Top 10 Albums of 2015 – Chloe Gynne

Here are the top 10 albums I’ve chosen for 2015.

10. Metz – ‘II’
Toronto’s Metz followed up from their 2012, self-titled cacophony with, well, more of the same. This time round, though, the riffs were more piercing, the slow, quiet intros more stomach-churningly tense, and the vocals somehow even more gravelly. The Jesus Lizard would be proud of this album, especially on tracks like ‘Spit You Out’. A beautiful noise.

9. Jenny Hval – ‘Apocalypse, Girl’
If Shia LaBeouf has taught us anything in 2015, it’s that performance art is the best and most interesting form of social commentary. Jenny Hval confirms this, as she explores her identity and our social norms. ‘Apocalypse, Girl’ is like a lucid dream, flitting between floaty rhythms (‘Sabbath’) and dissonant, panicked vocals (‘White Underground’). Hval’s work is confusing, intense, thought-provoking, and worth exploring.

8. Sufjan Stevens – ‘Carrie & Lowell’
The biggest tear-jerker of 2015. Sufjan is an artist of the highest calibre, but this record is possibly his best yet. It’s not just the melody on the chorus of ‘All Of Me Wants All Of You’ that sounds like an Elliott Smith song: it’s also in the double-layered vocals and disparate acoustic chords that scatter the album. But it’s the lyrical content that makes the album stand out, namely on the title track, written about Stevens’ mother, which encapsulates the bittersweet nostalgia of childhood despair like no song has before. Carrie & Lowell is profoundly sad, and extremely human as a result.

7. Speedy Ortiz – ‘Foil Deer’
‘Foil Deer’ is an indie-rock album in 2015 that actually sounds unique. Sure, it borrows from 90s grunge and early 2000s alternative- Rilo Kiley fans won’t hate this album- but it doesn’t feel unoriginal. That’s thanks to its experimentalism ‘Puffer’ pulses harder than any dance track this year, and the rest of the record averages about five different guitar melodies per song. It’s a cyclical album which frantically rages, then quietly catches its breath, all without breaking rhythm. And if that wasn’t enough to make you fall in love with them, they launched a hotline to help fans feel safe at their shows. Great work all round.

6. Will Butler – ‘Policy’
Will Butler’s solo debut is only 27 minutes long, but every second is good. ‘Policy’ builds on what we’ve seen him do with The Arcade Fire, which means, of course, a lot of noise. ‘Take My Side’ is unabashedly fun, a contrast to the seedy disco of ‘Something’s Coming’, and unlike the deep-pitched crooning on ‘Finish What I Started’. This album is a jumble of influences, but it’s held together by Butler’s voice, not dissimilar to his brother’s, but with its own story to tell. ‘Policy’ is 27 minutes of unfiltered joy.

5. Kendrick Lamar – ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’
What more can be said about ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ that hasn’t already been said? This album, is, of course, filled to the brim with loaded, vital statements. They speak for themselves. It’s the music- that funky bassline on ‘King Kunta’, the brass refrain on ‘How Much A Dollar Cost’– that carries Lamar’s message. Musically, it is immediate and addictive, and it forces you to listen to what needs to be said. ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ deserves every tired thinkpiece written about it, because an album like this is rare and culture-changing. It asks the Twitter generation to sit and listen for 80 minutes, and they did. That’s a testament in itself.

4. Ezra Furman – ‘Perpetual Motion People’
This album could easily soundtrack a film about my year. The unending pacing of my mind as I finished uni- ‘Restless Year’; the subsequent self-doubt- ‘Ordinary Life’ (opened with the best mid-album lyric of all time: “I’m sick of this record already”); everything in between- the aptly titled ‘Wobbly’. The vocals are nasal like the Violent Femmes, and mix of genres toyed with is akin to a young Patrick Wolf. ‘Perpetual Motion People’ ambles along anxiously, and puts a lot of those stressed-out internal thoughts into a wider perspective. An album for the square pegs of the world. We’re all in this together.

3. Alabama Shakes – ‘Sound and Color’
As the title track quietly opens ‘Sound and Colour’, it becomes immediately clear that this is an album for hazy summers. It is joyful, thanks to the most soulful vocals in indie music, and those foot-tapping beats. The record is brought to another level by its production: the crystal clear guitars on ‘Future People’, sat next to the more lo-fi feel of ‘Dunes’ make this album both nostalgic and very, very new. ‘Sound and Color’ is a collection of songs that are all designed to bring a smile to faces- and it succeeds.

2. Courtney Barnett – ‘Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit’
For long-time Courtney Barnett fans, the wait for her first full-length album was a long one. In 2014, the world fawned over her double EP, ‘A Sea Of Split Peas’– but many had already had those EPs on loop for over a year. ‘Sometimes I Sit And Think…’ was well and truly worth the wait, with old live favourite ‘Pedestrian At Best’ connecting the 60s vibes of 2013’s ‘Avant Gardener’ to the newer, clearer sound heard on this album. It’s the album’s quiet moments which showcase Barnett’s progression the best: ‘Small Poppies’ is a slow-building masterpiece, her vocals cracking near the five-minute mark and feeling all the more personal. Barnett proved that she was worth the hype of last year, and some.

1. Kurt Vile – ‘b’lieve i’m goin down…’
I’ve been a KV fan for a number of years, and while it was inevitable that ‘b’lieve i’m goin down…’ would rate highly with me, I didn’t predict that it would top his fantastic last record, ‘Wakin On A Pretty Daze’. But with the stomping rock of ‘Dust Bunnies’ and soft piano on ‘Lost My Head There’, came Vile’s most introspective, thoughtful lyrics, ready for self-interpretation. ‘Stand Inside’ is a love song which will warm even the coldest heart, but of course, it’s ‘Pretty Pimpin’ which has had the most chart success, and rightfully so: it is a solid summary of the existentialism and great music which makes this album the best of this year.