ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2015: No. 20-11

20. Young Fathers – 'White Men Are Black Men Too'


What We Said...

Since winning last year's Mercury Music Prize for their debut album 'Dead', Edinburgh-based trio Young Fathers have wasted no time getting their sophomore full-length out in the open. Released just 15 months later, 'White Men Are Black Men Too' seems to continue that same abstract energy as their first, but have almost reinvented their overall sound in the process, giving us what seems like a completely different band to their first attempt.

While dubbed as an "alternative hip-hop" outfit, this attempt at pigeonholing the Young Fathers sound usually doesn't land in the way it is intended and does nothing to describe what they really are. Having all three members come from different ethic backgrounds has turned this album into a melting pot of culture and created one of the most unique musical directions we have heard in years. Combining downbeat percussion, high-energy rhythms and even the odd piano organ, 'White Men Are Black Men Too' is this brilliantly conceived adventure in musical discovery that attempts to fuse multiple inspirations together in a rich medley of three-minute experimental blasts.

While hip-hop is the obvious source of their influences, they themselves are looking to push not only the genre's sound to its outer limits, but conventional music construction as well. The album is like a beautiful mess of diversity. A by-product of multi-cultured upbringings that leaves you excited for these young artists and the future of British music.

19. Years & Years – 'Communion'


What We Said...

When the electro pop trio Years & Years first emerged at the end of last year, there was no doubt that they would go on to become one of the biggest newcomers of 2015. And since winning the BBC Sound poll in December, the band have seen their profile sky rocket with a flurry of singles throughout the first half of the year. But finally, seven months later, the band have shared their debut album 'Communion'.

In the build up to this release, Years & Years released about 50% of this record as singles, so there is a good chance you will already know what you are in for. However the unreleased portion of this album is no filler and still manages to maintain the pace and excitement that this record surely needs. With a solid and controlled musical direction, 'Communion' is an extremely well-conceived release with its own unique and contemporary sound.

We all knew it was going to be a smash hit record but it is also good to hear that the band have clearly taken their time over its conception. Each track leads nicely into the next and creates this feeling of ever-growing excitement about listening to it. Something that very few albums manage to capture.

18. Rae Morris - 'Unguarded'


What We Said...

In what is already shaping up to be another male dominated music scene amongst debut artists, Rae Morris has bulldozed her way through the drab and uninteresting pop records of the moment to deliver what could already be the best new album of the year. With an already expectant fanbase who have fallen for her, thanks to her debut singles 'Closer' and 'Cold', her debut album 'Unguarded' is filled to the brim with exceptional songwriting and shows her as a incredible emerging talent in British music.

Coming across as a early Ellie Goulding mixed with the catchy songwriting prowess as Coldplay, Morris' first full-length has that rare ability to turn a sombre production style into truly anthemic works of pop glory. Her soft yet distinguishable voice holds a central presence on the record, allowing the songs and instrumentation to add lift and power to her vocals and give the album a real sense of euphoria in places. Something that most pop records seem to lack and helps her stand apart from all the lacklustre attempts we usually hear today.

'Unguarded' is certainly the debut any new artist would kill for. Its instantly memorable songs and larger-than-life presence keeps the album running through your head long after you've finished listening, and shows great promise for her in the years to come.

17. Blanck Mass – 'Dumb Flesh'


What We Said...

When Benjamin John Power first broke away from his more recognised position in electronic duo Fuck Button to release his debut solo album 'White Math / Polymorph' back in 2012, the Fuck Buttons fanbase was divided with opinion. While it was universally seen as a great studio release, the assumptions that people had around it became distorted and it ended up taking everyone by surprise. Now returning for a second outing under his Blanck Mass guise, the producer has once again looked to redefine the conventions of electronic music and bring a very post-modern style to the genre.

With much of the compositions stretching far beyond the five minute mark, this eight-track record is a hugely immersive release. While the debut was more about experimentation and abstract production, 'Dumb Flesh' seems comfortable in being far more harmonious. With a progressive attitude running throughout the whole album, it looks to send you on a journey throughout the atmospheric works of this extremely talented producer and builds itself up into a wonderful and transcendent zenith.

Much easier to digest than its predecessor, 'Dumb Flesh' is a blissful yet emotive release that helps blur the lines between euphoric electronica and jarring industrial music. It's a brilliant work from start to finish and sees Power riding the crest of his creative evolution.

16. Slaves – 'Are You Satisfied?'


What We Said...

Punk music has been a bit of a laughing stock over the last decade. Either seen as the edgy soundtrack to an American teen movie or an avenue for pop rock bands to explore in order to sound more enthusiastic. But this my friends, this is the real deal. The two-piece Tunbridge Wells-based Slaves have managed to bring the punk ethos back to life through their incredible debut record 'Are You Satisfied?'

While to most, it may seem like a simple and rushed full-length, this is all part of the mantra that Slaves have managed to adopt. The lax approach to songwriting, vocals and comical social commentary seems to capture the apathy and snaring rebellion of the youth in today's Britain. While keeping politics very much out of the loop, the record takes aim on the snobbish middle-class of this generation and has a fair choice words for those caught up in the rat race of capitalism.

Given how much focus is placed on the lyrics of empathic frontman Laurie Vincent, it seems this album is more about sending a message than anything else. Draped in a veil of contempt for society, 'Are You Satisfied?' has proven to be one of the most honest and passionately delivered albums we have heard in years.

15. Wolf Alice – 'My Love Is Cool'


What We Said...

After what seems like eons of build-up and short but sweet EP releases, the wait for Wolf Alice's debut album is finally over and at last we get to indulge ourselves in the full spectrum of the band's origins. Made up of new and previously released tracks, the new full-length 'My Love Is Cool' is a retrospective snapshot of the band's first five years as a unit and aims to give us a blank canvas on which to form our opinion of their developing sound.

While fans of the group will be more aware of some of the material on here, the cohesion in which all these songs fit into this release is both apt and suitable. Wolf Alice have managed to build a general sound within this record that expresses not only where they plan to go but also where they have been, giving this release a far boarder sense of direction and their music a more evolved finish.

Competent and engaging throughout, 'My Love Is Cool' is one of the most enjoyable albums we have heard so far this year. Living up to their more than deserved hype, Wolf Alice are certainly hitting the ground running here.

14. Soak – 'Before We Forgot How To Dream'


What We Said...

Having grown immensely since her inclusion on the BBC Sound poll at the beginning of the year, 19-year-old singer-songwriter SOAK has become one of the most talked about names in British music. Her ability to convey genuine emotion and passionate songwriting has struck a chord with the music-following masses and now looks to cement her growing legacy with the release of her debut album 'Before We Forgot How To Dream'.

While her unfamiliar name has lead people to comparing her to Laura Marling and early Adele, it is clear from this release that she is looking to cut her own path in the industry by creating a record with heart and soul at its core. 'Before We Forgot How To Dream' is one of those albums that once you like the first song, the rest just gets better and better. I slowly unfurls itself into this rich and uplifting collection of beautifully-written tracks, that seem to draw you ever closer to her incredibly tranquil voice.

She may still be young but shows a competence of a far more experienced individual. Presenting herself with wisdom and determination, SOAK is certainly one of the stand out introductions of this year and we hope to see a lot more of her in the future.

13. Drenge - 'Undertow'


What We Said...

When Drenge first exploded onto the scene with their self-titled debut album back in 2013, they were greeted as this new breed of emerging British rock talent. The raw drive and passion throughout their sound made them one of the most instantly recognisable new bands in the genre and gained a huge cult following as a result. But returning with their latest album 'Undertow', it seems they have adopted a more refined sound that could make them even bigger.

After just a few tracks on this new release, it is clear to see that the duo have looked to make a more diverse and anthemic sound than their previous work. Still encased in that grunge shell, 'Undertow' likes to play around with its pace and flow, creating this exciting and, at times, unpredictable full-length. Its powerful yet harmonious approach shows a great level of depth within the band's songwriting and gives this record much more purpose and direction.

With riffs that could shake the foundations of any music venue, this new release is looking to be the one that cements their already well-known live shows into unforgettable juggernauts of pure power. Prepare to be blown away.

12. Leon Bridges – 'Coming Home'


What We Said...

While others simply look back for inspiration to compliment their own contemporary sound, very few have managed to adopt those influences in the way Leon Bridges has. Taking the soulful charms of Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and others of that ilk, and reigniting them for a modern era is the backbone of what Bridges is aiming to achieve. His debut album 'Coming Home' carefully reinvents the sound of America's deep south in the 60s and 70s, and reminds us of just how emotional it can be.

Obviously playing on the fact that he is one giant nostalgia trip, Bridges has taken his love of the old sounds to heart and delivered a record with it on his sleeve. It not only imitates his influences but has genuine emotion flooding from it, something that is sorely forgotten in most RnB artists of today. His crooning voice and echoed production gives the album a warmth that is so hard to capture these days and leads you down a road of romantic bliss throughout.

It will be hard to find a soul singer this good for years to come. While others have managed to become cult heroes, very few have been accepted by the mainstream in a way Leon Bridges has, and that can only be a good thing.

11. Vince Staples - 'Summertime '06'


What We Said...

While acts like Kendrick Lamar have managed to keep hip-hop on top of its game so far this year, newcomer Vince Staples is looking to become one of the next big names in the evolving US scene. Having released numerous mixtapes over the last four years, 'Summertime '06' marks the first of his official album releases, and while it only features 10-tracks to its name, the feeling and content on this new record makes it a truly explosive journey.

Backed up by a exciting and diverse production, Staples takes aim on all the sides of modern American life and looks to expose it for all its worth. Sometimes coming from the view of a desensitised young black man who struggles to except his inevitable persecution, 'Summertime '06' talks about the various attitudes black men and women have over their place in American society. Acting as a voice for all people, the young MC manages to connect with an audience of any race and bring his perspective into context for all to understand.

It certainly a fantastically poignant work with all the hallmarks of a man twice his age. His mature presence on the record not only gives gravitas to his words, but leans him towards the view of a prophet rather than a rebel.

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