Albums Of The Year 2015
If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from putting together this year’s lists, it’s that your feelings towards a record can change dramatically once you’ve allowed it time to settle.
In 2015 there were unescapable albums with big budget PR campaigns that have failed to leave a lasting impact, and there were overlooked releases which have slowly revealed themselves to be low-key classics. We’ve compiled 100 full length releases. Some of them achieved great commercial success, some of them remained defiantly underground – but those factors have been mostly irrelevant in our decision-making. Instead, the criteria here is that these are records our staff, contributors and readers are passionate about.
Miley CyrusMiley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz Smiley Miley Inc
For those unsure where they stand on Miley Cyrus – at one point she’s campaigning for LGBTQ rights, the other making a fool of herself regarding issues of discrimination in the industry – this was another curveball to contend with. Stoned anti-pop from the periphery, her low-key collaboration with Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips was a sprawling 92-minute stretch of faraway vocals and soft psychedelics. It was undeniably self-indulgent and occasionally cringeworthy, but it marked a stylistic break from a massive star that was both surprising, and surprisingly enjoyable.
Chain of FlowersSelf-Titled Alter
Cardiff rabble-rousers Chain of Flowers’ self-titled debut was a clamorous, euphoric shout to the wind. Across just eight tracks it takes in dreamy shoegaze, screeching noise, urgent post-punk and – perhaps most importantly – the buzz-sawing intensity of gothic rock. Chain Of Flowers, which was released on experimental producer Helm’s Alter label, is violent and soothing in equal measures. A truly gloomy record for truly gloomy times.
William BasinskiCascade Temporary Residence
A mesmerising release from the New York-based, avant-garde composer William Basinski. Cascade was compromised of little more than a delicate minor key piano loop that echoes continuously for around 40 minutes. The form was extremely simple, but within that loop, Cascade offered an enormous space for emotional exploration.
Carter TuttiCarter Tutti Plays Chris & Cosey CTI / Cargo
Since renaming themselves Carter Tutti, Chris & Cosey’s shows were so good that demands for a live album prompted the duo to head back to the studio. Revisiting their old material, tracks like Driving Blind, Obsession, and Workout all went under the knife for this album, with sleek new production lending a spiritual intensity. Tutti’s vocals soar throughout, emerging from depths unknown to deliver feel-good lines like “Lay me down on a bed of sin / Lashing, writhing, tasting, dying”. Enormous fun.
Micachu & The ShapesGood Bad Happy Sad Rough Trade
Mica Levi revels in playful noise but her latest record with The Shapes was a more subdued affair than usual. Levi’s seemingly rasped voice trills and echoes around off-kilter drums and trembling melodies on Good Sad Happy Bad, the band’s most introspective and sorrowful record to date. With tracks like Oh Baby and Sea Air that mourn personal tragedies in a drunken gallop, Good Sad Happy Bad was a guttural document of honest, half-cut misery.
ChildbirthWomen's Rights Suicide Squeeze
Childbirth are the Seattle supergroup that went viral last year with I Only Fucked You As a Joke, an indie-punk slice bemoaning a bout of deeply regrettable sex. Thankfully, the band donned their matching hospital gowns and sense of humour here, too. “I’ll let you explain feminism to me,” Tech Bro reasons, “if I can use your HD TV”. Did we mention its back-to-back earworms, full of fuzz riffs, and shout-along moments? Ladies, raise your glasses of chardonnay.
Kurt VileB'Lieve I'm Goin' Down Matador
It’d be easy to peg Kurt Vile as a slacker but let’s face it, he’s far from lazy. Alongside six EPs, this was his fifth album in seven years, marking a new, focused Vile. It was a striking progression in songwriting that left him sitting pretty on top of a big pile of would-be rivals. Vile’s brand of poppy Americana has come a long way from his more subdued, hazy lo-fi roots and B’Lieve… was a more upbeat and polished album than any he has released before.
Joey AndersonInvisible Switch Dekmantel
Invisible Switch is a fitting name for a record that feels like it’s constantly reaching for some elusive element that might shift things into anomalous territory. More often than not, Anderson grasps it. The follow up to last year’s swirling After Forever, here the New Jersey staple infused his loose house and techno rhythms with a dark, enchanting energy, exploring murky, cave-like atmospheres and shimmering, sub-aquatic sounds – all under his signature hypnotic spell.
Speedy OrtizFoil Deer Carpark
After four excellent records ranging from orthodox lo-fi to comparatively polished alt-rock, Speed Ortiz had paid their dues. Foil Deer, their second full length, saw the band lock down their sound into something uniquely their own, yet fluid and changeable. A knot of duelling guitar riffs and background noise that, once untangled, is as strong as many of the oft-deemed untouchable records of their 90s forebears.
TRAAMSModern Dancing FatCat
TRAAMS’ second LP, the krauty-indie-post-punk of Modern Dancing, was another addition to the gamut of outstanding sound being filtered through the walls of Leeds’ Suburban Home Studio. It managed to reach both out and in, with the shadowier side of the human condition put under the microscope repeatedly but at the end of the album it was the dance that won. An achingly honest antidote to modern angst.