There’s been a ludicrous amount of brilliant albums released in 2015, so much so it seems to be an impossible job to do it any sort of justice with a list. However, a list is what we’ve got. We don’t care about sales, style, trends etc. We’re simply talking about the records that had the biggest impact on us all personally. We’ve not bothered with arguing and falling out with each other about which is best, what should be number 15 vs number 25. The actual order is irrelevant, these are all great albums. What you’ve got below is a list in two parts, first of all the albums that were the number 1 favourite of some Overblown writers followed by all the others that would’ve made each writers top 5 or so.
It’s also been the first full calendar year for Overblown and it’s been a lot of fun. We’re an enthusiastic lot, everyone that writes for us does so simply because they love to do so. With that in mind we can only offer a massive thanks to the hundreds of bands, labels, producers, promoters, PRs, bloggers etc. that do what they do out of love for music and make it a joy and pleasure for us to write about all this stuff. We’re also now discovering the huge guilt associated with countless favourite bands who we haven’t included below. Trust us, if you’ve been anywhere near the pages of Overblown this year then we love you. So without further ado:
34. Overblown writers Number 1 albums of 2015:
Sauna Youth – Distractions
(On Upset The Rhythm & chosen by Martin Wilson)
Every so often an album just grabs you by the throat and never lets go. Distractions is everything that’s great about punk rock. It thrashes angrily, buzzes tunefully and rocks constantly. Anger and confusion filters through the sound and lyrics, it seems to suggest we know exactly where we are, exactly what’s going on around us but that we’re incapable or unwilling to accept our surroundings. “I am anxious, I am nervous”, and you’re also absolutely brilliant.
33. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect
(on Hardly Art & chosen by Jamie Coughlan)
This Detroit based post punk quartet’s third album is named for an Aristotelian concept regarding the nature of the self, chronicles the Pope’s visit to Michigan in 1987, details the decay of old age, child neglect, and the nature of the Devil amongst a plethora of other esoteric topics. Heady stuff that calls to mind the literary and conceptual ambition of the late 70s/early 80s post punk of the Fall, Television, et al. It’s a throwback but also a timely meditation on life in 2015 and the things that remain constant regardless of societal developments.
32. King Woman- Doubt
(on Flenser Records & chosen by Rusty)
This 4-song EP is probably my favorite release of 2015. It’s sweeping doom and heavy-hitting vocals are hypnotic. Kristina Esfandiari’s powerful and heart-felt wailings are backed by an emotionally constructed combination of shoegaze, drone metal, and noise. My only complaint is that it’s too short.
31. Joanna Newsom – Divers
(on Drag City & chosen by Ryan Brown)
We knew Joanna Newsom made music that sounds like absolutely nobody else. But we never expected her to make an album so, well, accessible. That she has done so without sacrificing any of her poetry, eccentricity or sheer otherworldliness marks her out as a unique artistic voice. Divers is perfectly paced, and features diverse sonic flourishes such as the crunching Leaving the City, the faded Americana of Goose Eggs, and the skipping, twinkling Sapokanikan. It’s a remarkable record, packed full of melody – sometimes haunting, sometimes soaring, but never less than improbably beautiful.
30. Girlpool – Before The World Was Big
(Wichita Recordings & chosen by Siobhan Smith)
Out of the mouths of babes, oft times come gems. This L.A. via Philidelphia duo may yet be teenagers, but their debut LP is wise, mournful, and lo-fi. Will make you yearn for a time before your world was big.
29. Drenge – Undertow
(on Liberator Music & chosen by John Murray)
With the ’10s now moving into their latter half, Drenge are my band of the decade so far, and have shown that they can deliver more than a visceral debut about getting your head kicked in. Undertow is a textbook second album where you notice something new every time you listen to it, with the sinister cover art infiltrating the lyrics and song themes. It gave us everything from a Britpoppy summer anthem in ‘We Can Do What We Want’, to two closing tracks bleak and lonely enough to befit the blackest of winter nights. We knew the Loveless brothers had talent, but they surprised many with this perfectly crafted follow up to their 2013 debut.
28. PART 2 – some of the dozens of albums that we’ve also picked out:
Pleasure Leftists- The Woods of Heaven
(on Deranged Records)
The sophomore album from the gothic post-punk band The Pleasure Leftists is what you want to listen to while speeding down the highway with the windows down. The vocals, perhaps the most impressive element of this release, are reminiscent of iconic 80’s ballads, giving the album a nostalgic sentiment that entrances from start to finish.
27. Exit Order- Self-Titled
(on Side Two Records)
The self-titled debut album from Boston’s Exit Order is one of the best contributions to punk in a while. It’s fast and loud, like typical d-beat style, yet it’s also interspersed with catchy hooks and a riot grrl style intensity. Blasting out eight songs in just under thirteen minutes, Exit Order displays an impressive mix of influences in a short period of time.
26. G.L.O.S.S.- Demo
Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit, or G.L.O.S.S., is hardcore’s long overdue response to a male-dominated scene. Both musically and lyrically, this demo is relentless from start to finish, which has earned it immediate critical-acclaim. The singer Sadie introduces the demo with a goose-bump producing tranifesto immediately followed by the explosive entrance of guitars and drums that pick you up and throw you into the crowd, not letting you go until the demo’s five shorts songs are over. It’s hard to believe that this is a newly-formed band’s first demo.
25. Bazan Monthly: Volume 2
In an attempt to combat writer’s block, David Bazan (former frontman of Pedro the Lion) made a commitment to release two new songs per month for 5 months. The second rendition of this experiment, Bazan Monthly: Volume 2, demonstrates his unique ability to write catchy upbeat songs that are unquestionably dark. Soul-searching, confessional song-writing is characteristic of Bazan, stemming from his former christian days. Yet the electronic instrumentation of this album is entirely uncharacteristic, revealing Bazan’s breadth of musical talent. It’s one of those albums that doesn’t get worn out on repeat, but could also carry you away into a deep introspective whole if you’re not careful.
24. Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People
(on Bella Union)
There’s not a weak track to be found on Ezra’s third album with his band, The Boyfriends. Toe tappers abound, including the effervescent opener Restless Year, while slower numbers such as the raw Haunted Head pack a real punch. Brilliantly wobbly lo-fi pop with dashes of raucous saxophone.
23. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
(on Asthmatic Kitty)
Sufjan’s a past master at putting his listeners through the emotional wringer, and on Carrie and Lowell, he pulls out all the stops. The master songwriter bares his soul as he grieves for his late mother, murmuring breathy, double-tracked vocals over delicate plucks of his trusty banjo and glimmering synth pulses.
22. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Thinking is something Courtney Barnett does quite a bit of, judging by the humorous, but also poignant, lyrics on her excellent debut LP. Greeting the mundanity of twenty-something urban life with a firmly raised eyebrow, she drawls her vignettes over deceptively punchy slacker rock.
21. Songhoy Blues – Music In Exile
Few records remind us of the power of music like the fiery Music In Exile. Forced to flee their homes in Northern Mali by Islamist militants, these four young men fought back the only way they knew how – with joyous, swaggering blues. Regardless of the back story, this a musical triumph.
20. PWR BTTM – Ugly Cherries
A New York duo bringing drag culture to DIY punk, they craft entertaining, vulnerable, inclusive music that doesn’t get lost under the weight of its agenda. Plus they give a hell of an interview.
19. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style
More a compilation than anything else, Will Toledo’s first album to be released on a label (Matador) is composed of rerecordings of tracks from the eleven albums he has released for free on Bandcamp since May 2010. Stylistically eclectic and wonderfully melodic, delicate, and odd. Album of entirely new music due next year.
18. Swervedriver – I Wasn’t Born To Lose You
The 2013 release of mbv may have prompted shoegaze contemporaries like Ride, Slowdive and Lush to reform, but Swervedriver are one of the few to have released new material rather than just put on a few shows. This storming return makes you wonder why they ever went away.
17. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
At a mere 40 minutes, the Canadian post-rockers’ fifth album is only marginally longer than some of their previous tracks. It’s still an epic though, perhaps helped by its comparative conciseness.
16. TRAAMS – Modern Dancing
A late entry into 2015’s contenders, the trio perfected their distinctive blend of post-punk and krautrock into an album that delivers notes of their intense and raucous live sound.
15. Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie
The oddball Dubliners came up with arguably the most original alternative album of the year. With tracks veering from the hilarious to the disturbing, this could easily pioneer a new subgenre of music if it gets embraced in the way it should do.
14. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
And just like that they were back and they were just as vital as ever. This was no comeback-by-numbers, this was Sleater-Kinney all guns blazing and the only 100% review ever given out by Overblown. Surely the best rock band of the last 20 years? No doubt about it.
13. Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer
Speedy Ortiz go from strength to strength with this wonderfully inventive album full of 90s alt-rock influences but still sounding as unique and original as any other album this year. In Sadie Dupuis Speedy Ortiz not only have a ridiculously gifted songwriter and lyricist but also an inspirational leader, always worth listening to.
12. Post War Glamour Girls – Feeling Strange
(Hide & Seek Records)
Spiky and punchy one second, dreamy and captivating the next. Post War Glamour Girls are completely enthralling. Feeling Strange is one of the most inventive records of 2015.
11. Owl & Mouse – Departures
Beautiful in its simplicity, devastating in its heartbreak, comforting in its gentleness. A wonderful debut album from Owl and Mouse.
10. Tigercats – Mysteries
Early 2015 brought us a grown up sounding Tigercats. An album full of surprises, melodies and no shortage of indiepop gems. As loveable as ever.
9. Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter
(Fortuna Pop! & Slumberland Records)
Album vocalist Alanna McArdle may have moved on from JG but it’s her boot print that’s firmly smashed all over this brilliantly thrilling record. Thrashy indiepop mixed with Perfect Pussy aggression, splendid.
8. Pinact – Stand Still And Rot
If you like to rock you could do a whole lot worse than Pinact’s debut album. This is 90’s grunge rock that’ll make your speakers bounce. Full of melody, big choruses and all topped off with an outstanding howl of a vocal performance.
7. Batteries – Batteries
(Do Yourself In)
The debut solo album from Sci-Fi Steven from bis is a breakneck punk blast packed with more ideas and melodies than most bands manage in a career. The final nail in your coffin.
6. Trust Fund – Seems Unfair
Ok, it could really have been either of this years two albums from Trust Fund but the sheer enthusiasm and guitar pop thrills of Seems Unfair have won the day. Dangerously catchy, endlessly listenable and great.
5. Sleaford Mods – Key Markets
Uncompromising and unflinching in its disgust of Britain in 2015. Congratulations to Sleaford Mods on making our end of year list, not that they’ll give a shit.
4. Wolf Alice – My Love is Cool
(Dirty Hit Ltd)
At times shoegazey, at times straight-forward 90s rock, always full of energy and potential. One of the best debut albums of this or any other year. Keep your beady eyes peeled on them.
3. Jamie XX – In Colour
With a nod and a wink to some of his dance music heroes there’s brilliance in every single beat from the imagination of Jamie XX. Sparkling in colour.
2. Grimes – Art Angels
There’s mileage to be had in Grimes becoming a little more accessible, more rounded at the edges. There’s fun to be had watching this happen. Brash and inventive and all things great.
1. Roots Manuva – Bleeds
Heavy hip-hop from a veteran of the scene. Veteran seems a strange word to use, not one you’d associate with the freshness and life that lies within this album but could anyone other than a veteran pull together something as complete? Probably not.
So there we have it. Are we crazy? Are we spot on? Tell us what you think we’ve missed and what we had no right to include. Tell us that a couple of these are EPs and not albums and we’ll tell you to get lost! Tell us we should’ve included The Spook School, Eternal Summers, Chastity Belt, Twerps, Low, Metz, Menace Beach, Mourn, Viet Cong, Ultimate Painting….we can’t disagree with any of them….here’s to a similarly brilliant 2016.