Tuesday 29 December 2015

The Top 20 Albums Of 2015

Article by KevW

It's been end of year lists time since late November, which always seems a bit odd. I wonder how many of the hip websites and magazines would have included the Christmas day releases by LCD Soundsystem or Radiohead in their songs of the year lists had they waited? For that reason, we've waited until the real end of the year to make sure nothing that comes our way could be missed. In the past we've done top 10s, top 35s, top whatever seems to fit. So this year we're streamlining everything and simply going for a top 20 albums and a top 20 songs (which will be revealed tomorrow). The following albums may not be by household names or be featured in every other list (sorry Kendrick Lamar, Grimes et al.), because these are the records that have made our world go round this year. Hopefully there are a few things here you may have missed and will like as much as we do.

20) Venera 4 - Eidôlon

In brief: French shoegazers don't disappoint on their debut album which takes the classic sound of the genre and delivers a consistently high-calibre set of songs.

Our original review (published on SoundsXP)

Venera 4's website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Eidôlon'

19) Strange Faces - Stonerism

In brief: Taking influence from '50s pop, '60s garage and surf, and '70s punk, former Twin Peaks man David Miller produces a killer set of fuzzy lo-fi pop gems.

Our original review

Strange Faces' website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Stonerism'

18) Lilies on mars - ∆GO

In brief: Cosmic electronic indie that deftly switches from classy space-pop to experimental pieces and back again, but always with an air of majesty and mystery.

Our original review

Lilies on mars' website

Stream the album in full

Buy: '∆GO'

17) Mechanical Mouse Organ - Get Over It

In brief: Former members of Hug serve up gritty and bristling powerpop that tackles teenage angst and failed romance on an album full of potential singles.

Our original review

Mechanical Mouse Organ's website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Get Over It'

16) The Creeping Ivies - Your New Favourite Garage Band

In brief: Scottish trio throw The Cramps, The Monks, The Raveonettes and Phil Spector into a mixer with extra ghoulishness and the results mean the title doesn't lie.

Our original review

The Creeping Ivies' website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Your New Favourite Garage Band'

15) Cheatahs - Mythologies

In brief: For their second album, the London shoegaze group expanded on the sound that made their name and produced a dreamy record of unwavering quality and consistency.

Our original review

Cheatahs' website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Mythologies'

14) Groovy Uncle & Suzi Chunk - Life's A Gift

In brief: From Motown soul through garage, psych, beat groups and classic pop, Unc 'n' Chunk's latest was all kinds of '60s and all kinds of boss.

Our original review

Groovy Uncle's website

Suzi Chunk's website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Life's A Gift'

13) Strawberry Whiplash - Stuck In The Never Ending Now

In brief: Following a terrific debut, Strawberry Whiplash conjure up another set of vintage, jangly, Glaswegian indiepop perfection.

Our original review

Strawberry Whiplash's website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Stuck in the Never Ending Now'

12) Garbanotas Bosistas - Above Us

In brief: A fantastic modern psychedelia record from four Lithuanians who take in catchy psych-pop and as well as more experimental pieces with woozy undertones. 

Our original review (published on SoundsXP)

Garbanotas Bosistas' website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Above Us'

11) Sergeant Buzfuz - Balloons For Thin Linda

In brief: Quite possibly the strongest collection yet from the London-based indie-folk collective as they traverse politics, pop and social commentary with keen eye and a keen ear.

Our original review (published on SoundsXP)

Sergeant Buzfuz's website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Balloons for Thin Linda'

10) Belle & Sebastian - Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance

In brief: Using the Eurovision Song Contest to inspire an LP that combines their classic sound with electro-pop is something only the undisputed heavyweight kings and queens of indiepop could do.

Our original review (published on SoundsXP)

Belle & Sebastian's website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance'

9) Documenta - Drone Pop #1

In brief: This second full-length from the Northern Irish group sees them with a more fully realised sound that takes in krautrock, retro electronica and, naturally, ace drone pop.

Our original review

Documenta's website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Drone Pop #1'

8) The Deadline Shakes - Zealots

In brief: Masterful songwriting that combines rock, pop and indie from across the decades to create a modern alt-pop marvel that's unlike anything else around.

Our original review

The Deadline Shakes' website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Zealots'

7) Telekinesis - Ad Infinitum

In brief: Magical alternative electronic pop with psychedelic flashes, shimmering soundscapes and a wondrous atmosphere. This should be huge.

Telekinesis' website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Ad Infinitum'

6) Parastatic - Recall Fade Return

In brief: The album that cements this Newcastle band's status as a psychedelic, electronic krautrock powerhouse with a brilliant understanding of sound.

Our original review (published on SoundsXP)

Parastatic's website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'Recall Fade Return'

5) The Broken Heed - The Broken Heed

In brief: A personal, intimate and harrowingly accurate DIY album of lo-fi indie tunes detailing a man's struggle with depression that's genuinely beautiful, uplifting and inspiring.

The Broken Heed's website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'The Broken Heed'

4) Gold Celeste - The Glow

In brief: Fantastical dreampop that glisten, sparkles and transports you to a hazy world where everything is golden and celestial. Never has a band been more aptly named.

Our original review

Gold Celeste's website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'The Glow'

3) hd hausmann - wring the moisture from the surf

In brief: The epitome of brooding. A dark pop masterpiece with melodic touches that light up this deeply atmospheric and powerful collection of songs.

Our original review

hd hausmann's website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'wring the moisture from the surf'

2) Mercury Rev - The Light In You

In brief: A different form of dreampop than that offered by anyone else. Stunning soundscapes which create an amazing fantasy land that only Mercury Rev are capable of.

Mercury Rev's website

Stream the album in full

Buy: 'The Light In You'


The Go! Team - The Scene Between

In brief: The Go! Team began with cut-and-paste masterpiece 'Thunder, Lightning, Strike' which claimed our album of the decade spot. Just over ten years on and the fun hasn't stopped, with 'The Scene Between' taking a more experimental indiepop approach and the end product being a whole load of perfect pop singles. If 2016's music is lacking in melodies, it's because Ian Parton nicked them all for this. Can we start calling him a genius now?

Our original review (first published on SoundsXP):

"Since piecing together debut album 'Thunder, Lightning, Strike' as a solo project comprised of samples, found sounds and whatever else took his fancy, Ian Parton has spent a decade or so working with a band and a handful of different vocalists, most notably the usually ever present Ninja. The idea for fourth effort 'The Scene Between' was a little different. Parton went back to how it all began: he wrote, played and recorded the entire record on his own, deciding that vocals would be added after, and that each track would be sung by a different person. To add a twist/element of surprise, he decided to only use vocalists he'd never heard of before.

The second major difference this LP has over its predecesors is that, rather than building tracks from samples and splinters of ideas until they fitted, the plan was to write songs in a more conventional manner, then add the various hallmarks and so on at the end. The seeds for this approach were sown on last outing 'Rolling Blackouts' which, as well as short experimental pieces, contained what could really be described as experimental indiepop songs. Single 'Buy Nothing Day' was perhaps the best example, both in terms of structure, and also in terms of a guest vocalist (Beth from Best Coast on that occasion). So, has the change in composition methods paid dividends?

On first listen, it could be said that 'The Scene Between' lacks a little of the punch of The Go! Team's past work, and you can pinpoint the sanding down of the hip-hop side of things as a likely reason why. All the vocalists are female, and all are singers as opposed to rappers. So without Nija or guests such as Chuck D (a very rare example of a male voice on one of the band's songs) we're very much looking at a turn towards indiepop - albeit with the trademark samples and production. However, after a few spins, Parton's new method really starts to make sense. There's more melody here than most bands fit into a career, and every track starts to glisten in a way that few others can manage. This is, as usual, full of sunshine.

Clattering drums and found sounds hit us from the off with 'What D'You Say', a song you could call a single contender were it not for the fact that 'The Scene Between' has barely any songs that could be conidered otherwise. The driving, slightly noisier 'Waking The Jetstream' has a killer chorus (see also the gritty yet twinkling 'Catch Me On The Rebound', the magical dreampop we find on 'Her Last Wave', closer 'Reason Left To Destroy' and many others). Besides anything you could reasonably desribe as rap, the ingredients that have made this band inimitable are all present and correct, yet the standard of songs is, overall, higher than ever before. From the ripping, chainsaw guitars of the aptly-titled 'Blowtorch' to the pensive, pretty 'Did You Know?', it would take a cold heart to argue that Parton and his selection of vocalists have provided another masterclass in the art of making music sound really really good. The soundtrack to summer has arrived, and it's a total delight."

To stream the full album in magical technicolour videos, just hit play!

The Go! Team's website

Buy: 'The Scene Between'

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