The Music Factory’s Favourite Albums of 2015

Here it is, another edition of the Music Factory’s world famous List Of Some Albums We Liked Most Out Of The Ones We Had Time To Listen To This Year: 2015 edition. To spare arguments and headaches, this year our highlights are listed in no particular order. Our lists from previous years can be found here, here, here, here and here. Words by Piers Barber, Phil Smith and Buster Stonham.

7418627866_87768537b0_b

Honourable mentions

Basic Soul Unit – Under the Same Sky ; Levon Vincent – Levon Vincent ; Fatima Yamaha – Imaginary Lines ; Ghost Culture – Ghost Culture ; The Chemical BrothersBorn in the Echoes ; Kode9 – Nothing ; DJ Richard – Grind Jamie xx – In Colour ; Special Request – Modern Warfare ; New OrderMusic Complete ; Mo Kolours – Texture Like Sun ; Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love ; Nadine Shah – Fast Food ; JMEIntegrity> ; Hunee – Hunch Music ; Scuba – Claustrophobia ; EL VY – Return to the Moon ; FoalsWhat Went Down ; Natalie Prass – Side By Side ; Zomby – Let’s Jam!! ; Petrichor – Mangata ; Anthony Naples – Body Pill ; Four TetMorning/Evening ; Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness ; Hot Chip – Why Make Sense ; Joanna Newson – Divers ; BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul ; Kelela – Hallucinogen ; Darkstar – Foam Island

Lanterns on the Lake – Beings
[BELLA UNION]
BELLA493CD

The third album from the North-East outfit follows the same formula of their previous efforts, matching Slowdive-style dreamy tunes to lyrics of political discontent and frustration. It remains such a rich, relevant and fertile topic, however, that far from sounding tired, this is their most important and engaging record yet. Beings is a sweeping soundscape that means picking stand-out individual tracks is a challenge, but the beauty of ‘The Crawl’ and the visceral guitars on ‘Through The Cellar Door’ linger in the memory. They remain a bewilderingly underrated band. Phil Smith

Archy Marshall – A New Place 2 Drown
[XL]

download (1)

Archy Marshall is better known as King Krule, the 21 year-old behind 2013’s fascinating 6 Feet Beneath The Moon. His latest full-length is part of a typically ambitious collaboration with older brother Jack, with the album accompanying a book of poetry and illustration and a short film. The musical third of the project is captivating. Gone are King Krule’s instantly recognisable guitar tunings; in their place come some thrillingly deft beatwork and drum patterns, with Marshall’s startling vocals also pitched way down in the mix. The result is an album of mist and inner city smog, unmistakeably soaked in the grey skies of South London (“Girl, this place is evil”). Although unlikely to go down as a defining statement on the capital in the same way as Untrue or Original Pirate Material, this collection of hazy, night bus sketches about coming of age in the city are a genuinely touching ode to those strange boroughs that always find a way to captivate so many. Piers Barber

Jam City – Dream A Garden
[NIGHT SLUGS]

Jam_City_Dream_A_Garden_Cover_Art

Jam City’s shoegazy, 40 minute LP from March this year certainly pissed off a fair few of his fans, especially those loyal Night Slug-ers who expected more of the same driving mix of grime and techno that catapulted him into the dance music spotlight with 2012’s Classical Curves, still one of the label’s finest moments. Dream A Garden is certainly a departure: for starters, Jack Latham’s voice features throughout, mixed way down as part of a fascinating collage of almost pop songs that mix the best bits of techno, soul, and even the rich funk of Isaac Hayes and Prince. Lyrically it’s a record disillusioned with modern city life (“I guess it’s back to porn and Adderall, next to no pay”) but sonically it’s engrossing modern psychedelia, at points exhilarating and – more than anything – refreshingly original. PB

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
[MOM + POP MUSIC]

1035x1035-MI0003835922

Courtney Barnett burst onto the scene this year with an album that chronicled the mundane vignettes of 21st century life and set it to a backdrop of Nirvana-esque grunge. It is such an obvious winning formula in the millennial generation that hearing it for the first time, it seemed incredible no one had thought of it before. There are times when this record kicks and spits with exhilarating energy, but the real gems are to be found in the more reflective and sombre numbers. ‘Depreston’ and ‘An Illustration of New York’ both demonstrate a lyrical and songwriting talent that suggest Barnett has a long and successful future in the business ahead. PS

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
[ASTHMATIC KITTY]

Sufjan_Stevens_-_Carrie_&_LowellPure and beautiful musically, Carrie & Lowell strips back Sufjan Stevens to his bare and brilliant best. Minimalist guitar and Stevens’ haunting falsetto voice are what define this album from the outset, marking a departure from the sometimes-cluttered soundscapes of the past. The sparse musical style of Carrie & Lowell gives the impression of Stevens at his most honest, and his intensely personal lyrics certainly bare all. This is Stevens’ most personal album to date, dealing with a traumatic childhood defined by mother and stepfather, after whom the album is named. Covering difficult subjects like abandonment in ‘Should Have Know Better’, suicidal feelings in ‘Drawn to the Blood’ and ultimately forgiveness in ‘Death With Dignity’ deals with the full range of human emotions, doing so with such honesty and authenticity to make Carrie & Lowell one of the most heart-warming and memorable albums in years. Buster Stonham

Floating Points – Elaenia
[PLUTO]
fp_elaenia

Sam Shepherd, a recently graduated neuroscientist better known as Floating Points, is responsible for some of the finest moments in dance music of recent years, most of which were inspired and road-tested in London’s recently departed yet much loved Plastic People, where Shepherd refined the long explorative DJ sets that have become his speciality. The result of five years work, Elaenia brings together all the best bits of Shepherd’s CV: it’s slow building, perfectly paced and stunningly detailed – and while it’s no dance album, its delicate intricacies demand a brilliant sound system. A respectful and perfectly executed combination of synthesizers with live drums, strings and bass, this is a masterfully elegant album. It’s also unmistakably Floating Points. PB

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
[BELLA UNION]

downloadJoshua Tillman invites us to listen to him poke fun at his friends, acquaintances and the world around him, but only if we indulge him while he tells us about the whirlwind romance with his wife and ‘honeybear’. As a concept it seems rather smug, so it owes much to the majesty of the orchestration and the wit of his lyrics that the end result is the freshest take on the indie-folk genre since Bon Iver‘s For Emma, Forever Ago. The lyrics of ‘The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment’ are so biting they will push you to outright laughter. And when you find yourself theatrically swaying on a public transport platform to the opening bars of ‘I Love You Honeybear’ months after your first listen, then you realise this is an album approaching genius. PS

Tame Impala – Currents
[MODULAR RECORDINGS]

Currents_artwork_(Tame_Impala_album)

Currents is one of those rare records that seems to have one foot planted firmly in the past with the other steeping out defiantly into the future. The soulful basslines and melodic use of synths on Currents undoubtedly owe their origins to funk and disco, but there’s also a sense of fun and innovation that sets it apart as an album on the forefront of music. Kevin Parker, the beating heart behind Tame Impala, croons in his trademark falsetto throughout, with a synthetic echo giving his vocals an ethereal quality that’ll convince you this record is from another planet. The defiant titles of tracks like ‘Let it Happen’ and ‘Yes, I’m Changing’ show a confident artist really finding their sound – let’s hope there’s much more of it to come. BS

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
[TOP DAWG]

3813bcd3d4accb7634eea23a2a7ab190.1000x1000x1

This year’s best album is also the bravest. No issue is off limits here: money, fame, religion, family and love all receive the compelling Kendrick Lamar treatment in this filmic and endlessly compelling collection. At the centre of it all is race, and a conflicted character at points wracked by self-doubt and at others steely in defiance. Central is ‘i’, a track which as a single attracted bitter accusations of respectability politics, but submerged within the context of the album articulates a powerful message of self-worth. Multi-layered and inconclusive, the record speaks directly to an America realising the fragility of its supposed post-racial moment. Since its release it has taken on a life of its own, soundtracking protest movements and soliciting the adoration of critics worldwide, not least the President himself. Indeed, this is the defining hip hop album of the Obama years, and may yet prove the most enduring record of the 21st century so far. PB

Ghostpoet – Shedding Skin
[PLAY IT AGAIN SAM]

Shedding Skin

Another year, another Mercury Prize nomination for the supremely talented Obaro Ejimiwe. This album, however, marked a radical departure from the sparse electronic beats that launched his career and brought the sleepy, late-night favourites such as ‘Survive It’. Any fears that the move to an alt-rock style would nullify Ghostpoet‘s unique voice are quickly allayed on Shedding Skin, as it opens with the gloriously urgent ‘Off Peak Dreams’. Ghostpoet has broadened his thematic repertoire on an immensely listenable and relevant record, whilst maintaining the melancholic and reflective outlook that has made such an impression. The album features guest vocals from Nadine Shah, whose ‘Fast Food’ was released this year and offered a similarly engaging and broody take on Britain in 2015. PS

Please send us any highlights that we’ve missed! Follow the Music Factory on Twitter @MusicFactoryNo1

 

Post a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s