We like lists. If you like lists too, why not take a look at our favourite albums of 2015, or our favourite releases from Exeter and Devon? Below are a pick of the records that, simply put, we loved at first sight.
Blur – The Magic Whip
The musical quality resounding in Blur’s comeback album, The Magic Whip, is nearly as bright as the neon ice-cream on its cover. Just when you thought Blur had spent all their creativity, the bold shine of The Magic Whip reminds you that they’ve still got plenty of juice left in them.
Ought – Sun Coming Down
The wonderfully weird Ought have never failed to surprise me. The cover of 2015’s Sun Coming Down was no departure from this. Its colourful minimalism wouldn’t look out of place on a Talking Heads record, and yet Ought have made everything but a Talking Head’s record; in fact, it is one of the punkiest, most hostile records released this year. It’s like understated, artsy wrapping paper on an unexpectedly exciting Christmas present.
Du Blonde – Welcome Back to Milk
Ever since Du Blonde released the artwork for their debut album Welcome Back to Milk, I’ve struggled to work out how it makes me feel. On the one hand, it’s brashly eye-catching, and not exactly the kind of image you’d hang proudly on your bedroom wall. On the other hand, it’s a celebration of natural beauty; hence it’s lack of touching-up on Photoshop, despite being a discard from an old photo-shoot. Somehow, curiously, Du Blonde manage to make an important statement without really going out of their way to say anything.
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
It’s a chair on a mat, and it’s not even a well drawn one. But that is Courtney Barnett in a nutshell, isn’t it? Nothing says slacker-rock than a roughly drawn doodle and Barnett’s captures the ethos of the album perfectly.
Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
The album art for Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear gets more interesting the more you look at it. The cover, designed by J. Tillman, is a strange replica of classical art that, at first glance, seems largely normal. And then you notice the winged sprites, and the owl with eight eyes, and the black figure with the bag over his head, and the beard on the baby. I never thought I’d have to use the term ‘distressingly amazing’ before, but I suppose you can’t predict anything these days.
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Ah, sweet Sufjan. The artist behind one of the best and deeply personal albums of the year chose, simply, the best artwork to compliment it. A fuzzy image of his parents, cracked and faded, represents an album brimming with sadness. If anything, it matches the mood set by the album perfectly: sad, but not miserable. This is one for your vinyl collection.
Pond – Man It Feels Like Space Again
Where Tame Impala’s Currents was a thing of slick beauty, Pond succeed in sounding a little bit like their little brother (I mean, they share most of their members), taking off in a direction that Kevin Parker could have done, but chose not to. This isn’t a criticism at all. The cover of Man It Feels like Space Again, a collection of cartoons referring to the album’s track listing, captures the gooey, psychedelic-pop mish-mash that makes them so exciting in their own right.
Grimes – Art Angels
Grimes is, in every definition of the word, an artist. When you buy a Grimes album, you’re buying her, not her music. This is why it was so important that the cover for Art Angels was drawn by her, it injects another layer of personality that single-handedly transforms it from a good album into a great one. It’s youthful, freakish and refreshingly unique.
Wilco – Star Wars
Star Wars is far from Wilco’s greatest work; the Chicago band is one of the most widely respected alternative country bands in the world. That said, Star Wars boasts, arguably, the strangest album art of the year. We have a somewhat regal cat staring at us condescendingly in front of a vase of flowers, with the words ‘Star Wars’ stamped across them in bright red. It’s like they stuck together a few things that don’t really compliment each other and made it so odd that it became a thing of bizarre beauty.
Tame Impala – Currents
I really didn’t want to be the predictable man that I am when it came to this list, but I couldn’t help myself. Yes, Tame Impala is number one, big whoop. Currents may be an impeccable collection of music; however, the dribbling vortex on its cover can only grow to be as equally culturally iconic. The main ingredient of Currents was its gorgeous, rippling synth and this captures it beautifully. It’s nothing short of a 21st century masterpiece.