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.
Majical CloudzAre You Alone? Matador
There’s something brave about Majical Cloudz. With gorgeous instrumentals built of warm organ tones, light orchestral flourishes, a minimal drum presence and very little else, Are You Alone? saw Devon Welsh more exposed than ever. Such raw emotion made for uncomfortable group listening – Welsh’s aim was not to sound “cool” here – but with Are You Alone?, Majical Cloudz gave us a record to turn to during quiet moments of reflection.
FatherWho's Gonna Get Fucked First? Awful Records
The flagship release among Awful Records’ prolific 2015 output. The album painted a picture of a nocturnal universe in which Father – the label’s appointed leader – reigns supreme without having to lift a finger, with his nonchalant persona lounging across a selection of sleazy, minimal beats. With a lack of pretension, a dark sense of humour and – some would argue – a sex-positive attitude among all the hedonism, it’s no wonder that Who’s Gonna Get Fucked First? lured many new listeners into Awful’s world.
DrinksHermits on Holiday Heavenly Records
When’s the last time you listened to psychedelic rock that was genuinely witty? Cate Le Bon’s collaboration with White Fence’s Tim Presley felt effortless. All the perfect silences and crescendos we saw in Le Bon’s smartly sparse Mug Museum shone on the messily polished nature of Hermits On Holiday – her flawless internal metronome also giving it spot-on comedy timing. So much to love on this album.
To deconstruct moulds, to reassess stylistic arcs, or to pervert from what is deemed ‘the norm’ can leave many artists exposed. Yet, for Visionist, his debut LP not only dismantled perceptions of form but reassembled them in his own austere image. Safe separated Visionist from context, forcibly confronting his struggle with anxiety while also taking a form of music making and pillaging it to a state of malformation. With Safe, Visionist transformed himself from grime’s acquaintance to its spiritual stranger.
ABRARose Awful Records
ROSE arrived on Awful Records right in the midst of the label’s prolific spell of releases. With soul and RnB at its heart, the Darkwave Duchess navigated through wispy nostalgic house, 90s drum sounds and brittle production to raise the bar of the imprint’s output. This was resonant, lo-fi RnB to be heard under the solitary glow of your laptop screen.
Bell WitchFour Phantoms Profound Lore
With their second full-length, Seattle doom duo Bell Witch conjured the year’s most overwhelmingly physical racket; a vast noise which at its most crushing feels misanthropically brutal, while at other points lending itself to hymnal reverie. This duality is Four Phantoms’ strength, echoing the collapsing landscape which adorns its cover. All things – serenity, humanity, life and death – are shunted into the ether by the raw significance of nature’s will. Bow down.
Mac DeMarcoAnother One Captured Tracks
It’s hard to imagine Mac DeMarco feeling blue, but something was up with Mac on Another One. This was a Mac DeMarco break-up album. His syrupy guitar riffs wobbled more than ever, bending and stretching under his gentle vocals – a beautifully burned-out ode to a romance slipping out of reach. While there weren’t as many earworms as in his previous work, Mac proved hopelessly endearing, even with a broken heart.
Trust FundSeems Unfair Turnstile
Bristol’s Trust Fund put out two records in 2015 and we really didn’t want to pick a favourite. It’s just not in our nature. That said, Seems Unfair, which dropped in November, saw the band evolve into a more well-rounded prospect. The album was recorded by Hookworms’ MJ in his Leeds studio, each song comes equipped with a chorus that will linger with you for days and it’s packing more hooks than a fisherman’s bait box.
MglaExercises in Futility Northern Heritage / No Solace
Polish black metal is a law unto itself, and Mgla have become its standard bearers. The despondent, triumphant, remarkable Exercises in Futility may boast the tremelo picking, blastbeats and wretched roars which signify the BM canon, but in capturing the essence of what makes all metal thrilling – extremity, catharsis, ambition, technical brilliance – it transcends the genre restrictions which can often make that world seem prescriptive and severe. By achieving a zenith of the band’s exhaustive formula, Mgla have crafted one of the most addictive and individual albums that heavy fucking metal – of any specification – has seen in years.
St GermainSt Germain Warner Music Group
After Ludovic Navarre released the multi-platinum album Tourist in 2000, his fusion of jazz, house and downtempo strains gave him reverence among many. The guitar signatures that defined Tourist returned 15 years later on this self-titled effort, which featured a rounded palette of music hugely informed by the African country of Mali. While musically acknowledging his previous success, it was an immaculately produced slice of modern African rhythm music.