The Age of the Playlist: The Top 10 Albums of 2015

*Written by Sachin Turakhia*

It may seem weird to start a column for a new magazine with a year review article, but with 2015 being such a strong 12 months for music, it seems fitting to reflect on some of the best records of the year. With many labelling the current musical climate as “The age of the playlist”, the albums of 2015 certainly reminded us that the LP is still the pinnacle of an artist's creation. Even more importantly, we were reminded how much the format means to music consumers – you only have to look back as far as last month and the mild hysteria induced by the release of Adele’s 25 and Coldplay’s A Head Full Of Dreams to see that there’s still demand for albums.

There have been many great records in the last 12 months, and a large number of lists have been published which rank these. This will probably make you wonder why, then, I’m bothering to bore you with my own list. In my mind there’s 2 reasons:

  • These records are incredible pieces of art, and even if you are already aware of them – they deserve celebrating.

  • Hopefully there’s a few hidden gems on here that have slipped under your radar.


10) Mark Wynn Skivvy: A Much More Noble Occupation (Desert Mine Music)

York’s Mark Wynn is one of the most prolific music producers active today. With 13 releases in the musicsphere at the point of writing, there’s no shortage of examples of his unique style to draw on. His most recent release (which appeared on bandcamp in April) is an album by a man who is very attuned to his craft. His lyricism, wit and ability to turn mundane daily routines into tales you want to hear is second to none with songs like ‘A Man In The Supermarket Wiping Down The Fruit” and “Burger Not In Bap” showcasing this ability. A truly unique performer, Mark Wynn will get stuck under your skin.


9) Ought Sun Coming Down (Constellation)

The second record from art-punk quartet Ought is 8 songs of (their trademark) mammoth duration and each one is glorious trip inside frontman Tim Darcy’s mind. The tunes are pretty stellar as well. The leaders of Montreal’s very healthy music scene lived up to their billing with this September release.


 

8) Kurt Vile b’lieve i’m goin down … (Matador)

Kurt Vile’s third record is the sound of a man finally very comfortable with his craft, which even he acknowledges on “Lost My Head There” with: ‘Fell on some keys, and this song walked out of me’. A very introspective record, b’lieve i’m goin down is what every singer-songwriter is striving to create. However, the less said about the album cover and the title the better.


 

7) Georgia Georgia (Domino)

London singer, songwriter, producer and all round musical aficionado, Georgia, created a debut LP of 12 tracks of sonic fuzz. Inspired by Indian beats she discovered whilst travelling, her sound is a coming together of cultures that works so well you wonder why no one has done it before. And with tender moments such as “Heart Wrecking Animals” to break up the barrage of noise, Georgia is the complete package.    


6) Francesca Belcourt Zongs (GENERO)

On her debut album Zongs (in her words, the album has it’s title “because I don’t really think of them as songs. They’re just something weirder than that to me”), Vancouver based Belcourt has given listeners a guided tour around the inside of her brain. The 8 track LP sucks you into her own little world and is the perfect soundtrack to a night spent whyling away the hours in your bedroom. With very introspective lyrics such as “You don’t have to tell nobody, if you want to touch my body,” Zongs is an immediately relatable album.


5) Dilly Dally Sore (Buzz)

If Toronto 4 piece Dilly Dally were a British band, they would have been given the unwanted tag as the new ‘saviours of guitar music’. It is a horrible tag to be associated with but in the case of Sore, Dilly Dally have created a near perfect guitar album. It is common for rock records of this ilk to contain one or two excellent tracks and then a lot of filler, where the riffs don’t quite match the quality set by the lead singles. Sore however, has 11 brilliant tracks, driven by Katie Monk’s incredibly powerful voice and Liz Ball’s sparkling guitar riffs. You will be hearing about this band in years to come.


4) Drenge Undertow (Infectious Music)

Drenge released their self-titled debut as a two-piece back in 2013, to critical acclaim, so when the news broke that they were adding a bassist (Rob Graham) to their lineup, fans’ opinions were split. The doubters should have had more faith in the Loveless brothers. Their already immense sound was given even more added umph and April’s Undertow was a triumph. A haunting and exciting record in equal measure, the album was deeply unlucky to miss out on a Mercury nomination. Not that this would bother Eoin and Rory, with standout tracks “The Woods” and “Never Awake” showing that they are one of the strongest songwriting combinations of the minute, and lead-single “We Can Do What We Want” proving they can even hit these high standards in a major-key.


3) Everything Everything Get To Heaven (RCA Victor)

Another album that was very unlucky not to get a Mercury nomination, Manchester quartet Everything Everything’s third record represented a step forward for the band. They have always made infectious pop records, lead by Jonathan Higgs’ unique falsetto. On Get To Heaven, however, for the first time you could properly make out the lyrics. “Oh baby it’s alright, it’s alright to feel like a fat child in a push chair old enough to run. // Old enough to fire a gun.” from “No Reptiles” being a highlight of the political bite the album had. Having been previously quoted as saying “You’d have to be blind or deaf to have lived through 2014 and not shed a tear,” it is clear where the inspiration for the LP came from. It may not be the same mentality that Good News! is taking to combat the world we live in today, but it is an incredible album from a truly unclassifiable band.


2) Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit (Milk)

The leading lady of Melbourne and Australian music, Courtney Barnett, had the eyes of the world on her and her Melbourne-based label, Milk Records, after she released a double EP “The Sea Of Split Peas” back in 2013. Her debut album was always going to be heavily scrutinized and in typical fashion Courtney lashed out at the hype machine on “Pedestrian At Best” with “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you”. Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit was in fact anything but a disappointment. Demonstrating her incredible lyrical artistry and wit throughout the 11 tracks: “Sunk like a stone // like a first owner’s home loan” and “Wondering what you’re doing, what you’re listening to // What quarter of the moon you’re viewing from your bedroom” being particular highlights. She even displays signs of growing up, to contrast the dummy-out-of-the-pram attitude some thought were present on “Pedestrian At Best”, with the line “I used to hate myself but now I think I’m alright” on “Small Poppies”. It all combines to leave Courtney displayed as one of the brightest musical lights the world has right now.


1) Tame Impala Currents (Interscope)

What do you do when you release 2012’s finest album and kickstart a new wave of psychedelia? If you’re Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, you don’t follow the script. You throw away your guitar and strut over towards the dancefloor and embrace your new musical inspirations under the disco ball – why would you try and repeat the trick from your previous album? Not taking the logical step is what defines genius, and I don’t feel like I’m using the word too easily when describing Kevin Parker. He is one of the great musical minds of the modern age.

From the first track of Currents, the epic track-of-the-year contender “Let It Happen”, the album’s manifesto is clear for all to see. Tame Impala are not going to let the critical and commercial success of their second album Lonerism define them. The thundering guitars of breakout single “Elephant” are nowhere to be found, with synth and bassline groove taking control. You would expect fans to turn their noses up at such a change but, in fact, like the Pied Piper, Kevin Parker has lead them all into the bright disco lights. “Yes I’m changing, yes I’m gone // Yes I’m older, yes I’m moving on // And if you don’t think it’s a crime you can come along, with me.” Epic.


*Written by Sachin Turakhia*