Culture, Music

Best albums of 2015: 40 to 31

AOTY 2015 40-31 college: Oshun, Years & Years, Sherika Sherard, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis (1448x815)The countdown continues with Disclosure, Songhoy Blues, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis and two rising stars from different sides of the Atlantic.

40. Disclosure – Caracal
39. Marina and the Diamonds – Froot
38. Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – The Third
37. Belle & Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
36. Songhoy Blues – Music in Exile
35. Years & Years – Communion
34. Oshun – Asase Yaa
33. Sherika Sherard – Just Saying
32. Gengahr – A Dream Outside
31. Everything Everything – Get to Heaven

See my entire albums of 2015 series.

Disclosure - Caracal, 50040. Disclosure – Caracal
Disclosure’s 2013 debut album, Settle, was love at first listen. By contrast, Caracal isn’t so effortless to fall for. Something for everyone, rather than a focused theme or direction, is the prevailing feeling here. Still, the Lawrence brothers haven’t lost their touch for fizzy, aerobic dance music to freak out to. A bevy of new collaborators, including Lion Babe, Kwabs, Nao, The Weeknd, Lorde and Gregory Porter, lend their vocals to the full-body workouts on offer. When the brothers are on form (‘Willing & Able’, ‘Omen’, ‘Magnets’), the feeling is stupendous.

Marina and the Diamonds - Froot, 50039. Marina and the Diamonds – Froot
One can’t make a statement that “co-writing is killing pop music” and then release an album which fails to demonstrate why solo writing can be responsible for some of the most creative and tightly formed ideas around. Fortunately for Marina Diamandis (aka Marina and the Diamonds), her third album sees her narrowly skirt pop clichés of exe lovers and self-worth in her own witty, electro-ethereal style. Producer Dave Kosten has accommodated Diamandis’s desire to show off a different side to her character with songs that differ from baroque pop (‘Froot’, ‘Blue’) to rock tragedies (‘Better Than That’). Touching on past lovers, self-esteem, the human condition and what it means to be her own woman, Diamandis has fulfilled a ripened serving of electro-pop, full of sour truths and sweet singing.

Kitty, Daisy & Lewis - The Third, 50038. Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – The Third
The Third is a step up in execution for sibling trio, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis. They had the aid of Clash guitarist Mick Jones on production. There are songs about the lucid first moments of love (‘Feeling of Wonder’, ‘Whiskey’), suspicion (‘No Action’) and a jazz club, bottom-of-the-glass, pull-up-a-stool-and-drink-away-your-sorrows number (‘Never Get Back’). The retro-modern trappings of the music, which varies from Stevie Wonder and Little Richard, to Peggy Lee and Wanda Jackson, are also aided by strings which give it a right regal feel. Very fitting for the Kentish Town players, who feel more like rockabilly royalty with each album.

Belle and Sebastian - Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, 50037. Belle & Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
The ninth studio album from Scottish indie pop group, Belle & Sebastian, takes us back to the time of dreamboats and petticoats – well, that is if synth-pop and disco were all the rage in the late 1940s. Prim- and, occasionally, serious-sounding lyrics anchor this concept album to the idealism and political one-upmanship of post-war Europe. And its gorgeous rhythms, contrasting and complimenting, bring to mind the Coral, Italo-disco duo, Heartbreak, and Neon Neon’s Praxis Makes Perfect. Frontman Stuart Murdoch and company still haven’t been embraced as widely as they ought to be, and the group’s latest effort is reason to take notice.

Songhoy Blues - Music in Exile, 50036. Songhoy Blues – Music in Exile
Songhoy Blues went from making the best of a bad situation to becoming the breakthrough African act of 2015 for discerning listeners. Their sound, described as ‘desert blues’, is a gripping mixture of Afro-funk, blues, folk and rock. Music in Exile rolls lively rock rhythms (‘Al Hassidi Terei‘), massages delicate, soulful grooves (‘Wayei‘), and keeps the fire burning through the winter with smoky, sultry instrumentals (‘Desert Melodic‘), on its melodic tour of Mali. The energy of this Malian four-piece is impossible to deny.

Years & Years - Communion, 50035. Years & Years – Communion
The unassuming figures of Olly Alexander, Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen don’t seem like the type to be making flush, buzzing electro-pop. But the winners of the BBC Sound of 2015 title have come good with debut album, Communion. While some ideas are beached by the gradual hegemonic tendencies of popular music (‘Eyes Shut’), others let loose and skim across great waves of dance-pop (‘Real’, ‘Desire’). With its stimulating BPMs and an innocence and naturalness that comes through in its final mix, Years & Year’s first album shines.

Oshun - Asase Yaa 50034. Oshun – Asase Yaa
My view: “Asase Yaa is an impressive first effort. Oshun present their peaceful agenda with poetic honestly and confident attitude on a tape that gives a good idea of what form a true album from them may take. They jive, they jam and they’ve created more than a few memorable moments already. These would-be world-changers are definitely feeling themselves, and the vibe of their music may be just the beginning.”

Sherika Sherard - Just Saying, 50033. Sherika Sherard – Just Saying
All of these albums deserve to be here. But the debut album from Sherika Sherard holds special importance, because you may not read about it anywhere else. This London storyteller strums, sings, and sets your heart aflame with her passionate serenades. Sherard gives you the raw energy of mainstream singer-songwriters coupled with an easy-going storytelling style that makes her songs feel like a close friend confiding in you. Her studio versions are mixed differently to her more natural, acoustic sound, but the songwriting itself shows what a promising talent she is. From her songs of perseverance to her numerous love calls (‘We Don’t Need a Reason’), which lie between Marvin Gaye and Neneh Cherry, Sherard will warm up your lonely nights.

Gengahr - A Dream Outside, 50032. Gengahr – A Dream Outside
My view: “What’s best about A Dream Outside is the picturesque beach scene it captures. Sand, sediment and brightly coloured pebbles (possibly like the ones found on its cover art) tumble about its kinetic instrumentals. And occasional flourishes of experimentation – a twangy guitar chord on ‘Fill My Gums with Blood’, for instance – keeps it organic. Bubbly and stirring, especially in the flow from ‘Where I Lie’ to ‘Dark Star’, the maritime feel here is a joy. In this unassuming album, that balances power chords with doses of tranquil psychedelia, Gengahr remind us that the simplest idea, when executed well, can still generate the warmest sound.”

Everything Everything - Get to Heaven, 50031. Everything Everything – Get to Heaven
Underneath the grotesque cover art of Everything Everything’s third album lives a record of electric textures. With the help of producer Stuart Price, these disciples of left-field electronica have crafted track after track of ostentatious, fast-paced neo-futurist vignettes. The tempestuous, superhuman tones of Jonathan Higgs pull you through these impressive soundscapes, which range from rapturous, calypso-like jams (‘Get to Heaven’) to foreboding articles made from grave lyrics over cheerful rhythms (‘Spring / Sun / Winter / Dread’). This is synthetic waking dream to savour.

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See my entire albums of 2015 series.

Images: college (clockwise from top left) Oshun (Ministry of Truth/Oshun); Years & Years (Mike Massaro); Sherika Sherard (Daniel Quesada); Kitty, Daisy & Lewis (Dean Chalkley). Images and photos belong to respective parties