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50 Earl Sweatshirt
I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside
Earl Sweatshirt is my favourite rapper that I don’t like listening to. As he’s sunk deeper into depression since the release of his mixtape EARL, his music has become like looking at a black sun; unsettling and impossible to look at for long without turning away. And that’s where the beauty of this album lies. Clocking in at thirty minutes of lo-fi beats and downtempo rapping reminiscent of MF DOOM’s unique style, it delves deep into Earl’s psychology without overstaying its welcome. The production on this album is also a massive improvement for Sweatshirt; the tracks he produced by himself on Doris were generally pretty mediocre, but here his separate moniker Randomblackdude finally feels necessary; the drums are amplified and distorted almost beyond recognition with eerie chords layered over the top. He’s carved out a production niche to beat the style that former Odd Future stablemate Tyler The Creator developed for him. Seeing his undeniable skills on the mic and his newly developed production talents bleed together gave us one of the best straight, unabashed hip-hop records of the year. Not one to miss.
49 BadBadNotGood & Ghostface Killah
What a year it has been for Ghostface Killah. First being declared in the Top 10 MCs of all time by Billboard, eclipsing the likes of Tupac, and then with the creation of this gem of an album. 2015 has truly treated him well. Fully embarking in his own full-fledged solo career away from legendary rap group Wu-Tang Clan, the veteran MC released Sour Soul, a collaboration with Canadian jazz trio BadBadNotGood. The record exemplifies the talent Ghostface possesses, with his flow seemlessly adjusting to whatever beat was provided. His smooth yet somehow gritty voice fitted every track. BadBadNotGood provided smooth beats across the project, and were certainly not outshone, pandering to create an album that plays like a soundtrack. Using recording techniques from the 60s and 70s, BadBadNotGood stepped away from sampling to creating, and favoured the use of live instruments to produce an ambience to the project, which is so often missing from modern Hip Hop. With the lyrical dexterity Ghostface possess, I find it unlikely that I will ever become apathetic with his work, and this album certainly follows suit. This is a great album.
Miles from their grainy 2013 release, Monomania, Deerhunter’s Fading Frontier is their warmest album to date. The interplay between sweet melodies and harmonic resolutions cushions the overall impression of a crisp, finished-to-perfection masterpiece. As a listening experience, Fading Frontier evokes tranquillity and escapism, a yearning for simplicity, particularly through tracks such as ‘Ad Astra’ and ‘Living My Life’. Below the blissful surface, however, we are invited to explore the darker ambience that frames the album, offering a sense of insecurity and unsettlement. Take ‘Snakeskin’, for example, the record’s second single and bittersweet standout. At first glance, we have an upbeat track threaded with rhythmic funk, but lyrics such as the opening line, “I was born already nailed to the cross”, reveal an undercurrent of death, mortality and suffering which underpins the album in its entirety. We can’t ignore the significance of frontman Bradford Cox’s car accident towards the end of last year as a vital piece of context, as this undoubtedly influenced how the album confronts discontent and inevitable death in even the most tranquil tracks. Overall, Fading Frontier is a cheerfully straightforward record defined by its translucency, which gently reveals darkly obscure subject matter under the guise of dreamy positivity. From Deerhunter, of course, we would expect nothing less.
Read our full review of Deerhunter’s Fading Frontier here.
47 Wolf Alice
My Love Is Cool
The first full-length release after two successful EPs, My Love is Cool is not your typical alt-rock album. Lead vocalist Ellie Rowsell’s ethereal folk vocals alongside grungey guitar is what gives this band their unique style. From the heavier rock of ‘Lisbon’ and ‘Giant Peach’ to the shoegaze melodies of ‘Silk’ and ‘Soapy Water’, Wolf Alice have put their hands into a few cookie jars; but somehow it works. It is odd to include their debut single ‘Fluffy’ on the album, yet this goes to show the time and effort that the band have invested into this album. However, it is Rowswell’s vocal skill that makes this album such a rewarding listen. From silky harmonies to channelling her inner Carrie Brownstein, she demonstrates envious skill and control. The fact they have released all of their EPs and this album on vinyl shows just how much they know their sound: the gravelly guitar and crescendos of tracks like ‘Bros’ seem designed as the perfect match for vinyl sound quality. The band is also known for its devoted fanbase, who will mutter “you really need to go see live”. Take their advice; wholesome yet provocative, it should come as no surprise that this album was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize this year.
Read our full review of Wolf Alice’s My Love Is Cool here, or check our latest interview with them here.
46 Belle and Sebastian
Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
Belle and Sebastian never fail to deliver a brilliant ambience to their music, and the new album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance is no different. It holds familiar indie pop acoustics and featured vocals on select tracks from Sarah Martin and Stevie Jackson, which are peppered alongside some bold attempts at something new. In particular, Enter Sylvia Plath is so uncharacteristically disco that I thought I was listening to a completely different band. It’s difficult not to feel the warmth that is produced from this band’s signature quirkiness. Even during the opener ‘Nobody’s Empire’, where Murdoch references his personal struggle with ME, I found myself embracing the song’s sweetness despite its emotional lyrics. Belle and Sebastian are known for their superbly written songs, and this new album does not break their track record; ‘The Cat with The Cream’ is borderline poetry with fuzzy vocals and ethereal strings. And then we’re immediately affronted by a complete change in theme, with ‘Enter Sylvia Plath’. It’s in this variety of sounds that the album falls short, as it seems that they didn’t know exactly what they wanted to achieve in its production. Some tracks belong on an Eighties dance floor, and others are acoustic indie pop tracks that you would generally expect from the band. Neither themes are necessarily bad, but it seems strange to see them in such close proximity. At times it’s weird, but it would be naïve to expect anything else from Belle and Sebastian. It’s probably intentional.
Jack Powys Maurice
In February, three piece twee-punk band QUARTERBACKS released their eponymous album of a whopping 19 tracks about love. Falling in love, falling out of love, staying in love; there’s a lot of love. While the track list may be long, the album itself is not, with the average length of track at just over a minute. Being presented in such short bursts, this record is fast paced, hardly letting the listener catch their breath. These brief bursts of adrenaline perfectly match the simplistic honesty with which QUARTERBACKS sing about girls, more girls, and a guy and his pets in ‘The Dogs’. The lyrics are simple and relatable, such as in Lauren: “I like way you say my name: stretch out the middle vowels so there’s a smile on your face” which makes the tracks somewhat endearing, and even more enjoyable. Throughout the album, Dean’s unpretentious voice encapsulates the coming-of-age feel of the album; this group don’t sound perfect, but that’s kind of the point of what they’re singing. The frantic, intense pop-punk tracks are a curious mix of fragility and strength, and are the perfect songs to articulate your inner heartache. With 19 tracks – even if altogether they last less than twenty five minutes – this is an impressive album of snapshots into this band’s thoughts, feelings and emotions, in which you’re sure to find some of your own.
44 Trust Fund
“No One’s Coming For Us”
Bristol quintet Trust Fund’s “No one’s coming for us” is pretty perfect as debut albums go. With easy listening Indie pop-rock tunes reminiscent of The Smiths and The Cure, songwriter Ellis Jones and his bandmates manage to elegantly weave interesting yet simple melodies together with soulful lyrics and many reviews thus far have attempted to analyse their meaning. In an interview, Jones said the songs “are all about personal stuff but stitched together in a way that makes it pretty impossible to unpick them”… so I’m not going to attempt to dissect the lyrics. What I will say though is that ‘Essay to Write’ should be every Undergraduate’s new anthem, and when I hear the line “Maybe next week we can talk it over?” I don’t think of a student romance but of the one on one conversation I have in my own mind when essay procrastination has reached peak level. Another stand out track is IDK ‘(I don’t know)’ which is so bright and sunny in the beginning but gradually gets more rocky with the drums building to a crescendo and the introduction of some really cool melancholy guitar riffs. I can only speak highly of this album which exudes creativity and talent. If you can’t listen to the whole thing then at least watch the video for “cut me out ” on YouTube – the cute dogs mean you’d be barking mad not to.
The Way Back Up
Prides have had a pervading presence throughout 2015, seeping into the collective consciousness via appearances on Radio 1, FIFA 15 and even TOWIE. Their debut album, Way Back Up, released in July, entered the UK Album Chart at number 14. This was an impressive feat considering that they were up against the likes of Years and Years and James Bay who were tipped to be destined for greatness in 2015. Way Back Up is an album of euphoric electro-pop with catchy choruses and big sounds, prepped to fill stadiums up and down the country. The album has been criticised for faltering and burning out mid-way, yet this is unfair. Rather, it is an album with an explosive start that, rather than burning out, settles down by the time the end is reached. Perhaps this is a problem of the track listing rather than reflective of Prides’ talents, who are more than capable of making radio friendly hits with a somewhat surprising, but commendable, emotional depth. For example, ‘It’s Not Gonna Change’ demonstrates Prides’ empathy in describing a relationship with someone who would rather behind lies than see the real situation while ‘Let it Go’ and ‘Same Mistakes’ also demonstrate such emotional awareness. Tracks such as ‘Same Mistakes’ and ‘The Kite String and the Anchor Rope’ that prove that Prides are more than just a one-trick pony. It reveals a dimension of themselves that they can explore further as a way to differentiate them within the crowded electro-pop scene. Prides’s debut cannot be underestimated. Although their sound may sound old this time next year, right now it’s sounding fab.
42 Great Cynics
I Feel Weird
Great Cynics are one of the best bands in the thriving Exeter music scene, and the trio’s third record features a brilliant collection of catchy songs that sound both familiar and fresh. The crossover appeal of the album is tremendous, with tracks like ‘Want You Around’ and ‘I Went Swimming’ mixing pop simplicity with indie-punk hooks to create the right blend suitable for punks and mainstream kids alike. Vocal duties are shared and switched between Iona Cairns and Giles Bidder, with some songs demonstrating their individual talent as vocalists, such as Cairns’ standout song ‘North Street’, and other songs such as ‘Lost In You’ showcasing their Beatles-esque vocal compatibilities as a pair. Themes on the album stretch from being happy and content within yourself to hating everyone you know to simply yearning for the seaside, I Feel Weird boasts a fantastic selection of lyrics which are best imagined being chanted by a room full of pint-fuelled punks.
41 Everything Everything
Get To Heaven
Big. Bold. Brash. Bizarre. Everything Everything’s third studio album encapsulates everything that make the Manchester-based foursome so loveable. Effortlessly catchy and yet increasingly eccentric, Get to Heaven seemed like a shoe-in for a Mercury Prize nomination with its obscure subject matter and jumble of incomprehensible lyrics – “Baby, it’s alright to feel like a fat child in a pushchair, old enough to run, old enough to fire a gun” – Anyone?! Despite the nomination not arriving, this album remains a personal triumph and career highlight for Jonathan Higgs and co. At it’s most basic level, Get to Heaven is an exceptional pop album, with shape-throwing worthy dance numbers such as ‘Distant Past’ and good old fashioned singalongs like ‘Spring/Summer/Winter/Dread’ proving hugely popular at the band’s many UK festival appearances this summer. Delve a little deeper, however, and one is confronted with an increasingly sophisticated, darker communiqué behind that sweet innocent falsetto voice of Higgs. Featuring everything from political rants about the appeal of Nigel Farage (‘The Wheel (Is Turning Now)’) to musings on teenage girls going to join ISIS (‘Regret’), all presented in the band’s unique, disjointed and jarring way, Get to Heaven is undoubtedly Everything Everything’s most complete, pretentious and utterly brilliant album to date.
Read our full review of Everything Everything’s Get To Heaven here.