Music

Best albums of 2015 (so far)

We’re only six months into the year but let’s just go ahead and declare that 2015 has already been more impressive, exciting and vital for new music than 2014. There are still hopefully records from Tame Impala, PJ Harvey and Kanye to come – but here are the best of what we have heard so far.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

“Ruban Nielson may have done a lot of things with his career, but one thing he has never done is settle on a sound. Whether he’s wailing over knife-edge guitar or weaving a gently-lilting falsetto over a sea of reverb, Nielson knows his way around inventive and intrinsically-crafted music.” – David Young

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SOAK – Before We Forgot How To Dream

Before We Forgot How To Dream is spacious, delicate, and exceptionally human. That humanity is SOAK’s real strength; building around a sweet but fragile heart gives the occasional cloying moments a saving context, and buoys the daydream highs.”


Jamie XX – In Colour

“Jamie xx makes dance music to move you emotionally as much as physically. Juxtaposing arresting beats with slick production values, he has created a lush, immersive soundscape to get lost in.” – Sean A’Hearn


Faith No More – Sol Invictus

“The expectation was there for a good return to form from a band that always followed their muse no matter how much it threatened to derail their commercial potential. The reality is they’ve far exceeded that with Sol Invictus, an album that in its finest moments matches the best of their golden years. Rock isn’t dead, it sometimes just needs time to regroup and rejuvenate.” – Chris Familton


Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon

“Hiatus have loaded up as many genres as they could fit in this psychedelic jigsaw of a record. They slip and slide through modern jazz, soul, R&B, West African funk, samba and latin – often in the same song, often in the same verse. The compositions are warm, malleable, but always restless, they constantly abandon and alter ideas (or time signatures, or the key) mid stride.” – Jules LeFevre


Blur – The Magic Whip

“This album may not be loaded with extroverted would-be hits, but its woozy grandeur already has the stuff of real staying power. It’s up there with Blur’s best albums, and a reminder of just how well the band reconcile their divergent ideas.” – Doub Wallen


Alabama Shakes – Sound And Color

“The light and the dark, the loud and the quiet, the black and the white… there’s so much sound and colour on Sound and Color that it will take a few listens to properly get used to it. Once it all clicks into place, however, it becomes all the more rewarding. This is an album that proves that there is far more to this band than meets the eye.” – David Young


Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too

“The band’s mutated genre-morphing incorporates hip-hop, late-period IDM, R&B in its traditional sense and primitive street-drumming – and even that description doesn’t quite do justice to what it is they are doing here. They fearlessly stare down the barrel of racism and oppression one minute; only to turn the gun on themselves the next. Nothing and no-one is safe – and it’s this that makes White Men such a powerful record.”– David Young


Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

“Although catering to varying tastes, the recent releases from both Kendrick Lamar and Death Grips left major waves for listeners – overshadowing Earl Sweatshirt’s humbler album. I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside doesn’t stand out for advancement for Sweatshirt or the rap genre, but offers something the other releases lacked – a human relatability.”– Sean A’Hearn


Father John Misty – I Love You Honeybear

“Father John Misty’s 2012 album Fear Fun was immediate, rough around the edges and soulful; pointing to ‘60s Americana, tight-jean indie rock and ‘70s Motown. But there was a quality missing from the songwriting, a timelessness that rendered Fear Fun an impressive, but not defining debut. I Love You Honeybear, is that statement, an intimately close-to-the-bone emotional exploration that not only fulfills his potential that was glimpsed three years ago, but trumps the folk masterpieces of his old outfit through sheer conviction.”-  Chris Lewis


Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida

“Dick Diver’s third album, Melbourne, Florida, is the band’s most ambitious and outward looking release yet. The group have shrugged off their ‘dolewave’ origins for the smooth tones of ‘70s and ‘80s FM rock, sounding completely at ease and distinctive as ever.” – Annie Toller


Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

“While good kid M.A.A.D City called itself “a short film”, To Pimp A Butterfly feels more like a novel, one that warrants those annotations by Michael Chabon. To get specific, To Pimp A Butterfly is like a modernist novel, one that rewards re-reading, comes with unreliable narrators, has lengthy interior monologues, and embraces a grand narrative.”– Jody Macgregor

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BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul

“BBNG serve up their unique brand of laid-back yet excitingly unpredictable jazz that pays homage to the ‘70s yet remains distinctly modern. While still, largely, a hip-hop album, Sour Soul caters to a wider audience due to its complexity. The unmistakable, ever-reliable vocals of Ghostface provide a gritty realism to the dark subject matter, contrasting nicely with the smooth, layered atmosphere laid down by the band.” – Sean A’Hearn

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Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

“Of all the quotable lyrics on No Cities to Love – and they’re all pretty damn quotable – the one that sums up Sleater-Kinney best is “We’re wild and weary but we won’t give in.” Here they sound older and wiser yet all the more driven, thankful to be resurrecting the band but not willing to give up an inch of quality control. It’s simultaneously angry and ecstatic, enjoying every second of every outburst.” – Doug Wallen


Laura Marling – Short Movie

“Laura Marling works within the folk tradition but at the same time roughs it up. That’s especially true of her fifth album, the first written on electric guitar and a restless document of her stint living in Los Angeles. It’s full of questions – posed both outward and inward – and those constant enquiries find an ideal engine in Marling’s loping, rattling guitar work.” – Doug Wallen


Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

“You won’t walk away humming the tunes, but Carrie and Lowell will stay with you. Sufjan has prettier albums, and sweeter albums, but none has the impact of Carrie and Lowell, though maybe that’s for the best. It’s not an everyday listen; it’s far too discomfiting to be the background to a train trip, or even in a film score. It is, however, a beautiful and sincere meditation on loss, grief and human connection, and sometimes that is exactly what you need.” – Joel Turner


Best Coast – California Nights

“Best Coast were introduced as a lo-fi band with their 2010 debut Crazy for You, but now they’ve graduated from AM to FM. The first thing you notice about their new album is its space. California Nights is the crystal-clearest that Best Coast have ever sounded, even if the shrouds of reverb may initially suggest otherwise.” – David Young

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Mark Ronson – Uptown Special

“Just when you think you know all of the answers, Mark Ronson changes the questions. It’s what explained the move from swinging horns and clever covers to an album of synth-pop originals, and what’s lead the hitmaker to a curious crossroads. Where to from here? Ronson has responded on his fourth studio album in a manner befitting the little girl from the Old El Paso ads: Why not have both?” – David Young

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Twerps – Range Anxiety

“Some bands exist in a fantastical parallel universe populated by a handful of people who are nothing like you or me. Other bands are just like us, albeit the version of us that can sing a bit and play guitar. Melbourne’s Twerps are the latter. Made from knotted tummies and clothes that don’t quite fit properly, their Merge label debut Range Anxiety is an album for the rut stuckers and the nail chewers.” – Victoria Birch


Django Django – Born Under Saturn

Their 2012 debut was released to widespread acclaim under relative anonymity. So how have these fearless Scots dealt with the expectation of a follow-up? By blowing up their kaleidoscopic psych-pop to full-screen, while still retaining the warped harmonies and razor-sharp melodies of the album that put them on the map in the first place. – Darren Levin


Tobias Jesso Jnr. – Goon

A series of tragic circumstances – from a break-up to a sliced hand to his mum getting cancer – led Tobias Jesso Jr to the piano stool. And the freakishly tall Canadian battler is all the better for it. Harking back to the classic songwriting of Randy Newman and ‘Can We Still Be Friends’-era Todd Rundgren, Goon – like the best/worst kind of relationship – is an album you won’t be getting over anytime soon. – Darren Levin


Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass

“Recalling “70s singer-songwriters like Randy Newman or Harry Nilsson, and the just this-side-of-chintzy string arrangements of Burt Bacharach’s work with Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield, Natalie Prass is a throw back to a very different era of music-making. But Prass keeps the nostalgia to a minimum, producing an album that is sublimely tasteful and sophisticated.” – Joel Turner


Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again

On the follow-up to her 2012 self-titled debut, California native Jessica Pratt lets us eavesdrop on her spellbinding, poetic world. Home-recorded, otherworldly and completely out of its time, it’ll resonate with anyone that’s familiar with the likes of cult heroes Linda Perhacs, Karen Dalton, Vashti Bunyan and Judee Sill. – Darren Levin


Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

The prolific Katie Crutchfield returned for her third album as Waxahatchee, the solo project named for the Alabama creek near her childhood home. Departing once again from the intimacy of her 2013 debut, the full-blooded Ivy Tripp marks another evolutionary step for a songwriter that keeps redefining herself. It even features a nod to her southern rock roots (‘Under A Rock’). – Darren Levin


Marlon Williams – Marlon Williams

On his debut solo release NZ born Marlon Williams filters Roy Orbison melancholy through disarmingly poised songwriting to hit emotional notes like few others can. With a voice as tempestuous as his it would be easy to let the songs bleed out into something far more overblown, but the 23 year-old has an uncanny knack for reeling it in before it gets away. – Sarah Smith


Bjork – Vulnicura

A companion piece of sorts 2001’s delicate Vespertine, Bjork’s ninth solo album is her most intimate – and at times surprisingly fragile – album to date. Inspired by her separation from fellow artistic iconoclast Matthew Barney, the record is typically uncompromising but ornamented by lush string arrangements and intricate electronic beats it’s one of the year’s most intriguing albums. – Tom Mann


Action Bronson – Mr Wonderful

Mr Wonderful was never going to please everyone, especially Bronson fans hungry for cover-to-cover raps. But the LP’s high points (‘Actin’ Crazy’, ‘Easy Rider’ and ‘Baby Blue’) are Bronsolini at his best: effortless flow popping with charisma and bravado on a bed of ear-wormy production from the likes of The Alchemist, 88 Keys, Oh No and Mark Ronson. – Sarah Smith


Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?

“Across half-a-dozen albums and just over a decade in the public eye, the London quintet have explored and experimented with many styles and tested out every setting on their vast array of synthesizers. Their new album Why Make Sense? again showcases their range while retaining that now familiar core sound. There’s a guest verse from Del La Soul’s Posdnuos on ‘Love Is The Future’ and forays into post-punk, disco and ‘90s RnB.” – David Young

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Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Canada’s greatest ever rapper (sorry Neil Young!) dropped this bombshell mixtape via Twitter in February – and the rap world is still reacting. Sprawling and dense, with minimalist beats and nods to trap, this 17-track monster finds our hero in the depths of the “6” (his code for Toronto), trying to find meaning in a world that’s becoming more and more complicated the bigger he gets. – Darren Levin


Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

“Barnett has pulled off the perfect album for this point in her career. It’s rakishly loose and likeable but also devastatingly poignant, whether she’s lamenting the ravaged Great Barrier Reef (‘Kim’s Caravan’), missing her partner while abroad (‘An Illustration of Loneliness’), flailing comically at Fitzroy Pool (‘Aqua Profunda!’), or wanting to go out and stay home at the same time (‘Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party’).”– Doug Wallen

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