20 BEST ALBUMS OF 2015
20 albums which filled up concert venues,
play lists and the music news. Or deserve to.
Not a top 20.
Björk, Massis, Songhoy Blues, Spoiwo, Zu, Drenge, Thee Oh Sees, Faith No More, Slaves, High Tension, vert:x, Soulfly, Public Image Ltd., Slayer, David Gilmour, Girl Band, The Dead Weather, Orchidfoot, Shining (NOR), Wolf Eyes, Kurt Cobain
Björk – Vulnicura
With Vulnicura, Björk releases the most personal product of her career, a cathartic expression of loss and suffering after breaking up with Matthew Barney. In a Facebook post, she described it as a ‘heartbreak album’. The songs are drawn chronologically around the breakup, describing in detail the pain of before, during and after. The lyrics are simple, direct and referential. Still, despite having her most personal feelings exposed to the world, the entire experience remains delicate, candid, highly emotional. And heartbreaking indeed.
In November, Björk released a string version of the recording.
Favorite song: Atom Dance
RELEASE DATE: January 20, 2015 (digital version), March 16, 2015 (physical version)
LABEL: One Little Indian Megaforce Sony
FORMATS: digital, vinyl, cd
Massis – Massis
Among new Belgian releases, here’s the self-titled album from MASSIS, an impressive debut with eight tracks that moisturize and nurture the passion for instrumental noise rock. Experienced musicians, skilled over the years through many different styles, from hard rock and hardcore to post-punk and noise rock, MASSIS’s members have already an impressive previous activity in bands like Heibel, Triptych, Cabrón, Hangmen, Balderdash, as well as many years of stage experience. No wonder that the album is astonishing for a debut work. (read more)
Favorite song: Powerplant
Songhoy Blues – Music in Exile
There is a story behind each band. The awarded documentary ‘They Will Have to Kill Us First’ reveals the Songhoy Blues’ story: members are originally from a northern region of Mali. Running away from civil war and radical Islamists who banned music in the area, they arrived in the capital and decided to start a band. Their life changed when they were discovered by Damon Albarn’s Africa Express. Music in Exile is desert blues that mixes traditional elements with modern ones, Malian melody with American blues and has a message that transcends any language barrier.
Favorite song: Ai Tchere Bele
Spoiwo – Salute Solitude
Spoiwo are a five-member Polish group from Gdańsk. Salute Solitude is one of the best post-rock releases of the year. In addition to classic instrumentation they use two synthesizers, which deepen the dreamy feeling of the solitary world they are describing through their music. Salude Solitude has its own philosophy, that the solitude requires sensibility, awareness and courage and it’s not something to reject but to embrace. A state of being which is magnificently transposed into sound.
Favorite song: Call me Home
Zu – Cortar Todo
Among bands with unmistakable signatures, Zu is one of the leaders. They are this merciless Creator deity who plays with punk, math, metal, noise, electronics essences to create precious gems like Cortar Todo. Beyond the visceral aesthetics – Cortar Todo means ‘cut everything’ in Spanish and it’s indeed full of slashing, scratching, ripping off sounds – the album is as fully round as a circle: on a loop, the last accords of ‘Pantokrator’ match perfectly the opening of ‘The Unseen War’. Everything in between is a brilliant sound massacre in which you may agonize but can’t escape of. Another masterpiece.
Favorite song: The Unseen War.
Drenge – Undertow
I remember Drenge’s debut album of two years ago and I clearly remember that it was awesome but the current one is better produced, better arranged, gloomier and much more energetic. The two still very young brothers, Eoin and Rory Loveless, added also some bass guitar to it, played by an old friend, Rob Graham. They keep their teenage anger’s authenticity but their power of expression is darker and more demanding to be understood. The improvement from the self-titled debut album to Undertow is as remarkable as the one from Bleach to Nevermind.
Favorite song: The Snake
Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last
With a brand new rhythmic section, Thee Oh Sees gracefully avoids the danger of hiatus and releases a hyperactive, atmospheric and full of taste album. Mutilator Defeated At Last is heavy, intense, exquisite and unpredictable. It has all the elements of pure fuelled garage rock but also elements of progressive rock, as the organ on ‘Sticky Hulks’ or acoustic guitars on ‘Holy Smoke’. All in all, another cool psychedelic journey.
Favorite song: Web
Faith No More – Sol Invictus
Although they did follow the ‘reunion trend’ and got back together for touring in 2009, FNM took their time to release a new album. It has finally happened with Sol Invictus (Latin for ‘unconquered sun’), 18 years after Album of the Year. FNM’s back catalog is one distinctive album after another and Mike Patton is an unpredictable catalytic element so no one knew what to expect with Sol Invictus and many were still left puzzled after listening to the result. I guess they only had two options: produce something completely new or continue with the variety of style and themes approached in their 30 year career. They’ve chosen to come up with a product showing they are still the real thing even after all this time.
Favorite song: Separation Anxiety.
Slaves – Are You Satisfied?
One of the two ‘slaves’, Isaac Holman said: ‘Our band is based around the mundane. People mistake it for political, but it’s not, its social observation and personal.’ Slaves deep-rooted punk sound may have appeared dishonest to some and caricatural to others. Everything on the record could have been a perfectly legit rallying call except that their sarcasm and derisiveness doesn’t address issues as disfavored social categories or marginalized groups but rather of those having a 9 to 5 job and their day-to-day ‘modern’ life-style. And they have been seriously criticized for that, as if it’s sin when middle-class express anger through punk music. But even if you like it or not, the message is strong and coherent throughout all 13 tracks and overall it makes Are You Satisfied? one of the most solid debut albums ever.
Favorite song: Hey
High Tension – Bully
High Tension is a blast punk-rock band from Australia and Bully is their second album. In addition, they are a female fronted band; Karina Utomo’s resourceful vocals are simply amazing, her lungs being able to uphold and raise higher any style from stoner to death metal. A heavy release full of attitude discovered on Henry Rollins’ radio show on KCRW.
Favorite song: Sports
vert:x – annwn
vert:x (all lower cases, vert colon x) seems to be champion when it comes to being compared to early Hawkwind. However, the reviews do continued beyond that point and vert:x’s potential has been constantly exposed throughout its reviewed catalogue. Their latest album offers hypnotic landscapes at fast pace, repetitive patterns and carefree energy coming out of guitars combined with synthesizers. On a music scene where spacerock meets kosmische, vert:x is always a delight.
Favorite song: atom a.k.
Soulfly – Archangel
Max Cavalera loves to keep himself busy. After Savages, he released one more record with Cavalera Conspiracy, took part in the supergroup Killer Be Killed and above all, was touring, touring, touring. Still, Archangel is one of the most powerful Soulfly acts since Profecy. Although very short, only about 37 minutes, it’s brutal, consistent and as aggressive as ever. One might think that behind the opener’s title – We Sold Our Souls to Metal – hides an old-fashion obsolete metal anthem. It is not at all the case. In fact, each song on Archangel sticks up for Cavalera’s shamanic attitude.
Favorite song: We Sold Our Souls to Metal
Public Image Ltd. – What the World Needs Now…
Releasing This is PiL after two decade hiatus was a clear challenge for John Lydon. But the advocate for the originality of every human being came back reinvented and stronger than ever, always in search to reaching audience in his own particular way. What the World Needs Now… is This is PiL’s twin brother, only that it might be the more attractive one, due to Lydon’s theatrical better vocal performance and the acid lyricism (occasionally even explicit). In case you’re wondering what’s the answer to the question imply the album’s title, have patience until the last song; there is still enough Johnny Rotten left in John Lydon to get you shocked sophisticatedly.
Favorite song: Spice of Choice
Slayer – Repentless
The year 2013 was hard on Slayer, loosing Jeff Hanneman on one side and Dave Lombardo on the other. Still, they managed to get their stuff together pretty well and come up with a new album in 2015. Repentless is a classic thrash metal album that proves once more who are the masters of the genre. Old-school metal is not dead and this one of the Slayer’s uncompromising albums. ‘No looking back, no regrets, no apologies/What you get is what you see.’ Respect.
Favorite song: Implode
David Gilmour – Rattle That Lock
When the master speaks, everybody listens. You might need a few quiet moments to gather respect, which is the case on Rattle That Lock as the album starts with some 20 seconds of silence. The album is meditative and personal. It was written together with his wife who signs most of the songs lyrics and David’s son performs piano on ‘In Any Tongue’. Three very beautiful instrumental pieces carry within Gilmour’s trademark of melancholy – ‘5 A.M.’, ‘Beauty’, and ‘And Then…’ – while the rest of the album gets particularly closer to early Pink Floyd work.
Favorite song: A Boat Lies Waiting
Girl Band – Holding Hands with Jamie
Girl Band is in fact a band of four guys coming from Dublin. Their debut album Holding Hands with Jamie sounds a lot like a homemade recording except that … it’s not. There are traces of experimental, post-punk, noise, industrial all over it and they meant every scrap of them. The extreme noise and remote vocals exert irresistible attraction and the raw sound is exceptionally appealing. Intriguing and very original.
Favorite song: Baloo
The Dead Weather – Dodge and Burn
Everybody knows Mr Jack has unusual preference for noir aesthetics for somebody named White. Dodge and Burn is a Dead Weather classic featuring Led Zeppelin influences, desolate lyrics, insane imaginary, precise vocal duets, sinister storytelling with two main protagonists: the guitar signature of Jack White and the dominant vocals of Alison Mosshart. On Dodge and Burn, Jack White shares and even leaves more space for Alison Mosshart.
With this third record, The Dead Weather becomes less and less a side project and more of a band with future releases being impatiently expected.
Favorite song: Rough Detective
Orchidfoot – Underground Photosynthesis
Orchidfoot is not yet to be found anywhere on the internet except on their bandcamp and soundcloud and on independent stations such as Dandelion Radio. Underground Photosynthesis is a two layered product: some tracks are written in a singer-songwriting style of a rare intensity, other pieces are made of dreamy electronic rhythms and sound effects. Each song has a suave and delicate signature impossible to ignore regardless of their creative intentions.
Favorite song: It’s Plain
Shining (NOR) – International Blackjazz Society
Once released, in 2010, the title of the album Blackjazz became the description of the band’s genre. We find it again on One, One, One, in a song title, ‘Blackjazz Rebels’. Now the term comes back on their latest album, International Blackjazz Society. Could this be the Ariadne’s thread that helps finding way out through a labyrinth of madness? Shining definitely continue spreading around their great brooding mix of jazz and metal and the insane energy coming out of Jørgen Munkeby sax stays very very high.
Favorite song: Thousand Eyes
Wolf Eyes – I Am a Problem: Mind in Pieces
Wolf Eyes’ history goes back in the ’90s with a huge discography mostly self-released and tons of side projects. Best described as trip metal, their specialty is sculpting sound into disturbing scary landscapes. But despite the title, the lyrics and their past records, this latest album seems less creepy and more coherent than their usual tone. Don’t get fooled though, it still sounds like the soundtrack of movie about a basement holding secrets that no one wants to know.
Favorite song: Enemy Ladder
Bonus: Kurt Cobain – Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings
This compilation, released at Universal Music, is quite controversial. It sits somewhere between a creepy souvenir and the soundtrack of a documentary. Still, any Nirvana fan would want it in their collection.