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.
DJ RICHARDGrind Dial
The White Material boss surprised everyone this September with a set of beautifully subdued house sketches, carefully built to mess with your head. Listening to Grind the whole way through was not dissimilar to navigating a hungover Sunday’s brutal mess of emotions. The sullen drones, syncopated beats and eerie synth-work prompted painful unease, unwarranted optimism and numbing apathy in equal measure.
CHASTITY BELTTime to Go Home Hardly Art
Death, control, and the patriarchal gaze are all engulfed by the misanthropic mist of Chastity Belt’s second album. Trembling with nihilism, boredom, and anger (all quickly played off with dark humour), its inky tide pulls horribly relatable modern observations into its midst: making a joke of the heavy shit, how boring mansplaining is, and using alcohol as a social crutch are just a few motifs. A haunting ode to the fatigue of life in the ‘real world’, and a definite Crack office favourite.
JLINDark Energy Planet Mu
Jlin is from Gary, Indiana; a neighbouring city geographically glued to Chicago. And, for Jlin, this is a crucial association. With Dark Energy, she heralded the robust lineage of Chicago’s inaugural footwork dignitaries, yet her detached origins make her an outsider; revising the genre’s blueprints and embellishing upon its familiar tropes. Fierce and forward-thinking, Dark Energy was one of the most vital footwork records of 2015.
LOWOnes and Sixes Sub Pop
Low’s music smoulders away with steadfast persistence, like embers that are constantly tended to in order to maintain a very specific level of heat. In less skilled hands, their songs would fizzle out or fall flat – it’s the bands nuanced understanding of song craft that imbues their compositions with subtle tension and intensity. Ones and Sixes laid out a bleak wilderness of icy, billowing sounds and reverb-laden, fuzzed guitar as backdrop to Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s haunting vocals. A profoundly moving album.
GRIMESArt Angels 4AD
Making good on all that Visions promised, Art Angels is the indefinable atom-bomb of a full-length that Grimes laboured so lovingly over. Sugar-rushed love songs, murky underground electronic cuts, unrelenting gory interludes with Taiwanese rappers and everything in between all compiled into one miraculously cohesive whole. She journeyed to every corner of her artistic cosmos and created something universal. Playful, explorative, boundary-pushing and gleefully fearless – Art Angels is the sound of tearing through boundaries without even trying.
RAE SREMMURDSremmLife EarDrumers / Interscope
SremmLife – according to Rae Sremmurd’s definition – is a way of life. “If I was to break a rule, I can just say ‘SremmLife’ and it makes it ok… it also means to ride in the front seat.” If you subscribe to this ideology and don’t over-think the duo’s infectious brat rap – you’ll have yourself one of 2015’s most enjoyable records. Immaturity never sounded so good.
JMEIntegrity> Boy Better Know
‘No label, no PR, no publisher…’ so goes JME’s Twitter bio, ‘no meat, no dairy no egg.’ He’s an independent artist who abstains from the spoils of hedonism. A 16-bar grafter, he’s grime’s tireless lifer with the ethical mettle to safeguard the genre’s integrity. Rooted in his Boy Better Know enterprise, he spits like the educator of reason; “If you want something, work towards it.” JME works hard, and as Integrity> attested, hard work pays off. The end product of grime’s militant immortality.
GirlpoolBefore the World Was Big Wichita
Despite their meager setup (one guitar, one bass, two sets of vocals), Girlpool’s perfectly harmonised twin voices have been among the loudest of 2015. That’s not to say When the World Was Big is noisy (it’s spare, if anything) – it’s just that when they’re speaking in their wincingly true, but apparently effortless terms, they do it without the aid of anything that could distract. Their debut LP feels like the start of a phenomenon started by two teenage best friends, and it’s magic from start to finish.
YOUNG THUGBarter 6 300 Entertainment / Atlantic
Restraint was key to the success of Barter 6. With a wise disregard for scoring radio hits or reeling in big name features, the relative subtlety of the LP’s beats allowed Thug more space to explore the strange and remarkable possibilities of his vocal chords. His style may be erratic, but Barter 6 was sound of Young Thug warming to the idea that, if he applies a little method to the madness, there’s yet more alien territory to be discovered.
D’ANGELOBlack Messiah RCA
While it technically came out in the final days of 2014, D’Angelo’s Black Messiah quickly became a defining work of the year that followed. Repaying fans for over 10 years of patience and hope, Black Messiah was the soul-bearing sociopolitical opera we all dreamed of. Harnessing the realities of life for African Americans and channeling it into a whirlpool of virtuosic jazz instrumentals and masterfully multilayered vocals. This wasn’t a record trying to answer all the questions, it triumphed because it made them clearer than ever.