30 El Vy
Return to the Moon
The indie-rock scene was abuzz with excitement when EL VY (pronounced “like the plural of Elvis”) announced the release of their debut album, Return To The Moon, earlier this year. The band, formed out of a creative collaboration project between The National’s Matt Berninger and Ramona Falls/Menomena’s Brent Kropf, are a supergroup force to be reckoned with; the distinctive grit of Berninger’s baritone vocals are perfectly offset against Knopf’s more upbeat musical arrangements. Whilst Berninger’s lyrics dwell on familiar themes of fame, miscommunication, and his upbringing (“I had a sugar-coated childhood/ the stars were in my soup”), the playfulness in his self-criticism is charmingly emphasised by the liveliness of Kropf’s musical accompaniments. Still, the album has moments of real tenderness too – “Oh, I should never have let you leave this morning,” Berninger sighs in Sleeping Light, and the lyrics of Need A Friend – “I just need a couple of seconds on the floor/ just need to talk to you for a second,” equally evoke deeper emotional feeling. The songs of Return To The Moon prove that, for both musicians, this is more than just a project with which to flirt with the unfamiliar; the undeniable creative talents of EL VY form a creative powerhouse, and each listen to the band’s triumphant debut proves that this album is a force to be reckoned with.
Read our full review of EL VY’s Return to the Moon here.
29 Yo La Tengo
Stuff Like That There
Yo La Tengo made their debut in 1986, and now, just under thirty years later, the four piece have gone and dropped their fourteenth studio album, Stuff Like That There. It is hard to believe that a band with such little mainstream success has kept going for so many decades, but with a small but dedicated fan base, the indie-folk American outfit have released yet another high quality and melodic album. As I’m sat listening to their new material, songs such as ‘Awhileaway’ filled with calming vocals make me feel like I am just waking up on a Sunday morning, the relaxing acoustic guitars and perfectly balanced percussion of the whole album induces an ultimate unwind state of mind for the best part of an hour. Mirroring their 1990s album Fakebook, Yo La Tengo have created another mix of completely new tracks and acoustic covers of songs from artists such as The Cure’s ‘Friday I’m In Love’ and Hank Williams’s ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’. They’ve produced an album which in theory shouldn’t fit: an assortment of songs from early ‘40s country and americana to ‘80s and ‘90s alternative rock. Have they gone mad? It is executed extremely well, the covers have been given the band’s own signature spin making them barely recognisable, and fit seamlessly together with the countryside vibe. Original songs such as ‘Rickety’ have undoubtedly made it on to my Sunday morning playlist, and waking up is made just that little bit easier as they serenade my probably hungover ears, with the idea that the world is sleeping in too.
28 Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Chasing Yesterday is, unsurprisingly, an album utterly focused on the past. It’s largely thoughtful and reflective, with flashes of some of the aggressiveness of peak Oasis-style Britpop. Thankfully, this time when we’re listening to Gallagher’s voice, it isn’t tiresomely slating every other artist in the music industry, so that’s refreshing. Gallagher is much better off writing the predictably quality tunes he could write in his sleep, which he does superbly here. In fact, much of this album might just send you into a relaxing doze: tracks like ‘In The Heat Of The Moment’ and ‘The Dying Of The Light’ marking some of the slower, more contemplative parts of the album. It’s chilled out, restrained rock with a psychedelic twist, but there are flashes of Gallagher’s more energetic younger days in there. ‘The Girl With X-Ray Eyes’ has more than a little of ‘The Masterplan’ to it and ‘Lock All The Doors’ punctuates the album’s slower sections with a rawness somewhat akin to ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’. Chasing Yesterday, to an extent, has flickers of the Oasis glory days, but it also encourages us to move on. The intensity is raised with the bluesy rock of ‘The Mexican’ up to the rockier conclusion ‘Ballad Of The Mighty I’. The reflective, soulful acoustic sounds at the beginning of the album make way for a more energetic end, indicating that there’s plenty more to come from Noel and his High Flying Birds on the horizon.
27 Drug Church
Hit Your Head
Drug Church and their brand new album Hit Your Head are pretty indescribable. That doesn’t leave me in a great place to start writing a review of them… If you’ve never listened to Drug Church before, just go do it; there’s no chance I can explain it to you. This album encapsulates what punk rock in 2015 has been missing: great riffs, hard hitting rhythms, innovative lyrics and vocals all combined with well influenced and constructed songwriting. Their live performance at Exeter’s Lemon Grove supporting The Story So Far and Turnstile displayed their sound and the unapologetic mastery of ‘Hit Your Head’ through bangers from the album such as ‘Banco Popular’, ‘Bagged’ and all round banger ‘Aleister’. The sheer power and originality in style is unparalleled in the current scene of rock/ punk/ whatever the fuck this is. One of the first released singles was ‘Hit Your Head, Greedy’; it sounds like society’s cultural aggravation pummelled through verbal and musical ferocity – Basil Fawlty in his final form. I don’t really have much more to say, just go listen to it. Mind blowing.
26 Public Service Broadcasting
The Race For Space
Public Service Broadcasting’s Race For Space tells the story of the American and Soviet space race from 1957 to 1972 and has been produced in collaboration with the British Film Institute. Through nine tracks, the album explores this pivotal period of history through a unique style which combines radio commentaries and speech recordings with chilled out electronic vibes, reminiscent of the 80s techno pop era and bands like Depeche Mode. The opening track is hauntingly beautiful as it sets President John F Kennedy’s 1962 speech at Rice University against pure choral harmonies. This blend serves to create a mesmerising effect which seems to really focus the listener on the poignancy of Kennedy’s ghostly voice when he says, “We meet in an hour of change and challenge… in a decade of both hope and fear.” Standout track is ‘Gagarin’ which features snippets of radio coverage relating to Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin who was the first human to journey into space and tragically died following a crash during the Soyuz 1 mission. These are layered on top of funky beats and infectious electric guitar riffs as well as punctuations of saxophone which just all come together to create something which, I suppose, is not only a tribute to Gagarin’s epic achievement and life, but also a pretty groovy tune. The album’s unique selling point is that the band have stated that they will probably never perform all nine tracks live due to the sensitive nature of ‘Fire in the Cockpit’, which contains excerpts of radio transmissions received during the Apollo 1 disaster in 1967. Even those have no love for history or electronic symphonies can surely appreciate the pure genius of this album and chill out to songs which only seem to get better with every listen.
25 Young Thug
Young Thug is an enigmatic character to say the least, both in his personality and his music. His debut album, or ‘retail mixtape’ (think Drake’s If You’re Reading This…), Barter 6, treads strange but exciting territory, contributing to the US rap scenes’ ever-changing sound. Like his contemporaries, Young Thug turns towards the visceral, creating music that gets you in the zone, hits you in a range of feels, and often provokes the thought of “oh fuck, this is good”. Barter 6 is developmental and experimental, rendering it a fascinating listen. The album can only be described as hyperactive, yet cohesive, quickly moving around from sound to sound but in a tight and compact fashion. His flow on the album is a sign of his confidence, ‘Halftime’ illustrating his ability to quickly and seamlessly change from one flow to another. The opening track, ‘Constantly Hating’, acts as a good metaphor for what’s to come, beginning at a snails pace, slowly racking up into big bass tremors that Thug exploits in between. His fans will be pleased with the familiar, buzzing minimalist beats, but if you’re not tuned in to Thug’s particular brand of rap, then the album, and the man, will probably just continue to confuse you. Understanding his lyrics isn’t the easiest task, but enjoying his music is a lot easier.
24 Behaving (Keaton Henson)
Keaton Henson has a knack of breaking hearts in such a delicately intimate and intellectual way that even the most pitiless critic – founding a career on investigating the rumoured fraudulence of his shy persona – must take a sharp intake of breath first. Behaving is his debut foray into electronica, following his surprise release of the classical Romantic Works with cellist Ren Ford last year. His folk roots synonymous the with sorrowful crooning of Dear and sophomore Birthdays make a welcome return in several tracks, alongside a ruthless piano (‘Preaching’) and chilling vocal distortion (‘Don’t Dance’). A numb defiance twists itself through the LP, rich in haziness and experimentation. Where electronica has an embedded ability to directly reference, sample and abrasively search into sociopolitical struggles, Behaving uses this potential to offer the record as an anaesthetic. A moment or two spent within its misery and it reeks distress at live animal testing (‘Vivisect’), mental health and depression (‘Shower’, ‘False Alarms’), and offers only the remedy of dancing when you’re not allowed to. Where Romantic Works sought a cure in movement (‘Healah Dancing’), Behaving leaves you with the heartbreak, and denies you all attempts to break free from it.
Read our full review of Behaving’s Behaving here.
Cold Walls / Cloudy Eyes
22 Tame Impala
First – the graphically gorgeous album art is just way too cool to avoid mention. Now for the album itself; open soundscapes combined with 60s psychedelia make this Australian fivesome’s latest venture a captivating listening experience. ‘Let it Happen’, perhaps the album’s most anthemic track, is seven and a half minutes of blissful orchestral electronical madness. Tracks such as ‘Disciples’ and ‘Love/Paranoia’ are clearly inspired by the 60s, whereas ‘Past Life’ and ‘Nangs’ show an influence from current day EDM. However, if you are anti-synth then this is not the album for you. Many of the tracks are synth heavy, with ‘Gossip’ being purely synth and a lone guitar. A clear movement away from their more ‘pop’ influenced previous album, but an arguably better fit for lead vocalist Kevin Parker’s soothing vocals. Lyrically, tracks such as ‘Yes I’m Changing’ explore a sense of self, echoing the bands own musical exploration. The hidden gem of the album for me is ‘Cause I’m a Man’; slower than the other tracks but with a catchy guitar riff and shoegaze harmonies it is, essentially, lush. Currents is an apt name for this album of gratifying melodic twists and turns, and deserves every inch of critical praise it’s plentifully received.
Read our full review of Tame Impala’s Currents here.
Released in February, indie rock quintet Adventures debuted with an album of wintery tones but encapsulated in an atmosphere of spring – most evident in the LP’s more indie tracks. Supersonic Home has allowed three members of Code Orange to both display emotions and cover topics not typically associated with the genre of their regular hardcore band. Influenced heavily by 90s emo and indie rock, this album is clearly a tribute to its inspirations. The album is a Jimmy Eat World and The Cranberries hybrid, with Reba Meyer’s vocals generating gentle harmonies despite her strained voice before some hard vocals. Her distinctive inflections, along with Joe Goldman’s male backing vocals, produce sweet duets of heartfelt sentiment. Bass lead but delicate, the album’s penultimate track ‘Long Hair’ glistens and forms an endearing song perfect for backing romantic summer gallivants. While the album’s instrumentation is predominantly clean and well mixed, occasionally a track’s structure can appear a little simple due to basic layers and persistently punchy bass guitar. However, it is the band’s ability to conjure catchy hooks and honour heavy chords that solidifies interest in this project. Complete with tracks that would not feel lost in Brand New or Transit albums, Supersonic Home delivers an affectionate angst common within the genre. This in fact is the album’s fatal flaw since nothing unique is really put forward by Adventures. Without being able to majorly inspire future bands itself, Supersonic Home can be regarded as a modern homage to the emo and indie rock bands the members grew up admiring. Nevertheless, Adventures does make a statement for aspiring female vocalists in alternative music as Meyer grants girls what she once had in Paramore’s Hayley Williams.