What follows is the second part of my countdown, with the first half available to view here. As things are heating up, I figured I’d write a little about some of these records, trying to justify why they ended up where they are. The rest of my list should follow shortly (hopefully).
25) Frank Carter And The Rattlesnakes – Blossom A furious and thoughtful return from the ex-Gallows / Pure Love front-man, which is full of bile and that trademark rage. Emotional intensity swirls just below the surface, rising to the fore on the likes of Beautiful Death and Loss, which hit particularly hard. Debuts rarely sound this confident, or foreboding. From a fellow angry ginger dude, well played Frank, it’s good to have you back. (Review)
24) Hotel Books – Run Wild, Young Beauty Spoken word as an expression of emotion is often under-appreciated in music, and for those who disregard the style Hotel Books’ third release may prove a welcome call. I was immediately impressed by Run Wild, Young Beauty, and since uncovering it the record has only grown in my estimations. The quickfire, poetic lines delivered with a gratuitous honesty by Cam Smith are heartfelt and heavy-hitting, particularly on songs like 813 Maryland St. and I Died With You, adding to a constantly pained and overlapping narrative sound tracked to melodic, clean guitars. I found it all to be immensely convincing and cathartic, and it’s a record which needs to be heard in order to be truly appreciated. There are weaker moments admittedly, songs which stray into more generic copycat territory (Love Life, Let Go) but as a whole it works. If you’re short on time, Nothing Was The Same will give you a good idea, exceptional, and the song should resonate with anyone searching for beauty in a breakup. I love that song dearly, and I adore the record almost as much. (Bandcamp)
23) Deafheaven – New Bermuda Personally I feel that New Bermuda Falls short of Sunbather, but not by a great deal. It’s a different record, darker, and maybe that’s part of the reason. That being said it’s still Deafheaven. Emphatically epic in scope and delivery, New Bermuda is fourty-seven minutes of masterful music which features some of the bands heavier selections, namely expansive opener Brought To The Water, which is expectedly epic, a barrage of brutal noise championing the change. Few bands in the scene offer as much as Deafhaven do, and ever fewer do it sounding this damn good. (Bandcamp)
22) Rolo Tomassi – Grievances Never really a band to disappoint, Rolo Tomassi’s fourth record finds them at their best, a blistering, and often calming record which sees them push their sonic envelope, and envelop a listener with it. Far more mature than previous efforts, Grievances serves as a testament to their progression, dazzling and damning. Highlights include the razor sharp Stage Knives and the mesmeric Opalescent. That finale isn’t bad either. (Bandcamp / Review)
21) Noah Gundersen – Carry The Ghost Noah Gundersen’s second full-length snuck up on me, but the best music often does. Fuller and more grown-up than his 2014 debut Ledges, Carry The Ghost sees him ruminate on art, love and life; melancholic and heartfelt American folk played with genuine care and craft. It makes for a record which establishes Gundersen as an incredible talent, writing above and beyond his swenty-seven years. Heartbreaker, adjusted since its EP appearances, is the biggest song he’s written, subtle before explosive as post-rock ambition is sandwiched amidst singer-songwriter sweetness, sneaking up just as the record did – and thrilling likewise.
20) Bring Me The Horizon – That’s The Spirit Credit has to be given to Bring Me The Horizon and the positive changes they’ve made over the years. From screamo posterboys to mainstream (almost) chart-toppers, Bring Me The Horizon released the most accessible alternative record of the year, and although not my favourite from them (still Suicide Season), I have to salute their meteoric rise – normally during Blasphemy or Drown. If not for a late Stereophonics surge, That’s The Spirit would’ve been a UK No.1, and it deserved to be so. Within the British alternative scene, Bring Me are leading the charge for heavier music, and they’re doing so with gritted teeth, suggesting that the sky’s the limit. Maybe next time lads.
19) Donovan Wolfington – How To Treat The Ones You Love A creative, complex and nostalgic throwback to 90’s punk, Donovan Wolfington’s second LP presented a challenging and schizophrenic selection, mixing black metal with Dookie era angst, hooking me after a few listens, a catchy and varied boiling pot of noise, brimming with a fuzzy energy. It rarely proves uneventful, always entertaining and eclectic, and it made Donovan Wolfington a band to watch within their genre. (Bandcamp / Review)
18) Foals – What Went Down Arguably the UK’s best indie-rock band, Foals’ fourth saw them build on their first three, mixing stadium-sized riffs with upbeat, infectious hooks. Mountain At My Gates is one of my favourite tracks from 2015, and I’m reminded why every time I play it. It’s huge, just as Foals have become, and with the band at their best they rarely put a foot wrong. What Went Down is Foals at their best, and it’s excellent from start to finish, carrying that trademark swagger which the band have grown into since their debut.
17) CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye Synth-pop in 2015 hasn’t sounded better than it does on CHVRCHES second full-length, and the three-piece got the formula for success spot-on, The record is jubilant at times, but there’s a dark, seething edge to contrast the bright euphoria encouraged by the likes of Clearest Blue, making for a vibrant, intoxicating and somehwat haunting listen. Also, I can’t dance to save my life, but High Enough To Carry You Over makes me try to. That feels like an achievement in itself.
16) Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear I only discovered this album recently, after watching an episode of Aziz Ansari’s 2015 show Master Of None (which is also great). Since finding it I’ve listened to it often, admiring the quirky charm which is possesses and thrives upon throughout. Written intimately about his marriage J. Tillman creates a stunning personal narrative which is sharp and clear, inviting a listener into a bubble he creates with I Love You, Honeybear. It’s a warm, absorbing listen which is often striking with it’s irony and honesty, a release which seems to say a lot without saying too much, particularly on sentimental acoustic closer I Went To The Store One Day, which wraps things up nicely.
15) Senses Fail – Pull The Thorns From Your Heart I’m tempted to describe this as Senses Fail’s best album, but looking back on a solid discography I’m not entirely sure. Regardless, Senses Fail delivered a blistering slab of post-hardcore which rendered most of their genre counterparts insignificant to my ears this year. It carries a level of charged emotional purpose that music of this nature can often lack, and the record, aside from being loud and emphatic, also has something important to say, notably regarding sexuality. Succeeding in every regard, Pull The Thorns taken collectively is the best post-hardcore record of 2015. This is how it’s done, take note.
14) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly 2015 was the year in which Kendrick Lamar became the most important voice in modern hip-hop, Lamar’s second LP released to universal acclaim back in March. There’s a reason it’s topped the end of year list for several major publications (Billboard, Rolling Stone, The Guardian and Pitchfork to name a few), and if I was more invested in the genre it probably would’ve topped mine as well. King Kunta still makes me feel like the coolest person I know.
13) Hodera – United By Birdcalls Maybe a surprising entry this far up the list, on their debut Hodera displayed a charming knack for writing sad songs which possess enough life to transcend their melancholic nature, bringing to mind the songs of my youth, updated to versions my current self can get behind. It’s warm, welcoming, and once it gets under your skin it’s difficult to shake, that sort of album. Although hardly a landmark reocrd, United By Birdcalls doesn’t do a whole lot wrong, and what it does right exists in plentiful abundance. Listen to First Ones At The Party and Feel Better and try not to love them. The former seems to be the song I immediately go to when I open up my iTunes, and for good reason – I’m yet to tire of it, and hope I never do. Keep an eye on these guys, and expect them to blow up sometime soon, because I feel like they should given how great this record is. I’m excited about their future, and you should be too. (Bandcamp)
12) Grimes – Art Angels By some distance the most creative pop release of 2015, Grimes returned after three years away with a spellbinding spectacle of an LP. Bold and brave, and also far more entertainingly eccentric than anything else to grace the mainstream charts in recent years, Art Angels was exactly what I wanted following 2012’s Visions. It’s a little bit insane, but then, it wouldn’t be a Grimes record if it wasn’t – California and Kill V. Main the highlights. Futuristic and fantastical, Art Angels breaks boundaries, and does so in undeniably scintillating fashion. Kudos Claire, kudos.
11) Enter Shikari – The Mindsweep / Hospitalised I’m throwing these two together, because the original was excellent, and the remix album offered a refreshing take on a record which was refreshing enough already. Few, if any, in the UK scene can hold a candle to Enter Shikari at present, and the St.Albans four-piece only cemented their reign with one of their most creative offerings so far. Sonically and lyrically sharp, there’s purpose to The Mindsweep, conveyed with a bristling intensity, from the pulsing Anaesthetist to the introspective Dear Future Historians. Enter Shikari are still one of the most important and outspoken bands in British music, and they’re also one of the best. It’s been eleven months since I’ve last written about it, but the record has lost none of its frenetic appeal since then. (Review)