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.
Courtney BarnettSometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit…
After spending a few years flirting with the idea of a breakthrough, Melbourne’s Courtney Barnett burst into 2015 in a big way. The brilliantly observant lyrics and wickedly catchy hooks on her debut album struck a chord with pretty much anyone who came in to contact with them. Venues were sold out up and down the country, records were snapped up and the world was introduced to their new favourite anti-rock star. Long live Courtney Barnett.
The InternetEgo Death Odd Future / Columbia
Of all the side projects and solo careers which spawned from Odd Future, no one would have predicted that The Internet would go on to sustain itself the best. Ego Death saw the jazzy neo-soul outfit raise the threshold of their sun-kissed, Eryka Badu-inspired sound. Recorded mainly over a three-week period in Syd tha Kyd’s basement, Ego Death felt like a real moment of realisation. Inhabiting a zone of simple instrumentation, clean production and honey-coloured late-night melodies, The Internet found a lane of their own.
WaxahatcheeIvy Tripp Wichita
From the first thrill of Ivy Tripp’s keyboard drone opening all the way through to its fuzzed-out conclusion, it was clear that Waxahatchee’s third LP represented a distinct step forward for Katie Crutchfield. More detailed instrumentation and grander themes may have made this a vaguer listen than Cerulean Salt, but Crutchfield left just enough room for your own imagination to run free, making this an equally affecting listen. Heart-thawing, raw, emotionally intelligent – this appealed to anyone who has felt anything, ever.
Sleaford ModsKey Markets Harbinger Sound
Nottingham no-fi punk-rap duo Sleaford Mods have charted a clear progression over the past eight years. But Key Markets felt different: a statement, a marker. This was an album about desolation and small town dejection; the raging has quieted, the hopelessness is implicit. But more than ever, it feels like every single word had its place in a carefully-aligned landscape. Key Markets was a heavy and hard listen – not Sleaford Mods’ most explosive or explicit document, but it might have been their most affecting.
Jessica PrattOn Your Own Love Again Drag City
Recorded in various California bedrooms on a 4-Track, On Your Own Love Again is an album that captures the feeling of being uprooted and adrift. 27-year-old San Francisco native Jessica Pratt does this with an uncommon level of emotional intelligence and objectivity, using just an acoustic guitar and her idiosyncratic voice to create a sound that is unpolished, wistful and alluring.
Blanck MassDumb Flesh Sacred Bones
Exuding the intensity of Fuck Buttons at their most visceral, John Power’s sophomore Blanck Mass LP was an electronic noise album that pointed at the dance floor. Epitomised by the insane dynamism of standout track Cruel Sport, there resided a positivity, or at least a human focus on the record, with the warped vocal sampling that references the album’s title pivotal among the driving melodies and layers upon layers of noise.
Levon VincentSelf Titled Novel Sound
Levon Vincent’s self-titled debut album allowed the dark undercurrents of his sound to roam free. Unhinged and imperfect, it diverted his gaze from the dancefloor and laid his sound bare. Cut through with a strangely affecting emotional energy and unflinching in its artistry, Levon Vincent was full of unexpected turns and wayward floating synths, at once introspective and confrontational, industrial and unearthly. Levon Vincent was for the “ugly duckling of the world”, and it summoned beauty from its strange features.
Jenny HvalApocalypse Girl Sacred Bones
Apocalypse, girl opened with a quote from the Danish poet Mette Moestrup. One of Scandinavia’s most important contemporary writers, Moestrup struck a chord with readers for her provocative, mischievous poetry about the female body. In this respect, she draws many parallels with Hval, whose fifth solo record was a trip. Its woozy mesh of ideas spiralled from childhood dreams to post-feminism via Armageddon, her unrestrained vocal delivery ranging from lush, nondescript tones to hilariously lucid imagery. Confounding, yes, but thrillingly satisfying nonetheless.
Kahn, Commodo + GantzVolume 1 Deep Medi
There’s this cursive revolution of responsibility meditating in the bass heavy stems of Volume 1. These three producers – Kahn, Commodo and Gantz – each regarded as doyens in their own sonic field, take it upon themselves to circulate in unanimity. Mala’s Deep Medi Musik label has been the home of prototypical bar setters for up to a decade with Kahn, Commodo and Gantz as frequent contributors to the directory. Now collaboratively, they become a singular instrument. A constantly whirling incubus of aural taunting. Separately, they overshadow their contemporaries. Together, they overshadow themselves.
Beach HouseDepression Cherry Sub Pop / Bella Union
On Depression Cherry, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally narrowed their field of vision slightly but increased their sense of focus. Where 2012’s Bloom was a widescreen, lush suite of songs, each effectively acting as a movement within a greater whole, Depression Cherry saw the two opt for sophisticated electronic minimalism and individual song craft. It was a record that felt at once colder but more intimate, and while there was ultimately a pervasive sense of melancholia to all of it that tempers any elation, nobody would have it any other way. Once again, Beach House made sadness sound endlessly alluring.