Music

The 50 best albums of 2015

30. Drenge – Undertow

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With the release of their second album brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless were joined by a third member on the Drenge tour bus; they needed the extra hands to deliver the true impact of this record’s dense squalls of guitar feedback. Undertow can be as unrelentingly dour as the bleak English winter but there’s a sinister edge that’s impossible to deny (or escape). – Tom Mann


29. Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down

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Having cut his teeth with The War on Drugs, the Philadelphia songwriter still evokes the sleepy, drawling longhairs that came before him, from J Mascis to Tom Petty. He’s also a real kindred spirit of Courtney Barnett, coming off so laidback and stream-of-conscious in the delivery that we can take for granted the actual craft involved. And as with Barnett, the songs sound enough alike on the surface that it takes time to tease out their individual, defining quirks. – Doug Wallen


28. Miguel – Wildheart

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On his red-blooded third record Miguel is sex personified showing off more moves than the Karma Sutra. There’s The Weeknd by way of Nine Inch Nails abrasion of ‘The Valley’, the liquid smoothness of ‘Coffee’ and even a track that “subconsciouly” mimics Smashing Pumpkins ‘1979’ . Miguel took another shot at Frank Ocean this year – “I genuinely believe that I make better music, all the way around” – and Wildheart proves that’s no idle boast. – Tom Mann


27. Viet Cong – Viet Cong

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While their controversial name – soon to be changed – grabbed most of the attention, Canadian band Viet Cong delivered a grotty, brooding debut album. Risen from the ashes of Women, VC lay claim to a rough-shod combination of serrated post-punk, Kraut-y marathons and buzzing electronics, shot through with jangling melody and quivering vocals. ‘March of Progress’ alone goes from ambient instrumental to ’60s psych-folk to synth revelry. It feels like they’re experimenting on the fly, but those sharp turns reliably lead to greatness. – Doug Wallen


26. Joanna Newsom – Divers

newsomFive years after releasing a self-produced triple-album, Joanna Newsom returns as breezily bold as ever, flooding her flighty songs with baroque bedazzlement. The results are stunning, at once intimate and expansive. Most of all Divers proves Newsom’s range: she properly rocks out on ‘Leaving the City’, while ‘Same Old Man’ detours into sleepy bluegrass and other tracks evoke cosmic ’70s psych vistas – and all without leaving her trademark harp and warble behind. – Doug Wallen


25. Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy

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Titus Andronicus are a band that truly believes in the power of rock and roll and this ferocious 29-track, five act rock opera is their magnum opus. There’s plenty of heartland rock and punk attitude but crammed into its sprawling 93-minute run time there’s also space for covers of Daniel Johnston, The Pogues and even choral version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. Unlike those rock stars who fail to practice what they preach (looking at you Mr Grohl) Titus Andronicus are the real deal. Rock is dead, long live rock. – Tom Mann


24. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf

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Kendrick Lamar wasn’t the only rapper pushing the boundaries of hip-hop with a record that fused jazz fusion and neo-soul in 2015. Two years after the release of Chance The Rapper’s breakthrough mix-tape Acid Rap, this free album highlighting Chance’s bohemian crew and especially trumpeter, Nico Segal (a.k.a. Donnie Trumpet) was one of the year’s most joyous albums. And cameos from Erykah Badu, Busta Rhymes, Janelle Monáe Big Sean and Raury certainly didn’t hurt either. – Tom Mann


23. Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone?

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It may have been The Weeknd’s big year (finally), but Devon Welsh’s long-running Majical Cloudz project isolated an equally powerful strain of existential R&B. Are You Alone? shuts out the world at large for both heartening and harrowing results, whether finding self-empowerment in ‘Heavy’ (“You’ve gotta learn to love me/Cause I am what I am”) or quoting Radiohead twice in the title track. Most love songs focus outward on the object of longing, but Welsh’s turn inward and read like the most intimate and clear-eyed of diary entries. – Doug Wallen


22. Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too
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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. Nothing and no-one is safe. – David James Young


21. Björk – Vulnicura

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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

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