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Albums of the Year 2015

Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld went head to head, Grouper joined a band, Ian William Craig remade ambient music in his imagine, and Steve Hauschildt kept glistening. Also Kamasi Washington released the longest album in the world.
1. Album Of The Year!

Colin Stetson And Sarah Neufeld
Never Were The Way She Was

Available on 12” vinyl LP or CD from Constellation. Colin Stetson’s is renowned for his unique style with tenor and bass sax. Melding polyrhythmic blasts and clanks with prolonged and evolving drones as well as simultaneously vocalising through the mouthpiece. Joining forces with violinist Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire) is not new to them, having collaborated live many times over the years, but now it’s on record.
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Ian William Craig
Cradle for the Wanting

Ian William Craig's previous release 'A Turn of Breath' was not only a favourite with us but with the New York Times. So there. The Wire have also featured this Canadian sound collagist of late so there is high anticipation of this new record. This time round Craig has recorded very quickly (months rather than years) and has used only his voice as instrument. From the sound of the early clips, this is going to be a very special record indeed. For fans of Grouper, Colin Stetson, Belong and Arthur Russell.   
4.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Multi-Love

Some twenty first century scorn from Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Multi-Love is the next instalment from the art-pop freaks. This one is full of Ruban Nielson's dreamy croon, swaying synthesisers and grooved out bass & drums. It sounds like Steely Dan, Tame Impala and Deerhunter somehow collaborated in New Zealand. Out on vinyl LP and CD from Jagjaguwar.
5.

Steve Hauschildt
Where All Is Fled

Former glittering Emeralds member Steve Hauschildt’s new solo LP is a typically expansive suite of pieces, pulling in synthesis, field recordings and acoustic instrumentation to form some heady trips. Where All Is Fled wavers between abstraction and melodies, mostly hitting that sweet spot where neither dominates. On Kranky.
6.

Viet Cong
Viet Cong

Some men from the band Women get together and put out a full length record. Viet Cong have previously released one tape and a single. They sound like Women in some parts, but Women after quite a few more drinks inside them. Lovely off kilter guitar parts wrap around tight drums (think fried out Nuggets punk), while the vocals bleed over the top. Out on limited colour LP, LP and CD.
7.

Shit & Shine
54 Synth-Brass, 38 Metal Guitar, 65 Cathedral

Craig Clouse (ex-Hammerhead/Todd) presents the latest filthy missive from his consistently fascinating Shit & Shine project. ‘54 Synth-Brass, 38 Metal Guitar, 65 Cathedral’ is an eccentric brew of trance-inducing rhythms, sampled mischief and oddball noise which quickly proves addictive. If The Butthole Surfers were reborn as post-rave perverts, they might sound a lot like this. Or perhaps not. In any case, Clouse has pulled another fast one here.
8.

Ought
Sun Coming Down

Sun Coming Down is the much anticipated second full length from the Montreal quartet who have found love across the globe with their debut album which topped many end of year lists with it's twitchy economical sound and yelped David Byrne-like vocal delivery. This new album continues in that angular manner, an unpolished charge of politicised avant-rock.  
9.

Helen
The Original Faces

Check this one out Grouper fans! Liz Harris has formed a band, as in ‘an actual band’ band. Harris’ unmistakeable vocals can thus be heard over a sort of shoegaze/indie-pop backing. Helen still maintains an essentially mystic nature, but it is very welcome to hear a whole new side to Harris. The Original Faces is released by Kranky.
10.

Julia Holter
Have You In My Wilderness

‘Have You In My Wilderness’ is a collection of dreamy, atmospheric, intimate ballads textured with the imagery inspired by various literary references, exploring familiar themes such as love and human relationships in a way that is enigmatic and slightly unnerving. The record seems to be drawn from a more personal source than her first two releases.
11.

Sufjan Stevens
Carrie & Lowell

Sufjan Stevens left behind the folk game a long time ago, declaring his plan to write fifty records for fifty states a mere joke -- a sentiment that failed to wash away the beauty of the ornately composed Michigan and the pantomimic Illinoise. In the years since, he's been writing song cycles dedicated to the solar system, conducting orchestras in tributes to American highways, making fun of people on his blog and releasing records that betray deep existential crises -- All Delighted People and the synth-mad Age of Adz. He returns now with Carrie & Lowell, a record which promises a retracing of footsteps, back to the days when Stevens was about acoustic guitars, banjos and soft sadness. It's dedicated to his mum and step-dad. Argh. Crying.
12.

The Declining Winter
Home For Lost Souls

Following the success of our Album Of The Year winner 'Exist/Resist' by Bracken album, the other co-founder of that much-loved post rock/electronic group Hood (namely Richard Adams) unleashes a brand new album under his The Declining Winter moniker. Expect warmly produced, forward-thinking, melancholic English music referencing Talk Talk, Bark Psychosis, Robert Wyatt, Radiohead and of course Adams' former buddies Hood. Sold out in mere seconds in March the album has been re-pressed on olive green vinyl with download code for full album plus further 5 track EP. CD version contains 'The Waning Mill Chronicles' EP plus two non album bonus tracks.  
13.

Ryley Walker
Primrose Green

Harking back to an era of technically proficient folk guitar, Ryley Walker brings a high level of craftsmanship to his work. Hailing from the Chicago scene that brought an exquisitely understated fusion of jazz and prog (Tortoise et al), Primrose Green brings a pastoral flavour to an area of rich musical heritage. Out on CD and vinyl LP from Dead Oceans.
14.

Manyfingers
The Spectacular Nowhere

Available on CD or as Gatefold double Vinyl on Ici d'ailleurs.  After a 10 year hiatus, working on Numbers Not Names and a Third Eye foundation album, Bristol’s Chris Cole returns under his Manyfingers moniker. The Spectacular Nowhere showcases his huge growth as a classical composer since his previous records. Features guest performances from David Callahan (Moonshake), with nods to Phillip Glass and Steve Reich it is certainly a unique mix. Includes bonus track as EXCLUSIVE DOWNLOAD. 
15.

Joanna Newsom
Divers

Indies of the world delight! A new record from the unique Joanna Newsom! Five years on from Have One On Me, Divers continues her life-long mission of creating immaculately arranged songs, each seemingly containing a universe. Divers is available from Drag City on diverse formats: double LP, CD, or cassette.
16.

Death And Vanilla
To Where the Wild Things Are

Recorded using a ten pound microphone they found at a flea market, Death and Vanilla have, on this their third album, really captured the sights, the sounds, the smells of all the best bits of late '60s/early '70s dreamy pop. Their sound is woozy, evocative and blatantly in thrall to the kaleidoscopic sounds of Broadcast, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Mazzy Star and 60's sci-fi soundtracks. It's beautifully listenable; a veritable tapestry of warm sounds to soothe and refresh. Their previous records have been popular but this could send them into the stratosphere. We'll have the indies-only orange vinyl version ahead of official release so get to the front of the queue.   
17.

Helena Hauff
Discreet Desires

‘Discreet Desires’ is the debut solo album from German electro artist Helena Hauff. Driven by a fascination with the relationship between artist and machine, Hauff creates a spontaneous, analogue generated techno, through freestyle jams and improvisation. Her debut release reflects her love for musical subcultures such as punk, nu wave, industrial, krautrock and avant garde electro.
18.

Jenny Hval
Apocalypse, Girl

Since the release of her debut album in 2006, Jenny Hval has evolved an intimate sound that it uniquely hers. Her latest release ‘Apocalypse, Girl’ is a dreamy concoction of personal soundscapes, unspoken desires and memories inspired by classic science fiction films in which the world is run by auto-erotic choir girls who happen to be punks told through the medium of unimaginable pop.
19.

Yair Elazar Glotman
Études

Yair Elazar Glotman learned to play contrabass the way that classical music demands: practice toward an intuitive understanding of performance. As always, though, his work is critical of what we're taught to remember music as being, and Études is an aggressive exploration of his instrument free of its pre-established role. Études is the material sound of an instrument as well as the sounds it makes. 
20.

Rival Consoles
Howl

Rival Consoles is Ryan Lee West - a London based electronic producer signed to Erased Tapes who has his roots in rock music and is primarily a guitarist. His mission on his new album, Howl was to find the perfect balance between club music and something more personal to listen to at home. The album’s title track is made up from West’s experiments of wiring synths up to guitar pedals, the resulting noises were howl-like. These experiments also inspired a darker tone to the album. His less-is-more approach to composition fits in with the Erased Tapes ethos.
21.

Sleaford Mods
Key Markets

Just as the UK goes back to the ballot box, our favourite agit-prop duo return with 'proper' album number three. Named after a particularly gruesome sounding supermarket in Grantham in the '70s and '80s, the album contains further ruminations on the disorientation of modern existence and the pointlessness of government politics. "It's a classic," they say...and from the sound of lead track the tight and rhythmic 'No-one's Bothered' who are we to argue?
22.

Pinkshinyultrablast
Everything Else Matters

Big wide open shoegaze from St. Petersberg, Russia! Pinkshinyultrablast grabbed that pleasing name from an album by Astrobrite, which gives an impression of what their sound might be, but these guys love shoegaze too much to simply replicate it like a relic from the early '90s. Instead they push forward and outwards, into subtly new spaces.
23.

Kamasi Washington
The Epic

If you enjoyed the corners of Flying Lotus’ music where he flirts with psychedelic jazz, now is a chance to get more, much more… The Epic, released on FlyLo’s own Brainfeeder label, is a three disc super-album orchestrated by Kamsai Washington and utilising orchestra, choir, and a band that includes bassist Thundercat. Hell of a thing.
24.

Low
Ones and Sixes

A bloke called Alan who’s a member of Low says of One and Sixes; “I'm not going to tell you what this record is about because I have too much respect for that moment when you come to know it for yourself”. He goes on to talk about “the moment” and all that. All I know is that they continue with their slow sleuthing indie rock, which also has hints of traditional folk. They're singing well known tunes and just giving you a generally good time. Don't let up on the harmonies, y'all. Available on 2LP or CD.  
25.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress

We thought we'd lost them forever but here they are with their first single length album since their very earliest days. Recorded in late 2013/14 with Greg Norman (not the golfer but the Electrical Audio engineer), 'Asunder, Sweet and other Distress' is described as Godspeed's most focussed and best sounding record to date. Clocking in at an anaemic (for them) 40 minutes, all the usual touchstones are in place, so expect enormo-crescendos, strings and guitars in glorious unison and exhilarating noise and drone explorations. For those with an interest in stats, track count is at 4 this time whilst exclamation mark total is at a lowly 2.    
26.

Björk
Vulnicura

Back from Iceland, Björk is bringing another piece of her wild and crazy pop history to us. Vulnicura is released on double vinyl, in a deluxe digipack or a classic CD, but as far as we know none of the editions includes any fancy Björk swanmade dresses. We tried to make it happen, we really did.
27.

Natural Snow Buildings
Terror's Horns

Very exciting times as a brand new Natural Snow Buildings announce a new record on Ba Da Bing! Terror's Horns is a relatively brief excursion for the duo, and is a little less droney than most past efforts. The vocals can recall bleak English folk, but the music is a wonderful, multi-faceted blur. Gorgeous stuff.
28.

Courtney Barnett
Sometimes I Sit And Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit is the debut album by Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett. It follows on from the brilliant Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas which was released in 2013. Filled with lyrically sharp, catchy songs, this album confirms Courtney Barnett as a genuinely brilliant and unique artist.
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C Duncan
Architect

Available on LP or CD on FatCat records. This is the wondrous debut album from sun-dappled Glaswegian C Duncan. 'Architect' is a fantastic album just waiting be be played on your stereo through summer. Will appeal to fans of Django Django, Sufjan Stevens and last years pop master Stephen Steinbrink.   
31.

Phantom Horse
Different Forces

Phantom Horse are hamburg-based minimalist electronic duo Ulf Schutte and Niklas Dommaschk. Different Forces is their second album and takes it cues from electronic pioneers such as Cluster and Harmonia with a touch of Moondog. Polyrhythmic, hypnotic, highly recommended. Vinyl LP limited to 300 copies!
32.

Triptides
Azur

Triptides are total Californians, jamming out bright indie-pop tracks that are all about hanging out, going to the beach, or hanging out down at the beach. Azur is their fourth record, and lovingly combines all the musical and production elements that you’d want to hear from such a group. On Requiem Pour Un Twister.
33.

Prurient
Frozen Niagara Falls

The first ‘proper’ (e.g. released in an edition of more than 13) Prurient album in four years, Frozen Niagara Falls is a 90-minute, double-disc opus that spans the different regions of Dom Fernow’s practice across 16 tracks, from brooding atmospheres to howling harsh noise. Expect a suitably cold aesthetic.
34.

Helm
Olympic Mess

‘Olympic Mess’ is the follow-up album to 2014’s ‘The Hollow Organ’ from Helm. Inspired by dub techno, Balearic disco and loop based industrial sounds, Younger has composed ten euphoric soundscapes using a variety of heavily manipulated samples, found sounds and electroacoustics, informed by the hypnotic potential of these influences.
35.

Mika Vainio & Franck Vigroux
Peau Froide, Léger Soleil

Peau Froide, Leger Soleil by Mika Vaino and Franck Vigroux sees the pair mixing their styles to create a work that spans the full spectrum between minimum and maximum. Vigroux creates the space whilst Vaino's robust and brutal production creates the framework. The third release on Cosmo Rhythmatic which emphasises the label’s ethos in producing uncompromising music.
36.

Minami Deutsch
Minami Deutsch

Beware: krautrock is on its way back. And this time, it’s coming from Japan. None-to-subtly indicating their inclinations in their nomenclature, Minami Deutsch combine Japanese thoroughness with German thoroughness. The result is a hypnotically straightforward debut, with tireless drum(computer)s carrying distorted vocals and wavy bass lines.
37.

C418
Minecraft Volume Alpha

I hope you’ve heard of Minecraft. If not, it’s an incredibly popular game. Basically Lego for the MP3 generation. However here we have something which is very much a physical thing; a vinyl LP or CD of Minecraft Volume Alpha. It’s the soundtrack to the game which was created by German composer Daniel Rosenfeld, aka C418. It’s a collection of simple and soothing pieces with a naivety and innocence which fits well with Minecraft’s world of experimentation and discovery and makes for some charming ambient style tunes.    Available as a vinyl LP, CD or limited edition of 1000 LPs on green vinyl.
38.

Ghostpoet
Shedding Skin

In football terms Ghostpoet has gone from mid-table Championship to nailed on Champions League place with this, his third record. In short: he's really upped his game. Where previous records were interesting but a little niche, Ghostpoet has now made a record everyone can enjoy. It's bold, it's bright, it's tuneful. With a background in UK hip hop, this album uses those influences and marries them to the best bits of forward thinking indie (say, Radiohead, TV on the Radio). Looking forward to it.   
39.

Vision Fortune
Country Music

They called it Country Music but I think they are actually big liars: this psych rock outfit wouldn't know twang if it hit them on the head and chased them around the barn in a pick-up truck of lovelorn melodies. So instead: Vision Fortune hone their usual compositions of sparse, strangely coalescing percussion and bass, with sound effects and vocals that attempt to ground the impossibly abstract but come up short. Weird shit; not so country, but it was made in the country.
40.

Girlpool
Before The World Was Big

Relief and elation fight eachother as Girlpool release their new record Before the World Was Big! Thank goodness for that; following on from their EP of spry, confrontational jangle pop, they offer more songs about personal growth and identity, intertwined with unbelievable melodies that are modestly stated but deeply felt. Phew.
41.

Thomas Brinkmann
What You Hear (Is What You Hear)

Following some innovative work in the areas of minimalism, ambiance and techno such as 'Klick', 'Variations' and last years duo with Oren Ambarchi 'The Mortimer Trap', 'What You Hear (Is What You Hear)' sees Brinkmann attempt to further separate the notions of auteurism from the act of creativity by removing intent from the process as much as possible. The tracks are a series of rhythmically self perpetuating structures for the listener to build their own associations and emotional content upon.
42.

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma
A Year With 13 Moons

Maker of the abstract and turner of the world's axis, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma is one of musique concrète's rocks, using reel to reel tapes and field recordings of the area around his hometown to make half-compositions. He's pretty much always recording the sounds of his life, kind of like if WANDA GROUP was in The Truman Show. A Year With 13 Moons consists of sounds recorded to a stereo tape to create a record that's less fragmented and more sustainably gorgeous -- New Age coming from happy accidents.
43.

Lakker
Tundra

Dark, brooding atmospheres reminiscent of your time as a night-shift factory worker, always throbbing onward: expect those sounds from Lakker’s debut full length. Tundra will give you the chills with its threatening basses and obtuse beats that’ll fill your room, ears and head as soon as the needle touches the vinyl.
44.

Oneohtrix Point Never
Garden of Delete

A new full-length album from Oneohtrix Point Never, a project that Daniel Lopatin seems to be taking ever deeper into the world of digital hyper-reality. Garden Of Delete is festooned with painfully bright synth sounds and bitcrushed samples, creating a vivid and disorientating sound-universe. On Warp Records.
45.

Sightings
Amusers and Puzzlers

‘Amusers and Puzzlers’ is the final chapter in the nine album career of one of experimental rocks most jaded treasures, Sightings. The record, intended as a complimentary album to their 2013 release ‘Terribly Well’ is the oxymoronic climax of their unique style of damaged rock, driven by irregular guitar changes and nervy, sporadic vocals and a relentless rhythm section.
46.

The Apartments
No Song No Spell No Madrigal

Available on 12” vinyl and CD on Microcultures. First new album from Sydney based The Apartments in eighteen years!?! No Song No Spell No Madrigal is filled with hugely cinematic chamber pop that has the climactic builds of The Antlers or Cinematic Orchestra and the raw emotive power of Leonard Cohen’s Dance me to the End of Love.
47.

Loop
Array 1

For two and half decade, alternative rockers LOOP have left a void in our hearts. And now they think they can make it up to us just by releasing new material. Which they totally can. Array 1 is the first of three releases planned for the coming year, and features 4 new songs. Expect to reminisce, recognize and be surprised.
48.

FIS
The Blue Quicksand is Going Now

Fis has previously dabbled in weird drum’n’bass, but here, on his debut full-length The Blue Quicksand Is Going Now, he drops out a lot of the rhythm to leave us with hazy electronic soundscapes chattering around the sonic field. Great new stuff from New Zealand, released on the Loopy label.
49.

Anna Caragnano & Donato Dozzy
Sintetizzatrice

Sintetizzatrice is collaboration between eltro-man, Donato Dozzy and vocalist Anna Caragnano. The whole album is created with one instrument; the voice of Caragnano. This is then fiddled, manipulated and stretched into beautiful forms by Dozzy, creating tracks which bridge genre entirely but are ultimately ethereal and captivating.   
50.

Michael Chapman
Fish

Michael Chapman, the old folk guitarist from Leeds, has had a bit of a career renaissance of late. He has a long list of admirers from the American alternative music scene such as Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile, Will Oldham and Bill Callahan, which has probably helped. He is about to turn 75 so what better way to celebrate than release a new album, Fish.