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.
Ty Dolla $ignFree TC Taylor Gang / Pu$haz Ink / Atlantic
Dedicated to his incarcerated younger brother – who features on the album through endearing phone conversations from behind bars – Free TC dropped after a number of delays while Ty spent a total of three years getting it right. The result was well worth the wait – club-rattling hooks like Blasé and Saved mixed up with traditional soul, cinematic production and world-class RnB songwriting.
Paranoid LondonParanoid London Paranoid London Records
This one caused a stir after its release late December 2014 despite a handful of tracks – including club favourite Paris Dub – having circulated for years. Since their 2007 debut, the duo established themselves as modern acid kings, and while their staunchly DIY approach and attempted low profile seemed like a genuine affliction to press, it only fuelled their enigma. The comprehensive Paranoid London’s musky, intoxicating club tracks – freaky acid dolloped with dirt and some seriously inspired vocals – was a masterclass in satisfying sleaze.
Godspeed You! Black EmperorAsunder, Sweet and Other Distress Constellation Records
Godspeed have such a distinctive trademark on post-rock and sonic landscaping that each release is scrutinised to the point of maniacal parody. The band’s fifth studio album was in no way immune to the rule. Observably the record is one of their shortest and is the first to feature new material since their 2010 reformation. None of this hinders the sheer grandeur Godspeed conjure here. There is an assurance to these four songs that the band are far from resting on their laurels. Instead, they are finally becoming what they were destined to be; a war field of sonic enormity.
KrillA Distant Fist Unclenching Exploding in Sound / Double Double Whammy
A Distant Fist Unclenching is the last LP from the recently split Krill, but oh, what a goodbye this is. They’ve always been introspective: this is a lobotomy. They’ve always been self-deprecating: this is self-evisceration. They’ve always been intense: this is opaque. Professionals at making the macrocosm the microcosm, its grandest moments are also its funniest. Krill may now be gone, but they’re never forgotten, and to borrow the lyrics of their best known song, for us it’s “Krill forever, and ever, and ever, and ever…”
Sicko MobbSuper Saiyan Vol.2 Self-released
With a sound that often replicates the feeling of pure elation, Chicago bop was often framed as the optimistic flip side to the nihilistic and violent rhetoric of the city’s drill rappers when it emerged a couple of years back. The sub-genre’s leaders Sicko Mobb returned this year with Super Saiyan Vol.2, delivering a whirlpool of autotuned gargles and bubble gum synths that, even if set to a calmer pace that its predecessor, felt like it was stuck on fast-forward. Arguably the most addictive mixtape of 2015.
Helena HauffDiscreet Desires Werkdiscs / Ninjatune
Helena Hauff, in her first full-length release, produced an album of throbbing, three-dimensional electro that hummed and buzzed with a dark and decadent energy. Hauff’s sets have become widely revered for extending and enhancing a long line of electronic experimentation, and Discreet Desires expertly transposed the dark matter of her DJ sets into an intense and impressive debut album.
Viet CongViet Cong Jagjaguwar
What an entry. Emerging from the ashes of the criminally under-appreciated Calgary noise-rock outfit Women, Viet Cong took no prisoners in crafting this punishing, abrasive opening snort to a career. As guitars unfolded from glittering tickles to cavalcades of gnarling fuzz, it pulled you in, sent you into a tailspin and spit you back out again, leaving you wondering what day of the week it was. At only seven tracks, Viet Cong didn’t waver in quality from its discordant opening swagger to its discordant closing hum. An unerringly confident debut.
HelenThe Original Faces Kranky
The Original Faces is an album that demands constant revisits. On first listen you could be forgiven for thinking you were hearing the sound of three separate bands thrashing it out in one studio. On closer inspection this shambolic collision of genres, textures and tempos just adds to the dreamlike, reverb drenched charm of the record. Grouper’s Liz Harris has fashioned a record of overwhelming beauty that hides itself subtly beneath a healthy smattering of chaotic discord.
Earl SweatshirtI Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside Columbia / Tan Cressida
Rather than joining his once-partner Tyler on a technicolour voyage toward multi-platform supremacy, Earl tiptoed back into his monochrome lock-up and quietly slid this record past the threshold from underneath the door. Written and recorded during a dark, but ultimately therapeutic bout of hedonism, it was the sheer commitment to this feeling of sunless despondency which made the record such a singular rap release, with lyrically dextrous laments to millennial stardom set to an unswervingly lo-fi aesthetic that had to be admired.
PrurientFrozen Niagara Falls Profound Lore
The tedium of normality is totally futile for Prurient’s Dominick Fernow. The latest in an intricate riddle of releases, Frozen Niagara Falls saw him nihilistically embracing the pointlessness of making a record. Yet despite his lack of restraint, there was something wholly cumulative about the album; a double LP of deeply catastrophic pain and anxiety. The noise Fernow forges is both rapturous and poetically fretful; like someone screaming ‘I love you’ until their eardrums rupture. Frozen Niagara Falls was a true testament to his violently thorough career trajectory.