Sunday, 20 December 2015

Best albums of 2015

Hello everyone!

Last week I posted my top 30 songs of 2015 (a lot of which I now regret, placement-wise...oops). So now, as promised, here is my top 30 albums of 2015. Like with the songs list, I opted to only do write-ups for the top 10. 

I've also included a playlist of the standout tracks from each featured record, located below the list:

30. Eskimeaux - O.K. 
29. Doldrums - The Air Conditioned Nightmare
28. Kamasi Washington - The Epic
27. Hop Along - Painted Shut
26. Florence + The Machine - How Big How Blue How Beautiful 
25. Adele - 25 (ha)
24. Chvrches - Every Open Eye
23. Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
22. Trembling Bells - The Sovereign Self
21. Sean Nicholas Savage - Other Death
20. The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness
19. Lower Dens - Escape From Evil
18. Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp
17. Georgia - Georgia
16. Gwenno - Y Dydd Olaf
15. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
14. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
13. Baroness - Purple
12. Nadine Shah - Fast Food
11. Chelsea Wolfe - Abyss

10. Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass

Usually albums with awkward release dates (i.e. the very start or very end of the year) are very easily overlooked by the end of the release year. But with the self-titled debut from Natalie Prass, this was far from the case. Instead, this record sent Natalie’s talent into public domain, gracing Later…with Jools Holland and iTunes' best of 2015 feature among others. This success is remarkable for such a…well…pretty and delicate album. That's not to say this record doesn't have bite, but sonically there is a certain Disney-like quality, especially on the closer. Since 2012 this album had been sitting with Matthew E. White's Spacebomb label, who cruelly kept it under wraps in order to promote the latter's 2012 breakthrough record Big Inner, and rightfully so, that album was a masterpiece in its own right. And even though White also dropped an album this year year, 2015 was Prass' time to shine. With such an accomplished debut, is see no reason why whatever she releases in the future won't be even better; I'm expecting even more big things from this rising chanteuse.

Standout track - My Baby Don't Understand Me

9. Holly Herndon - Platform

The range of sounds and styles Holly Herndon experiments with on Platform are what make it such an exciting and engaging listen. Over the course of 10 tracks she explores elements of new-age, break-beat, techno, glitch-hop, choral pop, trip-hop, avante garde, house and even ASMR. There are easily accessible and almost anthemic moments to be found on tracks like 'An Exit' and 'Morning Sun' as well as bizarre left-turns on tracks like 'Lonely at the Top'. Some of her experiments are more successful than others, but overall this is an essential listen for anyone seeking to sonically explore the digital age we currently live in from a perspective which is both critical and celebratory. 

Standout track - Chorus

8. Joanna Newsom – Divers

There is no doubt that Joanna Newsom is one of the greatest songwriters of our time. I didn't even need her to release another masterpiece to prove this, but she darn-well did it anyway. At 11 tracks, Divers is her first attempt at a conventional album structure since her debut, the charming and highly nostalgic, The Milk-Eyed Mender. As ever, the songs of Divers are hearty, rich and beautiful, with Newsom's incredible lyrics remaining the focal point. Aside from the traditional wistful ballads, Divers also offers big pop moments in the form of 'Sapokanikan' and 'Leaving the City'. The fact that the opening track and closer link together lyrically is yet another stunning detail. 

Standout track - Goose Eggs

7. Oneohtrix Point Never - Garden of Delete

I tried to avoid placing albums released so late in the year this high but I can't help but give this album the love it deserves. Even if there is an element of recency bias, I'm sure this record will still hold up in a year's time. I can confidently say that I've enjoyed all of Daniel Lopatin's albums thus far, but Garden of Delete is on a whole new level. Far more urgent than anything he's produced thus far, this record pulsates and crushes throughout its exhilarating 45-minute-and-16-second run time. As well as the record flows, 'Ezra' is definitely the standout moment, hence why it also made my tracks of the year list.

Standout track - Ezra

6. Empress Of - Me

Those of you who follow me on twitter will know that I was (and still am) completely and utterly slain by this album. With the sheer volume of pop music that is being churned out at the moment it is easy to get swallowed up, but Lorely Rodriguez stands out from the crowd and fully asserts her presence with this record. Her production is absolutely on point throughout. This album encompasses the best things about pop in a beautiful package; it's crisp, catchy, funky, modern, emotive, passionate and, above all, it's really fun. And I'll tell you something else, Empress Of has no time for filler whatsoever. All ten tracks are killer, but 'How Do You Do It' and 'Make Up' are the standouts. 

Standout track - How Do you Do It

5. Carly Rae Jepsen - EMOTION

Like I mentioned in the tracks of the year write-up, I really didn't expect to enjoy this album as much as I did. 'Call Me Maybe' was once everyone's guilty pleasure, but 3 years later the 'guilt' has evolved into pure joy - 44 minutes of it to be exact. EMOTION has single-handedly redefined 'all killer, no filler'; from start to finish this album is 80's-tinged perfection and is packed with hooks and melodic flair. There is no clear standout because every track becomes your favourite at one point or another, but the opener 'Run Away With Me' is a very special moment indeed.

Standout track - Run Away With Me

4. Jamie xx - In Colour

In Colour, though composed of a mixture of pre-released material (Girl, Sleep Sound), club bangers (Gosh, Good Times) as well as a handful of tracks which could just as easily been featured on a new xx record (Seesaw, Stranger in a Room, Loud Places), works immaculately as one cohesive body of work. Despite its many standouts, one can't help but listen to the LP in its entirety, that's the only way one can appreciate the triumph that this record is. Also, the fact that 'Colour' was spelled the correct way brought it up the list by at least 2 spots. 

Standout track - Gosh

3. Jaakko Eino Kaveli - Jaakko Eino Kaveli

What is so remarkable about Jaakko Eino Kalevi is that there aren’t actually that many standout tracks in the traditional sense (besides the three singles), yet every track plays a vital roll in pulling the listener into the surreal dream-pop universe created by this synth-pop troubadour. Whether it be the icy synths of the unofficial theme tune 'JEK' or the jazzy outro of the closing track, there are plenty of astonishing artistic achievements scattered across this excellent record. This is undoubtedly one of the best debuts of the year and one that simply must grace your summer playlist in 2016.

Standout track - Hush Down

2. Grimes - Art Angels

As is the case with Garden Of Delete, there is a possibility of recency bias at play here. Regardless, this album is a fricking masterpiece. Over a year ago now I wrote about how much I was anticipating the follow up to Visions, but little did I know that it would be this good. Like Carly Rae Jepsen, Clair Boucher kills it with every single track, even the Taiwanese rap-dominated 'SCREAM'. Not only is the music outstanding, the packaging is also incredible, allowing me to stare at it as I blast it. My only concern now is how Grimes could possibly top this? But then again, I said the same thing last time and look how that turned out...

Standout track - Flesh Without Blood

1. Julia Holter - Have You In My Wilderness

I knew this record would be amazing from the moment it was announced, this belief was strengthened by the gleaming reviews that began to spring up all over social media. Now that it's finally out, I can confirm that it is in fact…well…incredible. Now, 'amazing' has been over-used to the point where all meaning is now practically void, it's almost a bit tacky and redundant. So instead I'm gonna go with 'awe-inspiring' instead. 

Julia first caught my attention with 2013's slow-burning Loud City Song, which opened me up to the weird and wonderful world of avante garde, from which I haven't turned back. But enough about the past, now is the time to appreciate this absolute beauty of an album. From the opening 'Feel You' and it's gorgeous refrain to the ethereal and left-field closer, this record is consistently bold, elegant and majestic in a classic way, but the clarity and purity of these tracks makes them extremely modern and fresh at the same time. This is my album of the year and it will take a lot to change my mind. 

Standout track - Feel You

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