The record pictured is Grimes – Art Angels, a release from the closing months of the year but one that basically blew everything that came before it out of the water. It’s an obvious choice to include here, having featured in the end-of-year list of every music magazine ever, but it is easily one of my favourite albums of the whole decade. Art Angels is a perfect pop record, but also so much more than a pop record; it has obviously catchy hits (Flesh Without Blood, Realiti), but maybe more remarkable is the true originality of it. It is just the right amount of ‘weird’; I think that the more unconventional sounds (which run throughout the album, but are especially prominent in songs like Scream, Venus Fly and intro to the album laughing and not being normal) really show off the full range of Grimes’ currently unparalleled creativity and genius as a producer and artist.
Contrary to what my ‘recently played’ would lead you to believe, I listened to more than just that Justin Bieber album last year. Here’s a small round-up of some of the best things I heard in 2015:
Sheer Mag in London
Moving from a bit pop to a bit punk, two of my favourite records of the year came in the form of Royal Headache – High and Sheer Mag – II. High is one of those albums that can make you feel almost painfully nostalgic, even if you’ve only just heard it. Royal Headache are a garage-punk band from Australia, and High is an album full of heartfelt anthems – and I’m not just using anthems as a synonym for ‘songs’, they really are anthems. The title track High is a heart-swelling love (or love-sick) song, Garbage is delectably angry (YOU’RE NOT PUNK, YOU’RE JUST SCUM / YOU BELONG IN THE GARBAGE, YOU BELONG IN THE TRASH) and more acoustic Carolina shows that Royal Headache can do soft too. What makes Royal Headache stand out, imho, is the fact that vocalist Shogan can properly properly sing, and belts out every lyric with real soul.
Sheer Mag‘s latest EP ‘II‘ just makes me want to dance, and dance I did. They came over to the UK in November and I managed to catch them 3 times within a week, which might seem a little excessive but they’re just so FUN. II‘s lyrics are politicised and pissed off, and the choruses intensely catchy. I dare you to listen to Fan the Flames once and not immediately listen to it another 20 times. Both live and on record, Sheer Mag are a band with the sort of energy I’ve only seen matched this year by the likes of Shannon and the Clams and The Number Ones, and singer Tina Halladay’s powerful powerful voice and presence don’t falter even a little bit.
Chain of Flowers in Manchester
Nai Harvest in Manchester
I’m not forgetting our ~home grown~ talent here. My best British releases were Sievehead – Into the Blue (Sheffield punk), Chain of Flowers – Chain of Flowers (post-punk / a bit goth from Cardiff), Nai Harvest – Hairball (sort of fuzzy indie punk from Sheffield / Manchester – ICYMI I interviewed them here).
Liss in London
If you don’t like guitar music, I have really enjoyed R&B releases Abra – Rose and Kehlani – You Should Be Here. Other 2015 albums that need mentioning but haven’t fit neatly into the structure of this article are: G.L.O.S.S – Demo, Girlpool – Before the World Was Big (check out my interview with Girlpool here) Purity Ring – Another Eternity (I talked about all three of these artists in this post about girl bands), Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell, Molly Nilsson – Zenith, Dame – Charm School, Roman à Clef – Abandonware, Communions – Communions, and of course the magnificent Justin Bieber – Purpose. Young new Danish band Liss (pictured above) don’t have an album yet, but put out what was easily one of the best songs of the year in Try (and were easily one of the best bands I saw live too).
Let me know if you’re also a fan of any of these releases, have discovered something new via this post, or if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them!
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