Here’s LUNKHEAD’s countdown of the year’s best albums. Let us know in the comments section if you disagree.
5) Life’s Not Out To Get You, Neck Deep
Becoming massive in what felt like about a week, the Wrexham skater kids ignited a whole wave of pop-punk throwbacks. Following hot on the heels of last year’s hype and making the spot-on move of recording with A Day To Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon and the Wade team, ND emerged with one of the biggest albums from a young band in ages, going top ten both here and stateside. Ignoring the grunge dirge that’s snuck into the modern incarnation of the genre, this celebrates everything great about kicking a skateboard in the sun and fizzes all over the place like a shaken-up six-pack of Fanta. Rowdy opener Citizens Of Earth is pure Sum 41, Serpents and Rock Bottom nod to different eras of Blink-182, ADTR grit and bounce is all over Kali Ma (complete with McKinnon cameo) and hometown ode (albeit about North Wales and not LA) Can’t Kick Up The Roots is far and away one of the biggest genuine floor-fillers of the year – if anyone was at Reading that thing was all over every PA. Crazy consistent and bursting with an effervescence and passion that’s often missing from the new blood of today.
Check out: Can’t Kick Up The Roots, Kali Ma and I Hope This Comes Back To Haunt You.
For fans of: All the heyday pop-punk bands, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
4) Art Angels, Grimes
Coming in right at the end of the year and bringing with it a tonne of the year’s best songs, Vancouver’s Claire Boucher threw weirdness into a full-on pop template resulting in the best and most authentic digital bath pop album since Lights’ The Listening. Firing all over the place but keeping a firm digital backbone, Flesh Without Blood and California could fit into Charli XCX or Halsey sets, while a song like Venus Fly is full Spice Girls worship, complete with Janelle Monae duet. Butterfly nods to Lights again while Artangels, far and away the year’s best pop banger, is like William Orbit-era Madonna, creating something fresh and dream-like in the modern day. Easily is an airy electronic ballad that we just don’t have enough of these days, sounding totally unique – and that’s ultimately where this album stands out in its brilliance, with pop bangers influenced by digging for something a little deeper than the lazy surface in terms of influence, creating something fresh and exciting rather than derivative. Probably too weird for the overt mainstream but this is pop music, in its many different forms, at its finest. A true crafted gem.
Check out: Artangels, Easily and Butterfly.
For fans of: Lights, Beautiful Stranger-era Madonna and 90s/00s girl bands.
3) No Closer To Heaven, The Wonder Years
Ending the now classic “Growing Up Trilogy” in triumphant fashion with 2013’s The Greatest Generation, The Wonder Years started fresh with a whole new blueprint, in their words “building a new house on the same street”. We said most of it in our review, but, to add, the new incarnation of The Wonder Years didn’t completely leave the existential and introspective catharsis behind, instead filtering it into how it affects one’s place when looking at wider issues such as the death of friends, class and race issues and mental health. Soupy pushes himself even further lyrically and vocally, still the best around, while also pushing personal influences such as Counting Crows and the ballads of The Early November more than before. He looks at his past self in I Don’t Like Who I Was Then and then places that into his views on a wider world, best of all on Stained Glass Ceilings, featuring one of the best moments of the year with the soul punk brothers (Campbell and Letlive.’s Jason Butler) going cathartically toe to toe to vent a whole load of frustrations at the social state of America, its lack of gun control and surplus of uneven privilege. Vital and thoughtful, the album highlights the delicacy of life in an uncomfortably honest way.
Check out: Cigarettes And Saints, You In January and Stained Glass Ceilings.
For fans of: Brand New, Counting Crows and Moose Blood.
2) The Mindsweep, Enter Shikari
The world is shaking on a terrifying social and political scale to the point where it feels like if drastic changes aren’t made now, everything’s going to fall apart. This album is the true zeitgeist of that and echoes the fear and horror that comes with it. An absolute mayhem in sound, but guided by Rou Reynolds’ blade-sharp words and rally calls, this is the sound of Shikari despairing at where we’re at, with frustrated and unanswered calls as to why we’re in this state. The unforgiving Anaesthetist is a grime-spattered gem defending the dissolving National Health Service, while There’s A Price On Your Head, probably the best mosh jam of 2015, feels like Shikari fully channelling the spirit of forefathers System Of A Down, calling out outdated social prejudice. Myopia is an electronic bass-heavy soundscape detailing the melting of the ice caps from the animal kingdom’s perspective. Crucially, there is hope here too. The One True Colour, probably the year’s best standalone song, recalls the band’s early carefree days, reminding of what we are, how much there is to explore and where we stand in the cosmos and Dear Future Historians examines what really defines empathy in a world gone mad. Arguably Britain’s most creative force and a true treasure. Savour them, “you fucking spanners”.
Check out: The One True Colour, There’s A Price On Your Head and Anaesthetist.
For fans of: A modern-day incarnate of Rage Against The Machine and System Of A Down, powered by all manner of electronics and soundscapes.
1) To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar
The manuscript that’s dominated 2015’s music scene, Kendrick Lamar took the successes and tribulations of his document of growing up in Compton, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, and, trying to escape its ethos while also trying to change it with him, poured them into a metamorphosing analysis of what it means to be a black man, but ultimately just a man, in this world. Bringing together a small and ramshackle but brilliant group of musicians to help him place and orient his views, the album taking in all manner of rap, hip hop, jazz, P- and G-funk and Motown, he delves into many lessons (often hard) learned while meticulously evolving a poem through the backbone of the album, giving a little bit more away with each detail, starting as a meditation on trying to work out who you are before reaching some sort of conclusion as to where it means to stand in the world and what you can or can’t achieve with that. This is a proper journey and, while individual tracks work flying out of the lit stereo, this evolves as you listen, a mirror image of its own name. Is there an answer or are we all forever just “looking for answers”?
Check out: The whole album. Now.
For fans of: The last thirty years of hip hop, funk, jazz and soul, a whole lot of questions and even greater rewards.
WORDS: WILL CROSS
That’s your listening sorted. Now check out Will’s countdown of the best films of 2015.