Taking all the effort out of deciding what albums to listen to in the remaining 13 days of the year as well as what order to listen to them in (descending order of not-shitness) here are Methods Unsound’s best albums of 2015, reviewed and ranked just for you.
How’s your end-of-year album list coming along? Oh you don’t have time for such trivial matters? You have better things to do, like enjoying life, art and culture in a normal healthy way, rather than joylessly cramming as many albums as you possibly can into an unrealistically tight period of time to serve what is ultimately an arbitrary deadline?
Well I guess you’ve got everything figured out haven’t you? Good for you. At least I can comfort myself in the knowledge that I know exactly how many albums better the John Carpenter record is above Bjork’s latest devastating opus. Four albums better. That makes sense right?
I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. I’m going out for a walk.
20) THEESatisfaction – EarthEE
On EarthEE there aren’t many hooks to be found as it’s essentially a futuristic funk-led groove, but it is seductive and deeply atmospheric, meditating on the unknowable and beyond. Catherine Harris-White has a voice like honey but is resolutely unafraid to let the emotional cracks appear. Stasia Irons raps with verve and a stream of consciousness flow, made all the more affecting thanks to her understated growl. The duo compliment each other beautifully.
19) Vessels – Dilate
I don’t know much about dance music but I know what I like (Walls, The Field, Caribou) and I know what I hate (I don’t know, fucking Tiesto or something). I like this one too, I like it a lot. Made by a nice bunch of lads from Leeds, who used to be a lot more post-rock than this, Dilate is a throbbing, hypnotic, looping beast full of distinct movements and character which sounds not unlike my favourite dance artists and nothing like my least favourite ones.
18) Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi Love
I can only imagine the phrase ‘multi love’ means a polymorphous, sexual free-for-all where any number of degenerates are invited to humiliate themselves in the basest way possible while vocalist Ruban Nielson hands out free drugs from a giant vagina shaped bowl. This third album from UMO, with its squelchy funk, psychedelic experimentation and joyful catchiness is the perfect soundtrack to this; the one night of your life that ensures you will never look your parents or pets in the eye ever again. None of the above is a criticism by the way. Very much the opposite.
17) Ought – Sun Coming Down
Ought are a four-piece group of ex-pats living in Montreal and signed to Constellation. This means they’re unlikely label-mates of Godspeed You Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and other bands with shorter names because the older boys took all the available words. Sun Coming Down contains a more direct and accessible sound than Ought’s contemporaries, but isn’t any less experimental with its established post punk template. Guitars switch between airy and angular with little apparent effort, and Tim Beeler’s vocals are particularly evocative of Mark E. Smith’s at his most audible, with a dash of Ian Curtis’ impassioned vulnerability thrown in. Ought are a band that slip neatly between The Fall and Talking Heads, which is a very appealing place to be.
16) Björk – Vulnicura
You would expect an album documenting Bjork’s real-life breakup to be powerful, but this is staggering. It’s as if she has thrown the full force of her intellect into the music. All meticulous, intricate arrangements driving a true expression of raw emotion. The result is an overwhelming manifesto of emotional defiance: part release, part consolation, part attack. [Tom Farncombe]
15) The Internet – Ego Death
The Internet has taken a well-earned break from tirelessly analysing every last detail of a genre film that hasn’t been released yet, fat-shaming people on public transport and enabling the anonymity of sexually abusive behaviour on Twitter, to release a sublime neo-soul album that draws on hip-hop, funk and jazz influences but creates an entirely adult world, full of sex, hedonism and bad language. Ego Death is a silky smooth album, not a million miles away from Frank Ocean or The Weeknd, but remains just weird enough to be satisfyingly different.
14) HOLLY HERNDON – PLATFORM
A delirious, fractured journey through multiple electronic disciplines that slices and dices its way through house music, glitch-pop and choral chanting to mind expanding effect while remaining ever humane and thoughtful.
13) Vince Staples – Summertime ’06
Claustrophobic in its atmosphere, Vince Staples’ bitter, brooding contemplation of a lost summer is the polar-opposite of The Fresh Prince’s gaudy, ubiquitous hit. Featuring an oppressive wall of bass, minimalist percussion and lyrics that strike deep into the sticky murk of violence and addiction, Staples has created a moody, unrelenting masterpiece that somehow still manages to groove like a sexy bastard.
12) Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People
Ezra Furman’s latest album Perpetual Motion People is another gem and I hope it makes him a huge star, but in these days of Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran it may well be that he’s nowhere near bland enough. Furman combines doo-wop, indie, punk and pure pop with guttural vocals and emotionally honest lyrics, in a cluttered, kitchen-sink manner, but it’s this all-or-nothing approach that sets him leagues apart from his contemporaries. Few have been able to describe their self-destructive and depressive tendencies quite so entertainingly. [Leon Barton]
11) John Carpenter – Lost Themes
Lost Themes, by legendary film director John Carpenter, is a new collection of instrumentals that are all as haunting as they are groovy. Just like Scooby Doo. And just like Scooby Doo it’s revealed at the end that the man really responsible for all the scary shenanigans is an old disgruntled fairground owner.
10) TAME IMPALA – CURRENTS
Currents totally dispenses with Tame Impala’s usual psychedelic hallmarks. Gone are the guitars, the rampant derivation and the swirly, self-indulgent fug that made InnerSpeaker such an eye-rolling slog that’s only fit for a big pair of headphones or Noel Fielding’s opium stained bedsit. Instead we have elements of disco, soul, funk, yacht rock, R&B and sophisti-pop (a genre that I believe only has one member, and it’s Scritti Politti) all rolled into a joyous experience that deserves to be heard loudly in a club with all your friends by your side.
9) Low – Ones and Sixes
I hope that 10 years after I have an emotional breakdown during which I believe that I’m the antichrist and am instrumental in the impending apocalypse, that I’m still able to buy a newspaper from the corner shop without barking at the shop-keeper and remember where I live, let alone create three of the most exquisitely beautiful and powerfully affecting albums of the last four years. Alan Sparhawk, one third of the Minnesota trio, is just such a hero, and this is yet another masterpiece.
8) Gaz Coombes – Matador
Supergrass were fucking excellent I think we can all agree, and Gaz Coombes is shaping up to be not only one of the best solo artists in the country but our very favourite Britpop survivor and most impressive example of someone who really grew into their looks. Coombes’s second album Matador is nothing short of a triumph. Moments of shimmering, electro-tinged contemplation augmented with dizzying swells of euphoria. It’s glorious and shall now be the yardstick which we can use to aggressively beat other singer-songwriters with until they make something as good as this.
7) Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
One of Courtney Barnett’s best traits is the way she delivers lyrics in an utterly deadpan manner, but then will suddenly find the melody in her music, remembering that she’s technically ‘meant’ to be singing, and ends up delivering something completely uplifting, beautiful and transformative. Barnett is a fantastic vocalist, imbuing herself completely in every carefully chosen word and effortlessly entertaining observation. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit is an album that glows with confidence. It’s completely assured but without being over-intellectual, and the fact that it all pours out from such a vulnerable centre makes it all the more wonderful.
6) Braids – Deep in the Iris
In just nine tracks, Canadian three-piece Braids cover an awful lot of ground, thematically, lyrically and, within its heart-tugging electronica, musically too. Similarly over the course of just three albums Braids have developed their sound to a point where each record stands identifiably as its own work, while maintaining a consistent level of captivating honesty. Deep in the Iris is their strongest, most humane album so far.
5) Jamie XX – In Colour
A gorgeous, deeply atmospheric evocation of urban disenfranchisement that is made all the more universal by The XX’s Romy and Oliver’s haunted vocals. Much like most of Jamie XX’s music, this is something you can really nod your head to. There are a variety of different speeds you can nod your head to though, so you won’t get too bored. Just bear in mind that nothing gets beyond a moderate tempo, so you don’t have to worry about looking like a thrash-metal fan. But then nobody would ever suspect a 35 year-old balding man with a Fjällräven Kanken rucksack, Threadless t-shirt and a vintage cassette player to be a thrash metal fan, so you’ll probably be fine. Just don’t accidentally wander into a thrash metal gig, as someone will take a shit in your Fjällräven Kanken rucksack and they’ll be well within their rights to do so.
4) John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure
If you can find me a funnier and more danceable album about mid-life anxiety and the inevitable dread-soaked nightmares that follow than Grey Tickles, Black Pressure, you can pop me in a parcel, affix some postage to the box and ship me off to Iceland to be bitch-slapped by the mighty wall of a man called John Grant. He’ll ask me to pass the slap right back to you, because you’re wrong. John Grant’s third album is a masterpiece, expertly balancing heart-wrenching themes with wit, bravery and porno-soundtrack-funk.
3) Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love
I love Sleater-Kinney unconditionally. No other band has shaped the person who I am today or soundtracked as many defining moments of my life more than THE GREATEST ROCK BAND THAT EVER EXISTED. So therefore, as a music critic, it would have been ethically sound of me to give the review of Sleater-Kinney’s surprise new album No Cities to Love to another member of the Methods Unsound team to cover. Thankfully however, the new album was FUCKING TERRIFIC and didn’t need anyone else writing about it OTHER THAN ME because I have ALL MY CRITICAL FACULTIES INTACT no matter what YOU or anyone else says, thank you VERY MUCH. Christ, somebody take this keyboard away from me and remove the caps lock button before it’s too late.
2) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
To Pimp a Butterfly, Lamar’s third full-length, is far too complex an album to unpack in just a short paragraph (or even a 1,500 word review as it happens). Just know thatTo Pimp a Butterfly is one of the most daring, provocative and challenging albums to ever grace the mainstream, and at the centre of it is an unbridled talent, who is one of those rare artists whose multiplicity of skills manage to reach their astronomical ambitions. It’s an honour to be of age when this was released in much the same it must have been when Sgt. Pepper came out. Too far? Give it a decade and we’ll see.
1) Grimes – Art Angels
Art Angels is a beautifully crafted album, that massively outstrips Grimes’ previous efforts in terms of technique, imagination and heart. Grimes is peerless when it comes to her singular vision. Each track is a voyage into experimentation, that contains Grimes’ most startlingly personal lyrics yet. However wrapped around every emotionally honest or avant-garde moment is a euphorically uplifting pop song, designed to make your day 50 times better. Art Angels contains so many wonderful surprises and honest-to-goodness hooks that you’ll feel spoiled while listening to it.
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