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.
Girl BandHolding Hands With Jamie Rough Trade
Considering the fact that the Dublin natives spent most of last year making a name for themselves with ferociously energetic live shows, the concern about their debut LP, when it did arrive, is that it wouldn’t quite channel the visceral vigour that has made them such an enthralling live prospect. We needn’t have worried. Holding Hands with Jamie plays like a wholesale translation of the version of the band we’ve seen up on stage, with the fizz retained and some neat subtleties and nuanced weaved in throughout. A hellishly noisy odyssey in vicious rock and roll.
Nick HöppnerFolk Ostgut Ton
Höppner’s inextricable connection to Berghain/Panorama Bar felt integral to this release, considering he used to manage Ostgut Ton and has been a mainstay on their dance floors since the beginning. Folk married a pensive outlook with lightness of touch that gives the record real warmth. Even the punchier numbers, such as the amusingly titled Rising Overheads (you can tell he used to be a label boss), still hugged rather than hurt you. The maximalism achieved on Folk owes as much to the swirling, heady progressive sounds of the 90s as anything else, brought right up to date by a man who knows the world’s most progressive dancefloor inside out.
EEK FEAT. ISLAM CHIPSYKahraba Nashazphone
Undoubtedly the most unlikely and radical genre to emerge in recent years, Electro Chaabi burst out of the streets of Cairo, combining traditional North African Chaabi music with electronic sounds and contemporary western influences. At its forefront are EEK and Islam Chipsy, whose sprawling, ecstatic freeform music sounds like legions of short-circuiting N64s and stampedes of crazed antelopes trying to dance to footwork. Spread out over just four lengthy tracks, Kahraba is wildly exhilarating from start to finish.
JAM CITYDream A Garden Night Slugs
It’s 2015, and Jam City feels suffocated by the world. While his era-defining debut album Classical Curves was a reconfiguration of the avant-garde club space, Dream A Garden saw Jack Latham abandon its chrome-plated, gleeful hyperventilation with a collection of tracks that felt like a deep, long sigh. But among guitar leads and soft chords, Latham’s vocals about love and life emerged distorted, warbled, lost. Latham took us all by surprise by releasing a record that sounded more Blood Orange than Bok Bok. But its bloated, longing pop was another essential effort.
CONTAINERLP Spectrum Spools
Technoise poster-boy Ren Schofield’s refusal to fuck with the formula saw him deliver yet another collection of lunatic dance music. Opener Eject let you know exactly what was up within seconds – a wail of piercing feedback, immediately crushed beneath a barrage of hyper-saturated, breakneck tempo drums. It carried on in this vein, the soundtrack to a man bulldozing his way through Berghain in a flaming JCB. Good work Ren, more nutter vibes in 2016 please.
DrakeIf You’re Reading This It’s Too Late Cash Money / Young Money / OVO Sound
Some saw it as a stage school grad embarrassingly pretending to be a tough-guy, others saw it as the coming of age of rap’s keenest budding heavyweight. The debate is all part of the experience. Icy instrumentals, instantly iconic hooks and a guided tour of the 6. Despite its subdued tone, this mixtape packed more anthems than most artists manage to score during their entire career. The perfect setup for the album Drake needs to drop to make his status last forever.
LITURGYThe Ark Work Thrill Jockey
To deliberate over the polemic integrity of The Ark Work’s (mis)representation of black metal is to ignore Liturgy’s diffusion of influences. The quartet’s press release referred to their third studio album as a ‘cross-fertilising of hardstyle beats, occult-oriented rap and glitches resampling of IDM’. Really, The Ark Work – when compared to Liturgy’s back-catalogue – was their most challenging, acerbic and comical record to date. If Burzum covered Art of Noise’s In Visible Silence it would sound slightly like this.
FUTUREDirty Sprite 2 Epic / Free Bandz
Having freed himself of the major-label excesses that dragged down his 2014 album Honest, Future turned in his most focused and troubled work to date. The syrupy concoction was outlined in the LP’s title, with every stage of the binge being played out. Future celebrated his new single life with a bruised, exhausted delivery – on one bar he’s flexing about sex in Gucci flip flops, two lines later there’s promethazine in his urine. Like the countless dichotomies and contradictions of Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III, the demons of DS2’s maker are what made it so totally enthralling. A sprawling hedonism that left Future gasping for breath but never quite drowning.
ONEOTHRIX POINT NEVERGarden of Delete Warp Records
Daniel Lopatin’s playful PR push was essential in understanding Garden Of Delete’s sonic content. It was non-music promoted by non-characters with downloadable MIDI easter eggs woven into a web domain supporting a non-band. In full, Garden of Delete was something of a machine malfunction. It was an anomaly in the code. A gremlin in the hardware. No Good, Sticky Drama and I Bite Through It all teetered on lunacy. Everything overdosed from vocoder sampling and caustic Kronos machine manipulation. There was no context. No reference. Take what you will from it. If James Joyce composed auditory landscapes, they would sound like Garden of Delete.
VINCE STAPLESSummertime ’06 ARTium / Def Jam
Alongside his close comrade Earl Sweatshirt, Vince Staples has marked himself out as one of the brightest, most distinctive alumni of the Odd Future microcosm. A sharp and hard-nosed lyricist, Staples makes steely-eyed observations about the world around him, with striking realism, honesty and grit. Combined with an ear for driving beats and daring production choices, these qualities made Summertime ’06 a double album that justified its 72 minute runtime.