Friday, 26 February 2016

3WTM - Albums of the Year 2015

We've tried to put together our favourite albums of the year highlighted by a track so you get it all neatly packaged in to a playlist.

Neil's Top 5 (well 6 but you'll see why)

"Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit" the debut album by Courtney Barnett.

I had quite a bit of anticipation for it's release, having been impressed by the earlier single 'History Eraser' and whilst there was initial disappointment of that song not being on the album, that was quickly dispelled by the quality of what was on there. I really like her deadpan delivery and the lyrical content of her songs. The album reached No.16 in the UK charts. The song I would choose for the playlist is the third single from the album "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The Party".

I think I listened to this album a couple of times and really enjoyed it. I can picture myself now mowing he lawn with it playing in my ears. Really like it.
I thought the album was so-so on the first few listens I had but having really enjoyed this track and letting the rest of the album play I might need to revisit.

"The race for Space" by Public Service Broadcasting.

The next one on the list was also hotly anticipated, and was my first download of a new album in 2015. I had their first album and wondered how they could possibly follow it, as they'd covered subjects as diverse as Spitfires and overnight mail trains on it, but when I found out that it would be a concept album about the space race between the United States and Russia I was very excited. 'Gagarin' was released and it did not disappoint, and then when I finally got chance to listen to the album in its entirety I thought it was just fabulous - very evocative and so well put together. The song I would choose would be "Go!", the second single from the album and probably the most radio-friendly after Gagarin.

Loved the album, and 'Go' is up there with my favourites on there. It isn't in my top 5, solely because I suspected it would be in yours, but in truth. It would probably be my top album of the year.

The Gargarin track blew me away after you pointed it out, I even made my wife listen to it in the car which is a rare occurrence now everything has to be child friendly when we're together. Go is good and again I need to list to this album more. I also enjoyed tracks off their first album.

Green Lanes - Ultimate Painting

The third album is by a band that I only just discovered this year. Ultimate Painting released "(I've got the) sanctioned blues" in the summer and I quickly went to find out more about the band. I could get my hands on their first album (which was a very good listen) but when the second album followed a few weeks after then it did not disappoint. Very much my kind of slow, lethargic rock with cool lyrics, I've chosen the album opener "Kodiac" as the track for the playlist, which would incidentally have been my "brown mammal" track had that particular theme been chosen for the work CD...

Very relaxed American style music. New to me, I shall check it out.

"Are you Satisfied?" by Slaves.

The fourth one is probably my favourite of the year, full of raw energy and simplicity. Every song by them I heard was greeted with a big grin so when the album was released I knew that it would be right up my street, and it's always nice to find songs that you like even more than the ones you thought you liked the best, if you know what I mean. This album really is all killer, no filler. When I saw them at Tramlines in July, they really lived up to the album too - they could be my new favourite band.

John: Snap. I've really enjoyed this album, they featured on the blog back in March and were great for running to this year. When you're digging in there's nothing like The Hunter to kick in and make you feed off the pain "your tired and aching and the pain won't go away". 

"The Tarn Machine" by The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican

OK, I don't think you'll find my final album choice on Spotify or Apple Music, so I have a reserve album in place, but would like to record the fact that "The Tarn Machine" by The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican really was one of my albums of the year, in terms of listens but also in terms of sheer determination in the face of adversity. In order to keep busy during a year where the band couldn't continue with their incessant touring because of ill health, they took to the studio and produced some of their best work to date. The album is full of black humour and reflects the place that they were (in particular front man Scott Doonican). My favourite track is "Frisky in the jar", a true story of Scott and Amanda's visit to the IVF clinic, and if possible I can add a link to the bandcamp version of the track should it be acceptable. The album didn't chart, and comedy folk is not to everyone's taste, but the triumph of the record begs some recognition.

"Grey Tickles, Black Pressure" by John Grant

So, the final choice would be my wife's favourite album of the year and therefore well listened to by me. It's funky, dark, amusing and well put together, and I think I'll choose Sarah's favourite track "Voodoo Doll" to put on the playlist - a real interesting concept of a song and very catchy. The album reached No. 5 in the UK chart, and rightly so.

John's Top Four

Mirrors - Reverend and the Makers

This will be no surprise to people who know me or who read the blog. I've liked this Sheffield blog ever since Neil introduced them to me many years ago. However their last album didn't receive the amount of plays of previous albums and I hadn't been too hopeful for this release. Yet there seemed to be something different afoot. The Rev (Jon McClure) was talking about it being something special, something without synths, that people within their camp were describing it as the best work they'd done. I've become sceptical over the years about this kind of hyperbole. I've heard The Killers exclaim the next album will include the best song they've ever written, The Foo Fighters say that everybody who has listened to the album has been in tears. Yes you've guessed it, those albums were absolute stinkers, the worst of both their careers. However the Rev is different, he's not a born salesman like most US celebrities are or come across as being.

So the album itself is a journey or so I'm told. However that's not the beauty to me, it's the mix of catchy "bangers" mixed with more complex, lyric rich tracks that have graced previous albums but never in such quality and quantity. So do they still write guitar pop songs? They sure do but no with more depth and variety. Like the joy of feeling the seasons change you can experience different types of songs through the album yet it still feels as a piece of work when listened together.

I've already featured a lot of their material on this blog but so I'm going to choose a different track to share, Blue - a banger of a pop song that didn't even make their live set when I saw them.

Vaccines - English Graffiti

This is another band I have been a fan of for some years and was (I think) again introduced to them by Neil. I had the joy of experiencing this album like a debut album, drip fed a few tracks before being let loose of the full long player. While not reaching the same heights as their previous album, make no mistake this is a cracking album and will be stripped of tracks to go in to various playlists on my phone. 20/20 is a strong pop single from the album although I would probably say album opener Handsome is my favourite as the song pops in my head all the time. However I've had Handsome on a 3WTM playlist before so try 20/20 on for size.

Muse - Drones

Looking at my choices I think we my friends could probably have written this post for me and I think that shows how much I need to widen the amount of albums I listen to and the type of bands. However this is the strongest Muse album since Black Holes and Revelations and possibly of all time? The track I particularly enjoyed from day one is Revolt which sounds very much like The Killers from their early days.

Slaves - Are You Satisfied (see Neil's listing).

Chris’s five picks from 2015

I thought it would be easy to choose five songs which represented 2015, but it wasn’t – two or three were obvious – I almost included a couple of John and Neil’s songs (honourable mentions go to Modest Mouse – The Ground Walks with Time in a Box, and Public Service Broadcasting) but I didn’t. I also didn’t want my five tracks to be regurgitations of things I’d already written about, but some of that has been unavoidable, but there are also a couple of tracks and groups that I haven’t previously talked about. Anyway, on to the tracks …

Belle and Sebastian – The Everlasting Muse

This is probably not the most instantly likeable song on their album ‘Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance’ (which is excellent), but is one that has made an impression on me. There are sometimes songs that have an extra appeal – there must be a good phrase to express what I mean, but I don’t think I’ve quite found it yet. Anyway, I love the bass sound in this track, the melody, but the best bit for me is the change of tempo and feel in the chorus.
John: My favourite track of the five you've selected Chris.

The Unthanks – Madam

This song came on the radio (6Music) on my way home from band one evening and I found it instantly captivating. I had to find out more about it – and haven’t shared it yet. The only thing is, I’m not sure how broadly it will appeal, but there you go. The album (Mount The Air) is beautiful, and very much in the same vein as this song. Apparently they specialise in Northumbrian folk music – my knowledge of the various types of folk isn’t very comprehensive, I must say. I tend to like mellow music, but would normally steer clear of adding such a track to a playlist, but felt it should stay as it is definitely from an album that has impressed me this year. I almost opted instead for another song from the album ‘Magpie’ which is hauntingly beautiful and melancholy.

Eaves – As Old as The Grave

Blimey – well, this kind of falls into the same category as the previous track. I haven’t mentioned the ‘What Green Feels Like’ debut album produced by Eaves (Leeds based Joseph Lyons) on the blog, but it has been one of my firm favourites of the year. Again a very folky feel to the whole album which is well worth a listen. Apologies for another downbeat track, but I feel I need to include it.

Calexico – Falling From The Sky

OK – I’ve already blogged about this track earlier in the year, but I love it, and the album, and the band. For me, one of the high points of 2015 musically was finding these. I suppose I could also have gone for ‘Miles From The Sea’, which was on my short list of tracks for the ‘Hydr8ed’ CD compilation, but I think ‘Falling From The Sky’ is better suited for bringing the mood back up. ‘Edge Of The Sun’ is another great album from 2015.

Running With The Wolves – Aurora

Again – another track that I mentioned earlier in the year, but I’ve decided to include it for several reasons: Aurora is in the spotlight at the moment having provided the music for the John Lewis advert; it is a nod to my seeming obsession with ‘wolf’ songs this year; and finally, it is a track that I have played many times without tiring of, and is from the Scandinavian camp I seem to like so much.

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