ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2015: No. 40-31

40. The Chemical Brothers - 'Born In The Echoes'


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It is hard to believe that this is the first new album from The Chemical Brothers in five years. As stalwarts of the electronic music scene, we always imagine that they are constantly at work, raising the bar for whatever new trends and fads have tried to expel. But what this new output has that a lot of their more recent material didn't, is a return to the underground nightclub direction they started with, as 'Born In The Echoes' becomes less about experimental soundscapes and more about getting your feet moving.

The Chemical Brothers have always been envelope-pushers but this new album seems to take that irreverent perspective and combine it with their ultimate goal of making people lose their minds on the dancefloor. The result is one of the most enjoyable electronic albums we have heard so far this year. With a strong techno current running throughout the record, the rhythm and pace of this new material seems far more in tune with what is popular in the clubs and has proven that The Brothers are no forgotten relics of the scene.

While the guest vocalists, of which include Cate Le Bon, St Vincent, Beck, Q-Tip and others, try to make their places heard, it is the producers at the helm that still manage to steal the show on every track. Forward-thinking and progressive, 'Born In The Echoes' could well be their greatest work since 'Surrender'.

39. El Vy - 'Return To The Moon'


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Usually when a side-project is born, it is to create something neither of the parties involved could have done within their current outfits. But for The National's Matt Berninger and Menomena's Brent Knopf, EL VY has been more about the joys of wanting to work with someone new and making fantastic music together. This is certainly the angle the pair have been going for as EL VY isn't too far from their respective comfort zones yet still manages to reflect their own individual brilliance.

With a strong classic rhythm and blues influence, EL VY seems to introduce itself as another nostalgic Southern rock band with whaling piano organs, strong riffs and toe-tapping drums. Yet despite the obvious comparisons in their own careers, the pair have managed to conceive a cohesive sound throughout this debut and show that something different yet familiar can be made between them both.

'Return To The Moon' may well end up becoming their only release, but if that is the case, they have certainly impressed with it. A quality and fulfilling release with all the hallmarks of the competent songwriters they are.

38. Foals - 'What Went Down'


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Having been one of the most critically-acclaimed bands of the last ten years, Foals have never looked to stand still for long and are always looking to bring something new to the table with every album they release. From their twinkly math-rock beginnings, Foals have slowly been growing into the band that we see today, and their fourth full-length release 'What Went Down' seems to show them at their most comfortable.

The noticeable change on this latest record is the reliance on the power riff, as illustrated by the record's opener and title-track 'What Went Down'. From the start, we are meant to realise that this is not the Foals we once knew and to expect more than a few changes this time. But the sound of this new release is more than just a step away from their comfort zone, but a full reimagining of their output to date and a full-on quest to reinvent themselves for this year.

It may not have much in the way of familiar indie hits, but it does hold itself together extremely well to create an incredibly well thought out release. 'What Went Down' looks like the start of a whole new Foals, and its very exciting to think what could come next.

37. Ezra Furman - 'Perpetual Motion People'


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Having already found himself a cult favourite in the US, Ezra Furman has found it difficult spreading his sound in the British music scene. But by the sounds of this new release, it looks like that might be about to change. His third solo album 'Perpetual Motion People' is the first release on his new label Bella Union and from the start, it is a joy of unimaginable proportions.

From the album's opener and lead single 'Restless Year', a song that could brighten the day of any sorry soul, the record flows into this cheerful vibe that never seems to slow down. But while some may attempt this ultra glossy feel with a barrel load of cheesy intentions, Furman has produced a far more aurally pleasing sound. Its general atmosphere harks back to a 1960s surf rock influence that not only gives it that familiar effect, but also makes it very fun to listen to as well.

It is certainly one of the most upbeat records we have heard this year, and its summer release date will only do it more favours. But if this doesn't bring a smile to your face, then absolutely nothing else will.

36. Gengahr - 'A Dream Outside'


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While the majority of the UK's indie scene has been dragging its heels throughout much of 2015, for London-based newcomers Gengahr, a name that no-one is sure on how to pronounce or spell, they look to rip open the creativity within the genre once again and break out with a brilliantly creative and inspired debut. The new record 'A Dream Outside' is that subtle blend of eccentricity and competent songwriting that makes this new release an instantly insatiable listen.

Opening up with the sombre 'Dizzy Ghosts', the album then flows in and out of catchy melodies and ambient soundscapes that almost hark back to the millennial sounds of early Coral and Super Furry Animals. Their psychedelic influences not only act as a support for their musical direction, but also help gives it a consistent rhythm that leaves the album feeling like it was recorded by a far more experienced group.

Soothing, blissful and intense when it needs to be, 'A Dream Outside' is one of the few treats we have heard from the indie scene so far this year. With a focused and well-written debut like this, it is clear that Gengahr are far from being another flash in the pan.

35. Lianne La Havas - 'Blood'


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After the release of her debut album 'Is Your Love Big Enough?' back in 2012 resulted in a vast array of accolades for the young singer, including a nod for the Mercury Prize that year, Lianne La Havas has returned to deliver her follow-up, and guessing by the level of expectation this time round, is probably looking to be her most highly-anticipated release so far.

Having initially blown us away with 'Impossible', the lead single and this album's opener, we all had an idea of what to expect from this new full-length. But for those that have based their opinions on those singles, they will be extremely surprised to hear that 'Blood' is a far more fluid and flexible release. Taking influences from a variety of sources, 'Blood' aims to be cacophony of soothing melodies, each with their own pace and rhythm.

It is certainly refreshing to hear an album that lets the vocalist at its focus spread their creative wings and give us a real taste of their capabilities and preferences. La Havas has really come out of her shell on this new record and it is that freedom that makes for such an inviting listen.

34. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats - 'Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats'


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While Nathaniel Rateliff has already proved himself to be a swooning and introspective name on the acoustic circuit, this new release with backing group The Night Sweats seems to have allowed him to let out his more uplifting side. The collective's debut self-titled release is packed to the brim with the toe-tapping soul and positive leanings America's deep south have been producing for the last seventy years.

Old fashioned in its pretence, 'Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats' is one of those true US rock albums that not only takes pride in its national heritage but also aims to cut its own path into the culture as well. With obvious nods to the likes of classic country, soul and rock n roll, the album's focus is to create a simple yet engaging release. From the start, you can imagine this band playing in a dive bar with the crowd singing and swaying to every single song.

It certainly is nice to hear a record that pays homage to a sound rather than simply imitate it. Nathaniel Rateliff has managed to cherry-pick the best parts of his national sound and use it to create an album with so much heart and energy, it would be hard not to want to relive it again and again.

33. Ratatat - 'Magnifique'


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While New York-based production duo Ratatat were extremely prolific in their formative years, releasing four studio albums and two remix compilations between 2004 and 2010, their fourth album 'LP4' was the last that we heard of them until now. Aside from a production credit on Kid Cudi's 2012 album 'Indicud', 'Magnifique' is the first new material we have heard from the pair in more than five years, and from the off, it seems like they are back to their old tricks.

Having always had an fondness for the screeching guitar sounds of progressive rock, 'Magnifique' packs in the insatiable licks by the truckload and thus helps to both define and anchor the sound of this new record. While occasionally breaking away from their familiar sound to deliver a more electronic focus on some of the tracks, the album is a fluid and concise return to the band's heyday. Mixing electronic beats with a more analogue approach to songwriting has enabled them to deliver possibly one of the best records of their career.

Fans of their previous work will lap this up in a heartbeat. It shows both relevance to their origins as well as having a purposeful evolution throughout, making it both a fitting return and the start of something altogether new.

32. LA Priest - 'Inji'


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As the lead singer of cult noughties favourites Late Of The Pier, Sam Dust effectively vanished for the most part during the succeeding eight years since the band's only studio album. After it emerged that he had been working his way around the world, on various project, the man has returned to deliver his first solo album under the guise LA Priest. Fitting suitably into that post-millenium dance-rock sound, the new record 'Inji' aims to display the effortless and random nature of this gifted producer.

From the start, you can tell that this release aims to break all its preconceived notions, and just like Late Of The Pier and bands like them, it is about the uniqueness of the music which sets their image. And the music of LA Priest is not only unique but also varied in its approach as Sam Dust has aimed to create an outpouring of ideas that somehow come together to create a cohesive and well-structed studio album.

It is eclectic and assorted throughout, which can deliver more of a love/hate situation to some, but for those with a musically open mind, it is well worth the listen. And while Late Of The Pier fans will get it instantly, it would be great to hear more of this man's music.

31. Laura Marling - 'Short Movie'


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With now five studio albums in eight years, Laura Marling has proven herself as one of this country's most prolific songwriters. Still only the modest age of 25, Marling has always shown wisdom and finesse beyond her years and this latest release looks to continue that incredible form. While her previous albums have all looked to pigeonhole the frontwoman into the folk music genre, 'Short Movie' sees her try her hand at a few other directions and makes for a very eclectic listen.

While the opener 'Warrior' sticks to her usual preconceptions, the follow-up 'False Hope' is an all-and-out rock track with all the gusto and passion of an artist looking to spread their musical wings. The record then continues to blur the lines between the sound we would expect from her and whatever she feels like doing next. The result is an eclectic yet focused release that always keeps Marling at the centre of the record. If there is any instrumental accompaniment, and there rarely is, it is kept fully in the background, allowing her to step up and be the focus of this new release.

This is definitely the start of an evolutionary process for Laura Marling. Not as easy to predict but captivating nonetheless, 'Short Movie' shows off the untethered nature of a brilliant songwriter and once again displays exactly what you need to do in order to keep your sound fresh.

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