The Alive & Amplified Album Of The Year 2015 with guest submissions.
Another great year for albums means time to try and whittle all they great albums into a top 5.
Once again I have asked some friends from the Scottish Music Industry to pick their favourite 5 to find out the overall best albums of 2015.
To find the ultimate top 5 the scoring is as follows
- 1st – 25 Points
- 2nd – 18 Points
- 3rd – 15 Points
- 4th – 12 Points
- 5th – 10 Points
Craig Gornall – Alive & Amplified/Time Out Edinburgh/Radio Summerhall
1. Digitalanalogue – Be Embraced, You Millions.
I stated when this album was released that if it wasn’t my album of 2015 I would eat my hat. This is not the reason I have decided to choose it as my favourite. It is a beautiful album from start to finish with an amazing back story. You can read more about my thoughts on this album here.
2. Kathryn Joseph – The Bones You’ve Thrown Me & The Blood I’ve Spilled.
This was a very close runner up. Very very close. There have been tracks played from this album most weeks on Shore Live and I am sure I will continue to play it when Ian & I start at Radio Summerhall in 2016. This album won the Scottish Album of the Year award and in my opinion it was a disgrace that it was looked over at the Mercury nominations.
3. Dead Boy Robotics – New Cells.
After a 2 year hiatus Edinburgh electro trio Dead Boy Robotics returned with single ‘Arrival’ at the start of the summer and released their amazing 2nd album ‘New Cells’ later in the year. It’s great to have them back and I look forward to seeing them live in 2016.
4. Kirsten Adamson – Kirsten Adamson
An stunning debut album from former Gillyflower Kirtsen Adamson. This started off as with a crowd funded campaign, which quickly exceeded targets. The result of the recording is a fabulous album where the sound varies throughout. Think Kate Bush, Ray Of Light era Madonna and Bjork. I love it.
5. Vessels – Dilate
Originally I thought Vessels were from Scotland when I seen them on the line-up for Electric Fields. They are in fact from Leeds. ‘Dilate’ soon became my album of the summer and track ‘Eliptic’ was played most weeks in the lead up to the Electric Fields gig. If you haven’t heard them go and check them out now.
Nick Roberts – Electric Fields
1. Joanna Newsom – Divers
Without doubt one of the most interesting and amazing artists of modern times. Joanna Newsom might not be everyones cup of tea but the way her music moves in different directions from one moment to the next, in one second being devastatingly sad and the next hilarious, is pretty special. The only album this year that I’ve made a concerted effort to take an evening to listen to it from start to finish with no interruptions.
2. Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?
Hot Chip are so great. Awesome cross over band and I literally cannot think of anyone who doesn’t like them. I’m probably wrong in thinking that but it doesn’t matter. This album is totally brilliant and the tracks are even better live. The stand out track for me ‘Need You Now’ is one that you think has been around for years as it has that classic familiarity, without seeming like a rehash of something.
3. East India Youth – Culture Of Volume
I’ve been a big fan of East India Youth for a couple of years now and love ‘Culture Of Volume’. Last years album ‘Total Strife Forever’ was nominated for the Mercury Prize nominated and I think CoV is even stronger. We were lucky enough to have William at Electric Fields this year and it was a standout performance for a lot of people, there’s a lot of energy and noise coming from one man.
4. Miaoux Miaoux – School of Velocity
I would like to claim to be Miaoux Miaoux’s head cheerleader but I know there are so many people who also have a strong case. I think it’s a travesty that more people dont’t know MM, I have never seen a bad show (and Ive been to a few) and this album is full of excellent tracks.
5. Father John Misty – I Love You. Honeybear
There’s a lot to love about this album, but for me I just love it’s pretty simplistic nature. It harks back to that great thing of a guy singing about a gal and bearing all. I think it’s probably the kind of music I like to think I’d be able to do if I had any skill. By all accounts FJM seems like an excellent guy as well and I enjoy his Instagram nearly as much as this album.
Jonny Tait – The Academy Of Music & Sound
1. Adele – 25
There is no denying the power of Adele, not just her voice but also her place in the industry at present. This release was one that lived up to the hype.
2. WASP – Golgotha
Blackie’s continuing exploration into religion has provided us with some of his most prolific writing in years. This release combines no nonsense balls to the wall rock n roll as well as some truly biblical moments.
3. Stereophonics – Keep The Village Alive
Kelly Jones just gets better as a songwriter. There are some truly magical moments on this album, in particular My Hero & Mr & Mrs Smith…a track which provides the perfect festival sing-along.
4. Leftfield – Alternative Light Source
I cannot tell you how excited I was when I heard Leftfield were releasing new music. The act that provided a soundtrack to my formative years have matured about as well as I have. They’ve reclaimed their EDM Crown.
5. Mickey 9’s – The Party Manifesto
I defy anyone who sees or hears this band not to dance…they are infectious, fun, ludicrous and outrageous all at the same time and a act that understands and embraces fully what it is to create a scene…in every sense of the word!
Vic Galloway – BBC Radio Scotland
1. C Duncan – Architect
At the end of 2014, I became aware of a young singer-songwriter and composer from Glasgow called Chris Duncan, via his label Fatcat records. When I heard his first official track ‘For’, I was totally blown away. I started playing it on air and promptly booked him for a show as part of ‘Independent Venue Week’ 2015, knowing he had an LP coming out later in the year. The pastoral, neo-classical, vaguely psychedelic album ‘Architect’ exceeded my expectations and has become one of my favourites of 2015 – in fact, I’ll go as far as to say it is my favourite. There’s not a bad track on it, and I’ve played most of it on radio over the last 12 months. Unbelievably, Chris recorded and produced the album entirely on his own at home too! It is dripping with melodies and I’d advise anyone who likes inventive, non-throwaway pop music to investigate further. Oh, and it was nominated for a Mercury too.
2. Kathryn Joseph – Bones you have thrown me and blood I’ve spilled
Another album which could easily have taken the top spot for me in 2015 was the incredible debut from Kathryn Joseph. I’d been lucky enough to have the entire album for quite a while (maybe a year?) before it was officially released, so knew it well. The songs therein are very personal, intimate and rather eerie with an unsettling honesty, rendered with little more than voice and piano. The album opener ‘The Bird’ is without a doubt my single/track of the year. I saw her perform on numerous occasions in 2015 and every time I was utterly transfixed. This is another album which bears up to repeated listens and is rewarding every time. No wonder she snatched the coveted SAY Award – a worthy winner, loved by judges and audiences alike. Forget Taylor Swift, gimme Kathryn Joseph any day!
3. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi Love
Ruban Neilson is a Kiwi, based in hipster central Portland Oregon USA, who self-records and has a band to play his compositions LIVE. This is his 3rd official album and lyrically documents a 3-way relationship he is entangled in – a love triangle if you like. Musically it blends psyche, soul, funk, indie and even baroque-classical elements to create a homemade, homespun and yet luscious sounding collection of songs. I have played this album to death in 2015 and it is right up there for me. Again, there isn’t a bad track thereon. Everything has its own character and personality, and yet fits together as a whole. The man is an understated genius of sorts and this record deserves your attention.
4. Django Django – Born Under Saturn
Formed at Edinburgh College of Art years ago, Django Django are based in London and now a fully-fledged global concern. Rightly so. This, their sophomore effort, shrugged off the ‘difficult 2nd album’ cliches to prove as good if not better than their self-titled debut in 2012. That’s a hard thing to do, but they succeeded in style mixing up tribal electronica, psychedelic harmonies, twanging guitars and a natural pop suss. This flows as an album and has an anthemic quality to it, with superior production and complexity to the songs than on their debut. Put simply, it’s another classic.
5. Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People
Who manages to reinvent the wheel in pop music these days? Very few. Cross-dressing, guitar-wielding, Chicago upstart Ezra Furman seems to have done exactly that though, on this amazing new record. Taking his lead from the Violent Femmes, Jonathan Richman, Bowie, T Rex and the E Street Band, Furman and his band ‘The Boyfriends’ bash classic rock’n’roll into new shapes with a guitar, bass, drums, keys and sax combo. The album is choc full of pop ideas and bold songwriting, fed through the raw doubts and insecurities of the main-man. This always wins new fans every time it gets played, so track it down.
Richy Muirhead – SAMAs
1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly.
I have been following Kendrick for a few years now and his stuff always impressed me…but Pimp really steps it up. You can taste so much genre from Jazz, to Soul, Pop – its an all rounder. The videos for the singles are incredible too. The man is ahead of the game. Key track ‘Alright’.
2. Leon Bridges – Coming Home.
This record makes me want to get up, open the curtains, and start my day on an absolute high. How can you not tap your foot to this? It takes the word smooth to an entire new level. Key track: ‘Twistin’ & Groovin’
3. Kathryn Joseph – Bones You Have Throne Me and Blood I’ve Spilled.
First clocked this record in the SAY Award nominations process, which it then went on to win. The whole album takes on you on a journey from start to finish. I’ve been fortunate to have see the live performance of this too in intimate venues and its just breathtaking. Kathryn and Marcus are extremely talented. Key track ‘The Bone’
4. Young Fathers – White Men Are Black MenToo
Its been one hell of a journey watching YF play in tiny sweaty venues to transform into a major act that everyone is watching – very inspiring. I’m a big fan of ‘DEAD’ but this latest record takes it up a gear. Its heavy, catchy, dancey, trippy – this album is its own genre and is a masterpiece. Key Track ‘Feasting’.
5. Action Bronson – Mr Wonderful.
Action is full of fun and this record has it all…its edgy, punchy, and super catchy at times. ‘Opportunity be knockin, you gotta let a motherfucker in’ i’d love to have lunch with Action – his food videos on Youtube are ridiculous. Key track: ‘Acting Crazy’
Jim Gellatly – Amazing Radio
1. C Duncan – Architect
Just a wonderful record, and a well deserved Mercury shortlist. I just love the textures on this record, and the fact that something basically recorded in his bedroom could sound this good. What’s more the songs transform to the live set-up perfectly.
2. Kathryn Joseph – Bones You Have Thrown Me, And Blood I’ve Spilled
Kathryn’s an artist that had fallen of my radar, having known her around 15 years ago when I was based in Aberdeen. I couldn’t have been happier for her winning the SAY Award, and I can’t wait to hear what she’s got lined-up next.
3. Prides – The Way Back Up
These guys have had so many false starts in their career, so it’s great to see them finally starting to make a breakthrough. It’s a refreshing take on pop music with some masterful production and songwriting.
4. Chvrches – Every Open Eye
I think the success of the first album gave Scottish pop music a real shot in the arm. Again they’ve come up with the goods.
5. The LaFontaines – Class
Already one of the best live acts in Scotland, it was always going to be tricky to reflect that on an album. They’ve pulled it off though.
John-Paul Mason – DF Concerts/Craft Management
1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
As happens often, my friend James will send me a text every now and then asking me if I’ve heard a particular album, he did so with this and said I would be into it. I think its fair to say that’s an understatement. I could not believe how good this record was when I heard it, to then see it live at the Playhouse in August was a very special night.
2.Julia Holter – Have you in my wilderness
Not sure at what point I first heard Julia Holter this year, probably ‘Feel You’ on 6 Music during the Summer but when the album finally came out in September I was as excited about any release I can remember. Its just incredible and reminds me of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, like its from that time, I have listened to it almost every day. Will definitely be at either her Glasgow or Edinburgh show next year, maybe even both!
3. Chvrches – Every Open Eye
Having first heard Chvrches via a locked soundcloud link in early 2012, I was very excited for new material, Dok is a good friend and I know how much he wanted to deliver a belter of a second album, its safe to say he has done that and then some! In the same way that the first album was addictive, this one buries itself in your head and you find yourself always going back for more. The Hydro was built for these songs!
4. Ryan Adams – 1989
When the murmurings became a reality and it was apparent that Ryan Adams was actually going to let the world hear his Smiths influenced take on the Taylor Swift behemoth 1989, I was one of the many who could not contain their excitement. When it finally hit the internet, it proved beyond all doubt what a talent he is, taking her huge pop songs and making them sound like lost 80’s movie classics, he is an amazing, amazing guy who also just seems like he would be really sound to hang about with.
5. Late Night Tales – Jon Hopkins
Not a studio album, I hope its not considered a copout but I genuinely love this. It also led me to discover A Winged Victory for the Sullen and Nils Frahm. The Late Night Tales collections are so great, but this one might be the best yet, Jon Hopkins own take on Yeasayer’s ‘I remember’ is just one of the many highlights.
Nicky Carder – Beyond Presents
1. Sóley – Ask The Deep
2. Emilie Nicolas – Like I’m A Warrior
3. C Duncan – Architect
4. Shamir – Ratchet
5. Chvrches – Every Open Eye
Nick Stewart – Sneaky Pete’s
1. Bill Ryder Jones – West Kirby County Primary
Three songs here, ‘Two To Birkenhead’, ‘Daniel’ and ‘Catherin and Huskisson’ comprise the best block of songwriting I’ve heard this decade. Ex-Coral man Bill drawls like the Wirral’s sedate version of Steve Malkmus, and at times his gentle coo masks brutal darkness. When he intones “the ropes were worn, and they came undone… Daniel belongs to the ocean”, it’s not clear straight away that he’s singing about the drowning of his own brother. Furthering the poetic edge, he sings it from his distressed parents’ point of view “If you took the pills you might not feel so ill.. let’s make it easy for you Bill”.
‘Two to Birkenhead’ is a two-speeded two hander about a day away gone sour, “They say that desperate times call for desperate pleasures”, featuring the most elegant and unexpecting phrasing. It’s a technical tour de force done so subtly that all you can make out from the ride is a welling up of emotion that you want to rewind to trace the origins of… “wait, what just happened?”
Bill’s songwriting, like his personality, is so wryly witty, gentle, unforced and charming that it’s not clear on first listen just how much there is to these songs. Repeated listens reveal this record to be fathoms deep, and it cuts to the bone.
2. Andy Shauf – The Bearer Of Bad News
A mewling troubadour pup delivering murder ballads as re-thought by Wes Anderson, accompanied by rhapsodic woodwind, melting all hearts he passes along the way. The eleven vignettes on this record comprise a gentle masterpiece that grew and grew on me this year. There isn’t an inessential beat in its length, and yet the songs all have wonderful room to breathe. For the first half of 2015 no other long player got a look in.
3. Journeyman Trax – Smoke Tape
4. CFCF – The Colours of Life
Vancouver is an isthmus in a sea of weird machine-funk. It’s in North America but it’s about as distant from our shores as you can get. Musicians there have been reimagining music in startling ways lately. This year I received half a dozen parcels of cassettes from Vancouver-based label 1080p, who, along with Mood Hut, have created a complete and captivating label aesthetic. Think of their vibe as high-end meditation music, and let go that that might be something hilarious from the back pages of Vice magazine, because these artists have been able to straight ignore the kitsch qualities of what they are doing in order to find new ways to engage.
Mood music may have a bad rep, but Journeyman Trax creates it with such enervating funk that you’re left in no doubt that this is a guy who means to monkey about with your emotions. There is a playful naivety in his sound, as though someone had described to him in words what house music was like, and he thought he’d give it a go. However when on tracks like the pad-soaked Arboreal, waves of blissful harps shimmer down the waterfall of sound, you’re in a space of carefully curated bliss.
Also on 1080p, CFCF is an artist I remember from his early days making A-Trak style blog-hip-hop-house, so it’s all the more remarkable that he’s emerged with such a fully-formed, musicianly, entrancing and thorough composed record. Taking inspiration from deep cuts by Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Sade, Sting and Dire Straits, on paper this sounds like an unbearable mix, but it comes through as something honest, heartfelt, but also daring, sexy and cool. Presented as a single 40 minute instrumental track (or 2 x 20mins if, like me, you’ve been listening on tape), it’s a sort or chamber orchestral suite written for tuned percussion, saxophone, piano, drum machines, electric guitar, and early midi instruments like pan pipes and shakuhachi flute. This is the opposite of kitsch music, “considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way”, rather it ignores any negative or uncool connotations in the sound and you’re left marvelling at its grace.
5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
I’d forgotten about UMO until I caught them at Primavera this year. Every song seemed familiar yet I’d missed two albums, what was going on? Turns out the answer was that the songs were such perfectly formed and infinitely funky soul classics that they burned their way into my heart on impact. As with Tame Impala, UMO is essentially one dude in the studio with an impressive control over the sound of his sound, which is both tape-flattened and expansive. The listener is placed at the drum stool in the middle of the groove, not knowing whether to dance or swoon.
Lisa Thomson – MAMA Festivals
1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
2. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit.
3. WeCameFromWolves – WeCameFromWolves.
4. The Maccabbes – Marks To Prove It.
5. Tijuana Bibles – Ghost / Dance / Movement.
Ian Schofield – Radio Summerhall/Ian Schofield Photography
1. Katherine Joseph – bones you have thrown me and blood I’ve spilled
2. SWOLE – Luxury Product
3. Pinact – Stand Still And Rot
4. The Belly Buttons – Play
5. CHUVRCHES – Every Open Eye
Michael Lambert – A Modern Way/Born To Be Wide/Wide Days
1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit
2. Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass
3. Tobias Jesso Jnr – Goon
4. C Duncan – Architect
5. Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness
Tallah Brash – Electric Circus
1.Ibeyi – Ibeyi
I was absolutely obsessed with this album when it came out at the start of the year and according to my year in Spotify it was my most listened to album of 2015! The band consists of twin sisters of French/Cuban descent – they have the loveliest voices and in some ways remind me a bit of Morcheeba. Instrumentation on the album is wonderfully percussive and features samples made from their own voices which build up songs beautifully. The majority of the album is sung in English but a lot of the album is in a Nigerian language called Yoruba. It’s one of the nicest languages and translates really well to song and works perfectly within this album. On a whole Ibeyi’s debut is bloody lovely to listen to and if you’re in need of relaxation I’d recommend this over anything else!
2. Fleur East – Love, Sax & Flashbacks
This is a total guilty pleasure and an utter pop delight from start to finish; I love it and I’m not ashamed to say so! I enjoy watching The X Factor but all I ever usually do is watch it as some mindless Saturday night entertainment then as soon as a series is finished I forget about everyone who was ever on it; this is not so of Fleur. She is absolutely amazing and I would go as far to say I’m a little bit obsessed with her – she was amazing on the show as a singer, dancer and performer plus she looked incredible; it was genuinely like watching someone who had been doing it for years! Anyway, her album is amazing and you should all listen to it before writing her off as just another X Factor reject. The album has had input from some amazing producers including Darkchild and Babyface who have worked with the likes of Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Mary J. Blige, TLC and Bobby Brown.
3.Björk – Vulnicura
Wow. What an album this is. It’s an utterly depressing and honest account of a relationship breakdown. It’s beautiful from the get go with amazing string arrangments and glorious production from Arca and The Haxan Cloak. When I first heard The Haxan Cloak was working on this album I have to admit I was a bit nervous as I ended up seeing him live 3 times in 2015 which left me hard of hearing and vibrating from the inside out each time. Don’t get me wrong, if you ever get the chance to experience him live you should 100% do it but be prepared to not feel like quite like you for a solid week afterwards. Back to the artist in question; Bjork is amazing and this album sits wonderfully alongside the rest of her repertoire. I was lucky enough to see it performed live in Manchester earlier this year and it just brought the whole thing to life like I never thought possible and it just made me love it and her more!
4. Battles – La Di Da Di
I love Battles so was excited they were back with a new album for 2015. La Di Da Di is fully instrumental unlike their previous 2 albums Mirrored and Gloss Drop and it is wonderful for being so. They are one of the most exciting bands around in my opinion and they do experimental rock so unbelievably well. There’s so much going on with this album it’s hard to describe so my suggestion is you just listen to it. My favourite track from the album is Dot Com followed closely by The Yabba with wonderful sounds, bleeps, bloops and rhythms and according to the band themselves it’s a “mushrooming monolith of repetition”. I say it’s brilliant!
5. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion
I don’t really have much to say about this apart from stating the obvious that it’s a really great pop album and I really really really really really really like it! Get it? Anyways, the overall production is great and I Really Like You is a timeless nugget of pop joy. Nuff said.
Sandy McGhie – 7 Ahead Music
1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit
Completely love this, every day ordinary happenings given a simple but punchy vehicle to transform them into great songs. It’s her voice that gives the sound that edge, has that great almost spoken quality, strangely reminds me of Lou Reed!
2. Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie
Noise, wonderful noise! Saw this band at The Electric Circus last year and they’re playing Summerhall in February. It’s all about extremes, chaos and order, black and white, calm and angry, mostly though, it’s just anarchic noise beautifully put together!
3. Kace Musgraves – Pagaent Material
My love for dub, random, thrashy sounds sometimes needs an alternate side, what better than some great country!
4. Slaves- Are You Satisfied
When I first saw them they reminded me of a sort of softcore Birdhead and as their new album isn’t out until about April next year Are You Satisfied is enough to keep me going!
5. Gang Of Four – What Happens Next
I got into them in my punk days in the late 1970s and they just keep on producing the goods. Great edgy, punky rock!
Sarah Cuthbert-Kerr – Morningside Young Team/Wozniak
1. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp
2. Spectres – Dying
3. Revolution – The Shoegaze Revival.
2015 has been a big year for shoegaze, with a few of the original 90s bands on the comeback trail. It could become a nostalgia trip if not for the many bands across the globe who’re keeping it fresh. This compilation is a great snapshot of the current strength of the scene and a good starting place for novices.
4. Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home
5. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
Kyle Wilson – Thursdays At Teviot Underground/Generate Music PR
1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.
Courtney Barnett runs her own label called Milk! Records and first started making waves in the UK after her first double EP and deadpan singing style. If you’ve not had a listen to her debut album yet make it your new years resolution or something.
2. Rozi Plain – Friend
One of the most beautiful records of the year. The guys at Lost Map Records have had a belter of a 2015 but Rozi Plain’s ‘Friend’ is top of the list. Stand out tracks ‘Actually’, ‘Friend City’ and ‘Jogalong’. Cracking live performance at Kelburn Garden Party this year too!
3. C Duncan – Architect
A musician from Glasgow who has a classical background but mixes in elements of dreamboat and psychedelia into his tracks., what’s not to love? Stand out tracks ‘For'(that whistle!) and ‘Garden’.
4. Jamie xx – In Colour
It’s hard to believe this was the first official album release from Jamie xx, christ he’s been about a bit. If you sway towards the electronic end of the spectrum this will definitely float your boat – it was nominated for the Mercury Prize ya’ know…
5. Roy’s Iron DNA – Exposure
The third album from Edinburgh-based Roy’s Iron DNA was released in mid-summer this year. Put out as an augmented reality album in the style of a newspaper. Each of the tracks on the album were made into a music video with the help of local creatives.
So after all the votong in si the overall top 5 albums of the year 2015 are as follows… Kathryn Joseph – Bones You Have Thrown Me & Blood I’ve Spilled