Steve Rhodes Albums and Singles of the Year 2015

by Steve Rhodes Rating: Release Date:

Well, 2015 has come and gone and produced a wealth of exciting music, with the first new material in some time from old-timers Blur, Mew and New Order, some excellent debuts from the likes of PARQKS, Pearls and Garden of Elks, and some superb sophomore albums from In Tall Buildings, Cheatahs and Outfit - but the general feeling for 2015 for me was that shoegazing, post-rock and other effects-led guitar are alive and well and branching out further worldwide than ever before.

Live-wise, Manchester seems to be at the centre of exciting new acts, with LIINES, Easy Kill and Cleft producing incredible live performances, though the return of Ride, Swervedriver and especially Prolapse were also highlights. Probably just to be awkward, I've split my favourite music in the last year into Tracks and Albums as there was just so many individual songs that stood out to help make this year a great year in music.

 

Tracks Of The Year

1. The Away Days – Best Rebellious

Istanbul's The Away Days have produced one of the best songs in years, choc-full of atmosphere, a 2-chord repeating arpeggio and echoed guitars leads into a delriously beautiful decending chorus, hitting all emotional buttons and floors you to almost the point of welling up. A breathtaking track and a band who are worthy of the track of the decade for me.

 

2. Westkust – Swirl

The title gives it all away – gloriously dreamy. Not since fellow Swedes The Wannadies unleashed 'You And Me Song' has a track brought such a Cheshire Cat grin to me every time I hear it. Like The Pains of Being Pure At Heart on steroids, it will always lifts you up no matter how down you might be.

 

3. Spectres – Blood In The Cups

Haunting, pulsing, droning guitar and drums, with subtle changes in the mantra throughout. Guitar squalls develop into all-out noise abandon at regular intervals. With elements of New Zealand's The Dead C and Skeptics in the dark, unhinged noise. A relentless, throbbing number that forceably takes over your body like the anagonists in Children Of The Damned.

 

4. Autobahn – Beautiful Place To Die

Keeping the bed warm while O Children seem to be on hiatus, a slow-burning, monotone Goth and Interpol-infused verse leads into a delirious, descending chorus with guitar hooks a-plenty, where Craig Johnson's vocals truly come into their own. The Horrors sound so pedestrian in comparison.

 

5. Grimm Grimm – Kasega Fuitara Sayonara

Like a collection of toy instruments coming to life on their own. Playful percussion dominating by a pounding bass drum, a decaying, looped guitar and Koichi Yamanoha's lightly-sung vocals, all culminate in a uplifting song full of atmosphere and beauty that Disco Inferno could be proud of.


Albums Of The Year

1. Maggie8 – मैगी८

The self-identified 'Hindi Housemartins' perfectly sums them up. Chiming, quirky Indie, with Bollywood-tinged, sampled melodies, evidenced with chirpy happiness of opener 'Hussain Bolt', sharing the relaxed swagger of the 'named' proganist, the playful nature of 'Never Ending' with its whistling and almost-rapping that somehow works and the hook-laden 'Crazy'. Plenty of room for brooding numbers too as 'Mitzi' and 'Harder Than It's Ever' produce contrasting emotions. A rollercoaster of joyous melody.

 

2. Yucatan – Uwch Gopar Mynydd

What's going on in the water in Wales. Along with H.Hawkline, 9Bach and Gwenno, Yucatan are recent Welsh language troubadours making more headway since the heady days of John Peel. Influenced by their geography around the base of Mount Snowden, they produce Gorky's Zygotic Mynci-meets-Sigur Ros melancholic folk melodies with more than a hint of explosive guitar and post-rock. With vocals sung in a plaintive and vulnerable Bedhead, The Phoenix Foundation or Blueneck style and flourishes of guitar and violin leading into regular crescendo, Yucatan have produced an excellent album that tugs the heartstrings at regular intervals.

 

3. April Rain – Leave Me No Light

The Saint Petersburg instrumental post-rockers are masters of how to continually build and layer a song without resorting to cliché or expected dull monotony. 'Queue Up For Infinity' haunts the listener with its shirlled guitar and breakout riffs, the soundtrack to a more desolate, Russian version of Les Revenants. Never afraid to turn up the power but best heard for the melodic intracacies that drive the record, April Rain have produced a stunning album that never settles into conformity, with 'On My Way To You' taking a huge leftfield step with delicate harmonies and guitar weak culminating into an epic prog chorus a'la Anathema or Youth Pictures Of Florence Henderson, on the only track with vocals.

 

4. Low – Ones And Sixes

Embracing darkness of some of their more claustrophobic releases of the last decade, fully delving into technology, while maintaining some of the positivity of The Invisible Way, Low have produced an album of high quality songwriting, that while may take a few listens to truly appreciate, evolves neatly from their last record and continually rewards with each listen. Though production feels a little inconsistent it is a bold leap forward and the last three tracks alone are just glorious with dark subject matter being lifted from bleak oppression by Mimi Parker's simply divine vocals.

 

5. John Carpenter – Lost Themes

Hard to believe this is the debut studio album from simply the greatest horror film-maker and composer that ever lived. It's almost 8-bit analogue synths have never sounded so fresh, repaying compliments to 65Daysofstatic and Vessels, by toying with glitchy electronica while maintaining his trademark, enveloping sound. The highlight 'Obsidian' with its distorted, sampled guitars and heavy keys, may lead Ullrich Schnauss or Solar Bears to scramble to scribbling down notes, is effortless in its melodious and memorable simplicity.


 


 

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