As I’ve probably said in all of my end of year lists, my favourite album of the year will inevitably be different a year later. Indeed most of them don’t even make the list, as I’ve discovered has happened for 2014, which was Future Islands’ excellent Singles.
This time however I’ve tried my darnedest to try and get as comprehensive a listen to the best of 2015 before I make my list. Likewise I’ve decided to be honest with myself and filter out the albums I feel obliged to put on, even though I may not have entirely enjoyed them. This is why I felt it better to only do a top 10 list, rather than top 20. This is so I’m certain that all the albums that make the list definitely deserve it.
Anyway, it’s probably better to call this a checkpoint of my favourite albums of 2015, and if I’m boring enough I might even follow up on how it’s changed a year later.
Hope you enjoy 🙂
10. Joanna Newsom- Divers
I loved Newsom’s first album, but was so intimidated by Ys. and Have One On Me to enjoy them. However Divers was a bit more manageable and relatively simple, without removing a hint of her meandering, magical sound. It also hits the heartstrings as hard as ‘Peach, Plum Pear,’ which can always be a reliable measurement of my enjoyment.
9. Sleater-Kinney- No Cities to Love
Though I didn’t feel the full punch as their last album The Woods, released 10 years ago No Cities To Love still hits very very hard. Each song is a unique powerful pocket of force packed with Carrie Brownstein’s singular guitarwork, Corin Tucker’s banshee wail and Janet Weiss’ earthly drums. It’s a huge amount of fun
8. Panda Bear- Meets the Grim Reaper
Panda Bear had the dubious position of being the first big-hitting album of 2015, which certainly worked in his favour. Because on first listen Grim Reaper is a complex tangle of sun-bleached songs, with choruses hard to come by. But after letting it sink in all the tangles seem to straighten and allow themselves to be enjoyed.
7. Destroyer- Poison Season
In some ways Poison Season is also one of the most disappointing albums of the year, mostly because it does not match up with his flawless previous album Kaputt. This time Destroyer has dropped their chillwave vibes for old-timey rags and with some frankly dubious results such as ‘Forces from Above’ and ‘Midnight Meet the Rain’. However these are balanced by total hits like ‘Dream Lover’, ‘Times Square’ and ‘Bangkok’. And frankly based on Destroyer’s tendency to throw successful curveballs, I’m willing to sit through it time and time again. Also kudos to probably the best album title of 2015.
6. Deerhunter- Fading Frontier
After the whole ego trip of Monomania it’s so nice to hear Deerhunter just having good relaxed fun, while producing very solid music. Similar to Beach House and Animal Collective, Deerhunter seemed to have got themselves into outdoing themselves each album, which I think made their previous work Monomania a bit strained. Fortunately there’s some great hits here, and Deerhunter have never seemed more comfortable in their sound.
5. Grimes- Art Angels
As most people, I was a bit nervous about Grimes’ next album after the long-drawn-outness as well as the sour reception to ‘Go’. Fortunately as everyone knows it’s been so well received. I think one of Art Angels’ great triumphs is getting me to appreciate a sound so bubble-gummy, anime-esque that I’d immediately cringe in disgust to- and in some ways I think that is an obvious sign of when music is great.
4. Drake- If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
After not knowing Drake past ‘Just Hold On We’re Going Home’ I went on a bit of Drake odyssey this year, and boy was it productive. Having started on his If You’re Reading This and then working backwards, and then back again I was struck by just how clear his vision is now. Each song is so crisply bleak. You’d never think someone would sound so said with so much self-assuredness to say ‘Oh my god, if I die I’m a legend’. And as Drake has done countless times before on defining what a rapper should be- he has turned what has seemed to be a warm-up mixtape for the long awaited View from the 6 and which noticeably does not include ‘Hotline Bling’- and he’s made it into a classic.
3. William Basinski- Cascade
Since Disintegration Loops William Basinski often seems to be on the search for the perfect melody that he can extend and interrogate over an hour. This time, without the deus ex machina that was the tape decay of Disintegration Loops, Basinski has found it. The piano loop that plays for 40 minutes is tense and focused that every time it comes around you tighten up slightly more. The atmosphere is haunting and beautiful, and for this reason I’ve had it on in the background of my 2015 too much that I’d like to consider.
2. Beach House- Depression Cherry
To me, Beach House’s discography from Teen Dream is flawless. Teen Dream itself remains my second favourite album of the 2000’s. But like a few people when Bloom came out in 2012 it wasn’t bad, and yet it felt disappointing. It felt like Beach House had tried to adjust to their arena-sized setting, and were no longer true to themselves. So it was with trepidation and almost anticipated disappointment that I awaited Depression Cherry. The amazing thing is, quite similar to Deerhunter, instead of trying to match the hype- Beach House just stopped giving a shit and went back to what they liked. And what we have is a wonderfully calm and in a weird way beautifully unimpressive album. And the greatest feeling is knowing that I can gradually sink into it for years to come.
1. Viet Cong- Viet Cong
As I’ve probably mentioned quite a few times, like the Mario Kart racer in 1st place fearing the shadow of the blue turtleshell, this is probably the most insecure position on the list. However, after a lot of painful analysis, the album which kept on cropping up as the most consistent, the most unique and most enjoyable was Viet Cong. Like Panda Bear, this is partly down to the fact that, being released in January, I had the full year to let it sink in.
Taking influence from This Heat and Sonic Youth, Viet Cong have created as dark and confused a sound as their predecessors Women, but with more emotion and energy making them much harder to be ignored. Viet Cong (or whatever they will change their name to be) don’t sing about love- they sing about existential despair and spend 13 minutes on ‘Death’. They ‘don’t want to face the world/it’s suffocating suffocating’ and for one reason or another this sentiment struck me deep in 2015.