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.
Lana Del ReyHoneymoon Interscope
For all her untouchable Beverly Hills grandeur, Lana knows everyone needs to shut the curtains for a moody, self-indulgent mope sometimes. Honeymoon was peak Lana Del Rey – long drawls drowning in their own drama as they spin gothic tales of love, loss, and getting high by the beach in California. The album may have had its misfires but its blur of dream and reality still had you hooked – like a suitably addictive love affair.
Max RichterFrom Sleep Deutsche Grammophon
There can’t be many artists whose output piques the interest of both Gramophone and Crack readers alike. Ever since the neo-classical melancholia of second solo effort The Blue Notebooks back in 2004, Max Richter has operated within a kind of Venn diagram space between alternative popular music and the avant-garde. Yet the vast majority of the composition SLEEP was unlikely to reach many: the full work lasted eight hours. Helpfully Richter also released From SLEEP, a seven-song, hour-long sampler. Sure enough, these were lush, glacially-paced movements that continually glided in and out of focus, like fragments of half-remembered dreams.
Tess Parks & Anton NewcombeI Declare Nothing A Recordings
The first collaboration between the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe and Canadian psych mainstay Tess Parks was one of the year’s most surprising treats. The duo married Newcombe’s looping, hypnotic psychedelic soundscapes with Parks’ gravelly, despairing vocals. Standout track Friendlies is a prime example of their interplay put to best fit as Parks meanders through stoned melodies and Newcombe rolls out exotic strings and droning melancholy. A refreshingly focused offering.
Built To SpillUntethered Moon Warner
Doug Martsch has been doing Built To Spill since 1992. Seemingly in possession of a superhuman talent for writing kick ass rock songs he has been releasing albums steadily ever since, rarely giving a second thought to his tried-and-tested formula. Untethered Moon is an exception. The band’s first album since 2009 was more than just another Built To Spill record, delving deeper into Martsch’s own ideas about his band and emerging triumphant with a rare, self-deprecating kind of confidence.
Four TetMorning / Evening Text
There was something profoundly cyclical about Morning/Evening, Four Tet’s eighth studio album. Citing an inherited collection of his late grandfather’s Hindu devotional records as its underpinning influence, Morning Side explored the sounds that shaped his childhood and his heritage – most strikingly through the poignant vocal sample from the 1983 Bollywood film Souten – while gently thumping outro to Evening Side pulsated with the house rhythms explored through his present, drawing you out of the rushing everyday into somewhere far more serene.
OughtSun Coming Down Constellation
It’d be easy to dismiss Ought as just another bunch of smartarse art school kids from North America who make off-kilter rock music. However, there’s something about their particular brand of slightly smarmy, intellectual indie that’s managed to keep us interested. Sun Coming Down was always going to be Ought’s difficult second album but luckily they’ve retained a trembling, paranoid undertone that somehow sums up millennial angst with aplomb.
KehlaniYou Should Be Here Self released
At just 19, Kehlani struck the perfect balance between youthfulness and conviction on her second mixtape. Managing to sound utterly charming but totally fearless all at the same time, from the victorious warning shots of Runnin’ to the stripped back balladry of The Letter, it’s an identity she sums up in her lyrics, “Oakland girls so damn hood but we’re so damn pretty.”
RomareProjections Ninja Tune
Weight. Charm. Precision. These are three words that spring to mind when trying to describe Romare’s debut. This was a resoundingly thoughtful electronic release from Ninja Tune, where themes such as gay rights and racial discrimination were confronted as the emerging producer took us on a sonic journey. But despite the heaviness of its content, this sounded like pure bliss. On the whole, the album felt like a slow and satisfying stretch into the day, the aural equivalent of a post-coital haze.
Empress OfMe Terrible Records
It feels like there’s always someone somewhere lamenting the apparent decline of the album format. There’s this idea that, due to the attention-deficiency of the online listener, less immediate songs are at risk of being swept away. But such theories should be of no concern to Brooklyn artist Lorely Rodriguez, aka Empress Of, whose debut album Me showcased her expansive production and anthemic hooks, resulting in an LP in which every track could be a single.
Nils FrahmSolo Erased Tapes
In late March the world quietly celebrated ‘Piano Day’. Surprisingly, this event, founded by Nils Frahm, was the first of its kind. Not only did the classical experimentalist encourage the populace to share their personal piano scores online but galvanised our submission by releasing a collection of his own works for free. Solo is the product of a composer leading a generation of embryonic radicals. And instead of lazily basking in his own caricatured sentimentality, Frahm permits Solo’s space composure to carry you towards a state of total tranquility.