December: the month of the countdown. With the shadow of 2016 looming, its threats of war, socioeconomic unrest and a new Yoko Ono album growing to a roar in our ears, it’s nice to take the time to peer wistfully over our shoulder as we hurtle into an uncertain future.
The 50 records below have been selected by TLE’s music contributors to represent the cream of 2015’s musical crop. It’s a beastly read.
We all know that lists like this should be taken with a pinch of salt. Did your favourite make the cut? Probably not. In fact, it’s equally as likely that your least favourite release is in here somewhere. Would Are You Satisfied? appear on my personal list? No, keep it far away from me. But it’s the diversity in our tastes and the breadth of material out there that makes music so awesome.
And we’ve got some diverse tastes on the team: Viet Cong with Snoop Dogg, Adele with Miguel, Waxahatchee with Rolo Tomassi and countless (well, 44) others.
It’s a weird group, but it’s ours, and I hope you find some records over the next five pages to keep you in excellent music well into the new year.
–Grant, Music Ed.
Action Bronson / Mr Wonderful
Lovingly labelled “the missing link between the Wu-Tang Clan and Weird Al Yankovic”, Action Bronson’s seasonal vegetables are as exceptional as his Ghostface-apeing. While it feels like chance, Mr. Wonderful hangs together just so, seamlessly transitioning from studio fuck-up to tailored soul funk to live-cut psychedelia in a jank-free trip through Bronson’s buttery brain. Grant.
Adele / 25
If you haven’t heard Adele’s new album already then Hello, where the hell have you been? With rich vocals, beautiful melodies and heart-rending lyrics, the Tottenham native has smashed expectations (and world records). Adele is just one of those artists you can’t go wrong with, whether it’s a slow-jam that makes you want to cry or an up-tempo tune about waving a big middle finger to your ex, 25 is a must for anyone with an eye on the charts. Eleanor.
The Armed / Untitled
It wasn’t until the sleepy pace and brooding builds of ‘Dead Actress’, track 7 of The Armed’s Untitled, that I finally took a breath. Untitled is a white-knuckled, thick-fingered hand squeezing your throat. The relentless aggression of tracks like ‘Future Drugs’ and ‘Rage Of Youth’ is all-encompassing and inescapable. Cling to what nuance you can. Your only hope is to drink the furious mixture down, wheel your limbs and revel in its glorious red mist. Grant.
Bring Me The Horizon / That’s The Spirit
The Sheffield rockers’ fifth album continues the bands’ projection away from the shores of metal faraway into a land where pop is king. With pop rock anthems ‘Drown’, ‘Follow Me’ and ‘Throne’ as well as the odd throwback to their sound of old (‘Happy Song’), Oli Sykes and crew have created an established pop rock record that will be filling arenas in a not so distant future. Alex.
Chastity Belt / Time to Go Home
Modern-day womanhood, gender equality and suburban boredom amidst a fatalistic atmosphere of adolescent partying – this is Chastity Belt. Time to Go Home is similar to 2013’s No Regrets but with a more sophisticated approach to production. Julia Shapiro’s vocals tread the line between wailing dominance and apathetic modesty, leaving room for the encompassing crossover surf-pop riffs and basslines, catalysing in extended instrumentals and tempo-shifts. Will.
Chelsea Wolfe / Abyss
A stunning, visual and visceral album from Chelsea Wolfe. A hugely inspiring work of art far surpassing her previous efforts, drenched in doom and writhing with despair; Abyss is an almost physical experience. Give this two listens and welcome a little gloom into your life. Kane.
Courtney Barnett / Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
A deadpan vocal delivery, detailing mostly humdrum subjects, is a style easily adopted but rarely mastered. Courtney Barnett’s humour, sarcastic wit and lyrical intelligence help to nail it, accompanied by the sombre solitude of her guitar or a scruffy hook-driven backing band. Her stories of sleepless nights in New York, house-hunting in the less desirable part of town, or the dilemma of going out or staying in for the night are things that resonate with all of us, but it takes Barnett’s viewpoint to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Will.
Death Grips / The Powers That B
A double album combining the synthetic beats of Niggas On The Moon and the psychedelics of Jenny Death, The Powers That B is a fever dream of Bjork samples, acerbic social commentary and MC Ride’s tortured psyche. If The Money Store proved that Death Grips can do mainstream, …Powers proves that, whether it’s tweaked-out hip hop or EQ-pushing riffage, Death Grips own it whatever direction they spiral into. Grant.
Deerhunter / Fading Frontier
Episode number seven of the Deerhunter story grants us further insight into the anxious mind of lead singer Bradford Cox. The melancholy guitar and striking drum and synth beats provide a beautiful backdrop for their special brand of flowing, adventurous alternative. Declan.
Drenge / Undertow
Drenge went heavy. The addition of bassist Rob Graham has given them new heft, blasting a whirlwind of thrash from the word go. Side B doesn’t disappoint with a slower tempo providing space for crashing beats and droned-out amplifiers. It’s a sinister second half concluding a rock-solid statement of intent. Declan.