Culture, Music

Best albums of 2015: 50 to 41

AOTY 2015 50-41 college, Miguel, Jess Glynne, Rudimental, Summer Twins (1448x815)Here we go – somewhat later than planned this year, it must be said. The first set of albums from my picks this year includes some of the year’s catchiest chart music to some seriously overlooked gems for jazz and surf rock fans. Let’s get stuck in.

50. Black Rivers – Black Rivers
49. Peace – Happy People
48. Miguel – Wildheart
47. ASAP Rocky – At Long Last ASAP
46. The Chemical Brothers – Born in the Echoes
45. Summer Twins – Limbo
44. Rudimental – We the Generation
43. The Gene Dudley Group – Zambidoose
42. Ella Eyre – Feline
41. Jess Glynne – I Cry When I Laugh

See my entire albums of 2015 series.

Black Rivers - Black Rivers, 50050. Black Rivers – Black Rivers
Black Rivers are twin brothers, Jez and Andy Williams, both members of on-hiatus alt-rock group, Doves. The duo’s inaugural self-titled album as Black Rivers is a gently prosperous wander through a musical wilderness that’s both organic and electric. Lithe harmonic intensity rubs up against lingering guitar picks and vocal echoes (‘Harbour Lights‘). The folk-ish psych-rock instrumentals are the chief hook, with tracks such as ‘Voyager 1‘ and ‘The Forest’ casting a rainbow of light into your psyche, with undertones of Midlike and Cashier No 9. Great for those journeys when you wish time would speed up.

Peace - Happy People, 50049. Peace – Happy People
My view: “If you’ve heard anything that qualifies as soft rock with the occasional dash of teen angst in the last 15 years, chances are Happy People will wash over you with the force of a lapping tide. Yet that doesn’t mean bits of this hippy revival record won’t stick. Here, the band has embraced their Beach Boys-esque styling, from choral harmonies (‘Lost on Me‘), to accompanying steel drums (‘O You‘), to the catchy title track, and the effect is one of simple pleasure.”

Miguel - Wildheart, 50048. Miguel – Wildheart
My view: “The third album from Miguel Pimentel has attitude, psychedelia and sex. It’s unapologetically frank in places. But though it intentionally avoids sedate, it doesn’t flow as strongly as his second album, nor does it feel quite as spontaneous as his debut. Still, that’s unlikely to faze the initiated, for whom Miguel’s third album will be more of the (spectacular) same. But for those coming to him fresh, this biblical-themed record is intoxicating. A heavenly affirmation that he’s worthy of the adoration enjoyed by Frank Ocean and The Weeknd. Miguel’s new favourite adjective sums it up nicely: ‘righteous‘.”

ASAP Rocky - At Long Last ASAP, 50047. ASAP Rocky – At Long Last ASAP
My view: “Instrumentals fit for a lifetime of afterparties are the stars here, but they only inject so much life into a record that’s, understandably, engrossed with the afterlife. Part psych, part trap, half sincere hombre, half ride-or-die baller: At Long Last ASAP feels like more of an exploratory mixtape than a polished second album. Instances of hyperactive lyrical flourish from Rocky are disappointingly infrequent, and fatigue sets in before the record is over. Never mind besting the likes of Ghostface Killah, Earl Sweatshirt or Kendrick Lamar. It would’ve been a start for Rocky to make good on his newfound ‘respect’ for women. Instead we find him bragging about doing ‘Azalea from Australia’, with the belief that this mediocrity is a masterpiece.”

The Chemical Brothers - Born in the Echoes, 50046. The Chemical Brothers – Born in the Echoes
The Chemical Brothers are among the godfathers of electronic music (Prodigy, Orbital, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Kraftwerk). Godfathers who have had their relevance challenged by the new upstarts of the house, garage and dubstep scene (Disclosure, Gorgon City, Skrillex). Born in the Echoes is a confident, invigorating riposte that the old captains of the dance-floor decks still have plenty tricks left. The Brothers strike a sure-footed balance between nervous energy (‘Just Bang’) and trance-inducing loops (‘EML Ritual‘). Even guest vocalists St Vincent, Beck and Cate Le Bon are but handmaidens to these radiating pulses.

Summer Twins - Limbo, 50045. Summer Twins – Limbo
Summer Twins are purveyors of melodic dream pop. The sister’s much-overlooked 2012 self-titled debut was a marvellous treat for lovers of surf rock. On second album, Limbo, rather than mess with the formula, the girls adopt more garage rock (‘Fire’) and soft rock (‘Love Within’), while doubling down on their dream pop (‘Helpless’) and surf pop (‘Our World’) staples, and getting their harmonies and counterpoints to complement one another all the more (think: First Aid Kit). The result is a superbly catchy record for daydreaming all afternoon.

Rudimental - We the Generation, 50044. Rudimental – We the Generation
Ostensibly, We the Generation is Rudimental’s bid to spread love, peace and rave culture (again) at 160 BPM. The Hackney foursome enlisted a selection of big-ticket stars – Ed Sheeran, Dizzee Rascal, Lianne La Havas – and unknown newcomers – Foy Vance, Anne-Marie, Mahalia – to provide the vocal hooks for their assorted drum-and-bass banquet. As bombastic and altruistic-sounding as some of the songs can be, at the lowest ebb, they range from overly familiar (‘Bloodstream‘) to passable (‘Never Let You Go‘). And yet, at its peak – as with ‘Common Emotion‘, ‘Needn’t Speak‘ and its title track – these D&B idealists still come good with jazzy, pounding rhythms fit for festivals and hot summer nights.

The Gene Dudley Group - Zambidoose, 50043. The Gene Dudley Group – Zambidoose
The Gene Dudley Group are a jazz-funk outfit straight out of north London’s Muswell Hill. Following up their little-known debut, Saturday Shifting, their second album is an energetic assortment of soul and foot-tapping funk. Along with their spritely instrumentals, including a killer cover of Todd Torje‘s ‘Inspector Norse‘, the group enlisted guest spots from soulful crooners, E (of Myron & E fame) and Anne Frankenstein, to take their sound to new crests.

Ella Eyre - Feline, 50042. Ella Eyre – Feline
Ella Eyre’s trajectory since making her mark on Rudimental’s ‘Waiting All Night’ has not been as immediate as some of her contemporaries in the pop scene (say, Foxes, Jess Glynne). But, one would hope her extended incubation time has resulted in a debut she’s satisfied with. If nothing else, Feline captures the headstrong, and fiercely determined, nature of Eyre’s personality. Some overly aggressive moments sour the experience (‘Comeback’), but when it comes to stimulating pop thunder (‘Deeper’, ‘Worry About Me’), Eyre won’t be beat.

Jess Glynne - I Cry When I Laugh, 50041. Jess Glynne – I Cry When I Laugh
Leaping off the back of the runaway success of ‘Rather Be’, Jess Glynne’s transition from featured vocalist to solo artist has been swift. Her lengthy debut is a collection of radio-ready tunes that showcase, in maxi fashion, the many shades of Glynne. And what shades: summer funk (‘You Can Find Me’), transient dance-pop (‘Love Me’), feel-good sentiments (‘Hold My Hand’) and more. Between her lilting vocal tones and the catchy synth rhythms, you have one of the year’s most fun pop records.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below or via @dk33per.

See my entire albums of 2015 series.

Images: college (clockwise from top left) Miguel (Daniel Sannwald); Jess Glynne (Simon Emmett); Summer Twins (Tanner Hoss & Katie Boink); Rudimental (Warner Bros). Images and photos belong to respective parties