Music Picks of 2015

Last year saw some huge releases, and some fantastic small ones. Here’s my take on my personal favourites from 2015.

Not an objective list by any means, and this year I’m not spitting up EPs and LPs, nor picking the best out of all of them. Pretty much all going to be on Spotify, but otherwise hit them into your favourite search engine and you’ll get something.

Lupe Fiasco Tetsuo & Youth

Damn, Lupe. One of the best hip hop albums of last year, with probably the best album art of any album on this list. Clocking in at an epic 78 minutes, 27 seconds, Lupe takes us on a journey that is possibly his magnum opus (come at me Food & Liquor fans). Wielding his trademark smooth flow and leaving the politics to the fringes, Lupe leaves his pulpit and weaves a complex tapestry of innovative samples combined with no-nonense story telling.

Recommended tracks: Mural, Chopper, Blur My Hands.

LA Priest Inji

Late of the Pier were one of my favourite bands during that awkward period of being an 18/19 year old. Loud, crazy synthpop running at full speed. Remember Bathroom Gurgle and Focker? Sam Dust’s new project LA Priest is definitely indietronica, but at a vastly different pace. Favouring slow-locked grooves and throwback guitar samples, and in some cases an almost Floyd-esque prog vibe, Dust has crafted an excellent, if idiosyncratic, pop record. It’s clear that Dust has matured as a songwriter and composer, and this debut will hopefully set the bar for future things to come.

Recommended tracks: Night Train, Oino, Lady’s In Trouble With The Law

Rival Consoles Howl

Rival Consoles is a one-man bedroom act that sounds much, much bigger than that. West manages to pull genuine warmth out of the cold synthesizers that are used in the construction of the album, resulting in a record that is thoughtful and affecting – quite an achievement for electronic music. Having as much in common with Radiohead as with label mate Nils Frahm, Howl is a contrast to 2011’s Kid Velo, and a wonderful culmination of minimalism and pulsing, head-nodding beats.

Recommended tracks: Howl, Haunt, Morning Vox

El Huervo World’s End

It’s pretty difficult to classify Niklas Åkerblad’s World’s End, the closest I think is chillwave/darkwave. Utilising original ambient compositions, bitcrushed instruments and eclectic samples, this album is a personal favourite from the Hotline Miami artist. Although not containing anything quite as iconic as 2014’s Daisuke, the album contains a range from the raucous Rebel to the understated Express, to the almost psychedelic Fabian. At home in the foreground as much as in the background, I really recommend giving this a spin.

Recommended tracks: Fukurokouji, Five, Shelter

Magic City Hippies Hippie Castle EP

I love EP’s. All business, with (usually) no filler. You can just get right into the mix and it’s short enough for you to spin again and again without getting fatigued. Miami’s Magic City Hippies have produced a sonic slice of smooth and funky R&B that just oozes Hawaiian shirts, mojitos-at-dusk and overall good summer vibes. Fantastically mastered and with exceptionally feel-good, do yourself and put this on when it’s tipping it down and sun is the furthest thing from your mind – you won’t regret it.

Recommended tracks: Fanfare, Bull Ride, BRNT

Fantastic Negrito Fantastic Negrito EP

Xavier Dphrepaulezz suffered a life-changing car-accident in 1999, that left him with limited use of his hands – one he terms ‘The Claw’ – that left him with access to only three chords. That limitation isn’t obvious in his debut as Fantastic Negrito, where he is playing black roots music with a punk bent, like Saul Williams but with more electric-blues and less electronica. It’s a beautifully sincere record with the same ‘realness’ that scored Xavier a record deal back in the 90’s.

Recommended tracks: Honest Man, Lost in a Crowd, The Time Has Come

tricot A N D

tricot (all lower case) are an innovative math rock/post-punk band hailing from Kyoto, Japan. They seemingly take inspriation from a variety of sources, from their fellow Japanese Shonen Knife, alt.rock legends The Pixies and late Sonic Youth, A N D is full of clashing guitars and intricate drum work as is typical of the genre, but overlaid with incredible melodic vocals. It’s a very slick production that will rock your face off in a way that no other band could possibly do.

Recommended tracks: kieru, E, Pieeen (A N D version)

HNNY Sunday

Sunday is an unusual house record: it eschews the typical tropes of the genre in favour of a downtempo, jazzy sound, strewn with crackling vinyl samples and old-school Motown. It’s an autobiagraphical record, enoking feelings of nostalgia, as Cederberg takes a look back at the hazy days of his teenage years, of the loves and lovers he’s had. Real warmth is present in the record, with nary a downer on the record, with the deceptively simple beats providing a firm basis for the creative use of the samples. Put this record on, lie down and drift away.

Recommended tracks: Sunday, Cheer Up, My Brother, Eagle’s House

Random Rab Awoke

Robert Clinton, alias Random Rab, has been in the downtempo house game for a long time, and it shows – he is a master of his craft. Over 10 years after his debut, and his first studio effort since 2013’s Release, he has produced this 76 minutes of blissed-out house and trip-hop, with twinkling synths and spare vocal samples. The Indiana native has become synonymous with the neotribal scene that began in Ashland, Oregon and specifically El Circo. Much of Awoke is an evolution of the sounds that came out of that area almost 20 years ago, and encapsulates the mood of what has become Rab’s signature – the Burning Man sunrise set – and the spirituality of the New Family.

Recommended tracks: Ganymede, Suns of Midnight, Golden Thread

Girl Band Holding Hands With Jamie

Nobody sounds like Girl Band, providing a noise record that is both revolutionary, yet very familiar to fans of the genre. It has shades of their earlier material (captured best in their cover of Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?, but their sound has moved on from the pure noise-punk of 2013 and into territory that sounds closer to Filth–era Swans, or Pink–era Boris, or Lightning Bolt, while maintaining a style all their own. The Dublin group manage to remain musical enough to remain accessibile, but are still providing much needed experimentation.

Recommended tracks: Paul, Pears For Lunch, Umbongo

Author & Punisher Melk en Honing

Tristan Shone is a genius. I say this completely sincerely, as he is not only an extremely accomplished industrial doom musician, but an incredible machinist and sculptor. Melk en Honing is a record where the line between man and machine is blurred and where who is in control is unclear: is Shone moving the machines, or is he submitting to them? It takes a lot to stand out in extreme music, but the mad scientist has certainly done it. Check out his incredible work here, as I think you really need to see the machines and how they work in conjunction with listening to the record.

Recommended tracks: Future Man, Disparate, Callous and Hoof

The World Is a Beautiful Place… Harmlessness

The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die continue the long standing emo/post-rock tradition in having a band name too long for most flyers, as well as producing an incredible second album (Brand New, Sunny Day Real Estate). Harmlessness is truly an incredible record, a real coming of age for the band, with many different moving parts – vocalists, violinists, guitars, drums – all coming together in one of the best composed records I’ve heard in years. The stand out track for me is January 10th, 2014, which contains quotes from a haunting This American Life piece about ‘Diana, Hunter of Bus Drivers’ in Juárez, Mexico, and the opening track You Can’t Live There Forever feels like a new morning, or a new beginning, which couldn’t be more appropriate for this phenomenal follow up, and cements this record as possibly the most important that I listened to in 2015.

Recommended tracks: You Can’t Live There Forever, January 10th, 2014, I Can Be Afraid of Anything