Resolving the seemingly incompatible tendencies of slate-grey, British goth and introspective American college rock, Nottingham three-piece Kagoule followed up their early singles by producing a satisfyingly gritty and accomplished first album. Taking cues from Smashing Pumpkins to Bloc Party, songwriter Cai Burns proved himself to be an intriguing, slightly unknowable presence as his bandmates produced chunky, knotted rhythms to produce something that was distinctively their own. Urth was one of the most promising British guitar debuts of the year. (Ed Biggs) (LISTEN)
Impatient for new music, Idlewild fans eventually launched an online petition at the end of 2013 to get their heroes back together when the perennial Scottish favourites had announced a hiatus after Post-Electric Blues in 2009 Featuring the familiar bookish sensibilities of lead singer Roddy Woomble, Everything Ever Written not only satisfied their devoted fanbase in terms of rawness of emotion but also saw the group play around with form and structure more than they had ever done before, proving that a reunion is not always an artistically redundant pursuit. (EB) (LISTEN)
Having scrapped the long-awaited Detox project after 16 years of planning, Dre put Compton together to serve not only as a ‘soundtrack’ to the smash N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton, but also as his swansong. If anybody had worried about the effect of such a long break from music-making, they needn’t have bothered – Compton saw Dre not only bow out at the top of his game, but also underscore and bookend his legacy. His rapping and production skills were as sharp as ever, and guest stars were chosen wisely and not allowed to overshadow the man himself. (EB) (Available on Apple Music only)
Dealing in dark, evocative portraits of the female experience in modern Western society, Meghan Remy’s sixth album under the name U.S. Girls saw her break out and gain nationwide attention. A noxious, disorientating fug of darkpop, trip-hop, reggae and electronica, it often felt like a Frankenstein’s Monster of an album, stitched together with fragments and splinters of disparate ideas, but Remy’s stark, semi-autobiographical writing provided the glue that held it all in place. One of the most surprising and disarming musical visions of the year. (EB) (LISTEN)
An album of subversive, melodic pop spoken in the language of DIY indie, the Jarman brothers’ sixth LP For All My Sisters saw them enter their second decade in some of the strongest form of their career. Increasingly mining their North-Western American underground influences, while displaying some of their sharpest hooks in years on the likes of ‘Different Angle’ and ‘Burning For No One’, it was also a strong statement of their politics. With ex-Cars man Ric Ocasek at the production desk, the album got an extra coat of glossiness that didn’t sacrifice The Cribs’ long-standing appeal. (EB) (LISTEN)
With a catalogue of three full-length records already under her belt, Julia Holter made one of the most intelligent, visionary pop records of 2015. Her ethereal sound brought together a number of influences ranging from Kate Bush, Talk Talk and Bert Jansch into a melting pot of experimental baroque pop. Have You In My Wilderness was one of those rare records which seems to reveal something new on every listen: tracks like ‘Silhouette’ and ‘Vasquez’ highlight Holter’s talent for cleverly interweaving literary references with an accessible pop sound. The intricate, highly reverential production gave …Wilderness then reinforced that dream-like soundscape. Also registering an impact in the charts, it should make Holter one of the most sought-after performers for the 2016 festival circuit. (Matthew Langham) (LISTEN)
Producing a second album of doomed, romantic pop-noir in the space of 13 months, Lizzy Grant’s sultry alter ego went from strength to strength on Honeymoon. Yet again, faded Hollywood glamour, violent romances and failed dreams were the order of the day, but the arrangements were, if anything, even more sparse and skeletal than 2014’s Ultraviolence. Feather-light percussion, gentle Spanish guitar licks, smoky clarinets and dramatic string sweeps dominated the record, and Grant’s ability to conjure so much from so little was a continuing marvel. (EB) (LISTEN)
The gradual, word of mouth emergence and evolution of Sadie Dupuis and her bedroom-project-gone-overground Speedy Ortiz seems quaintly old-fashioned in the era of Spotify. With 2013’s hastily assembled (yet brilliant) Major Arcana bringing Dupuis to nationwide attention, she and her bandmates had the opportunity to do something a lot more planned and thought-through with Foil Deer. Full of dissonant, intelligent indie and college rock influences, her lyrics flitted between diary-like intimacy and abstract imagery and marked her out as one of the most rapidly developing songwriters in the States. (EB) (LISTEN)
Like an old, comfortable sweater, Bradford Cox can always be relied upon to consistently deliver quality. Fading Frontier was Deerhunter’s seventh album, and saw Cox being unusually direct as compared to previous masterpieces like Halcyon Digest and Microcastle. His brush with death in a motor accident in late 2014 seemed to inspire a much greater sense of urgency, and combined with the mixture of jagged guitars, moody keyboards and electronic percussion elements it produced probably the most immediately accessible album Cox has written to date. (EB) (LISTEN)
Sleaford Mods were one of the more unexpected success stories of 2014, so when lyricist Jason Williamson and musician Andrew Fearn had to write a follow-up they were faced with a new challenge: how to build on success rather than gain it? The answer: don’t change. Key Markets is a typical Sleaford Mods LP built around the anger of Williamson which sees him take on a variety of topics, from toilets to politicians, and solidifies themselves as the UK’s leading counter-cultural commentators. (John Tindale) (LISTEN)
Tags: albums of the year, Angel Haze, Beach House, Benjamin Clementine, best albums of 2015, Bjork, Blur, Chemical Brothers, Courtney Barnett, Deafheaven, Deerhunter, Dr. Dre, Drenge, Ed Biggs, Empress Of, Ezra Furman, Father John Misty, FFS, Florence + The Machine, Foals, Gengahr, Ghostpoet, Grimes, Hannah Binns, Holly Herndon, Idlewild, Jamie xx, Joanna Newsom, John Tindale, Julia Holter, Kagoule, Kendrick Lamar, Kurt Vile, Lana Del Rey, Laura Marling, Lauren James, Majical Cloudz, Matthew Langham, Mini Mansions, Panda Bear, Pond, Public Service Broadcasting, Richard Hawley, Shopping, Sleaford Mods, Sleater-Kinney, Speedy Ortiz, Sufjan Stevens, Tame Impala, The Cribs, The Dead Weather, The Maccabees, Titus Andronicus, Top 50 albums of 2015, U.S. Girls, Viet Cong, Wolf Alice, Young Fathers
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