The Albums of the Year list is always one of the hardest tasks we undertake here at Louder Than War. We hear so much good music in 12 months, across so many genres that it’s hard to pit them against each other. Add to this that we ask our contributors to tell us what would make their list so the final countdown is representative of not just one person’s view but many and coming up with a final 50 can take some time.
But this is a great problem to have – we’d much rather negotiate, discuss what we love about an album with each other in the hope of persuading than have to scratch around to find anything worthy.
The music industry has changed and continues to change apace but one thing is still very clear: new music, from emerging and established artists, is as strong as ever.
There are still artists pushing boundaries and merging genres, there are still fresh vital voices and new sounds to be heard. We’ll continue to bring you as much of it as we can – to champion diversity, new artists and established musicians alike as we head into another year.
Here then is this 2015’s pick. Fifty albums we think were not just good but great, exceptional in some way. If you haven’t already heard them then we suggest seeking them out – you might just fall in love with them like we did.
Heard all of these and looking for something new? Check out our long list – the albums we placed 100 – 51 on the Albums of the Year list are here. And there’s some honourable mentions for those that didn’t quite make the top 100 but could have done.
John, Sarah and all at Louder Than War
Albums of the Year 2015 – 50-1
(albums of the year numbers 100 to 50 are here )
50. The Daintees – Haunted Highway (Barbaraville)
Paul Scott-Bates said: “The Daintees’ best album yet? Probably.”
49. Leaf Library – Daylight Version (WIAIYA)
Sarah Lay said: “Shimmering shoegaze and deep drone that evokes the changing seasons and the melancholy of England being washed slowly into the sea.”
48. Superhand – American Teeth (Malt Barn)
Paul Scott-Bates said simply: “Genius”
47. Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People (Bella Union)
Anastasia Connor said: “All-American catchy smart pop with an attitude.”
46. Girl Band – Holding Hands with Jamie (Rough Trade Records)
45. Carter Tutti Void – f (x) (Industrial Records Ltd)
44. The Fall – Sub-Lingual Tablet (Cherry Red Records)
43. Kamasi Washington – The Epic (Brainfeeder)
Simon Tucker said: “Three hours of the finest free-jazz you will ever hear.”
42. Ryley Walker – Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)
An amazing blend of folk, Americana and blues that could have come straight outta the ’60s and yet manages to sound brand new.
41. Holly Hearndon – Platform (4AD)
Holly Herndon’s sophomore record is a dizzying combination of the avant-garde and the accessible, says Louder Than War’s Paul Margree.
40. Slaves – Routine Breathing (Artery Recordings)
39. Jenny Hval – Apocolypse, Girl (Sacred Bones Records)
38. Follakzoid – III (Sacred Bones Records)
‘Föllakzoid began in Santiago, Chile from what they describe as the result of, “a product of a trance experience between friends, sort of a soul abduction in which they’ve been living since 2008.’
37. Paranoid Visions – Cryptic Cross Words (Overground Records)
Phil Newell said: “The stunningly multi-layered Cryptic Cross Words heralds a new chapter for these punk survivors.”
36. Four Tet – Morning/Evening (Text Records)
Simon Tucker said: “The aural equivalent of Surya Namaskara.”
35. Sam Forrest – Candlelightwater (Desert Mine)
34. Public Enemy – Man Plans God Laughs (Enemy Records)
33. Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin Down (Matador Records)
32. Radkey – Dark Black Makeup
‘Radkey are today’s definition of punk rock power, giving us that raw passion and energy that at times, reminded me of The Clash and The Ramones and even Discharge in their punk rock prime.’
31. Super Fast Girlie Show – Don’t Go Down Gentle (Antipop Records)
Phil Newell said: “Sort of like The Cramps, if they’d had two basses instead of two guitars…another short blow to the head.”
30. Asian Dub Foundation – More Signal More Noise (ADF Communications/Believe Recordings)
Paul Scott-Bates said: “Loud, proud and jam-packed full of superbly arranged and produced tracks.”
29. Reverend and The Makers – Mirrors (Cooking Vinyl)
‘An ambitious song cycle and work. Reverend And The Makers deliver their masterpiece.’
28. Noveller – Fantastic Planet (Fire Records)
27. Grimes – Art Angels (4AD)
26. Rats on Rafts – Tape Hiss (Kurious Recordings)
25. Datblygu – Porwr Trallod (Ankstmusik)
24. GNOD – Infinity Machines (Rocket Recordings)
‘Gnod have produced a monolithic slab of unquantifiable proportions, with every track facilitating its own mini trip its an incredible collection of tracks. One of the finest things I’ve heard all year so far!’
23. Gwenno – Y Dydd Olaf (Heavenly Recordings)
‘Y Dydd Olaf is an uncompromising album and Heavenly picked it up and were excited about it and happy to release it – an album based on the novel by Welsh nuclear scientist Owain Owain who is a fascinating man. He was a member of MENSA, a poet and novelist, very prominent in the Welsh Language Society and actually predicted the internet in 1969.’
22. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear (Sub Pop)
21. Oneohtrix – Garden of Delete (Warp Records)
20. Kagoule – Urth (Earache Records)
Stephen Murphy said: “All-in-all is something to be treasured, and should see Kagoule become big; monstrous big.
“The first two tracks on Urth – Gush and Adjust the Way – immediately clear away any fear and doubt about whether Kagoule’s debut will be anything other than a gorgeous, big bastard brick-shit-house of a record – an album that’ll deliciously box your ears by day, and soundtrack your sweaty fevered dreams by night.”
19. The Nightingales – Mind Over Matter (Louder Than War Records)
Phil Newell said: “An absolutely thrilling barrage of machine-gun drum fills and slashing guitar savagery.”
In his review Glenn Airey said: “Mind Over Matter continues a startling run of records that marry the artfully discordant post-punk of ye olde ‘gales with the rather more swaggering and, in some respects, musically solid proposition they represent today.
“The Nightingales these days are happy to borrow the occasional trad-rock trope, a familiar-sounding riff or a glammy backing vocal, knowing that it won’t turn to cliché in their hands.”
18. East India Youth – Culture of Volume (XL)
Keith Goldhanger said: “Weird and wonderful electronic pop from William Doyle. Great songs, a voice that soothes and cuts through the racket and and some tunes that vary from the utmost wierd to the glorious anthems we’re already playing on repeat and still haven’t tired of.”
17. Evil Blizzard – Everybody Come to Church (Louder Than War Records)
Phil Newell said: “Big bold bass riffs, tub-thumping drums, dark and menacing vocals.”
In his review Phillip Allen said: “Everybody Come To Church is their masterpiece of power. A cacophonous cathedral of an album that will certainly win them more followers than they know what to do with. Do yourself a favour and catch these guys live before they are filling those bigger venues. It will be an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.”
16. Kathryn Williams – Hypoxia (One Little Indian)
Gus Ironside said: “Williams hits a new career peak with a darkly beautiful album inspired by poet Sylvia Plath.”
Louder Than War Editor Sarah Lay was similarly taken with the album and said: “This is a stunning album from Williams, at once gentle of melody and abrasive of lyric, is it quite simply an astounding listen.”
15. Sauna Youth – Distractions (Upset the Rhythm)
Scoring a perfect 10/10 when Lee Hammond reviewed, he said: “This album has me completely beside myself with excitement, with so many bands saturating this genre Sauna Youth provide a real breath of fresh air and at the same time hysteria. It’s taken a lot to overpower me like this, but this album is truly phenomenal!”
14. Soft Moon – Deeper (Captured Tracks)
John Robb said: “Soft Moon are like a hypnotic, dark pool or dark matter that you can sink into and allow their emotional fragility to wash over you, the fact that you can also dance to them and let your heart soar over their melodic touch is also a big, big plus.”
13. The Membranes – Dark Matter / Dark Energy (Cherry Red Records)
Phil Newell said: “A unique whole of beauty and noise.”
In his review Ged Babey said: “John Robb’s muscular playing and seismic basslines are at the heart of the album but the guitar playing is exceptional in terms of sounds and kinetic energy. The drums and percussion are deliriously primal.
“It is probably the pinnacle of his work as a musician and songwriter. It’s an epic, genre-straddling monster of ferocious noise and drones and whispers.”
12. PINS – Wild Nights (Bella Union)
Phil Newell said: “Jarring post punk sound, but is impregnated with pop sensibility…the Supremes on Mogadon.
“What PINS have effortlessly done is defeat the difficult second album hurdle. Wild Nights is less abrasive than the Girls Like Us debut, its more about pop – however when pop is this good then don’t be afraid to embrace it.”
11. The Charlatans – Modern Nature (BMG Chrysallis)
Sarah Lay said: “A beautiful, uplifting pop album, understated and slow-burning but undoubtedly one of The Charlatans strongest records.
“Modern Nature is a record of resilience, of survival and a brilliantly melodic statement of the band’s resolve to find a way continue following the death of drummer Jon Brookes in 2013.
“After such a loss the songs that would allow them to continue didn’t come easy. That struggle isn’t reflected in the sound – Modern Nature has a lightness about it, a pop breeziness to the melodies, a pretty surface underneath beneath which exploration of life, death, love and other such flows effortlessly.”
10. Bjork – Vulnicura (One Little Indian)
“Musically the album is beautifully sparse and full of new sounds and landscapes created by Venezuelan dissonant rapper, Arca who was the co-producer for most of the album and the brilliant British electronic wizard Haxan Cloak who mixed the album and conjured up his swirling electronic mist of imagination.
“There are electronic bleeps and bloops, sweeping songs, sparse heartbeats of bit-sound and post electronic musics that create an adventurous new landscape for Bjork to fly free with her pain and melodies and still with that wonderful one off voice that can create a magic and emotion out of anything.
“This is a musical world to get lost in and the first major work of the year.”
9. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg)
In fact several Louder Than War contributors said they could see this album taking the number one spot on the list.
In his review Simon Tucker said: “This is a seminal album and guaranteed to go down as one of the all time greats. It’s a movie laid out on vinyl and represents a high-watermark in US Hip-Hop culture.
“It’s a vital and necessary move away from the bling me me me culture that’s infected the genre for a decade now and proves that if you’ve got something to say and the talent to say it, then you WILL be listened to and you will stand head and shoulders above those that cower down afraid to make that bold step.”
8. Lonelady – Hinterland (Warp)
In his review for Louder Than War when Hinterland was released in March Clive Hammond said: “Although it contains undying nods towards the music that inspired her post-punk principles, ‘Hinterland’ is the most organic album of 2015 so far.
“It’s powered by a love of her geographical roots and is quintessentially Northern. There is one thing that you will be listening to this summer as you begin your own Utopian desires to escape the humdrum of a dull work related existence. And it will be this.”
Named for a place her parents used to tell her stories about – a place of folk history, of beauty but the blood of civil uprising – the huge organ gives what Hausswolff describes as a ‘screaming bird sound’ to the album.
Part drone, part orchestral swell, part opera, part folk – The Miraculous defies musical boundaries and sounds exactly like the myth and legend referenced in the songs.
By turns savage and seducing, always unflinching in its approach, Hausswolff is committed to her creative vision saying of the album: “I can’t afford to care about the market’s approval. I would lose too much artistic energy, and that would only ruin me.”
6. Killing Joke – Pylon (Spinefarm)
“This is an album of madness, paranoia and personal pain but it is also an album of beauty in the maelstrom as the perfcetly sculptured noise somehow matches the singer’s curiously pure choirboy vocals.
“Jaz can still deliver the bug eyed sermons with that choirister from hell voice but there are also plenty of moments on this album when his voice shifts into that plaintive mode that sounds like its echoing around some huge cathedral.
“This is the key to Killing Joke – they can do heavy and they can do brutal but they also can do beauty and find salvation in the darkness.”
5. Haiku Salut – Etch and Etch Deep (How Does It Feel To Be Loved?)
Scoring a nearly-perfect 9.5/10 the second album from Derbyshire’s Haiku Salut heard them take their mostly instrumental electronica from the nostalgic bleeps of 16-bit toward a warmer, mellower sound. This is a band that are still experimenting but also maturing.
Louder Than War editor Sarah Lay said: “There is a modest, unassuming nature about the tones of Haiku Salut that at once make their albums familiar and surprising. Mostly unencumbered by the distraction of voice, the instrumental electro-pop (‘Baroque-pop-folktronic-neo-classical-something-or-other’ if you’re looking to corner them) sounds are sinuous and organic in feel, shimmering on the periphery as the friendliest ghost in the machine.”
4. The Smoking Trees – TST (Ample Play)
Dropping at the start of summer the debut from The Smoking Trees could have been straight from the late ’60s instead of 2015 LA. It captured that swirling, hazy, psychedelia and mixed in samples that made it sound at once out of time and timeless.
Louder Than War Editor Sarah Lay said: “One of my albums of the year, stuck in my head from the very first play and months later is seeps back in and spins me out all over again.
“There’s a whole load of bands plundering the psych sound right now but The Smoking Trees have shown themselves to be best in class with TST.”
3. Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss (Sargent House)
Hitting a peak on her latest offering in his review LTW’s Editor in Chief described Chelsea Wolfe as “the leader in the industrial / dark music / goth whatever you want to term it scene. Where others once led, Chelsea Wolfe is the new boss.
“She does loud and quiet perfectly and she takes chances but has ultimately created a record that gives her a real chance to break out from cult status to the mainstream. When it is given the opportunity listening to the dark, enveloping clouds of musical genius makes us falls in love with them time and time again.”
2. Sunn O))) – Kannon (Southern Lord)
Phillip Allen said: “On record, the band have always struggled to achieve what they achieve with their live shows. To actually being present in the moment, feeling the vibrations with every bit of your being is a different experience to listening to the records. That is not to say the records don’t achieve something of their own, and none more so than their new release.
“This album, like all their albums, feels meditative and esoteric without subscribing to any denomination. Not god-less but god-full in the existential way that we are our own creators. You need to hear it and feel it is what am trying to say here.”
1. Sleaford Mods – Key Markets (Harbinger Sound)
A popular pick for album of the year amongst Louder Than War writers there was little question of whether Sleaford Mods would be our record of 2015.
Simon Tucker: “The sound of now. A vital slice of angry life.”
Dave Beech said: “Seminal work from one of the most important bands around. Abrasive, pissed off and dangerous.”
Ged Babey said: “Key Markets is simply the latest great Sleaford Mods album. It has moments of desolate contemplation as well as the usual profanity and abuse. Their are big truths and profundity side by side with trivial asides that clutter the memory. It reflects how fucked up our brains get as we get to middle age and how completely bollocksed and divided the UK is.”
(albums of the year numbers 100 to 50 are here )