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Stereoboard's Albums Of 2015: Part One

Tuesday, 15 December 2015 Written by Stereoboard

It’s the most wonderful time of the year...list time. It might seem like a lot to take in, but here are some solid gold picks from 12 months of reviews at Stereoboard. They’re not in any order, so think of this as a digital vinyl bin. Happy discovering/reminiscing/listening. When you're done here, dive in to parts two and three and keep your eyes peeled later this week as we go full Rob Gordon for our shiny top five albums of 2015 features.

Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Style

“[Will Toledo’s] laconic, reverb-drenched drawl may be familiar, but his way with a hook is consistently refreshing and exciting. Lifted from their lo-fi origins, his songs have added indie-rock heft in these new incarnations, having been fleshed out by a living, breathing band. A fresh lick of paint, though, means nothing if the tunes don’t stack up. This is where ‘Teens of Style’ really hits home. It forms a coherent, superbly paced whole, which is quite remarkable given its disparate beginnings.” - Huw Baines

Full Review

Jamie Woon - Making Time

“An old fashioned soul with integrity and originality on his side, Woon is an artists’ artist. ‘Making Time’ is an album that celebrates the essence of life, the pure simplicity that facilitates happiness and calms the spirit. An honest delight.” - Milly McMahon

Full Review

Chvrches - Every Open Eye

“For every dip into dancefloor-friendly synths, perhaps best illustrated by Clearest Blue’s Depeche Mode-indebted hook, there’s a pensive counterpoint, like the album’s bare-bones closer, Afterglow. Throughout, the hooks are massive. Chvrches don’t have pop’s cadre of hitmakers on speed dial and ‘Every Open Eye’ backs up their decision to keep things in-house at every turn.” - Huw Baines

Full Review

The Libertines - Anthems For Doomed Youth

“This is the Libertines comeback the world willed but never believed could plausibly happen. After the tragic death of Amy Winehouse and the recent anniversary of her passing, the release of ‘Anthems For Doomed Youth’ feels like a poignant achievement for two boys who first began making music inbetween partying, to just avoid getting a job.” - Milly McMahon

Full Review

The Wonder Years - No Closer To Heaven

“These days the Wonder Years’ Dan Campbell could write a hit pop punk album in his sleep. Right from the first note, ‘No Closer To Heaven’ is full of anthemic tunes, just like its predecessors. Campbell’s sincere lyrics and passionate vocal delivery are a slick lesson in emotional manipulation, as every line begs to be shouted back at the band. The Wonder Years skilfully swing between delicate melodies and thundering choruses that will suckerpunch you.” - Jennifer Geddes

Full Review

Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$

“The whole structure and tone of the album is geared towards presenting Joey as if he is indeed the new Biggie, the new Big L, the new Nas. He even demonstrates his ambition by following Nas’ example, recruiting revered producer DJ Premier on Paper Trail$. Meanwhile, only one of his Pro Era collective contribute a guest spot (Dyemond Lewis on On and On) with as much focus as possible given to Bada$$’ verses. Across 15 tracks there are only a handful of hooks but myriad ideas and narratives. If ‘B4.Da.$$’ is a shot at mainstream success then it is a brave move, and to his credit the 20-year-old carries the album very well. Though this feels like a classic, it isn’t. But that doesn’t negate the appeal. With more and more mainstream artists embracing the New York sound, Pro Era are leading the charge.” - Jonathan Rimmer

Full Review

Du Blonde - Welcome Back To Milk

“Du Blonde has a voice moulded by experience. You can hear her pain, anger and soul in every breath. This is particularly true of album closer Isn’t It Wild, a hauntingly beautiful ballad that deserves mention in the same sentence as Tori Amos or PJ Harvey, women who are also able to turn catharsis into gold. It is the death rattle of a wild party.” - Laura Johnson

Full Review

Miguel - Wildheart

“Building crescendos to orgasmic heights, the album progresses with insight into his deepest emotional moments. The closing statement, Face The Sun, is an epic, guitar-led anthem strong enough to challenge the finest songwriters of this generation. A brave and original album, ‘Wildheart’ travels in various stylistic directions, all of which eventually lead to the same end point: a rare, intangible brilliance.” - Milly McMahon

Full Review

Everything Everything - Get To Heaven

“There are a couple of things going on here. Superficially, ‘Get To Heaven’ is Everything Everything gone pop. It’s not that they’ve shied away from it in the past, rather that they have now fully embraced its ebullient spirit and run with it. A quick scratch beneath the surface, though, reveals a nightmarish vision of our turbulent present and warnings of lessons unheeded from our violent past. Its surprising, thrilling melodies are at odds with Jonathan Higgs’ mélange of surrealist imagery. There are many joyous hooks, almost all of which lead the listener onto shaky ground. It’s pop as a vessel for soul searching and an examination of terror, religious power, racism and our ability to bury our collective head in the sand.” - Huw Baines

Full Review

Paradise Lost - The Plague Within

“No hope in sight: the mindset of hardcore Paradise Lost fans for the past couple of decades and the opening snarl of the band's new album, 'The Plague Within'. Die-hards have witnessed the Halifax heavyweights sculpt death metal masterpieces, questionable synthpop farts and doomy, riff-stacked melodies over the years and, as a result, this album could have gone one of several ways. 'Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us' and 'Tragic Idol' both revelled in glorious melancholy – and were the best Paradise Lost albums this side of the millennium – but fans craved more. They wanted heavy. They wanted br00tal. 'The Plague Within' delivers that.” - Alec Chillingworth

Full Review

Braids - Deep In The Iris

“There’s a theory that the best records are created on the edge of a precipice, that tension, friction, loss or heartache are indispensable ingredients. ‘Deep In The Iris’, Braids’ third album, emerges following a period of deliberate, organised calm. The Montreal trio, keen to reassemble friendships and avoid the stress encountered while putting together the complex, electronics-dominated ‘Flourish // Perish’, decamped to remote locations in Arizona, Vermont, and upstate New York with songs on their mind. The first thing to note is the overall shift in tone. This is far less busy than its predecessor, less reliant on technology and considerably more traditional in its structures. At the heart of that is Raphaelle Standell-Preston, whose vocals are no longer another piece of a puzzle, rather a foundation on which the band can build.” - Huw Baines

Full Review

Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp

“Every small imperfection on ‘Ivy Tripp’ makes it that much more sincere and [Katie] Crutchfield has a gift for ensuring that music and lyrics speak to one another. ‘I heard someone say that you have to be the change you want to see,’ she said recently. ‘I just want to be the kind of musician I want to see in the world.’ Mission accomplished. We’re better off for having Waxahatchee in it.” - Laura Johnson

Full Review

East India Youth - Culture of Volume

“[William] Doyle’s reference points are countless and varied: Bowie, Eno, Kraftwerk. The list runs and runs. But, far from being a tiring homage, ‘Culture Of Volume’ marks the emergence of a surprising pop voice. Like his debut, it would take weeks to unpick each constituent part. This time though, that desire is less pressing. Each decision made is in service to a whole, whether that’s a song or the record’s swooping rise and fall. In that sense, this is an old-fashioned album. All the better for it.” - Huw Baines

Full Review

Trust Fund - Seems Unfair

“Big Asda, the album’s penultimate song, is something of a perfect storm. Where it features squalls of fuzz and a screeching lead, it’s also home to a soaring melody as its centrepiece. Here, Jones has crafted a sort of pocket symphony, reconfiguring Jeff Lynne-style ambition in the context of a band dabbling in the jangle of mid-’90s indie-pop. As Martha did with ‘Courting Strong’ last year, Jones has created something that will live beyond the fashion of its stylistic choices. Great songs, after all, will always be great songs.” - Huw Baines

Full Review

Joanna Newsom - Divers

“Presenting enjoyable obstacles for new listeners, ‘Divers’ remains entirely singular from beginning to end. Newsom unapologetically invites her audience to hear her art for what it is: a complete body of work. As you would not pick up a book and read just one chapter to understand the whole story, ‘Divers’ - from the opening track, Anecdotes, to the acoustic, bird song-scattered Time, As A Symptom - demands to be unpicked and discovered, from its illustrious metaphors and philosophies to its soulful integrity.” - Milly McMahon

Full Review


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