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.
Dr DreCompton Aftermath Entertainment
Having felt a sudden rush of inspiration when the principle photography for the Straight Outta Compton biopic began, Dr. Dre scrapped Detox entirely, forfeiting the end-goal of radio play for a rawer, more experimental project. If you were to think of Compton as a movie – and it’s a record that insisted you recognise its cinematic qualities – then it was a post-modern work. With its grand love-letter-to-Compton theme, and break from the nonchalant bravado of Dre’s former persona, Compton was an intense – and often ugly – record, yet one full of exhilarating theatrics.
Jeffrey Lewis & Los BoltsManhattan Rough Trade
Jeffrey Lewis is on his twenty-somethingth release and he’s only getting better. While Manhattan dwelled on what he does best (deeply personal, clever and funny songwriting delivered in his signature croak), it also threw curveballs just when you thought he’d got complacent (field recordings and an eight-minute long opus about a romantic walk gone awry only add to the beautifully executed atmosphere). Gorgeous, moving and thought provoking – it’s only to be expected of a master of unassuming genius.
Julio BashmoreKnockin' Boots Broadwalk
With this selection of shimmering pop, Bashmore tried to break away from the hit machine and forge something timeless. There were few true peak moments, yet you could imagine a number of these found their way into every club and festival across the country, good and bad. There have been plenty of copycat attempts over the years, but Knockin’ Boots bore Bashmore’s indelible mark: tracks that make you all warm and fuzzy, on and off the dancefloor.
The unspoken mission statement for Battles is finding the perfect equilibrium between man and machine, and La Di Da Di soundtracked the power trio expanding upon their campaign to level the balance between analogue and digital. Gloss Drop, their 2011 breakthrough, was a feature heavy assemblage of forward marching analogue manipulation. La Di Da Di was vocal free, allowing instruments to collaborate on their own accord, leaving us dubious of whether it’s Battles whom wield their own equipment or if the equipment controls them.
Gangsta BooCandy, Diamonds & Pills Self-released
Gangsta Boo’s 2013 mixtape return was summoned by the underground popularity of Raider Klan – a young group mimicking the gothic lo-fidelity of 90s Memphis rap. But since their dissolution, Boo has gone from strength-to-strength. With hard-hitting production from regular collaborator Beat King, Candy, Diamonds & Pills saw Boo swat away the Three 6 Mafia gossip and flaunt her raunchy energy with strength and authority.
TinkWinter's Diary 3 Self-released
For an entry-level artist, Tink’s accolades are seriously impressive, the prodigous artist drawing comparisons to Lauryn Hill and Nicki Minaj. Yet it was around the time of Winter’s Diary 3 that people finally started giving the Chicago MC the attention she deserved for so long. An unforgiving storyteller with a venomous flow and a taste for the finest beats on the market. All eyes on Tink for 2016.
SpectresDying Sonic Cathedral
Bristol aggravators Spectres made a record that thematically left very little to the imagination, but sonically pushed these topics into your face with a superb degree of precision. Claustrophobia, alcoholism, death and other such themes were pored over with intelligence but also backed by a musical palette that owed debts to industrial, noise and even early 90s shoe gaze pioneers.
Tyler, The CreatorCherry Bomb Odd Future / Sony RED
While there have been plenty of criticisms levelled at Tyler during the last five years, it’s never been easy to deny the power of his vivid imagination. With modest resources, the early days saw the teenage prodigy build an artistic universe where gritty, lo-fi menace juxtaposed with summery, spaced-out synths and horrific imagery clashed with childish aesthetics. Cherry Bomb was an upscaled version of his formula, with both sides of his dual personality pushed to the extreme.
Mumdance & LogosProto Tectonic Recordings
Proto had a preoccupation with the concept of the future, with many of the 10 tracks making heavy reference to points in the history of UK dance music where time really did appear to slip out of joint. There was some excellent club weaponry here, carrying an unflinching, hyper-modern energy and an ice-cold grimey swagger. While the future-focused theme betrayed insecurity about the challenges modern producers face when it comes to staying fresh, Proto was a potent collaboration of two of the UK’s most exciting producers.
Anthony NaplesBody Pill Text
There was something irresistible about this record. With a running time under the half hour mark, you could easily fire through it on a hungover commute – ideal because this was one for the headphones. Naples peppered his first LP with numerous styles and diversions – heartbroken synth-pop, colourful distortion and rich strings that launch the listener above the clouds. Once over, you couldn’t help but feel the floor had fallen out from under you. A refreshing understatement.