There are a lot of Albums of the Year lists, some similar to others, occasionally there is one that breaks the mould, but this list is more of a collective ‘Things that you might like or have missed’ kind of list. The albums are in no particular order, as the idea is to have a synopsis of each one with recommendations and a playlist to browse through while doing so.
Keep in mind they all have their own charm and genre, but it’s up to all you readers to decide if there are gross omissions or just peculiar inclusions. Enjoy.
Gaz Coombes – “Matador”
Loved this album, even more so live and reworked at times in to a number of acoustic arrangements. ‘Buffalo’ is a great explosive opener, there’s also the spacial melodies of ’20/20′, the Supergrass style of ‘The English Rule’, and acoustic glory of ‘The Girl Fell To Earth’..
Ezra Furman – “Perpetual Motion People”
An album I found to be expressive of everyday frustrations, Ezra Furman broke down the walls surrounding him with ‘Lousy Connections’ and ‘Restless Year’, two strong openers and enough to drag you in. The vocals are experimental and a bit ‘doo-wap’, but the bass lines are great for a stroll in the city.
Julia Hotler – “Have You In My Wilderness”
Some might say that it was a surprising inclusion into many end of year lists, but it topped some big ones too. A great album for the end of the day or a beach holiday. I think a lot of albums this year sought to open with a strong track, this is an album with one of those. Put ‘Feel You’ on repeat and sit back, as ‘Silhouette’ and ‘Sea Calls Me Home’ take you to another time, another place.
Destroyer – “Poison Season”
This was an album that Dan Bejar set out to record in the most expression-less and relaxed manner possible. The vocals are evidence of that. Sitting in a mix somewhere between Damien Rice and Ezra Furman, ‘Dream Lover’ is standing out
El-Vy – “Return to the Moon”
As a fan of The National, El-Vy was almost certainly going to catch my interest. But I could not judge the act until a full length was released. The title track, ‘Return to the Moon’ was catchy without a doubt, but the follow up tracks lacked the same conviction. Worth listening to a a few times until you really get a feel for the album, tracks that standout are ‘I’m the Man to Be’ and ‘Need a Friend’.
Father John Misty – “I Love You, Honeybear”
I guess this ‘concept’ album of Joshua Tillman’s unrequited love for his now wife Emma is an obvious addition to any list this year. It is not just the mariachi solo in ‘Chateau Lobby #4’, but the album has this self-deprecating humour and constant metaphors that are as weird as they are sweet. ‘True Affection’ and ‘I Went to the Store One Day’ are key tracks on this one.
Foals – “What Went Down”
‘What Went Down’ continues the trend of strong opening tracks as I mentioned earlier. Explosive and ferocious as is most of the album is, you will find it a little calmer throughout in ‘Albatross’, ‘Night Swimmers’, and ‘London Thunder’.
Jamie xx – “In Colour”
Another album that just about popped up in every pre-list for album of the year, the XX member threw a mix of tracks with different genre origins and put them in one place. The kind of album you are likely to stick on the commute home, ‘Loud Places’ gets you in, ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’ gets you psyched, and ‘Girl’ gives you that euphoric slow dance when the buzz sinks in.
Sleater-Kinney – “No Cities To Love”
This year was quite rightly the return of more female-fronted rock acts. Sleater-Kinney’s “No Cities to Love” is a strong testament to that. The machine gun style of ‘Fangless’ is brimming of long thought riffs, but you will get those later in ‘No Cities to Love’. ‘Bury Our Friend’ is the best, listen for that opening set of notes and you will hear a track that has been on venue playlists all year.
Sufjan Stevens – “Carrie & Lowell”
Is there something like ‘Classic Suf’ or ‘Classic Stuff from Suf’ ? If not, then there should be. Sounding like The National meets Bon Iver, “Carrie & Lowell” is a slow burner for sure. ‘Should Have Known Better’ is an eye opener to Stevens’ sound if you are looking for a starting point.
Chvrches – “Every Open Eye”
On first listen, “Every Open Eye” disappointed a little, but maybe it was the hype that surrounded the band for what seemed like years. The album itself when you strip away the promotion is actually a good representation of the Scottish act. A little bit repetitive, but if you get past that, then ‘Never Ending Circles’, ‘Leave A Trace’, and ‘High Enough to Carry You Over’ are the hat-trick on this score sheet.
Beirut – “No No No”
This album stuck a chord with me as a big step for Beirut, su much potential and an opportunity to fulfil it. A distinct sound of ‘Casio keyboards’ and percussion see ‘Gibraltar’ and ‘No No No’ kick it off well. ‘Perth’ is the best track in my opinion.
Tame Impala – “Currents”
In the run up to Electric Picnic, the critics tore Kevin Parker and Co. apart for their live performances. But they were deservedly one of the biggest acts on the Electric Arena tent that weekend. The album is perhaps too polished compared to their previous effort with ‘Let It Happen’ being an example, while ‘Cause I’m A Man’ is almost never-ending. Take a listen of ‘The Moment’, ‘The Less I Know The Better’, and ‘Disciples’ if that is the case. Solid effort.
John Grant – “Gray Tickles, Black Pressure”
Building on ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ 80s influenced electronica. Grant dropped this fairly long album (57 minutes) in late October, while sticking to much of the same sound, you will find a more orchestral side on this long player. The title track is good starting point, ‘Disappointing’ is the clear winner though.
Beach House – “Depression Cherry”
A tough call to include this album or ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’, both great efforts by Viv and Alex but the battle of two albums was more interesting rather than including them both. This one is the better, as there is something about ‘Sparks’ and ‘Beyond Love’ that resonate a fuller sounding album by Beach House. ‘Days of Candy’ is a fine work of art to end on.
Wolf Alice – “My Love Is Cool”
The album title is actually a perfect way to describe the year Wolf Alice have had. First time seeing their live show was with The 1975 in The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, in 2014. In 2016 they will headline the same venue, surely a sterling measure of their achievements? ‘Bros’ and ‘Freazy’ show how this album is worth a place on any list.
Blur – “The Magic Whip”
Best Blur album so far? Nah it did not hit those heights, but it was nice to have some new material from the boys. ‘Lonesome Street’ is that upbeat, messy sound you missed from Blur. ‘Go Out’ is the safest track on “The Magic Whip”. This was not a safe album by any means, perhaps a more haphazard one.
Belle & Sebastian – “Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance”
Difficult to say whether the remaining parts of Belle & Sebastian were going to attract the same crowd a few years on. It is a cleaner sounding album, piano, simple rhythmic guitar, and Murdoch’s trademark vocals. This is the band embracing a modern approach to their sound for sure. ‘The Party Line’ is where it is at. But it is ‘Nobody’s Empire’ for sure.
BAIO – “The Names”
Impressive effort by the Vampire Weekend bass player, Chirs Baio’s ‘The Names” is like Jamie XX remixing Beirut’s latest, and it is an interesting listen. The acoustic versions of ‘Sister of Pearl’ and ‘Needs’ are wonderfully adapted. Expecting to see the name on a good few festival line ups in Summer 2016.
SOAK – “Before We Forgot How To Dream”
Mercury Prize nominee, SOAK, is Groningen bound in January. Tipped for a big 2016, the album is one that is gathering momentum. A blend of acoustic electronica, it really has been a year for that sound. ‘B a Nobody’ and ‘Sea Creatures’ will ease you in, after that the album is good start for the Northern Irish songwriter.
Spector – “Moth Boys”
Surprisingly, Spector missed out on a lot end of year lists. This is one of the best of 2015 for sure. Sounding like Joy Division and almost a lyrical tribute to Phil Lynott’s ‘Old Town’, “Moth Boys” is absolutely worth a listen. Handful of tracks are worth a repeat, but best to go with ‘All the Sad Young Men’ and ‘Bad Boyfriend’.
Villagers – “Darling Arithmetic”
As we await the live album in 2016, Conor O’Brien can be truly proud of his accomplishments this year. A rather sombre album lyrically, the arrangements are exquisite in “Darling Arithmetic”. ‘Hot Scary Summer’ is heartbreaking, ‘Courage’ is recovering, and ‘Everything I Am Is Yours’ is opening those wounds again. Tender from the former Choice Music Prize winner.