Friday, 15 January 2016

Albums Of The Year 2015

Yeah yeah, blah blah, film blog, whatever - we didn't care last year either. We like music. We like lists. Deal with it.

2015 was an odd year for music. For a while there, nothing was standing out. Then, sadly, two things did.

First we lost Scott Weiland - which was a tragedy waiting to happen, but a tragedy nonetheless. The guy could sing and could write a tune. Sadly, beating his demons was a step too far.

Then the year ended on the bummest of bum notes (we weren't to know there was a bummer note round the corner) when Lemmy switched off his video game for the final.

Sure, he was 70. But he'd been going for so long that, despite everything he did to his body, we all just assumed he'd keep going. Feels weird to think there'll never be another new Motorhead album.

Fitting then, surely, that both rockers went out on a high (not best choice of phrase, granted). Motorhead left us with Bad Magic, which may have shown Lem's vocals had lost some of their gusto but it also showcased just what a bloody good songwriter he was and what a great band he had created.

And Weiland may have denounced Art Of Anarchy, claiming he "just" threw some vocals on some tracks and didn't even know who was in the band, but in doing so he produced one of his finest albums.

Strong vocals, great melody's, gliding over razor sharp riffs and a great overall sound. A classic debut that now sadly won't be followed up.

On a more upbeat note, Def Leppard also returned. And who would have thought they had an album that could sit alongside Hysteria in their locker after all these years.

Gloriously derivative, infectiously catchy, their self-titled effort reminded us all just how good a band they could be. And they did it without Mutt too...

The Subways and Therapy? also popped up with the best things they've done in ages. Which was nice.

So, if those great albums couldn't crack our top 10, what's keeping them out?


10) Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material

Second album from this young country star - and jeez, how she's come on from her debut. And a damn strong debut at that. Infectious, catchy, bittersweet, hard-hitting, her lyrics and music cover the whole country range. And we don't even like country music.

9) Meg Myers - Sorry

It's taken a while, but after last year's EP Myers finally produces her first full album. And it's a monster. Huge choruses, driving rhythms, soaring vocals - this woman can do pretty much anything. Go buy it now to make sure there's a second one.

8) James Taylor - Before This World

Look, this is how this works. Having stopped recording new material some 12 years ago, Taylor was supposed to just be chilling out, playing with friends, touring the hits every now and then - you know, retirement stuff. Not doing this. Not showing the world just why he's regarded as one of the best singer-songwriters of his generation. Not producing something that's embued with his 70s soul, but brought up to date with a contemprary sound and great songs. Best war song you'll hear in ages too.

7) Florence + The Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

We've always been big fans of the break-up album. It always brings the best out of the artistic sorts we find. And that's clearly the case with Florence. From the minute Ship To Wreck kicks in, you know you're in for a great time - and every song delivers. It's sweeping, it's epic, it's bitter, it's brilliant.

6) Thunder - Wonder Days

We go way back, Thunder and us, all the way back to Donnington in 1990. And we've been through a lot together, good and bad on both sides. And yes, they retired. Twice. And yes they said no now records. But screw it. When they go back on their word with something this good, they're forgiven. Up there with Behind Closed Doors and the debut, Wonder Days is full of all the things we love about this band. Huge riffs, huge choruses, great guitar playing - it's everything a great rock album should be.

5) Iron Maiden - The Book Of Souls

Along with Thunder, cancer has played it's part in Iron Maiden's latest recording - with singer Bruce Dickinson getting tongue cancer at the end of 2014 (Thunder's Ben Matthews has also beaten the disease, while Leppard's Viv Campbell continues to look a picture of health despite his own cancer issues). So, surely, that would put Maiden on the back foot. Make them cautious. Make them play it safe. Well - does a double album with a closing track that clocks in at 18+ minutes (and feature a sodding piano) answer that? It's classic Maiden. Just even more so.

4) Editors - In Dream

At some point, the Goth community are going to adopt this lot as one of their own. In the meantime, Tom Smith and the boys continue to evolve into one of the finest bands this country has produced. From the opening gloom of No Harm, Editors deliver a synth-laden masterclass, creating mood and majesty with every turn.

3) Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear

While watching last year's Glasto coverage on the Beeb, one guy stood out. One guy halted the fast-forwarding through so much dross. Father John Misty. Like a bearded Beth Orton, he blends folk and electro beautifully, while undercutting you with dark bitter lyrics that you might not notice on first listen. Plus he drops "subprime loans" into a song. Which pleased us far more than it should.

2) Silversun Pickups - Better Nature

Discovering this band way back whenever is still one of the greatest things I've ever stumbled upon. Sweeping, majestic and yet underpinned with a driving bass sound, they're just totes amazeballs. And with Better Nature, they've taken it to another level. More driven, a harder egde, yet still wrapping you in the warm fuzz of Brian Aubert's vocals. It would take something special to keep this off the top spot at Popcorn Towers.

1) Public Service Broadcasting - The Race For Space

Well, what do you know...
I'll be honest, I knew nothing about this lot at the start of the year, but a glowing write-up in Classic Rock magazine of all places, plus mentions by a few trusted friends forced us to investigate. And oh boy, was it worth it. Taking us through the life of the Apollo missions, PSB blend original audio from back in the day with their rock/electronic mix and create something that is simply epic. It shouldn't work, it shouldn't exist, the opening track is just a speech from JFK over a subtle sound bed, and yet one listen is all it takes and you won't leave it alone for more than a day from then on.

Fitting too that we write this on the day Tim Peake went for a toddle in the great beyond. It's almost as if we planned it.

(Not a hope, we can barely plan breakfast).

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