Friday, October 16, 2015

The 50 Best Albums of 2015

1.Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
For a moment there it looked as if Kendrick was going to sell out. After becoming one of the most feted rappers of all time with ‘Good Kid M.A.A.D City’. The first single ‘I’ showed a much more upbeat mainstream direction. It looked as if Kendrick was going to make songs for the radio. Who could blame him? He had earned the right do whatever the hell he liked. Then came the infamous ‘Control’ verse where he not only claimed to be better than most other rappers, but named the specific ones he knew he could beat. It’s just as well that ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ turned out to be his masterpiece. A 70 Minute long Jazz-Funk- Hip-Hop odyssey. Keeping guest verses to a minimum, but including Thundercat, George Clinton and Flying Lotus on his team of collaborators.  TPAB takes Hip Hop back to its roots, but also shows where it’s headed. He uses poetry to tell his story, which includes tales of gang warfare, deals with the devil, his hatred of himself and a conversation with 2pac from beyond the grave. TPAB finds Kendrick directly referencing Obama, ‘The Judge’ and the ‘Po Po’. His anger at the events in Ferguson, is balanced by his own philosophical approach. His flow is astonishing, and lyrics constantly on point.  The fact that this curveball of a record this broke streaming records, proves that hip hop is ready to enter its third golden age. This was the moment that the ‘good kid’ went from a ‘peasant to a prince to a motherfucking king’. All hail King Kunta.

2. Public Service Broadcasting – The Race for Space
For a record with no sung lyrics, ‘The Race for Space’ is a very emotional album. By focussing on the lesser heard sound bites and the unsung heroes of the space race. PSB tell a story that the listener can connect with. ‘Sputnik’, and ‘Gagarin’ capture the excitement of the first steps into space. Yet ‘fire in the cockpit’ show the horror of when it all went wrong.  ‘Go’ captures the joy of the moon landing from the ground crew’s perspective and ‘Tomorrow’ leaves the album on a melancholy note, with the last ever trip to the moon in 1972. The sound bites from news clips and ground control tell the story and PSB’s fantastic musicianship does the rest.

3. Tame Impala – Currents
Ever wondered what the 80’s would sound like if you lit a candle underneath it and watched it melt? Tame Impala excel at putting the past through their psychedelic kaleidoscope. Of all the albums made in 2015 this is the most addictive. The more you hear these songs the more you love them. Unlike most 80’s revamps Kevin Parker doesn’t forget the cheese. Currents is gloriously naff throughout. Yet he has access to technology that didn’t exist back in the 80’s. It sounds like a new wave band travelled into the distant future to record it. Psych is rarely as lovable and fun as Currents.

4. Roots Manuva - Bleeds
Over 10 years on from his first career defining work 'Run Come Save Me'. Bleeds finds Rodney Smith, not so much back on top form, but with his best album yet. Partnered with the mysterious producer and co-writer Fred. Roots rhymes are righteous. 'Hard Bastards' finds him rapping about the Britain's working classes. "The Government don't trust them, and keeps them all in place, with cheap food and cheap booze that keeps them out of shape". While 'I know your face' is the story of a man in a coma told from his point of view. 'Bleeds' apes many styles. From the craziest beats Four Tet has ever produced on 'Facety 2:11, or the gritty UK response to US trap music on 'Crying'. 'Bleeds' is dark yet soulful, and with no guest verses, Roots Manuva's rapping is the star of the show. There's not a single verse on 'Bleeds' which isn't brilliant. Roots Manuva has made yet another one of UK hip hop's landmark albums.

5.    Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool
For all the talk about the death of rock music, the fact is that many have ignored the obvious. In any decade music will progress and evolve. Right now ‘My love is Cool’ is the sound of rock in 2015. It has the riffs of Royal Blood and the pristine modern production of Bring me the Horizon or the 1975. Yet it is Ellie Rowsell that makes them unique. Whether screaming her heart out or singling softly, she is what makes the album special. In truth ‘My Love Is Cool’ doesn’t even feature much guitar work. It’s the best pop album of the year, and it was made by a rock band.   

6.    Blur – The Magic Whip
A welcome reminder that Blur were not just one of the best bands of the 90’s but one of the strangest. ‘The Magic Whip’ finds Damon Albarn’s observational eye cast on a vast scale. The songs seem straightforward at first but are complex and beguiling. Each listen reveals new treasures.

7.    Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I sit and think, sometimes I just sit
Courtney Barnett is one of the most talented songwriters of her generation. She makes the mundane hilarious and poignant. She takes her own depression and anxiety and makes it into something that is a joy to listen to.

8.    Miley Cyrus and her Dead Petz
While the world gawped at her ‘controversial’ outfits at the VMA’s. Miley quietly dropped this 90 minute gem of album. Throughout its 23 tracks you’ll find funk, hip-hop, piano ballads and beautiful acoustica twisted through a psychedelic haze. There are a few missteps, but the quality is kept high throughout. The lyrical content is incredibly candid but gives the listener a glimpse of the complex and conflicted human being beneath the skimpy outfits. 

9.    Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?
Were you disappointed by Random Access Memories? This is the album for you. ‘Why Make Sense’ is a musical game of buckaroo. Hot Chip mix nods to old school house, disco, hip hop, funk, soul and electronica into a 10 track album that is buzzing with inventiveness but never once feels overworked or rushed. A sign that Hot Chip have become masters of their craft.

10.  Girlpool – Before the world was big
Two sisters and a guitar, that’s all it is. Whether 23 minutes actually counts as an album is debateable but Girlpool make every single second and note count. They mix riot grrl brattiness with a genuine poignancy about the challenges of growing up. It’s hard not to feel a bit of a voyeur when hearing these teenage girls singing. Their voices chime perfectly together. The lyrics are either straight forward, or oddly nonsensical. But every single word is delivered with power. This is a very special record. Essential listening for anyone who has not yet found their place in the world.

11    Chemical Brothers – Born in the Echoes
Attention Rudimental fans! This is what Dance music actually sounds like. The Chemical Brothers are now firmly in the weird phase of their career. While the guest cameos don’t always work, the album is packed full of bangers. ‘I’ll See You There’ and ‘Radiate’ find them paying homage to The Beatles and Kraftwerk. Overall it’s more proof that The Chemical Brothers are one of the best acts of any genre to come from the UK.

12  Swim Deep – Mothers  (A true reinvention)
13.  Peace – Happy People (2nd album growing pains)
14.  Vietcong- Vietcong (Tense post punk/krautrock)
15.  Sleaford Mods – Key Markets (Musical special brew)
16.  Sleater Kinney – No Cities to Love 
This is an awesome punk album. I played this until I was sick of it
17.  Follakzoid - ||| 
Droning 10 minute long Krautrock jams from Chile.
18.  La Priest - Inji (funktronica)
19.  Grimes - Art Angels (Pop music. Sort of)
20.  Jamie XX - In Colour
21.  Shamir – Ratchet (Funk/House Bangers)
22.  Etienne De Crecy – Super Discount 3 (French Funk/house)
23.  FIDLAR – Too (nihilistic yet catchy pop punk)
24.  Tyler, the Creator – Cherry Bomb (Crazy Hip-Hop shit)
25.  God Damn – Vultures (LOUD AS FUCK)
26.  Mark Ronson – Uptown Special (Much more than Uptown Funk)
27. Guy Garvey - Courting the Squall
28.  Deerhunter - Fading Frontier (Poignant psych rock)
29.  Florence + The Machine – How Big How Blue How beautiful (The moment Flo became a superstar)
30.  Ghostpoet – Shedding Skin (It's great, but it is a bit depressing)
31.  Drenge – Undertow (Doomy 2nd album)
32.  Django Django – Born under Saturn (Clever yet loads of fun)
33.  Slaves – Are you Satisfied? (Punk isn’t dead!)
34.  The Prodigy – The Day is my Enemy (Subtle as a punch to the face)
35.  The Vaccines  - English Graffiti (Indie rockers try new things)
36.  HANZ – Reducer (Experimental dance freebie)
37.  Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment – Surf (Joyous Hip Hop freebie)
38.  Table Scraps - More time For Strangers (Rock ‘n Roll!)
39.  Foals – What went Down (Predictable, but great 4th album)
40.  Lil BUB - Science and Magic
The début instrumental concept album about a cat from space. Featuring loads of purring, orchestral bits, keyboard solos and 8 - bit bleeps. It's modern yet very retro. Epic and loads of fun.
41.  The Pretty Things - The Sweet Pretty Things (are in bed now of course?....)
42.  Diagrams – Chromatics (Folktronica)
43.  Evans The Death – Expect Delays  (Folk-Rock)
44.  Rey Pila – The Future Sugar (Mexican Strokes)
45.  Run the Jewels – Meow the Jewels (PURRRR)
46.  Drake –If you're reading This it's too late.
47.  King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Paper Mache Dream Baloon
Only the second album this year from the prolific aussie psych legends. PMDB is their most chilled out LP yet. One of those albums that needs to be heard on Vinyl.
48.  Disclosure – Caracal (Garage and Chill)
49. Songhoy Blues - Music in Exile (Funky Rhythm and Blues Excellence)
50. Jeff Bridges - Sleeping Tapes (Zzzzzzzzzz)

 NOTE: As I'm always buying/downloading new stuff, the contents of this list may change.

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