As always, looking back on a year’s worth of music and selecting your most loved releases requires honesty and a far-reaching ear and eye. Many of the albums I thought would make it didn’t, mainly because I didn’t play them – or need them in my life – as much I imagined I might.
2015 was a great year for established stars and new artists alike and next year is already shaping up to be as strong and exciting as 2015. So without further ado these are the records that rocked my world over the last 12 months – hopefully some of them may have the same impact on you.
My countdown from 10-6 is here, and the countdown from 5-1 will follow in Part 2.
10. Susanne Sundfør, Ten Love Songs
Although there is much to appreciate on her more acoustic offerings, it’s really on the glorious run of electronic-disco tracks that Scandi artist Susanne Sundfør’s fifth album, Ten Love Songs, really takes off.
With some of the most effective song sequencing since Donna Summer’s 1979 Bad Girls album, clearly an influence for Sundfør, this is her most bold and open-hearted record yet. An album that could be be a musical, Silencer sounds like a high octane Andrew Lloyd Webber disco song; but Ten Love Songs showcases Susanne Sundfør’s love of theatrical electronics better than ever before.
‘Miniskirt’ is a brittle kick in the gut and is Braids’ most focused and attention grabbing song of their career. Their third album, Deep in the Iris, has a kitchen sink, melodramatic quality and riffs on mid-80s to -90s synth pop bands like Dubstar and Pet Shop Boys, pre-slump.
Drum ‘n’ bass, euphoric electro-pop choruses and a theme of sexual identity (see in particular the rumination on internet porn in album highlight ‘Sore Eyes’) dominate an album that is far lighter and easier to absorb than this might at first suggest. Don’t let Braids pass you by.
Full-length albums by dance artists can be a tricky business. Quality control can evaporate after the first three bangers and a dependence on guest vocalists only leads to further fragmentation.
Lantern has vocals from, amongst others, Miguel and Antony Hegarty, and has at least six bangers. But it also has a rare consistency and substance, especially considering its diverse and complex mix of moods and genres. Just as importantly, this record has the ability to repeatedly make you feel very good indeed – to feel lots of different things, actually.
Hudson Mohawke gets it right in an increasingly bone-headed dance culture where many press play and repeat just because they can.
Released at the top of the year, the second in a trilogy of albums, Black Heart was an often a bleak but breathtakingly beautiful record about redemption.
Ultimately uplifting, Dawn Richard manages to cover the old story of hope that’s lost and then found in a new way, and within a flinty futuristic soundscape that refuses to conform to traditional R’n’B structures and timeframes.
Visionary and fearless, Dawn Richard’s star continues to rise, and next year’s The Red Era is already on my most anticipated release list.
Lizzobangers, the Detroit, Michigan rap and R’n’B artist Lizzo’s 2013 debut, was pretty much just that with one head-rattling thrill after another. Big Grrrrl Small World, though, frontloads its bangers with the album’s second half being a spacey, experimental and soulful assertion of this fascinating performer’s incredible talent.
Self-love is an overriding theme here, which in the wrong hands could have been a sugar-coated and indulgent step back. Lizzo, though, has the smarts and determination to succeed in making this a scintillating and eye-popping peek into her world.
Come back later in the week for Part 2!