10. A$AP Rocky – At.Long.Last.A$AP
The notoriously difficult second album sets most acts up to fail but A.L.L.A. has some shining moments. Third single ‘L$D’ showcases the new heights A$AP Rocky is taking his genre to. Chillwave bass drones mixed with soaring melodies make for a refreshing hit of understated, stripped-back sincerity that stands up against the clichés and opens up a watch this space.
9. Jeff Bridges – Sleeping Tapes
Perhaps the most experimental entry on this list, Jeff Bridges’ Sleeping Tapes is a exercise in sending us off to a slightly disquieting dreamland. Minute-long rants warning against water before bed quickly and unexpectedly dissolve into snippets of pure unadulterated noise and Casio-esque effects. The Dude abides.
8. Deafheaven – New Bermuda
Genre-blurrers Deafheaven’s follow-up to the much-acclaimed Sunbather contains all the same bark and bite melded skilfully with the sonically overwhelming shoe-gazing interludes. Punishing black metal screams are punctuated with romantic guitar riffs that wouldn’t be misplaced on a 90s alt-pop record. New Bermuda is synaesthesia triggering.
7. Veruca Salt – Ghost Notes
Perfect punchy pop songs permeate Veruca Salt’s first O.G. line-up offering since 1997’s Eight Arms to Hold You. As if the last 20 years had never happened at all, catchy harmonies and riffs galore hark back to the golden pop-punk riot days of yesteryear. With exclamations like “I’m the greatest fucking thing that ever happened to you” Veruca Salt are carving the way for the next riot grrrl generation to attempt their own brand of total world domination. The future is female.
6. Windhand – Grief’s Infernal Flower
Grunge doom purveyors enlisted Jack Endino for their third effort who masterfully blended their latent grunge appeal with their more malevolent doom-laden overtones. Dorthia Cottrell husks her way through opener ‘Two Urns’, enveloped in mind-melting riffs and cymbal-led drum crashes. Album closer, the atmospheric, acoustic-led ‘Aition’, a soulful nod to Cottrell’s folk solo s/t record released earlier in the year.
5. The Icarus Line – All Things Under Heaven
If this album were a speech it would be spoken by one of Skid Row’s finest misfits, stuttering and stammering spitting vitriolic truth bombs out on the uninterested swathes of other homeless bodies herded and crammed into one block in DTLA. But with the grit of the music it becomes an eloquent and even organised attack on the banality of modernity, a fully-fledged combative aural assault. Naturally unapologetic, unapologetically natural. Shots fired.
4. Swervedriver – I Wasn’t Born to Lose You
This would probably top Daria Morgendorffer’s ‘Best of 2015’ list. A dreamy soup of shoegaze fuelled rock songs and a honeyed comeback for 90s alt-rock aficionados. I Wasn’t Born to Lose You may be a less edgy, more polished output but the relaxed, mellowed-out sounds from the former Mezcal Heads makes for a catchy, daydream-inducing hit list of desert rock anthems.
3. Jim O’Rourke – Simple Songs
The latest in the Drag City “pop albums” series, Jim O’Rourke presents his Cat Stevens, Nilsson-esque portraits of the life of a nihilistic romantic bent on confession. ‘Friends with Benefits’ struts forward confidently announcing the greatness that is to follow. The masterful portmanteau of 70s and folk pop places Simple Songs in that rare unicorn position of both forward-thinking and backward-gazing. The timeless effect this sparks will secure Simple Songs a place on vinyl decks for many years to come.
2. Ryley Walker – Primrose Green
Jazz fused with blues fused with 70s folk rock sets apart one of the more ambitious releases of the year. A lesson in music history, Walker displays his full knowledge deftly on Primrose Green. The title track opener is an upbeat toe-tapper in the style of a jazzed-up Pentangle. The cacophonous ‘Summer Dress’ pulses and flits around while Walker’s soulful vocals soar over the top. A bright young spark who walks the walk. Jansch would be proud.
1. Tame Impala – Currents
Perth psych-rockers Tame Impala unloaded their third offering the same week that the New Horizons probe snapped pictorial evidence of ‘ice mountains as big as the Rockies’ on its flyby of Pluto. As a result the is-it-isn’t-it-planet even garnered a petition to change its status from outcast outsider back to bosom buddy. The bid to launch it back into the planetary family-fold permanently was a bit of a flop, but Currents wasn’t.
The celestial soundscapes, mellow beats spliced with stray synth interjections and heart-rending tales of lost love that Kevin Parker has achieved on Currents places it firmly in the outer reaches of the solar system. It isn’t too much of a stretch to see Currents as a string of remorseful and melancholic love letters from the demoted Pluto to its still-exalted old pals. What Currents is is an exercise in flying in the face of uncertainty, a deviation from the norm, an ‘interplanetary feel’ space-hopping masterpiece.