Justin Pearson - Albums of the Year 2015 - Articles - Soundblab

Justin Pearson - Albums of the Year 2015

by Justin Pearson Rating: Release Date:

As I was compiling my 'best of' list for 2015, I noticed a similarity among the albums I've chosen to represent these slots. Almost all of them have been polished in one way or another, with each artist adding a shiny glint to their already solid, growing bodies of work. If 2015 was a year for getting back to basics while rounding off some minor edges, these 10 I've listed have definitely followed this trend.

Here are my top 10 selections in descending order:

1. Tame Impala - Currents

What Kevin Parker does with the Tame Impala brand on Currents isn't so much a drastic twist from previous material, but more like a refinement in potency by giving it a heady push forward. By any standard the album is a masterpiece. It's juicy and ripe with drippings of psychedelia, rock, funk and pop. It's a behemoth of a record, and the best yet in his small but still fresh catalogue. Exploring themes of acceptance in the face of change, Parker opens the cask on his ruminations of life and relationships and we see them as swirling ingredients leading to a fine, aged wine, much like Parker himself as a musician, his wizardly cloak and wand just visible if you're sensitive to his spell. The lack of control produced by the "Currents" is the exact point of understanding and also the point of departure by which Parker is taking off into the stream as he leads the way ahead.

Standout Tracks: 'Let It Happen', 'The Less I Know The Better' and 'Cause I'm A Man.'

2. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

Concerned with the grief surrounding his mother's death, Sufjan Stevens explores the re-opening of long closed wounds on Carrie & Lowell, his most gorgeous and harrowing record to date. As he works through his emotions amid the aftermath of such a personal event, he creates a relatable album of aching beauty that focuses on darkness, but never truly feels depressing as he yearns to understand his mother's schizophrenia and alcoholism, eventually learning to forgive her for once abandoning him. It can be a hard listen at times, pulling tears from the well of memory of anyone who's ever lost a family member. Peeled back and raw, it utilizes spare instrumentation while exposing the psyche of someone as they cope with loss. It's essential, introspective listening that shows the often experimental Stevens using his gift for straightforward, heartfelt songwriting. You just might cry, but the salty streaks left on your cheek don't hold as much power as the healing ones left in your mind.

Standout tracks: 'Should Have Known Better', 'Fourth of July' and 'No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross'

3. Jamie XX - In Colour

Nodding to the club music of the past while keeping the future of electronica firmly in his pocket, Jamie Smith has proven himself a heavyweight producer with In Colour. Away from the nighttime shade of his band The XX, In Colour allows Smith to get outside and bathe in the sunlight for a while, and the results are dazzling. Combining hues of house, hip hop and R&B with a tropical flourish or two, it's a mash-up that initially comes off as an homage, but eventually stands tall as the beacon it has every right to be.

Standout tracks: 'Gosh', 'Sleep Sound' and 'Girl'

4. Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper

Some music can be so repetitive as to induce nausea, but if you're a guy like Noah Lennox it can be lovingly - and well - done. There's care in the way he painstakingly sets up each track and experiments with loops, as if he knows exactly when to change the direction of a song with a surprise turn or interval jump. This is what makes his music as Panda Bear so satisfying. You look forward to these moments as you zone out. Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper is about confronting the death of his father head on and learning from the experience. It's soothing for all the heaviness of its themes, and while it might be centered around his growth as a person, it certainly shows his growth as an artist.

Standout tracks: 'Boys Latin', 'Tropic Of Cancer' and 'Principe Real'

5. Beach House - Thank Your Lucky Stars

Thank Your Lucky Stars sees Beach House coming full circle in terms of the sound they've created with an admirable consistency, even more so than the equally good Depression Cherry; for possibly this reason alone, it sticks out as somehow more memorable, special. Full of the dusty, haunted waltz elements rooted in their early work, it also has Alex Scally incorporating fuzzy, distorted guitars that wheeze and scream with the off-key strokes that are usually reserved for Victoria Legrand's keyboard. It finds them entirely comfortable in the skin that their body of work has filled up to this point, yet it still manages to push the dream pop quotient that only they've seemed to adequately solve even further.

Standout tracks: 'Elegy to the Void', 'Rough Song' and 'Somewhere Tonight'

6. Lakker - Tundra

Electronic duo Lakker have stepped up their game on the monumental, cliff-like Tundra, an album that could easily be described as the sonic equivalent of melting water on its seeping journey along cracks and crags to a cold valley that lays in wait below. Angelic choral samples dot an icy landscape of frozen synths with foregrounded beats that gradually reveal a wintery world in its thaw. Alternating between a noisy, oppressive claustrophobia and a glorious, vast openness, it's a shiver-inducing head trip worth taking no matter the season.

Standout tracks: 'Mountain Divide', 'Three Songs' and 'Halite'

7. Casually Here - Kept

Creation out of chaos could easily sum up the entirety of Kept, the debut album from Nic Nell's Casually Here project. What at first seems disordered becomes clearly purposeful after a few listens, and you can hear an evenness in the diffusion. Unlike another, similar electronic artist such as Arca, Nell's music isn't constantly falling apart, but just the opposite; it starts from the end and rebuilds itself back, like a slow explosion in rewind. There's excitement in the music itself and the craft with which Nell seems utterly dedicated to, but there's even more excitement in the knowledge that this is just the beginning of a new sound from a very talented artist.

Standout tracks: 'Burst', 'As Easy As' and 'Honey Badger'

8. Bjork - Vulnicura

Documenting the end of a long-term relationship in diary mode, Vulnicura is a return to form for Bjork, but also another excuse for more of the unconventionality that her followers have come to both love and respect. The album's subject matter lends itself perfectly to the weepy strings, the powerful, soul-pouring vocals, doom-filled bass, synth rips and patchwork melodies that reflect the beautiful mess of Bjork's dripping heart. As wrenchingly devestating a breakup album Vulnicura is, though, it ultimately embraces a newfound happiness that follows the bleeding rift.

Standout tracks: 'Stonemilker', 'Lionsong' and 'Family'

9. Braids - Deep In The Iris

Serious without being heavy-handed, experimental pop band Braids confront sexual abuse, slut-shaming, porn addiction and relationship woes on the deceptively sunny Deep In The Iris. Skittering beats, commanding vocals courtesy of frontwoman Raphaelle Standell-Preston, and rich textures are brilliantly displayed across the album like fireworks in miniature, making for their finest, most focused effort up to this point.

Standout tracks: 'Letting Go', 'Blondie' and 'Miniskirt'

10. We Are The City - Above Club

Recorded almost entirely on the spot, Above Club embraces improvisation with all the fervor of a blind person seeing for the first time. This could be in part due to the themes of faith throughout the record, but there seems to be a more pure, simple and boundless joy at work here. It's as if a grab bag of random stuff was thrown into the air and We Are The City managed to latch onto all the goodies in one reach. They seem to know there would be failure in letting go, so what we get is the greatness within their grasp.

Standout tracks: 'Keep On Dancing', 'Club Music' and 'Kiss Me, Honey'

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