From The Decemberists to Natalie Prass and Ryan Adams to Zun Zun Egui... here is our list of the best albums to be released in 2015. In true Rock-and-Roll style, a few of our writers have failed to keep to the rules and given us five rather than three top albums... but that is all part of the fun.
Please, sit back and enjoy our opinions before letting us know your own thoughts.
1 Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass (Spacebomb/Columbia)
Long delayed while its producer, Matthew E White, launched a recording career of his own, Natalie Prass’s self-titled debut album proved well worth the three-year wait.
A nine-song cycle charting the collapse of a relationship, it’s a country-soul record that could sit quite comfortably in the august company of Dusty in Memphis or I Am Shelby Lynne.
Prass’s delicate contralto vocals add an extra touch of vulnerability to songs as heartbreaking as My Baby Doesn’t Understand Me, Your Fool and Bird of Prey, but it’s the desperate romanticism of Violently that strikes the deepest chord.
With empathetic, multi-layered brass and string arrangements by White and Trey Pollard that bring to mind classic work from Southern labels such as Hi, Goldwax and Stax Records, this is a record to play over and over again.
2 Bjork - Vulnicura (One Little Indian)
“Moments of clarity are so rare/I better document this,” Bjork notes to herself in Stonemilker, the opening track of an extraordinary album that documents in painful detail her break up from avant garde artist Matthew Barney. Full of keening strings and fearless electronica, it’s another brave addition to Bjork’s highly distinctive canon.
2015 was the year that witnessed the sad demise of a great and undersung experimental rock outfit called Zun Zun Egui. Gladly, it was also the year that saw the same group produce their most fascinating and captivating creation: Shackles Gift.Peter Wise
3 The Maccabees - Marks To Prove It (Fiction)
Building on the creative and commercial success of their 2012 album Give To The Wild, Marks To Prove It was the moment when five-piece The Maccabees came into their own as songwriters of depth and humanity. The audible influence of Radiohead and the ‘Big Music’ of The Waterboys showed how far The Maccabees had progressed from their indie roots.
1 The Decemberists - What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World
Some bands hit the ground running but quickly run out of steam . The Decemberists are the exact opposite, they’re like that slow-burner record that gets better with each listen.
The previous album, The King Is Dead, was their most consistently brilliant album yet - and this one is even better.
It takes their blend of alt-rock, folk ballads and pop and adds another dimension - a bit like taking fine dining to the Michelin Star level.
Led by lead vocalist and songwriter in chief Colin Meloy, this quintet from Oregon are all about foot-tapping music allied to eclectic lyrics telling tales of sailors lost at sea and unrequited love.
These literary folkies are like nothing else out there at the minute - and are all the better for it.
2 The Maccabees - Marks To Prove It
This is the fourth album from the English alt-rock band and their most accomplished yet, featuring the stand out tracks Marks to Prove It and Something Like Happiness.
3 Bob Dylan - Shadows in the Night
In 1965 Dylan pop culture out of the water with not just one, but two, ground-breaking albums. Fast forward 50 years and he’s doing covers of traditional pop standards made famous by Frank Sinatra. We all know that Dylan could do folk rock, but it turns out he can swing, too.
1 Ryan Adams - 1989
If you had said to me on January 1 that my top pick for the year would be a track-for-track cover of Taylor Swift’s last album by prolific singer songwriter Ryan Adams I would have said you were still drunk from New Year’s Eve.
However, the album has proven to be a landmark in Adams’s already formidable cannon of work. Much has been made of how much maturity and depth Adams has brought to the material but the reality is these were amazing songs to begin with. Shake it Off is a mournful blues whereas Wildest Dreams is an unspeakably beautiful jam, with Swift’s bittersweet lyrics brought to bear.
The whole album has the cohesion and feel of a classic and underlines why people like James Taylor and Lindsay Buckingham have been hailing her as a songwriting genius. Equally it cements Adams as one of the world’s most compelling and forceful singer songwriters who is fast approaching the same pantheon as Springsteen, Young et al.
A guilty pleasure? No, an utter triumph.
2 Mgla - Exercises in Futility
A seven part opus from Polish black metal, representing one of the most emotive, bleak and musically adventurous black metal albums in recent memory.
The melancholy and mayhem throughout is astonishing. Once you’ve heard it you will keep coming back for more.
This band is set to move from cult status to wider acceptance very soon.
3 Chelsea Wolfe - Abyss
Her last record Life is Pain brought her much attention, even gracing the trailers for HBO’s Game of Thrones. Her release this year saw her develop the ambient and folky drone she is renowned for.
One of the world’s most compelling and challenging artists.
4 Iron Maiden - Book of Souls
Approaching pension age you might think the heavy metal titans would be slowing down. Instead the band handed in their most progressive and ambitious projects to date, a concept double-album featuring some of their most captivating riffs and vocals for years, a record that can stand with their classic back catalogue.
5 The Cribs - For All My Sisters
While all of the Wakefield band’s albums are different they are all drenched in the trio’s absolute love of melody and pop.
None more so on their latest release which saw them hand in a series of feel good summer classics in one of their most compelling releases to date.
Different Angle is one of the more challenging and beautiful tracks they have ever recorded and Diamond Girl could have graced a Beach Boys album. More than ten years in the band constantly feel like they are coming of age.
Julia Holter - Have You In My Wilderness
Kenderick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
1 Zun Zun Egui - Shackles Gift
2015 was the year that witnessed the sad demise of a great and undersung experimental rock outfit called Zun Zun Egui. Gladly, it was also the year that saw the same group produce their most fascinating and captivating creation: Shackles Gift.
Its tones and lyrics are woven with strands of influence from the sugar fields of Mauritius, the heavy sounds of industry and modern math-rock music. It brims with ripe melodies, hypnotic rhythms and irresistible hooks. In short, and to put it lightly, there’s more wonder and invention to be found in its forty-three short minutes than you’ll find in the entire discography of your average stadium-slaying rock act.
Beautifully flavoured with traditional sega music and its reggae-infused descendent seggae, Shackles Gift defies comparison with straight-up rock acts like Queens of the Stone Age and Depeche Mode - a comparison which its hard-edged guitar sounds and moody vocals, taken in isolation, might justly invite. But this is a complex beast, in hues bright and harsh. You may have missed the outstanding experience of Zun Zun Egui’s live shows, but, lucky thing that you are, you’ll always be able to listen to Shackles Gift. Give it a try.
Top tracks: ‘African Tree’, ‘Rigid Man’, ‘Soul Scratch’, ‘I Want you to Know’
2 Hot Chip - Why Make Sense?
’Huarache Lights’, lead single from Why Make Sense?, was an exploration of Hot Chip’s doubts over their own continued relevance, says charismatic frontman Alexis Taylor. Ironically, it proves those very doubts to be absurdly mislaid. From the gorgeously syncopated ‘Started Right’ to ‘Need You Now’, a dark house odyssey that shows Hot Chip at their most poignant and serious, this gem of an album suggests Hot Chip’s finest hours lie not in their big-selling past, but in their uncertain future.
Top tracks: ‘Started Right’, ‘Huarache Nights’, ‘Easy to Get’
3 LA Priest - Inji
Sam Dust (AKA LA Priest) had been conspicuous by his absence since his fantastic and under-appreciated band Late of the Pier brought their gloriously colourful career to a premature close in 2010 (listen to Fantasy Black Channel if you haven’t already). His long-awaited return to the music scene finally came this summer with the release of Inji, an album that sits in the enchanted (and sparsely inhabited) space between Prince, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and experimental electronica. For me, the album’s second track, ‘Lady’s in Trouble with the Law’, would have to be the song of the year.
Top tracks: ‘Lady’s in Trouble with the Law’, ‘Party Zute/Learning to Love’, ‘Night Train’