2015 has been full of surprises. From Ryan Adam’s cover album of Taylor Swift’s critically acclaimed 1989, to Kayne’s headline slot at Glastonbury and the re-emergence of Adele. Right the way to Justin Bieber’s blonde haired return to the airwaves and a new Coldplay album, it’s been an eventful 12 months that’s for sure.
Although you won’t find any other mentions of those artists in this list, they are still notable moments of the past year. The following albums that make up this list have been crucial musical accompaniments to our ears throughout 2015, so sit back and enjoy as we take you through them.
Wolf Alice ‘My Love is Cool’
Akin to the juxtaposition of their band name, the debut album from Wolf Alice shares that same ferocity underpinned with sweetness. Singer, Ellie Roswell, leads the foursome, with angelic vocals that shriek with conviction when plagued to compete with the onslaught of her co-horts feverous musicianship. Driving the songs forward is the bands relentless passion, this debut is what you make of it. Heart-racing animosity is spun into whirls of haunting melodic power, exquisite balladry lightens the rougher grunge fuelled punches, and the pop-minded choruses will have you blaring out every word along with the band in adoration. My Love is Cool is an album that instantly gained praise upon it’s release and it is one that will continue to do so for years to come.
Heyrocco ‘Teenage Movie Soundtrack’
The South Carolina band have just about cracked what it must have felt like to be in Seattle in the 90s. While Teenage Movie Soundtrack is a personal record for the bands frontman, Nate Merli, as each track describes his account of those unforgettable teenage years and the people that made that time bearable or not, as the case might be. From the first rabble rousing chorus of ‘Loser Denial’ to the youthful naivety of ‘Sante Fe’, a break-up song that’s sweet but scathing wit is the perfect contradiction to every other teenage love song. Before breaking into album closer, ‘Happy’ which reveals a turbulent heartbreak, soaring honesty and ferocious guitars make this one big finale.
The album mirrors the growing pains of coming of age: unsure of its place in the world on ‘Jake Miller’s House Party’, slowly revealing its confidence as the first flames of hormonal beginnings erupt in ‘Melt’. Then getting lost in the haze of burgeoning relationships on ‘Alison’ and the heartbreak that follows with ‘First Song’. Teenage Movie Soundtrack is a lighthearted look at the time in our lives where we are the most volatile. Either we burn through it recklessly in fearless abandon, or more significantly, its a time where we learn the most about ourselves. Who we are, who we want to be, what we want to do with our lives. This seminal record introduces a band that is ablaze with potential.
Many Things ‘Burn Together’
Many Things debut record is quite an anomaly. Musically, it’s frantic with pulsing, chugging synths and awash with melodies that are vibrant, danceable and euphoric. While the thematic subjects of Burn Together are somewhat more subjective. As a listener, you can read the lyrical themes in many ways. Obsessions with darkness, uncertainty, loss, pain and ruptured relationships are all in there, whilst also struggling through an existential crisis. Asking, where do we go after we die? Our souls, our memories, and the people we leave behind, what happens? It is a pretty heavy subject matter to tackle on a pop record but with frontman, Michael Tomlinson at the helm, the band are in fine hands and can take on just about anything.
Spector ‘Moth Boys’
The London band’s sophomore effort provides the musical refinement that their debut lacked. Though, still thoroughly tangible is the hallmark of Spector’s appeal, their emotionally driven songs delivered with a wry, sharpened honesty. Moth Boys is as much indebted to the bands new learnings in musical production, as it is to its commentary on today’s society and the modern day love affair we have with technology. Their eloquent yet ironic observations, that while we may live in a world that makes our interactions with each other, limitless. We instead, end up losing our connection with reality, and in turn we makes ourselves miserable. As what should be bringing us closer together, is sending us further apart. Our phones become less of an accessory and more like our best friends.
But Moth Boys has much more to offer than just social worries. It is a record that thrives with passionate pop refrains and heady indie rhythms, but it is its focus on exploring electronics and synthesisers that really brings the record into new territory. Particularly on ‘Believe’ and ‘Kyoto Garden’, the latter’s use of slow burning ambience soon ramps into a fully blown choral epiphany of epic proportions. A Spector album is always something to celebrate in my book and Moth Boys surely doesn’t disappoint.
James Bay ‘Chaos and the Calm’
The highly anticipated debut album from Hitchin singer, James Bay, has achieved a lot in its short time in the public arena. Propelling the young artist into super-stardom, from the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury to the MTV EMA’s, Bay’s intimately personal stories of enduring love, heartbreak, and fickle friendships have captured mainstream appeal, which spurred the record to reach the pivotal No. 1 slot.
It’s an album that revels in its emotional outpourings – fragile and flawed but immensely raw and delicate love notes, as if they were taken straight from his journal. It’s easy to fall into his words, delivered with such delicacy and vulnerability but made strong by his gravelly tone and rollicking hook-ridden musicality, it has made Bay unstoppable.
Hudson Taylor ‘Singing For Strangers’
Singing for Strangers is the Dublin brother’s clarion call. The record is immersed in two-part harmonies, hand claps and rousing, heartfelt lyrical confidence. The production ranges from flurrying full band numbers to humble acoustic ensembles, never straying into the territory of the overworked, glossy pop fodder that makes up a lot of today’s major label output.
Rather, Singing for Strangers relies on the brothers’ musical authenticity and organic, rootsy flavours. The record takes its listener on a beautiful, all-encompassing journey through teenage love, lost love, friendship, self-empowerment and turmoil. Its well-rounded use of themes means that there’s a song on there for everyone of any age.
San Cisco ‘Gracetown’
On the surface, San Cisco’s Gracetown provides the essence of lazy summer days backed by the urgency of adolescence. Their guilt-free indie pop comes complete with its own signature bubblegum sheen, but if you choose to look deeper beneath the sparkle of dizzy synths and carefree beats, you will find that Gracetown is actually a mature, sophisticated exploration into new musical territory for the Fremantle four-piece.
From the purposely overbearing likeability of ‘Too Much Time Together’, to the breezy slouch of ‘Magic’, San Cisco cement that they can craft good pop songs. As we delve further into Gracetown, we find the synth stomp of ‘Snow’ – an infectious, but meaningful “I’m sorry” to a lover, raging hormones on ‘Wash It All Away’, an R&B-led slow dance talking about a burgeoning relationship on ‘Super Slow’, supercharged energetic rhythms on ‘Bitter Winter’ and the beat-heavy thud of ‘Jealousy’ – it’s repetitious but just interesting enough to keep your attention, plus it features a guest vocal from The Preatures’ Isabella Manfredi. But it’s the silver toned funk of ‘Just For A Minute’ which closes the record that really is the stand out, the band’s subtle, slow burning grooves worm their way around your head till they become inescapable. It’s a powerful ending.
The debut album from electronic crooner Fyfe is something of real beauty. Filled with sumptuous grooves, rich vocals and finely crafted beats, Control offers much to its audience. Paul Dixon’s glitch-pop confessionals are openly vulnerable, offering up intimate details to his listener. The remarkably heartbreaking ‘Holding On’ a story of a relationship that is breaking down (“Trust me, you never know it’s special till it’s gone”), mistakes in love on ‘Keeping it Together’ (“I never thought that I could ever be a fool”) and the rapture of falling in love on ‘Veins’ (“How can chemicals feel so physical?”).
Control is engaging and refreshing in its approach to modern life, and the trials and tribulations that encompass all aspects of romantic love and relationships with another. Paul Dixon set himself a heavy task when it came to actualising his vision for this album, but he safely pulled it off – it’s suave, hypnotic and completely 100% human. Emotion sells, that’s a fact.
GEMS ‘Kill The One You Love’
Initially from the first utterance of the titular boldness of the record’s namesake, Kill the One You Love – the dream pop duo from Washington DC had our attention. The record being the duo’s debut, it is complete with promise and burdened with darker themes. GEMS not only captivate and haunt on Kill the One You Love but they have found a way to move past the pain and make it into a thing of beauty. It’s like coming back to a world that beams with sunshine and colour, after being locked away for so long in the depths of a bruised and battered psyche.
GEMS bare it all, even admitting “I’ve got scars” on the syncopated ‘Scars’ – this record ultimately acts as a renewing force. As a whole, Kill the One You Love explores many different sonic landscapes and deep, meaningful themes, that are much more sincere than a song about relationship drama. From it’s sensual moments (‘W/O U’), turbulent times (‘Soak’), broken friendships (‘Living As A Ghost’) and the longing for another (‘Heartbreaker’), Kill the One You Love has it all. This record cries out for a much needed listen.
Electro-pop, glam rock and soul, Dopamine is as textured and varied as your old childhood patterned quilt. Add in some romance, temptation and spirit animals, and you have Garrett Borns dazzling debut record. First of all, one thing you need to know is even the strongest of hearts couldn’t resist the magnetic pull of BØRNS sweet vocal chords – epically dramatic and richly melodic.
What becomes clear listening through the whole album is that as a listener, we are encouraged to enjoy the ride and invest ourselves in every tug of guitar and rising synth line, and when each song goes down like a spoonful of sugar, it’s hard to grumble about that. For it’s bright-eyed focus and intense grasp of rhythm, Dopamine provides a collection of infectious ear-worms, that are stylishly produced and moulded to be consumed by the masses.