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Top 30 Albums of 2015

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Top 30 Albums of 2015

Posted on 18 December 2015 by Joe

It’s been such a great year for albums that we’ve upped our usual 20 strong end of year list to 30. There will be some in run down that will be on many other end of year lists, but we’ve also tried to include some of our favourites from emerging artists, who unfairly find themselves struggling to get publicity at times.

If there is a theme to our list it is that it was a good year for pop and yet again another year where the quality from both new acts and experienced artists was equally high. Here is our Top 30 Albums of 2015.

30. Papernut Cambridge – Nutlets (1967-1980)

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So it appears Hot Chocolate used to be cool. Who knew? Well, Ian Button, who releases under the Papernut Cambridge moniker, did. The former Death in Vegas/Thrashing Doves man is something of a 1970s pop expert and this fine collection features ten covers of his favourites from around that time. Read our full review here.

29. The Bevis Frond – Example 22

The Bevis Frond

There is no more underground act than The Bevis Frond, aka Nick Saloman. For many a year he’s been releasing quality psychedelic rock across more than 20 releases, relentlessly ploughing his own guitar driven furrow much to the delight of a devoted fanbase.

Here on the band’s latest release are no radical departures from previous works, just steady as she goes, bloody good rock songs with riffs a plenty and solos to make your knees go weak. Read our full review here.

28. Matt Creer – The Leeward Tide

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As calms after the storm go this latest album by Isle of Man singer songwriter Matt Creer is just about perfect. We first heard his beautiful take on folk music via a Tweet from Chris TT. We hope this placing in our Top 20 albums of the year so far prompts others to discover his remarkable talent. Read our full review here.

 27. Small Feet – From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean

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The pool of talent in the Swedish folk scene just got deeper. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Tallest Man on Earth and First Aid Kit is Stockholm based trio Small Feet. With the epic folk of the Fleet Foxes, a band who inspired First Aid Kit, coupled with the intimacy of Ireland’s Villagers, Small Feet certainly have the sound to match their countrymen and women. This is a remarkable debut. Read our full review here.

26. Darren Hayman – Florence

Darren Hayman

A simple idea, of a short winter holiday in Florence staying at the apartment of his indiepop chums Elizabeth Morris and her husband Ola Innset, of Allo Darlin and Making Marks respectively, provides the inspiration for this melancholy collection of songs. While a rare solo project it is far from being a lonely or sad album. Friendship is a key theme and there’s a cosy warmth to its winter setting too. Read our full review here.

25. Ricked Wicky – I Sell The Circus

Ricked Wicky I Sell The Circus

Robert Pollard has basically existed as a solo artist with a rotating team of supporting players for his whole career, but he always seems most energised when he is operating in band mode. Ricked Wicky is his latest band identity and this is the best of the three albums they have released in 2015 as Pollard remains music’s most prolific recording artist.

24. El Vy – Return To The Moon

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This collaboration between The National’s Matt Berninger and Brent Knopf is a mixed bag, but a consistently entertaining one. A captivating blend of pop and melancholy that makes good use of Berninger’s trademark baritone.

23. Public Service Broadcasting -The Race For Space

Public Service Broadcasting

As much as we enjoyed PSB’s first album there were doubts about the staying power of their approach to creating music. Their second album, about the golden years of the space programme, allayed any fears and is just as much fun as the first. Sounds even better live as well.

22. The Mountain Goats – Beat The Champ

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Fronted by John Darnielle and still very much a three piece, with Peter Hughes and Jon Wurster in tow, the Mountain Goats’s latest is a concept album about the very human tales of wrestling, from their young fans to the stars of the ring themselves. Heartbreaking and joyous. Read our full review here.

21. The Wave Pictures – Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon

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Is this the best dirty rock n roll album of the year? We declared as such back in February and so far few have come close. With Billy Childish on board for production duties the trio get down and dirty and even roll out a couple of Creedence Clearwater Revival numbers. Read our full review here.

20. Tame Impala – Currents

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With this their third album Tame Impala have truly emerged from mere interesting Australian psych rock act to global pop sensation in waiting. The weird trippy psych rock of their debut album Innerspeaker and the stomp of its follow up Lonerism are still here. So too are the synths you can lose yourself in and the quirky, phasered drum rolls and guitar licks. But here they sound far more pop, far more danceable, with the bass squelchier and the band’s key figure Kevin Parker’s vocals purer, almost soulful at times. Read our full review here.

19. SLUG- Ripe

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Any album that is connected with Field Music is likely to be enthusiastically received at Neon Filler towers. The band have produced some of our favourite music over the last decade. Ripe is the twisted brain child o their touring bass player Ian Black and has both Brewis Brothers on board for the ride. Imagine Queen producing their music in 21st Century Sunderland and you get a flavour of what is on show here.

18. Calexico – Edge of the Sun

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You know what you are going to get when you play a Calexico album, the smooth sounds of Californian country rock with a consistent undercurrent of Marichi brass. Edge of the Sun offers no surprises, but is their most satisfying release in years. Iron And Wine’s Sam Beam, Neko Case and Gaby Moreno all pitch in with vocal support on an album that would sound best listened to in a desert.

17. Evans the Death – Expect Delays

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The despair for young people under coalition and now Conservative government since 2010 is embedded in every scream, guitar riff and drum beat on this incendiary latest album from the London four piece. This is what it feels like to be young and pissed off in all its magnificent angst. Read our full review here.

16. Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek

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Mammoth Penguins, the new band formed by Standard Fare’s Emma Kupa, are one of the best new acts to emerge this year. At it’s heart it’s basic indie pop of drums, crunchy guitar chords, bass and bitter sweet lyrics. But an elevation comes from Kupa’s distinct vocals, which here seem clearer and more powerful than on Standard Fare releases. Plus there seems to be a sharper focus to the songs as well, which pack a real punch. Read our full review here.

15. Ralegh Long – Hoverance

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Gare Du Nord label artist Ralegh Long takes the listener into the world of the English countryside for a beautiful, rural inspired collection of romantic and thoughtful songs. Read our full review here.

14. Wilco – Star Wars

Wilco Star WarsWhen Wilco announced an unexpected new album it was a pleasant surprise, the four years since their last being the longest break yet in their career. But is this giveaway album any good? The answer is a pretty emphatic yes. Wilco don’t do bad albums and they haven’t decided to break their 20 year run of form, even for a freebie. Read our full review here.

13. Co-pilgrim – Slows to Go

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In song writer and frontman Mike Gale, Co-pilgrim they have one of UK music’s best kept secrets, with his bittersweet lyrics merging beautifully with ’60s guitars and melodies. How his tracks are not well known is seemingly a mystery and this is yet another stellar release from the band. Read our full review here.

12. Bjork – Vulnicara

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As break up albums go Bjork’s return to form this year is up there with the best of them. Written about her emergence from a crumbling relationship this is one of the year’s most emotional albums with tracks such as Lion Song, Stonemilker and the 10 minute long centrepiece Black Lake among the best of her career. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions and there may be tears when you listen but this is a deserved entry from an artist who very evidently put her heart and soul into this album.

11. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

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His 2010 album The Age of Adz may have been his most successful to date but it never sat quite easy with us. Granted its electronica was innovative but Stevens always sounds best to us with a stripped back sound and a hanky to wipe away the tears from his sad lyrics. Here he reveals his most intimate album yet focusing on his uneasy relationship with his late mother Carrie and his adoration for his step father Lowell Brams, who he runs his label Asthmatic Kitty with. This album is magnificently sad and uplifting in equal measure, as all great Sufjan Stevens albums should be.

10. New Order – Music Complete

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New Order returning with a new album was a small surprise, it being their best album since Technique (17 years ago!) was a bigger surprise. Gillian is back on board but Peter Hook is not, compare this to Waiting For The Sirens Call and make your own decision about who is a more important member of the band

9. Destroyer – Poison Season

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Four years on from the breakout success of Kaputt we find Dan Bejar delving further into the pool of ’80s jazz pop. If anything this is a stronger, more entertaining set than the predecessor and one of the best albums lyrically you’ll hear for a long time.

8. Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

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Following a five year break between albums the Scottish indie pop legends were back with one of the best releases. With added disco chic on The Party Line they even dip their toe into politics, with The Cat with the Cream and its heart breaking take on coalition government era Britain.

7. Villagers – Darling Arithmatic

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There’s something so wonderfully precise about Villagers’ frontman Conor O’Brien’s voice. Each line is told with such clarity and on this, their third album, the messag O’Brien wants to convey is loud and clear; this is a love album and one made by a gay man from Ireland. Read our full review here.

6. Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

Robert Pollard - Faulty Superheroes

Like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts I too love rock and roll. But sometimes the idea of putting another dime in the juke box baby fills me with horror. Then just when you’d almost given up hope an album comes along and renews your faith in rock and roll. This is that album. Read our full review here.

5. Southern Tenant Folk Union – The Chuck Norris Project

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The Folk and bluegrass collective took a bold step using the film titles of right wing action star Chuck Norris to take on the weighty issues of the world, from gun crime to racism. Thankfully it worked, especially on Slaughter on San Francisco, where their singer Rory Butler delivers one of the vocal performances of the year. Read our full review here.

4. King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard – Paper Mache Dream Balloon

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On Paper Mache Dream Balloon out go the distorted guitars and lengthy conceptual moments and in comes purely acoustic instruments. The result from this Australian psychedelic rock outfit  is a fantastic whimsical album, like the soundtrack to a lost kids pop show from 1969. Fans of more latter day psychedelic exponents such as Dukes of Stratosphear and more recently Papernut Cambridge will love this especially as it harks back so vividly to those innocent days of lava lamp pop. Read our full review here.

3. John Howard and the Night Mail

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John Howard’s story is one well told tale by us, of a singer-songwriter that almost made it big in the 1970s, dropped out of recording and performing for the next 20 or so years only to return around a decade ago to be greeted by a new, younger fan base. Here with a stellar band of performers and co-songwriters in tow, of Robert Rotifer, Ian Button and Andy Lewis, this is arguably one of his best releases and certainly one of the year’s best pop releases. Read our full review here.

2. FFS

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This merging of art rockers Franz Ferdinand with 1970s oddball pop duo Sparks is one of the few collaborations in music that works. The Sparks brothers of Ron and Russell Mael look to have the upper hand in directing this, at times utterly bonkers, collection of pop songs. Alex Kapranos and co seem content to follow their lead and enjoy the ride. Read our full review here.

1. The Go! Team – The Scene Between

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The whole album from start to finish is teaming with singles, with wonderful hooks, riffs and choruses shining throughout. Its perfect pop and we challenge anyone who professes to have any form of appreciation for a good pop song to dislike this album. This gained a rare 10/10 from us when released and deservedly tops our Top 25 Albums of 2015 list. Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers. Additional photos by Joe Lepper and Nic Newman

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Midlake – Late Night Tales

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Midlake – Late Night Tales

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

Midlake’s influences across the folk rock scenes of the 1960s and 1970s are well known, so in many respects their role as the latest curator in the Late Night Tales series will produce few surprises.

As expected this 19 track compilation is dominated by UK folk legends from the past such as Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, as well as some of their key US influences,  including The Band and Flying Burrito Brothers.

But there’s also a welcome acceptance that some modern acts are also influencing them. Bjork’s ‘Unravel’ gets a place as does ‘Silver Soul’ from Beach House’s excellent 2010 album Teen Dream.

There’s the odd curveball as well. Scott Walker does not immediately spring to mind when I think of Midlake, but his track Copenhagen is a welcome addition, adding some tranquil gravitas. The final carousel moment on that track is especially wonderous. Will Self’s story The Happy Detective is another odd choice, but one that works.

All good compilations need to stick to a theme, in this case to provide a set of songs to drift off to in the evening. Midlake achieve this perfectly. What better way to relax than to listen to the beautiful sounds of  one of the UK’s finest ever folk singers Sandy Denny.

Good compilations also need to provide some obscurities and the chance to discover your next favourite band. ‘Times the Thief’ by 1970s Edinburgh folk rock act Bread, Love and Dreams certainly fits that bill. This is especially as it features the unmistakable rhythm section of Pentangle’s drummer Terry Cox and bassist Danny Thompson.

Final mention must go to Midlake, who include an exclusive and well worked acoustic cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Am I going Insane’ to the collection.

For fans of Midlake (whose album Trials of Von Occupanther is #80 in our Top 100 Albums of all time list) this compilation is  a must as they take you through their record collection. But it also acts as a pretty fine introduction to some of the best folk music to come out of the UK, with many of the tracks on this compilation featured within our Top Ten Albums From The Golden Age Of UK Folk feature.

8.5/10

by Joe Lepper

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