely fuckery going on in the background of this album. Meandering electronica in the best possible sense of that.
33. Counterparts – Tragedy Will Find Us
Stocked with riffs, breakdowns and the inevitable muttering slightly off-mic, if you like your hardcore spare and raw, buy this.
32. Shunkan – The Pink Noise
Pure, fresh indiepop. But also with slower tracks that drift into proper post-pinkness. Er… post-punkness.
31. Eternal Summers – Gold and Stone
Chiming guitars, floaty vocals… yes! INDIE SUMMER DREAMPOP MAGIC IN A BOTTLE!
30. Bansheebeat – Lumine
Look, no matter what people tag this, I’m NOT gonna call it ‘sputnikcore’ cos that’s silly. What it sounds like is more like the rambling, beautiful game music that comes on the pause screen when you’re out of the room but when you come back it stops. And you never hear it again.
29. Hanne Kolstø – While We Still Have Light
The sound of an assured powerful singer-songwriter finding the perfect arrangements for her work. Just great songs.
28. Infinity Girl – Harm
Yes, more nugaze but I’m not gonna complain if it’s all as catchy, poppy and wonderfully swoony as Infinity Girl. Got to see these live.
27. Goodbye Tomorrow – A Journey Through The Mind Of A Non Believer
First time I heard GT’s ‘Jay Z,’ I knew it’d be a hit. But I had no idea who Goodbye Tomorrow are. I still don’t but, eh, does it matter? Solid hip hop. Mmm…
26. Nai Harvest – Hairball
There’s sooo much energy on this album, it’s a sprawling, gunky mess of a record in all the best ways. Sometimes sounding like Dinosaur Jr., sometimes like someone raised Husker Du on J-pop, it’s an essential pop punk record.
25. Öxxö Xööx – Nämïdäë
One of two albums in this list that features the throbbing, itching brain of Gautier Serre, this record is doom incarnate, planets exploding, a furious whale flying through the sky, hailstones made out of human skulls. Drink it in.
24. A Place to Bury Strangers – Transfixiation
Straining, violent with obvious echoes of both Joy Division and early New Order. But standout track ‘Straight’ shows they have their own, beautifully arrogant thing going on. The energy of this record is perfect at 4am when you’re driving around like a fat, ugly Ryan Gosling.
23. Sannhet – Revisionist
Where Sannhet > Deafheaven and the others in their metalgaze cohort is the ferociousness of the prog elements of what they do. I don’t know how this will, er, progress. At the moment, one has to strain to hear it. Will they go cleaner and progger or noisier and less twiddly. That whole debate is in this album.
22. Reso – Ricochet
A beautiful … what album? DnB? Some bits… Electronica… some bits? Trancey floatiness… yessss…. Hell, there’s some gritty shit going on here too and some absolutely mental manipulation that, a few years ago, only people like Venetian Snares and Igorrr were doing. The genius of this album, the genius of Reso is the sheer musicality of it all. Everything is subsumed by the song, the track. Everything serves the mood. Thus… a great album with it’s own atmosphere absolutely nailed in place.
21. And So I Watch You From Afar – Heirs
When it comes to my twiddly postrock / mathjammms, I’ve always had a soft spot for ASIWYFA. The thing is, they have this sense of pure fucking joy that so few others do. Post rock can be such a dour, beardy, chinrubbing genre. ASIWYFA make it sing like qawwali, they tap into some kind of spiritual shit. On ‘Heirs,’ they can throw off the hyper pop of ‘Fucking Lifer’ and then follow it with ‘A Beacon…’ and it all works. It shouldn’t but it does. They should be ambassadors for their entire fucking genre.
20. Susanne Sundför – Ten Love Songs
The minute I heard ‘Delirious,’ I was hooked. I did wonder why it had the THX intro and then it all made sense: this was the soundtrack to a future cyberpunk version of James Bond. Unashamedly melodramatic from the machine-gun snare fills to the the lyrical allusions to homicidal mayhem.
And ‘Delirious’ is only one of the delicious offerings Sundför offers up, all wrapped in her icy katana of a voice. This album just floats on her voice, soaring over so many desperate ’80s wannabes by being actually better than the ’80s were. Buy this if you love synth opera. She really, really needs to do a cover of ‘Vienna’….
19. Everything Everything – Get To Heaven
The follow up to ‘Arc’ is a much poppier affair overall but it still doesn’t lack EE’s trademark squawks, shrieks and reallyfastbitswhereyou’renotquitesurewhatthey’resingingGIBBONwaitdidhesaygibbon?
That’s the joy of Everything Everything. They are the reincarnation of XTC, coming steaming in with straight-ahead pop (‘Making Plans’ / ‘MY KZ’) and then wandering off into not prog but not pop, a twinkly hinterland where anything goes as long as it’s inventive and poppy.
18. Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space
I usually loathe the ‘spoken samples over beats’ genre as it all seems very lazy and 1990 and haven’t we all done that. But PSB marry their sampling with such sublime and appropriate soundtracks that all is forgiven. This album is an actual soundtrack. If you give it time and space (heh), it will expand around you and you’ll feel like you just watched ‘The Right Stuff.’
Standout track is ‘Yuri Gagarin’ because it’s the kind of soultastic workout that At The Drive In could have kicked out in their prime. I need to dance to this in a club. I probably never will just as I’ll never set foot on the moon.
17. Guilty Simpson – Detroit’s Son
Way, way overlooked which I don’t get at all; this album has such a cinematic feel. Every track is proper, finished, not just a scratchpad of will-this-do trap sounds thrown over whatever (you know what I’m talking about).
But when it comes down to it, don’t judge this record on all that, judge it on the lyrics that cut you, the beats that bump you and the whole aesthetic which is as idgaf as any hardcore band. That’s why I love it.
16. Miaoux Miaoux – School Of Velocity
The best soundtrack for an AU ever: float through cityscapes patrolled by flying cars and disturbed by the occasional mortar blast. Though everything seems so shiny and beautiful and perfect, we know from the lyrics that life isn’t that simple.
It’s this bittersweet groove that Miaoux Miaoux completely, utterly rules on ‘School Of Velocity.’ The crystalline synths combined with the wheezing, fluttering percussion and then the voice riding over it all, indecisive and argumentative; it all works together.
15. Beliefs – Leaper
Unashamed nugaze, a band that formed over love of everything MBV and shimmery, Beliefs have still managed to make a surprising album. Granted, it is shoegaze but it also reaches and explores, sometimes slipping into more Cocteaus, 4AD dream pop territory.
14. Maruta – Remain Dystopian
If, by now, you don’t like grindcore, I doubt this album will change your mind. But if you’re open-minded to all music, think there’s space for all moods and feelings, give this a listen. I think you’ll appreciate the energy. And you’re not gonna get bored since most of the songs are around one minute long.
It’s this compression of time which marks Maruta out for me. In those sixty or so seconds, they cover so much fucking ground. If you took one of these tracks and timestretched it to six minutes, you’d probably have the greatest postrock track ever. The breaks and fills, the guitar riffs, everything is so on point.
When I listen to this album, I feel totally alive afterwards, like I need to go out and punch a bridge or something. It’s lovely.
13. Corpo-Mente – Corpo-Mente
This is the other album touched by Gauiter Serre. Corpo-Mente is, um, electronic operatic metal. I’m sure someone else will come up with a snappier genre tag (they’re certainly not trip-hop!).
This is one of my favourite albums because it is unlike anything I’ve heard in 2015. It’s soundscapes of classical instruments (Benjamin Violet) over which the beautiful voice of Laure Le Prunenec rises and falls, threnodies twisting over the gnarled, dead trees.
Basically, if you loved the alien opera singer in ‘The Fifth Element,’ I think this’ll be right up your alley.
12. Tame Impala – Currents
A restrained erection of an album, ‘Currents’ is all throb, throb, c’mon, c’mon. Seeing where Parker started off, in psych territory, it’s bewildering to find him so masterful in this neosoul landscape. Yet, he is.
Standout track, ‘Cause I’m A Man’ is humpingly slow and wonderfully, wobblingly obese. That bassline could suffocate you. And those creamy synths… oh my! It’s a way more organic funk than that of Daft Punk, more meaty and less cheesy.
It’s also a testament to Parker’s sheer pop skills that he throws away one of the kookiest tracks (‘Disciples’) after a mere 1.48. Every time it finishes, I’m like ‘WHAT?? WHERE’S THE REST, MOTHERFUCKER???’
11. Shinobu – 10 Thermidor
And then skittering in the door come Shinobu, making every old Pavement fan’s eyes moisten and even a few Promise Ring fans well up. And, yes, there’s obviously some Weezer in there too, how could there not be?
But around their influences, they’ve built their own house with their own colours and a pretty cool doormat. The songs they sing are more accessibly personal than Pavement, less sarcastic than Weezer and more remorsefully realistic than The Promise Ring.
It’s like they know all that stuff, they know we know it all too. So, let’s take that shit as read and see where we can go that’s new, that’s now and that is possibly way weirder.
I like that. I’m going with them.
10. Soko – My Dreams Dictate My Reality
I knew zilch about Soko so I had to google her – apparently she is foremost an actress and only started singing while in a film. Well, if this album is by a part-time musician, maybe we need to put some of the people in the charts on three-day-weeks.
Soko’s voice is as versatile as her songwriting and she covers a broad range with both here. ‘Who Wears The Pants?’ is the track I play to other Soko newbies because it’s so defiant, post-punk and in your face. But then you have a song like Monster Love which is just beautiful and quiet and like a lost Cure b-side from 1980.
Speaking of which… It is a very ’80s post-punk / protogoth Cure-ish album. But that’s no bad thing because Soko’s lyrics don’t pretend to be lost in time. She’s now even as she’s then. So we get this wild mix that’s more like Siouxsie and then that’s weird because, of course, Bob worked with her too… argh, ’80s AU manifesting… eject…
BUT WAIT – here’s ‘Keaton’s Song’ where she sounds completely different and like Hello Saferide and utterly vulnerable. Guess we can’t just pigeonhole her neatly after all, eh?
9. Menace Beach – Ratworld
DISCLOSURE – I am biased because the bassist from this band is a mate of mine and I know a couple of the other members. That being said, if I didn’t like the album, I would have left it off the list because I’m horrible like that, ask anyone.
Ratworld is a beefy, sinewy indie album. I wouldn’t call it indie rock but it’s way too alt to be indiepop. It’s in its own little sphere. Even though they sound nothing alike, this album most reminds of McClusky in that it has its own little world and seems quite content to flick Vs at the other kids in bands.
My fave track is ‘Tennis Court’ cos it has all my fave bits in it: stops and starts, disjointed riffery, floaty girl vocals, feedback and a slider bass bit. Yaaay! I’d say start here if you’ve never heard the band before as it’s very accessible.
Then you have the slow burn of ‘Blue Eye’ which is all tender, sparkly build-up and then lovely nasty guitar comes in. It’s all a bit Loop. OR IS IT? (it is)
It’s very hard for me to genre-ise MB because, frankly, they’re all over the shop. There are elements of psych, shoegaze, prog and even post rock going on but it’s all syncretically eclectic, with biscuits, even.
8. Widowspeak – All Yours
So, I bought this album, stuck it on and… from the opening beats of ‘All Yours’ and Molly Hamilton’s vocal arpeggio, I was hooked.
This duo is lush beyond lushness, dreamy isn’t even coming close. Everything on this album from the songs to the reverb tails seems tailored to seduce you into the pillow talk universe of Widowspeak.
Even when the tempo rises, like on ‘Borrowed World,’ the feel is still intimate. This isn’t stadium rock. It’s as shyly tiny as The Cure’s ‘Close To Me.’ I love that Widowspeak have looked at the album as a whole, as a feeling and have made sure that the groove, the dreams carry on from song to song. Bizarrely, this reminds me of the Tame Impala album, not at all for timbres and themes but for the strict preservation of aesthetic.
Obviously, a huge part of this is Molly Hamilton’s effortless vocals. She is languid and lonesome, she is winsome and coquettish. She is wherever the song takes her; the perfect unreliable narrator.
More than anything, Widowspeak have delivered an album of songs that are way more than reverb and effects. These are songs that will be treasured and sung by others, songs to be covered.
7. Soak – Before We Forgot How To Dream
Bridie Monds-Watson has a simply stunning voice and she’s an adept, powerful songwriter too. Not bad at 19 and it’s not like she’s gonna get any worse, is it?
The first thing I heard by Soak was ‘Blud’ and it was one of those moments where a song burns into you. It could be the lyrics, could be the chords – fuck knows what it was. But I do remember having to pull the car over as it had upset me. The good kind of upset where you know you have to think about shit you’ve been running from for months. Maybe years.
So, I was a little apprehensive when I got this album. What if that one song was it? What if the rest were merely okay, without the cruel power of ‘Blud?’ Well, my fears were foolish. ‘Before We Forgot How To Dream’ is a jewel of a debut album. Yes, you have the slow, brooders like ‘Blud’ and ‘B a noBody’ but you also have upbeat, less-introspective tracks like ‘Garden.’
I’m jealous of Monds-Watson’s talents, I’m particularly jealous of her voice. If I look back at the songs I was writing when I was 19… well, I’m glad there isn’t an album of them, put it that way.
I’m looking forward to where she goes from here. She couldn’t have requested a better start.
6. Jakub Zytecki – Wishful Lotus Proof
A huge album! Covering a lot of ground from heavy djent riffing to far more flowing, free jazz forms. Take the track ‘Majin,’ the intro and riff are pure, lovely metal. You need to bang your head, to punch stuff. The energy is all up in your chest and it needs to come out.
Then the very next track, Eywa O.F.F. is clean and sparkling, the notes like cascades of water over the top of a waterfall, both measured and rushing under Zytecki’s expert hands. A lot of people would assume these tracks were from different bands, let alone different albums. But then, around halfway, the heavy solo kicks in and we’re definitely rocking now. This is flowing, unashamed prog. The twists and turns, the cascades and hinted modalities are simply stunning. If I try to listen as a musician, I get overwhelmed, I cannot process it all. But that’s listening and Zytecki is actually playing this mad shit!
If I had to say one track to listen to (which is ridiculous with an album as varied as this), it would be ‘Satya’s Diary.’ The intro sets the scene: dark and moody but then the track proper starts and it opens out, folds back leaves of space. The atmosphere morphs to one that is simultaneously open and airy and dense and scary. The long, sustained keyboard note (not quite ostinato but getting there) contrast with both the guitar and guttural vocals.
This whole album is a fucking rush, it makes me want to make crazy videos for it, full of massive spaceships and suns going supernova. Honestly, if this isn’t the soundtrack album for some mad future space opera, there is no justice!
5. Band Of Gold – Band of Gold
Nina Mortvedt helms this album which is such a curiosity that I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. The songs are classic, catchy, they remind me of the best of The Carpenters or Abba. But then the arrangements and production call to mind Fleetwood Mac or even Al Stewart or sometimes Hall & Oates or Prince and I’m so lost in time(s) that I don’t where now is.
In the end, you have to trust the artist and let go. Just sit back, listen to Mortvedt’s pristine vocals and the similarly magical arrangements weave through the air around you and see if your world doesn’t shine a little more brightly.
There’s only one band this album reminds me of: Komeda. At their height, they could switch as effortlessly between genres and times without sounding forces, just as Band Of Gold do. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t find any metal on here or any drill’n’bass. It’s all very dreamy and wafty and adult and complex without being prog. But the songs themselves are varied and the production seeks to support that but also find some kind of unity throughout.
And it works. It never fails to hook you. At its best, on tracks like ‘Surface Me,’ it surpasses its obvious antecedents and makes something new but still classic.
4. Title Fight – Hyperview
I saw Title Fight live in 2013, they were touring their last album then, Floral Green and I loved it’s Fugazi-esque sound. (In fact, it made my Best Of 2012, look here!)
I was surprised when I first heard Hyperview. Where Floral Green had still been definitely hardcore in its vocals, Hyperview features the most indie-ish vocals they’ve delivered (so far). But you know what? I like it when bands I love change and take chances. And If I had to pick a top nugaze / shoegaze album for 2015, Title Fight would win because they have the songs as well as the trems, flangers and huge sonic cathedrals of sound.
3. Royal Headache – High
These are labelled garage cos they’re Aussies but, over here, they’d go down a fucking storm at Indietracks. Tracks like ‘Another World’ are pure, genius Buzzcocks without being a carbon copy: it’s the energy they have, the rawness.
But more than that, Royal Headache’s singer Shogun knows how to be vulnerable. When he holds back, it’s magical. And then, when he goes for it, the passion is real, the passion is infectious and makes your heart pound.
This is the best indie(pop) record this year and I think it’s a fucking tragedy that more indie fans won’t hear it than will. This record has it all, soul, dreams, dancing, love, heartbreak. What more do you want? What more could you take?
2. L’Orange & Kool Keith – Time? Astonishing!
Time travel is real. How do I know? I have this album, right here in front of me and it’s full of tales of the chasms of time, the betrayals of the seconds by his majesty Kool Keith.
This is a fucking wonderful album.
Producer L’Orange reminds me most of Prince Paul at his De La height. The cuts he picks, the way he sews them up and makes the new, it’s a magic trick, it’s a miracle. Remember when you worked out how many loops made up ‘Eye Know?’ You’ll be doing that with this album, seriously. The ripping snares, those low, low kicks… it’s all so sweet and slow and in the slot. Perfectly.
Then, you have Kool Keith taking all that and being inspired by it, pure just going off on jaunts that are as wild as anything old Dr. Oct did but not so showy, way more assured.
If you’ve only got time to listen to one track, check out ‘Dr. Bipolar.’ It just fucking rocks along on that kick and gated, shitty snare. That tom fill is wrecked but totally fits. Then that cool guitar riff with kooler Keith sliding over it. WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED?
If you’ve ever liked any hip hop ever, just buy this record. You need to. You have to.
1. Andrew Combs – All These Dreams
When it comes down to it, I love pop songs. And that’s why Andrew Combs is the top artist in this chart, because he’s written the best songs I’ve heard in 2015.
What’s the album like? Well, it’s pure country. It’s not alt, it’s not indie, it’s not some hipsters in Brooklyn who’ve put on stetsons and ridiculous drawls and “gone country.” Combs is a kid (he’s only 29, recorded this when he was 27/28, I’m guessing) who’s country through and through, moved to Nashville to pursue his dream of being a proper writer.
Unlike a lot of his generation, his inspiration is classic songwriters, whether that’s Kristofferson or Paul Simon or Guy Clark. The result is an album of songs that are melancholy gems. This is the country that also the blues, it lifts you up by helping you see you’re not alone, not that strange, not as fucked as you think you are.
Here’s the end refrain from ‘Foolin’ :
I do a line have a drink
Tell the world what I think
Keep it fast keep it mean
I don’t mean what I’m saying baby
Somebody save me…
Well, we’ve all been there, haven’t we, even without the coke and JD?
When I listen to this album and Combs assured, soulful delivery I’m reminded of Nilsson and Fred Neil. When I listen to the songs, I’m reminded of Newman and Nesmith. And, sometimes, at his most keening and sorrowful, Combs channels Orbison which I would never say lightly.
This is a singer and songwriter who is already gold and only going to get more golden. And that’s why ‘All These Dreams’ is my top album of 2015.