I have decided to re-ignite this blog after months of dormancy because it has come around to one of my favourite times of year: list-making season! As a bonafide music nerd it is my obligation to rank everything that passes between my ears, and this is especially true of albums when year-end comes around.
This year has, in my opinion, been absolutely exceptional year for music. I tried to keep track of how many albums I heard this year, but I lost track when I was into triple figures just a few months in. From all those albums I heard I wittled it down to 70 amazing albums this year, and waith painstaking effort I managed to cut it down even further into a top 50 - but only after hours of deliberating and some agonising last-minute cuts.
But now my top 50 is settled and since the advent season is upon us I thought I'd roll out my top 50 albums of 2015 over the 25 days leading to Christmas (that means revealing 2 a day for those of you not so good at maths), with blurbs detailing what's so great about each of them and some explanation as to why they have found their way into my heart and onto my record shelves.
We're starting today at number 50 and will be rolling right down to the colossal number 1 on the big day.
I hope you'll read, enjoy, comment and share as we progress. Now let's get on with it!
Wand - 1000 Days
LA band Wand have released three albums in the last couple of years, so the brevity between them makes it feel almost as though they are three parts of a greater whole. 1000 Days then, is the third and final installment of this introductory trilogy and appropriately features a lot of their most explosive and memorable songs. This album needs to be heard loud - not just because of its ultra fuzzed out lead guitars (they always seem to be just one chorus or pedal click away from yet more layers of fuzz and feedback) - but also because singer Cory Hansen's hallucinatory, psychedelic and paranoid screams and croons drag you into their vividly colourful version of the world. It's not all horrifying; this album also features some of Wand's most beautiful and sunny pop moments. "1000 Days" features the irresistibly relaxing chorus "I don't need a thing, 'cause I've had every dream," Hansen sounding so perfectly dazed you can imagine him reclining in perfect satisfaction as he sings - or is he giving up in defeat? "Sleepy Dog" is pretty much a garage-rock power pop jam of pure happiness and "Dungeon Dropper" is chunky guitar rock in the mold of Thee Oh Sees.
Being prolific as a band is great in some respects, and I've certainly enjoyed hearing a new album from Wand every half a year or so, but there is plenty on 1000 Days and the two albums preceding it that suggests that this trio has the ability to write something bigger. Cory Hansen is a simplistic lyricist with an eye for imagery (not unlike cohort and personal favourite Ty Segall), the band's dynamics are exciting and changeable, while their knack for melodies is certainly evident. We have three albums of great material from them now, let's see if they can go off for a while and come back with something classic.
Have I bought this album?: No. I almost did on Saturday - and I will soon.
Alex G - Beach Music
This is one of the oddest albums of the year, and that starts with its title. Beach Music is not at all what I would imagine listening to on a sunny day in the sand, but perhaps that's not necessarily what Alex Giannascoli had in mind when he came up with it. Alex is from Philadelphia, and the closest beach would be at Atlantic City; I can imagine this album being a good soundtrack to a stroll along the pier there on a winter's day when the sky is overcast, the rain's about to come in and all of the casinos and attractions are more or less deserted.
It's a very personal and solitary album, even though Alex is always reaching out to others in his songs. They seem mostly to be pleas, sung in a lonely bedroom with a guitar, strumming in warm melodies along with simple drumming and lots of strange voice modulation. This pitch-shifting of his vocals sometimes amusingly undercuts the heartfelt nature of the songs ("Brite Boy"), while at others it completely heightens the emotion of the situation ("Bug"), or is just creepy as in the case of "Salt" where he intones "don't make me hurt you" in a helium-pitched whisper.
This being Alex's jump up to a fairly major label (Domino), he has higher production value than on any of his 7 (seven!) previous albums. This shines through on songs like the weepy "In Love" which finds Alex warbling over languid piano chords, slovenly brush sticks and heart-rending saxophone noodling. Then there's "Thorns" which again employs brush sticks, but this time pairs them with some electronic piano for some thoughtful downkey pop. I returned to this album time and again for many reasons, but mainly the open-hearted lo-fi mid-tempo rockers like "Kicker" and "Snot" that hark back to classic 90s indie while having the spin of a 21st century young auteur.
Have I bought this album?: No. I saw it a couple of times and was going to but then it was £26! Hopefully I'll find it cheaper one day.