ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2015: No. 10-1

10. Kwabs – 'Love + War'


What We Said...

Very few new artists got us as excited as Kwabs last year. After the release of his debut EP 'Wrong Or Right' at the beginning of 2014, you could tell that this young man was something special. His mix of soulful vocals and anthemic productions made him a hugely engaging new talent and now about to release his debut album, 'Love + War', how has his sound developed in the lead up to his first official full-length release?

Effectively, 'Love + War' is simply more of the same Kwabs we've always heard. But rather than focus on his more sombre tracks, the album has far more energy running through it, giving it a much faster pace than some of his previous EPs. While his voice still remains as immaculate as ever, it is the playful and creative production of this new record which really stands out and makes for a hugely enjoyable listen.

It is certainly the debut album we were all hoping for. Professional and succinct throughout, 'Love + War' is the perfect introduction to a voice like Kwabs, one that stretches his abilities and showcases his eclectic nature.

9. Courtney Barnett – 'Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit'


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For the last couple months, we have been infatuated with the Courtney Barnett sound. Having built up her own credentials as a background member in a number of rock bands down under, Barnett started her own label Milk! Records back in 2012 and ever since, she has incapsulated the DIY approach to music making, which has lead on to her first solo studio release. 'Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit' takes on the early Pixies guise of grunge rock and with her own laid-back, almost sprechgesang style of singing, has managed to create one of the most engaging and brilliant records we have heard this year.

With just the slightest hint of surf-rock and psychedelica mixed in with her guitar-ridden music, Courtney Barnett's own personality is what really makes this album stand out from the crowd. Her sense of humour and light-hearted take on relationships is what makes this full-length such a joy to listen to, as she effortlessly brushes off her own personal issues and transforms them into a wonderful collection of uplifting pop-rock ditties.

With a huge list of 90s influences like Sleater-Kinney, Violent Femmes and Pulp coming through on this record, you do get a real sense of what Barnett has been looking to create and it never falters once. Each track is as likeable as the last and will make for a great summertime listen when the sun finally comes out.

8. Benjamin Clementine – 'At Least For Now'


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After spending the last few years releasing several EPs and singles, Benjamin Clementine returns to release his debut studio album 'At Least For Now'. And having already been known as one of the most promising emerging artists in British music, it looks like this record will be the one that sets him up for the year ahead.

With his almost alien-like voice and suitably otherworldly compositions, Clementine has aimed to make 'At Least For Now' a brilliantly challenging release. While it is not as easy to digest as similar works by the songwriter, it takes on the same level of intrigue artists like Antony & The Johnsons and Bjork have managed to generate, and ultimately becomes an incredibly interesting record.

While it is still too early to tell what this record will do for his career, it is certainly something to enjoy in the here and now. With his riveting style of songwriting as engaging as it is captivating, Clementine is definately a name to get familiar with in 2015.

7. Tame Impala – 'Currents'


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As one of the premier names in the resurgence of psychedelic rock over the last few years, it seems that Tame Impala are looking to do something a bit different this time around. The band's third album 'Currents' seems to step away from the sound of their formative years as this new release experiments with a more soulful direction that exposes more of the credentials the man at the helm is responsible for.

Until recently, Tame Impala has been portrayed as a full band but for 'Currents', Kevin Parker has let it be know that he is the band and thus given his music a whole new perspective, mainly a far more intimate one. Gone are the big and bold anthems of the previous albums as this new full-length aims to embark on more of an eclectic journey, where loud and soft exist side by side and makes for a far more engaging and lucid listen.

'Currents' is most definitely the beginning of an evolution for Tame Impala. These new influences and public perceptions have almost rebuilt the band's sound from scratch and the result makes for a very refreshing surprise.

6. Destroyer – 'Poison Season'


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As one of the cult stalwarts of modern music, Dan Bejar aka Destroyer has returned after four years to deliver the follow-up to his much-acclaimed record 'Kaputt'. Now onto his tenth full-length release, 'Poison Season' looks to bridge the gap of his usual left-of-centre direction with something more familiar, and in the process has created one of the most easy to listen to albums of the year so far.

With obvious nods to the likes of David Bowie, especially using his sprechgesang singing style, his voice floats over a bed of rich brass instrumentation and anthemic production-styles to create this truly uplifting release. Hitting the zeniths of a full orchestral rendition at times, 'Poison Season' is an eclectic yet driven release that aims to fuse a whole range of different musical styles through the frontman's ever hypnotic voice, resulting in one of the most enjoyable releases of the year so far.

You would be hard pushed to find an album with this much professionalism and musical genius on it this year. It is clear that even after so many releases over the last two decades, Bejar hasn't lost his brilliant touch in writing truly exceptional new music.

5. Floating Points – 'Elaenia'


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Despite having been active and extremely well-praised since 2009, this is the first full-length studio album from Manchester-via-London producer Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points. His work to date has found its way throughout the experimental electronic music scene and is treated as one of the most inspiring and diverse producers in the country. And this new record certainly shows why.

After intriguing us with a beatless introduction, in the form of opener 'Nespole', the album opens itself up to a whole range of influences and experiences. Imagine if jazz music was created on synthesisers instead of brass and you can paint a picture of what this album sounds like. A rich cacophony of high-frequency electronic sounds, blended effortlessly together with a traditional backdrop in production, making this one of the most accessible and enjoyable albums we've heard all year.

While albums may no longer be a format popular in the electronic community, Floating Points certainly knows how to write a good one. Each track complements the last entirely and creates a beautifully sculpted 42-minute piece of work that is as inventive as it is engaging.

4. Petite Noir – 'La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful'


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For the last few years, South Africa's Petite Noir aka Yannick Ilunga has been a huge success on the underground scene. His combination of African musical influence and a Western approach to production has made him one of the most intriguing and unique musicians on the world stage today. And after numerous EPs and smaller releases, Ilunga has finally released his long-awaited debut album 'La Vie Est Belle/Life Is Beautiful'.

The trouble with describing the sound of such a unique artist is the lack of contemporaries to compare them to. And while that is most definitely the case for Petite Noir, once you switch on to this new release, you find it so easy to get into. While it clearly has an unconventional pretence when placed up against other modern releases in the UK, it is those differences that make it such a pleasure to listen to as it cuts its own path into the current scene.

The uncompromising nature to be tied down is such a welcome relief on this record. Rather than finding itself in a stale state by the end, it seems to constantly reinvent itself after every track and deliver non-stop surprises. Definitely one of the most eye-opening albums we have heard this year.

3. Kendrick Lamar – 'To Pimp A Butterfly'


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After toying with us for months about when his new album would arrive, Kendrick Lamar announced the new record would be two weeks away this time last week. That turned out to be a bluff as the new full-length arrived for general release today and has already had the huge impact we were all expecting. Named ' To Pimp A Butterfly', this new record from the LA-based MC matches that same diversity of his previous work but this time it feels like Lamar has more to say.

With samples and influences from the likes of Funkadelic and The Isley Brothers, 'To Pimp A Butterfly' has taken the contemporary sound of hip-hop right back to its origins and used it to create a record with not only a huge instrumental backdrop, but lyrically takes on the preconception of what it has been like to be black and living in America these past few years. While it hasn't been unlike the rapper to take on politics in his previous work, this time it seems to have a far more cutting impact given the stories that have been emerging from Ferguson and New York City recently. The album plays as a snapshot of modern America, mixing the broody underbelly with a danceable flow that seems to represent the positive yet concerning message Lamar is trying to get across.

Musically, the record is a triumph of production. Its eclectic nature and ability to experiment with sounds has this real engaging power to it. Which finds the rapper at the centre not only being tested by it, but also managing to adapt and pull off an exceptional modern hip-hop masterpiece.

2. Boots – 'Aquaria'


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After making a name for himself as a co-producer for Beyonce, Run The Jewels and FKA Twigs over the last few years, emerging producer BOOTS has chosen to introduce himself to the world as a fully-fledged artist with the release of his debut album ‘AQUΛRIA’. And much like his work to date, this new release is an eclectic mix of various influences and inspirations that come together to create an extremely brooding collection.

From its heavy beats and solemn pace, ‘AQUΛRIA’ certainly aims to create an effective groove from the off. The steady yet powerful rhythm displayed throughout this new album makes for an incredibly engaging listen as each track looks to build on the atmosphere of the previous and build the record into this all encompassing feeling of dread and intensity. Stand out tracks like 'Bombs Away' and 'C.U.R.E.' add this real sense of danger within the music, giving a almost movie score like effect.

It is certainly one of the few albums this year to have shown a great level of both quality and interest. And while the hype surrounding BOOTS still continues to grow, ‘AQUΛRIA’ will surely become more fuel for that fire.

1. Jamie xx – 'In Colour'


What We Said...

It has been over a year since Jamie xx dropped the first tracks from this new album, 'Sleep Sound' and 'Girl', but after months of build up and a flurry of incredible follow up singles, the producer has finally released his official debut album 'In Colour'. While much of the record has already been shared in various forms, it is only when you hear the record from start to finish that you begin to see the whole picture of what this producer is capable of.

Not to overhype it too much, but 'In Colour' is quite simply one of the best albums we have heard in years. After breaking into it with the opener 'Gosh', the record begins to explore a whole range of different yet captivating directions that leave you in awe after every track. Playing like a atmospheric dance record, 'In Colour' has this rich layer of emotion and focus that pulls you right in to the music and leaves you breathless as it continues to surround you in its effortless joy.

You would be hard pressed to find something you didn't like about this new full-length. Its complete and diverse approach to sonic sound is miles ahead of anyone else at the moment and shows that Jamie xx really is one of the best musicians the UK has produced this century.

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