Onwards now with the first half of our top ten albums of 2015…
Los Angeles based musician Colleen Green may have entitled her latest album I Want To Grow Up, but much of its musical influences transported us back to our youth. In the albums upbeat, bright moments were shades of the pop-punk hooks of Saves The Day, the grungy guitars of the Pixies, and a distinctly Californian take on the indie-pop of Camera Obscura. Elsewhere though. she eschewed the Californian sunshine for something all-together darker, Things That Are Bad For Me (Part 2) hinted at the influence of Nine Inch Nails, whilst the brilliant synthy departure Deeper Than Love recalled the icy-electronica of Ladytron.
It wasn’t only nostalgia that drew us into Colleen’s record though, there were also some serious lyrical chops, whether she was dropping heartbreaking lines like, “could there really be someone out there who’s perfect for me? Oh some days it’s hard to believe” on Grind My Teeth, revelling in the freedom of learning to love yourself on Whatever I Want, or running scared of commitment on Deeper Than Love. Throughout the record Colleen seemed to tap into all the universal feeling that come with growing up, but without drenching it in the sepia-tinge that the passing of time provides.
Read our article on Colleen Green – HERE
9. SUFJAN STEVENS – CARRIE & LOWELL (Asthmatic Kitty)
Few albums came with more anticipation this year than Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell, the near universal acclaim it received even before it was released had fans and reviewers alike frothing at the mouth. So should we really be surprised that on first listen we were a little nonplussed? Sure it was sad, in places it was beautiful, but it seemed one-paced, one-mooded and perhaps even one-dimensional.
Thankfully, by the time we’d lived with it for weeks, perhaps months, it suddenly made sense. This wasn’t just a horribly painful album of grief, it was also an album about life, it was an album about people, real people who were flawed and beautiful. It was a tribute to his deceased mother and his step-father, but it was a tribute to the people they were, not a glorified obituary. It was raw, tortured, brutal and beautiful. The stunning highlight Fourth Of July was an outpouring of grief, Sufjan questioning if he could have done more, and concluding, “we’re all gonna die”. Closing track Blue Bucket Of Gold was a plea for someone to show their hand, asking someone to, “raise your right hand, tell me you want me in your life, or raise your red flag, just when I want you in my life”; whilst Death With Dignity was laced with sadness about both his mother’s death and the lack of relationship they had during her life. Throughout this album Sufjan invited us to hear his pain, and as the music slowly sunk into our minds, you realised more than anything just how universal and unifying those feelings truly are.
The first of two records this year from Trust Fund main-man Ellis and his power-pop cohorts, No One’s Coming For Us was narrowly our favourite of the two. A slightly less polished affair than Seems Unfair, what it lacked in studio-wizardry it more than made up for in emotional clout. “Don’t let the sadness be who we are” Ellis sang on the opening track, and it was a record that was undeniably sad, but also found time to be humorous and to not take everything too seriously.
It was a record that conceptually loosely tracked a relationship where, “one of us is always sad, the other always feels alright, but not alright enough to make the sad one feel okay.” Throughout, it transported the listener to uncomfortable memories of failed relationships, all delivered with an unflinching, sometimes unbearable honest. Listening to stand outs like the raucous Cut Me Out or the anguished beauty of Jumper, you almost feel like you were in the lonely room with Ellis, watching the whole painful scene unfold. 2015’s best break up album, and one of the finest records in general.
Read our article on Trust Fund – HERE
Torres, the stage name of Maicon born song-writer Mackenzie Scott, first came to the world’s attention back in 2012 when, whilst still a student, she wrote and independently released her self-titled debut album. As impressive as that record was, surely even Partisan Records, who snapped her up on the back of it, must have been quietly delighted with their decision when they first heard her latest record, Sprinter.
It wasn’t so much a step up in Mackenzie’s song-craft, as a giant leap. A stunningly produced record, it was made in Portishead’s Adrian Utley’s studio in Bristol and featured PJ Harvey collaborators Robert Ellis and Ian Oliver, but there was no doubt who the star was, this record was all about Mackenzie. The voice: capable of producing the raw power of Anna Calvi, or the emotive depth of Sharon Van Etten. The songs; from the experimental pop of Cowboy Guilt, to the squalling dark-electronics of Son You Are No Island, and the blast of noise that was Strange Hellos. This was a spectacularly good record, that questioned topics from religion, to unrequited love, and adoption, all delivered with an ambitious musical pallet and a lyrical light-touch. Put simply, it was just a fantastic record.
Read our article on Torres – HERE
“I’ve got the worlds ear, but I’m all fucking mumbles” sang Ezra Furman on Lousy Connection, one of the highlights of his album, Perpetual Motion People, but despite his own personal doubts, in 2015 Ezra was one of music’s most coherent and intriguing voices, and the world loved it, it only seems to be Ezra left that needs convincing.
As an orthodox Jewish, bi-sexual, “gender-wobbly” rock star, it’s perhaps not surprising that at times Ezra seems unsure what he’s doing with his life, yet on record his ideas seem crystal clear, his delivery unwaveringly intriguing and brilliant. His lyrics may touch upon depression, institutional racism, identity crisis and full blown-breakdowns, but his music just sounds like he’s having the time of his life, these were a set of songs with the swagger of Jonathan Richman, the danceability of Talking Heads, the restless mood changes of David Bowie, and Ezra was always front and centre of all of them, his voice, lyrics, guitar-playing all marking him out as probably the closest thing this planets currently got to an out and out rock star. “I’ve got a bright future in music, as long as I never find true happiness” Ezra sang on the heart-breaking Watch You Go By, happy or not, a bright future for Ezra is beginning to look entirely inevitable.
Read our full review of Perpetual Motion People – HERE