Send Two Sunsets (2015)
Artists are playing on the periphery of pop and ambient music, but no-one has yet been brave enough to blend the two as totally as this. It's difficult to introduce a new sound into an over-saturated market, and whilst all angles of this record have been explored by others before, none have so boldly put them all together in one package.
Best song:Blue Distance
Bryce Dessner & Sō Percussion
Music for Wood and Strings (2015)
What an odd collection of noises Dessner puts together. You hear the basic building blocks of music, Tubular Bells style, and think "this sounds disjointed and raw", and all of a sudden, melody arrives from nowhere. It's like musical magic! The result is a kindergarten music class inhabited entirely by virtuosos, a delight to behold.
Best song:Section 1
Flamboyant Shamir breaks down (gender) barriers on this hyperactive dance record. It's a lot to handle, but never too much; while there's enough to jump around to, some quiet moments provide room for contemplation. If you want good disco, though, Hot Chip is a better choice. Shamir sounds like a pop star already, but his debut is not substantial enough.
Best song:On The Regular
The post-disco phase has uncovered a dark, purple tinged Prague nightclub sound that delights and excites in the most subtle of ways if mixed with the correct atmosphere. Like Robyn before her, Emika explores the darkness with aplomb, delivering intelligent blindsides about life on the way. More coherent than FKA Twigs but no less artistic.
The Desired Effect (2015)
Flowers is fresh out the 1980s, resplendant in the kind of muted fanfare his band has stayed well away from since their origins. It's not The Killers Unplugged, more like if they plugged their instruments into Colin Thurston's brain. He is a strong personality, and his voice is so distinctive it carries the record into comfortable territory.
Best song:Can't Deny My Love
After The Fall
A musical dedication to a deceased friend rarely is a misstep. Dedication is no exception. ATF fires 10 songs at you in only 19 minutes. This is straight up skate punk at its finest. It’s pure, technical and lightning fast. The solid production, clear vocals and emotional lyrics make Dedication a cohesive tribute, straight from the heart.
Best song:Twenty Nine
The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Musique De Film Imaginé (2015)
What if you want to make an experimental film score, but no movie fits your music? Just create a fictional movie and score that. The result is probably not what was intended. It doesn't really evoke mental imagery of a Wargnier variety, yet as a musical endeavour it is a wonderful expression of pent-up energy and moments of muted climax.
Metz haven't slowed down one bit. You may not have thought this possible, but II is even more gut-wrenchingly aggressive than their first. The entire record is one big explosion of pained cries and distortion that will leave you exhausted after 30 minutes. Bigger is not always better though; melodies are buried even deeper, making this album hard to digest.
Best song:The Swimmer
The L-Shaped Man (2015)
Now here’s a band that loves Joy Division. This is an all too obvious hommage to the old wave. Then again, those songs are 35 years old, so why not? Let’s embrace the clean approach: the gritty stomp makes room for a more post-punk, European sound that's haunting nonetheless. But they forget to wave a little Black Flag over that cold Manchester concrete.
Best song:The Understanding
Why Make Sense? (2015)
What do you do when you have explored every sonic corner? You can double down and make something huge, or you can go back to your roots. Hot Chip reduce their sound to its bare essentials, finding the groove in a less-is-more manner that rewards a shrewd listener. This is an Alexis Taylor special, with heartfelt lyrical odes and pained relations.
Best song:Need You Now
Live at Carnegie Hall (2015)
Adams is a great songwriter. His young catalogue proves inexhaustible and flexible. Here's a safe cross-cut of evergreens and less obvious tunes, beautifully blending in his latest work. It gels well, too well, for it’s a balance beam between ignition and submission, but the quality of his voice, songs and recording prevails. Gotta love the monologues too.
Best song:Come Pick Me Up
Insane Clown Posse
The Marvelous Missing Link (Lost) (2015)
Say what you want about ICP, disingenuous is a label that has never been applicable to them. Their 2015 persona is no different, as the record winds its way through a huge variety of topics and violent imagery, settling on a mix of observational faux-humour, existential rants disguised as fables, and aggressive takedowns of the socially abhorrent.
Best song:Falling Apart