Undeniably, 2015 had been a year of eclectic and varied music. From the soaring heights of Coldplay’s ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ to Adele’s ’25’, there has never been such a wide and diverse smorgasbord of sounds and anthem choruses. With the Brit Awards tomorrow night, James Hill looks at the The Worldly’s Top Ten albums of the past year, some of which have been acknowledged by the Awards and those that have been seemingly overlooked, hoping to put to bed what albums triumphed in a year of complexity and meaningful music.
Rhodes – ‘Wishes’ (Not Nominated)
In a year in which Ed Sheeran’s ‘Multiply’ tightened its considerable hold on our hearts, Rhodes plumbed well-trodden depths. And yet, his ethereal soundscapes and siren like voice helped elevate his album above many other contenders. Tracks like ‘Glow’, ‘Turning Back Around’ and ‘Breathe’ cemented this singer-songwriter’s place in the Top Ten Albums this year. His under the radar success snuck its way into our hearts and playlists.
Jamie XX – In Colour (Nominated: British Male Solo Artist, British Album of the Year)
A reverberating and scintillating plunge into the depths of the London House scene, this well-wrought album delves into the very essence of a modern club night, with suitable nods to The Chemical Brothers and other such behemoths. Jamie XX ,with guest vocals from fellow XX bandmate and vocalist Romy Madley Croft on tracks such as ‘Loud Places’ and ‘Sleep Sound’, conjures a breathtaking debut with verve and polished sounds. Any doubters should listen to the freestyle rapping over the infectious ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’ and grasp the sheer strength of this album. The album cover, bedecked in rainbow colours evokes a kaleidoscope, the very essence of a rave or Deep House gig. The snatches of conversation, the scent of sweat and a sense of feeling lost in a sea of others.
Wilder Mind – Mumford and Sons (Not Nominated)
They took the plunge. Mumford and Sons and their brand of infectious stadium Folk-Rock brought Folk music back into the mainstream, paving the way for artists such as Noah and the Whale, Laura Marling and Passenger. In this third album, influenced and produced by the aforementioned Aaron Dessner of The National, one can appreciate the true vocal strength of leading man Marcus Mumford. A break from the banjos has led to a darker sound, rich with powerful riffs and stadium ready hooks, such as ‘Ditmas’ or ‘Wilder Mind’. Tracks such as ‘The Wolf’ and ‘Believe’ providing ready radio fodder for years to come. Yet, it is in songs such as ‘Just Smok’e and opening track ‘Tompkins Square Park’ that Mumford tap into a current of quiet power. May disappoint die-hard fans but a triumphant third album.
You & the Night (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – M83 (Not Nominated)
From acclaimed ambient sound artists M83, whose anthemic song ‘Outro’ is one of the deftest pieces to come out of the Brian Eno inspired Minimalist House scene in years. One instantly envisions the slow progress of a spaceship in flight or the gentle sounds of the surf hitting the sand. This album, albeit a soundtrack to a very watchable French film, provides a relaxing and simultaneously uplifting album from M83. With angelic voices soaring and belying hidden emotional depths, its strength comes in the quieter moments. In between hushed synths and reverberating voices, songs such as ‘Un Nouveau Soleil’ and ‘Ali & Mathias’ are desperately sad but heartrendingly beautiful.
Florence and the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How beautiful (Nominated: British Female Solo Artist, British Album of the Year)
The eponymous Florence’s strength and power is palpable in this barnstorming album which bristles with energy and bombast. Tracks such as ‘Ship to Wreck’ and ‘What Kind of Man’, combine the ringing choruses of Adele yet supply an introspection not often found in this brand of stadium rock. Loud, bombastic and designed to get you dancing with her. Whilst falling into the trap of stadium ready rock which must encompass all feelings of sadness and the embrace of positivity, on tracks such as ‘Delilah’ and ‘Queen of Peace’, one feels swept into the titanic feelings that Florence so ably creates. Credit, however, must be given to the tight professionalism of the Machine whose musical capabilities build upon their lead vocalists impressive voice to conjure a strong and assured album.
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell (Not Nominated)
Breaking new ground in this effortlessly simple yet honed album, Stevens takes us back into the past and his own childhood. ‘Should Have Known Better’ and ‘Eugene’ are two standouts of an intense but sincere album. Stevens, noted for his breathy delivery combines majesty with the mundane in a swirling cacophony of gentle guitar. Words cannot begin to encapsulate the stirring and curiously heartbreaking strains of Stevens’ vocals, his lyrics speak of fire, comfort and family; “light struck from the lemon tree what if I never see hysterical light from Eugene a lemon yogurt, remember I pulled at your shirt I dropped the ashtray on the floor”.
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (Nominated: International Male Solo Artist)
During the course of 2015, this album and its breakout anthems captured the zeitgeist of the Black Lives Matter movement. Songs such as ‘Alright’, ‘King Kunta’ and ‘Wesley’s Theory’ are angry, brazen and defiant. ‘Alright’ has become a de facto song for the Black Lives movement. With lyrics embodying social inequality, police violence and righteous anger, Lamar’s album cements his status as a bonafide superstar. This album simply annihilates the competition, leaving no prisoners in its barbed and nuanced interrogation of the 2015 zeitgeist. With his headlining spot at 2016’s Benicassim festival, this is Lamar’s year.