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Stereoboard's Albums Of 2015: Part Two

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. Make sure to also check out parts one and three and stay tuned later this week as we go full Rob Gordon for our shiny top five albums of 2015 features.

Deafheaven - New Bermuda

“When your every move is viewed with suspicion and each stylistic choice is considered an act of provocation, retreat is the easiest option. Deafheaven, a couple of years on from sending sections of the metal world into a frothing meltdown with ‘Sunbather’, have done quite the opposite. ‘New Bermuda’ dispenses with the shackles early on, taking a step away from post-rock and instead reconfiguring some staple metal moves. At times it soars, at others it fizzes with an almost classic rock fervour. Mainly, though, it hits like a train.” - Huw Baines

Full Review

Worriers - Imaginary Life

“It’s hook laden, and relentless with it. Parts will rattle around your brain for weeks, while Glutton For Distance continues the pace and paints a vivid picture of tour life and the debris it can leave in its wake: ‘I was a glutton for distance. You gave me roots through the hardest times.’ The album crosses the finish line with 28 minutes on the clock, but covers so much ground that it feels expansive. It’s deeply impressive. There isn’t a moment of filler and barely a word wasted. If it’s said, it’s supposed to have an impact.” - Laura Johnson

Full Review

FKA Twigs - M3LL155X

“The balancing act between clever hooks and unapologetic stylistic shifts is deftly maintained, reaching a peak as In Time’s accusatory tone - “You’ve got a goddamn nerve.” - transposes into an almost gentle, tension-relieving finish. It’s executed in such a manner that the dissipation of its edge remains surprising and deeply satisfying. There is a sense that Twigs knows more than we do, not only in terms of the direction we’re headed in, but also in relation to her idea of self. She is able to unpick and understand the layers of her identity, presenting provocative, singular messages with supreme confidence. She is quite unlike anyone else.” - Huw Baines

Full Review

Foals - What Went Down

“London Thunder descends into an aftermath of stillness. Drifting through a memory of pain, it signals and then indulges a melancholy sense of loss with an addictive sweetness. This is as much an album for lovers as it is the heartbroken. ‘What Went Down’ is modern rock ‘n’ roll written with symphonic finesse. Poetic, cynical, painful and overridingly romantic, it represents a new standard, redefining pop and challenging modern ideals of masculinity.” - Milly McMahon

Full Review

Cradle of Filth - Hammer of the Witches

“Put simply, this album is a ripper. The new line up has rejuvenated the core of Cradle's sound and, as a result, etched the strongest, most vitally brilliant chapter in their history since 'Midian' arrived. Fans old and new can rejoice in the knowledge that Cradle have learned their lesson, combined the old with the new and will continue to fly the flag for extreme metal. And hopefully they'll never do another Heaven 17 cover.” - Alec Chillingworth

Full Review

Blur - The Magic Whip

“There are no instant hits in the vein of Girls and Boys or Parklife, nor the threat of the chart battle that ended with Country House earning far greater prominence among Blur songs than it should have. Blur are known for their singles, and the masses will gather in Hyde Park in a couple of months hoping to hear The Universal, Coffee & TV and Song 2, but this album is, as many of their career peaks have been, a complete statement. It’s a beautifully crafted package, wrapped in a frenetic bow. Whether there will be further Blur records is one for the clairvoyants, but if we have to wait until 2027, they had better be as good as this.” - James Ball

Full Review

Tame Impala - Currents

“Some artists create music to enhance the environment around them, adding context and colour to the passage of time. Kevin Parker, frontman of Australian psych-wanderers Tame Impala, sonically lassoes his listeners’ total attention. Tumbling down a wormhole of delicious, imaginatively nonsensical music, their sound breaks down the barriers separating reality from dreams, hallucinations and forgotten memories.” - Milly McMahon

Full Review

Hop Along - Painted Shut

“Joe Reinhart peppers the record with subtle, mellifluous guitar work that, while not as involved as ‘Get Disowned’, perfectly underscores the album’s shifting emotional tone. When [Frances] Quinlan lets loose on Waitress, a song tied together by strings of social anxiety and ‘it’s a small world’ abrasions, she double stamps her position as the most powerful, emotive vocalist in indie. Or anywhere, really. Albums that engage the thing beating in your chest and buzzing away inside your skull at the same time are very, very rare. Hop Along are two for two. ‘Painted Shut’ is different to its predecessor but, given time, it will be cherished in precisely the same manner.” - Huw Baines

Full Review

Titus Andronicus - A Most Lamentable Tragedy

“Given that many hardcore bands might consider 29 songs to be less than half an hour's work, ‘The Most Lamentable Tragedy’ represents an unwieldy beast when placed in its punk context. Its lulls, repurposed covers, moments of discordant wandering and near-silent reflections, though, are pivotal in pulling together the whole. It’s a tiring journey, but one that will quicken your pulse and get synapses flickering. There are times when the whole thing looks set to collapse, just like the character whose story drives it. That it doesn’t is emblematic of the power at its heart.” - Huw Baines

Full Review

Ghostpoet - Shedding Skin

“‘Shedding Skin’ is a provocative title. In the hands of Ghostpoet, it’s a perfect fit. He hasn’t torn the page from his notebook and started over, but album three represents a subtle, ever-shifting reimagination of his sound. The drawled verses remain, along with the low-light atmospherics, but this is a record that picks up on Obaro Ejimiwe’s emergence as a fascinating live performer. Recorded alongside his touring band, ‘Shedding Skin’ possesses a warmth that wasn’t part of the equation on ‘Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam’ or ‘Some Say I So I Say Light’. His laconic delivery is bolstered by a string of guest vocalists, with Nadine Shah providing weathered soul on a couple of songs and Lucy Rose lighting up the standout Sorry My Love, It’s You Not Me.” - Huw Baines

Full Review

Desaparecidos - Payola

“The best protest songs engage on both intellectual and physical levels. They are calls to action in both form and meaning. Desaparecidos, 13 years on from the release of ‘Read Music/Speak Spanish’, have taken that idea to heart on ‘Payola’, which is unfailingly direct and invigorating. The ‘60s proved that change is hit or miss,” Conor Oberst sings on the opener, The Left Is Right. It’s an apt sentiment given the band’s lengthy absence, because the last decade hasn’t been kind. Much like D’Angelo’s long-gestating ‘Black Messiah’, ‘Payola’ emerges into a world where its themes - institutionalised racism, myriad cash-grabbing corporations, protest movements - are depressingly relevant.” - Huw Baines

Full Review

Walter Trout - Battle Scars

“Although hugely talented, Trout has – not unfairly – sometimes been accused of over playing. Throughout these 12 tracks there's a laser-like focus and synergy with the emotional core of the material. Whether letting rip on My Ship Came In or expressing the depths of sadness on Please Take Me Home, every note and passage feels essential. It’s hard to think of an album of blues solos this flawless since Stevie Ray Vaughan's 1989 masterpiece 'In Step'. For any artist to be this potent over 40 albums into their career is remarkable, but to be releasing what may be their finest work only 18 months after being at death's door is astonishing. On Cold Cold Ground, Trout claims: “I can't help believing, I got so much more to do.” If he keeps making records of this calibre, expect Hollywood to purchase the rights to his life story very soon.” - Simon Ramsay

Full Review

Protomartyr - The Agent Intellect

“Casey takes on the role of orator first and foremost. At points he sounds like a nihilistic drunk, admonishing “the man”, society's great oppressor, in typically provocative fashion. But it is all for show. Like all great pieces of art-rock, 'The Agent Intellect' exhibits more than just an aesthetic. It doesn't take a modern day Aristotle to work out that the album title refers to the mind and how it operates. Casey is the agent, and on closer inspection his bleak monologues are more than mere rants. Why Does it Shake? demands answers for death, Pontiac 87 for religion and Cowards Starve for poverty. Whether he expects any to be forthcoming is another question in itself.” - Jonathan Rimmer

Full Review

Motörhead - Bad Magic

“It's not metal. It's not punk. It's not blues. It's Motörhead. They've never succumbed to trends, nor have they sold their souls to any particular deity or demon. They've just churned out an unquestionable, bass-heavy racket for nearly half a century and we can't really ask for more. Lemmy probably isn't human, and one day will shed his mortal shell and ascend to the halls of Valhalla aloft a fiery juggernaut of noise. We pray to our lord, our saviour, our Lemmy: let there be Motörhead.” - Alec Chillingworth

Full Review

Fraser A. Gorman - Slow Gum

“At first listen, some may dismiss ‘Slow Gum’ as a folk record lacking in adventure. But to do so would do it a great injustice. To put it crudely, it’s a grower, not a shower. It’s not always necessary to burst in guns blazing just to be heard, and Gorman proves that as each song further commands attention.”  - Laura Johnson

Full Review


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