Trying to fit so much of the year’s best music into just 40 albums was nigh-on impossible. It’s been a great year, both from huge names and oddballs in the margin. Loaded will reflect that with our hotly-argued Top 40 of 2015 in a daily countdown from now until January 2…
Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass
Prass’ debut album detailed a particularly grim lot of heartache, describing track-by-track each heartbreaking turn. That it was produced by her ex, acclaimed singer Matthew E. White, made for Fleetwood Mac realness to add to Prass’ tale. A break-up album shouldn’t sound as sweet and soulful as this.
Slaves – Are You Satisfied?
The Kent duo hate being called punk and, sure enough, there are enough direct pop choruses, grime wordplay and old-school rock & roll riffs to ensure Slaves are far more than mere mohican revivalists. That said, the fact they were determined to say what they want, stick it to The Man and get bolshy with their audiences was an ethos that’s none-more-punk. Sorry chaps.
Floating Points – Elaenia
He’s a neuroscientist signed to David Byrne’s record label: no wonder classically-trained pianist Sam Shephard’s debut was the critics’ choice for album of 2015. Forget such an impenetrable lineage, however: not since Jon Hopkins has classical electronica sounded so simultaneously joyous and melancholic.
Duran Duran – Paper Gods
Getting Mark Ronson, Janelle Monae, Nile Rodgers, Kiesza and John Frusciante on board could have spelled disaster for the 80s overlords. Instead, they gelled to mark their finest album of pure pop since Rio way back when. Forget their image of being Loose Women favourites, the title track was an incredible six-minute epic to rival Save A Prayer. Anyone seen my shoulder pads?
Mbongwana Star – From Kinshasa
It’s not often an album comes along that truly leaves you head-scratching for a reference point, but when From Kinshasa landed in May it was true originality from often laboured western/African collaborations.
Made by a group of Congolese musicians alongside Dublin-born Tony Allen collaborator Liam Farrell, the album is as indebted to the hazy production values of Animal Collective as it is to the music of Congo. Multi-tracked vocals bounce around as repetitive rhythms lurch forward, nothing settling in once place long enough to define the record, but long enough to draw you in.
Wilco – Star Wars
Arriving unexpectedly for free on their website in July, the Americana veterans took an unexpectedly raucous turn on an album that was punkier than their trademark rootsy vibe. Nothing to do with Han Solo or the Death Star, though the likes of Cold Slope will take you to another galaxy. Man.
Desperacidos – Payola
Long viewed as the poster boy for weepie college rock, Conor Oberst returned to his heavy rock side-project Desperacidos for the first time in a decade. The results were startling for anyone more familiar with his Bright Eyes incarnation, as Oberst traded melancholic folk for balls-out riffing. We’d love to hear Slipknot’s folk ballads in exchange.
Paul Weller – Saturns Pattern
There should have been more of a fuss around Weller’s vibrant, tuneful and experimental return. Trouble is, that’s described the Modfather’s remarkable run of albums since 22 Dreams seven years ago. Had Bob Dylan been able to release anything as lively as White Sky these past 30 years, critics would expire with superlatives. Weller, you suspect, didn’t give a toss as the album’s centrepiece song I’m Where I Should Be made clear.
Nozinja – Nozinja Lodge
To anyone unversed in the sound of Shangaan electro, the debut album from the genre’s pioneer Richard Mthethwa will sound utterly bonkers. And that’s because, reaching 180bpm with chaotic rhythms and broken drum patterns, it is utterly bonkers. As a kind of warped Afrobeat, it breaks any rules a western ear has been trained in. Despite that making it feel unsettling, it’s what also makes it entirely remarkable.
Mthethwa has been at the fore of Shangaan electro for a decade, and despite taking so long to release a full album, the fact it’s on Warp Records is proof the genre has become world news. And the album is well worth the wait.
Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness
Slowly gaining a reputation for her own unique style among the Kate Bush and Stereolab comparisons, LA singer Holter’s fourth album saw her develop into something special. Forget being bracketed with Joanna Newsom, Holter’s shivering tunes exist entirely in her own universe these days.