Hello! So yes, it has come to that time of year again where we all take a look back at the last year in music and go, ‘hmmm, what’s been the best stuff we’ve heard?’ NME have already done it, as have Pitchfork, Drowned In Sound, and basically every magazine-music-mogul you can think of. So now it’s my turn, enjoy.
And just for the record, much to the opposition of every other poor sap in the country, I’ve not turned into a bloody ‘Belieber’. I still don’t think that in any way, shape or form that he’s ‘cool’ or ‘mature’ now, his songs are still crap in my opinion. So you can think again if you think that I’m gonna include ‘Purpose’ in this list, ’cause I’m not. Right? Good.
10) Kendrick Lamar – ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’
Much higher on others’ lists, it’s just crept into my countdown.This is a wonderfully constructed work of art quite frankly, touching upon Lamar’s dealings with depression, fame, celebrity and everything that’s happened in his life since his breakthrough record was released in 2012, ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’. Had it not been so long, it would have been higher ranked for sure. My love for Kendrick grew even more this year when I saw him perform at Leeds Festival on the main stage in August. This was an electric, energetic and pulsating performance from one of the best rappers on the planet, making it my gig of the year.
9) Sleater-Kinney – ‘No Cities To Love’
I literally couldn’t tell you anything about this band, apart from the fact that I love this album. Doing it for the girls, this brilliantly tight record has a great passive-aggressive feel to it. The title track features the lyrical highlights in ‘it’s not the cities, it’s the weather we love’. It’s a bit satirical, it’s all a bit subliminal and it’s a bloody good listen.
8) Foals – ‘What Went Down’
What went down is this. Foals made this wicked album called ‘Holy Fire’ back in 2013, their best yet, toured a bit, headlined a few festivals for the first time and went back into the studio to create an even better piece of work. ‘What Went Down’ is a fiery, passionate record clearly made for the live environment. You’ve never seen more determination on anyone’s face than on frontman Yannis Philippakis’ face this year when the band performed the title track live on Jools Holland. You also haven’t heard a more epic track than ‘Knife In The Ocean’ this year. Album closer and stand out moment for me.
7) Jamie xx – ‘In Colour’
Here’s a tale of a man who never stops doing things. You would think that after writing and touring two phenomenal albums with The xx, that Jamie from the band would go and take a break with the other two. Nope, he decided to write and produce his best record to date. ‘In Colour’ is a wonderfully dreamy experience with many awesome songs. ‘Gosh’ and ‘Girl’ hold deep suburban London references, with ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) offering his beats to virtual unknowns from across the Atlantic. A BBC Music Award nomination, a Mercury Music Prize nomination and a big Glastonbury DJ performance can’t be wrong, this is an absolute must-have.
6) Tame Impala – ‘Currents’
I honestly didn’t think this band could get any better after 2012’s ‘Lonerism’. The words; Parker, genius and Kevin come to mind when listening to this beauty. Not only is ‘Currents’ excellently produced and mixed by Parker himself, but the songwriting has upped considerably also. It’s essentially cool pop music, so accessible to the band’s already existing fanbase and to new audiences. ‘The Less I Know The Better’ features on a recent Apple advert, showing how massive this band actually are now, and potentially setting out the direction for the prospective future ahead.
5) Guy Garvey – ‘Courting The Squall’
This addition may come as a surprise to some, but for me, this is lyrically and innovatively the most sound album of the year. Taking a break from Elbow requirements, Guy Garvey has had complete free reign on this debut solo effort, and has lapped it all up to his advantage. Taking many twists and turns along the way, the album goes through a 6music blender at times, delivering some memorable moments. My personal highlight is the wonderfully bizarre ‘Belly Of The Whale’, in which Garvey sings, ‘I cannot speak its name but I would walk into its mouth and I would breakfast in the belly of the whale’.
4) Blur – ‘The Magic Whip’
Aaah, this was just great wasn’t it? Our old favourites from the M25 and beyond returned with their first album in twelve long years. Recorded in Hong Kong of all places, ‘The Magic Whip’ is made up of impromptu writing and recording sessions while the band had some free time on the Chinese coast, and then sent back over to England to be mixed and released in due course. When listening to this record it feels like Albarn, Coxon, James and Rowntree have all learnt something musically from the past twelve years and collaborated fantastically here. It’s such a mixed bag of playing techniques, emotions, lyrical ingenuity and flirtations with the past that you can’t help but be drawn in. Many say it’s the best Blur album since their self-titled effort of eighteen years ago, and I would have to agree completely.
3) Courtney Barnett – ‘Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit’
Our second Australian entry in my end of year countdown comes from Miss Courtney Barnett and band. Debut record, ‘SISATASIJS’ follows in the shadow of successful cult double EP, ‘A Sea of Split Peas’ and expands upon Barnett’s already irreverent style of guitar-playing and vocal rambling. It’s a hugely comical listen in parts, featuring songs about roadkill, the first world problems of lane swimming and extortionate house prices in suburban areas of Melbourne. This all comes with inevitable specific references and it’s like taking a dive into Courtney’s wonderful little head. A real breath of fresh air and a ray of sunshine in a dark and dreary year.
2) Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – ‘Blossom’
It’s official, PUNK IS NOT DEAD! ‘The Rattlesnakes’ is the new project of many that frontman and visionary Frank Carter has thrown himself into. ‘Blossom’ is a quick-fire, sweaty, gruelling run-through gargantuan guitar chords and an ear-bleeding rhythm section, not to mention throat-clenching and somewhat distorted vocals from Carter himself. Themes of horror, fear, death, anxiety, schizophrenia and political angst are explored, and it’s done in such an English, punk-worthy way. It’s perfect for the times, and in a way, the musical embodiment of Britain in 2015.
- Slaves – ‘Are You Satisfied?’
Here it is, my number one album of the year is ‘Are You Satisfied?’, from pretty much my favourite band of the year, Slaves. I couldn’t really help it, I’ve followed their progress online religiously all year and I’ve seen them three times, with one of those times being on a boat in Bristol on my 21st birthday in May. After that very same gig I met Isaac Holman from the band, just as the Kent duo were gearing up to release this 37-minute piece of brilliance. This again, is a very funny record, featuring songs about sea creatures, early alarms and grumpy so-and-so’s on the London underground. Underneath these sketch-like tracks, there are underlying messages however concerning a lack of happiness in the working environment and conservative politics in the UK. ‘You keep it, we don’t want it’ is bombed through on ‘The Hunter’, making it a firm live favourite. This record is hugely relatable and can be used as a massive release of energy after a stressful day. Am I satisfied? Yes, yes I am Slaves.