Words by Dylan Mangan
The year that was 2015 (there aren’t many great releases lined up for December) has boasted an outstanding level of quality in terms of albums – so much so, in fact, that I am already regretting trying to whittle it down to a favourite ten. In doing so, I’ve missed out many great albums, so before we begin here are some honourable mentions:
Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness
Mac Miller – G.O.O.D A:M
A$AP Rocky – Long. Live. ASAP
CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
Disclosure – Caracal
Now I’ve hopefully kept people happy, here are the best albums of 2015:
10: Blur – The Magic Whip
Blur’s 8th album, and first in twelve years, can be regarded as a triumphant comeback, with the Manchester band back near their best. Recorded in Hong Kong, the album allows for each member’s separate experiences over the past decade to combine without losing the band’s identity. Self-described as ‘sci-fi folk’ Blur are as relevant and interesting as ever.
9: Drake/Future – If You’re Reading This/DS2
Yes, I’m cheating. I couldn’t choose between these albums, and while the pair released a mixtape together this year, it doesn’t come close to either of their solo projects. Without having to allow for two big egos on every track, Drake and Future can take control of beats with their signature styles. They have been at the forefront of revolutionising the rap game this year.
8: Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I just Sit
That this is Courtney Barnett’s first studio album is astounding. It sounds like the record of an experienced songwriter, to her credit. Barnett has some of the funniest lyrics of the year, which combine with her droll Australian accent to create an extremely tongue-in-cheek sound. ‘Pedestrian At Best’ is a highlight.
7: Everything Everything – Get To Heaven
Inspired by lead singer Jonathan Higgs taking a year off and watching the news, Get To Heaven is not the typical alt/pop/rock album. Ebola, UKIP, and beheadings are all tackled in intriguing lyrics which are delivered in Higgs’ typical falsetto whine. That the music is relentless in its innovation and mixing of different genres helps, too.
6: Earl Sweatshirt/Vince Staples – I Don’t Do Shit, I Don’t Go Outside/Summertime ‘06
More cheating, yes. In this case I feel I am justified. Earl and Vince have been creating music together since they were fifteen, with both rappers featuring on the other’s projects countless times, and influencing the other’s work. Earl’s album consists of downbeat, almost disturbing beats accompanied by dark introspective lyrics. Vince Staples’ Summertime ‘06 is his debut and tackles being a black American, and the harsh reality of life in gangs. Both these guys got bars, man.
5: Justin Bieber – Purpose
If Justin Bieber keeps converting people at the rate he has been this year, there soon will be no non-beliebers left. His new album consists of banger after banger, with nearly every single song worth of a single release. His producers have done an unbelievable job in creating a ‘Bieber sound’, one which the rest of the world will be trying to recreate in 2016. It may not be as impressive an artistic statement as other albums, but it’s just great pop music.
4: Jamie xx – In Colour
One third of The xx, Jamie has been remixing songs for clubs and raves for years, but this year saw the release of his first solo album. Different from his work in a group, In Colour is more upbeat and club friendly than anything we’ve heard before. Jamie the producer is here to stay, and we should be glad. He is a sampling artist, probably the best of his kind. There isn’t a bad song on his album.
3: Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Written in the aftermath of his mother’s death – someone Sufjan never really knew, Carrie & Lowell is one of the most sombre and beautiful feats of songwriting of the decade. It is a return to Sufjan’s roots, following the increasing level of complexity which came with each of his last 3 releases. Stripped back, with piano, synths and a guitar, his voice – a whispering falsetto – is allowed to shine, delivering heartbreaking lyrics right to our souls.
2: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Kendrick is king. He is the greatest rapper alive. He may not be your favourite, or the easiest to listen to, but he is the most important artist working today. To Pimp A Butterfly is a masterpiece in political music. Kendrick delivers rage-filled lyrics on behalfs of black Americans, but at the same time preaches self-love and retrospection. While doing all this, he has also created one of the most interesting-sounding rap albums ever, inspired by jazz amongst other genres. Go listen.
1: Tame Impala – Currents
It’s often difficult to describe things you love, and I adore the latest Kevin Parker offering. The isolation and melancholy present in previous albums has been swept aside by heartbreak and regret. This is a breakup album at it’s essence. Wholly more towards pop on the music spectrum than their previous albums Currents is a weird mix of psych-rock/pop/synth/I’m not entirely sure what. The 7 minute long opening track ‘Let It Happen’ should be enough to hook you, with it’s looping, broken sounded second half which eventually releases into an ethereal catharsis, both for Parker and the listener. I love it.