With less than two days left until we are officially in 2016, here is our station manager, Niall Flynn talking about his favourite album releases of the year:
Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
Father John Misty’s sophomore solo release was a gorgeous marriage of irony and truth-telling in what the singer-songwriter has described as ‘a concept album about himself’. Misty, real name Josh Tillman, presents his biographical character as booze-soaked and lust-driven in this self-deprecating confessional – the record is one about love, but Tillman is far from celebratory. Rather, he’s bemused, frustrated, terrified – and the manner in which he illustrates these emotions fluctuates between troubling and hilarious: ‘My brain’s so awfully glad to be here for yet another mindless day’ he muses in Bored In The USA, which comes complete with canned-laughter and applause during the track’s final verse, as if to emphasise the performative nature that surrounds the album’s personal content. Aided by Tillman’s soft, tender vocals and a dreamy score, I Love You, Honeybear is a wonderfully binary record – as startling as it is pensive, as striking as it is abstract, and surrounded by a disconcerting beauty that makes it one of 2015’s most fascinating pieces of music.
Top Tracks: Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins), I Went To The Store One Day
Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too
Fresh off the back of their 2014 Mercy Prize winning debut, the Edinburgh-based hip-hop trio returned with another genre-bending exploration of modern British life. The record’s title, a line taken from the brilliantly bold Old Rock n Roll, presents the group’s problem with categorisation from the offset – and this notion leaks into the album as it surfs between pop, grunge, electronic and rap at disjointed free will. What the album lacks in melodic coherency, however, it compensates for in thematic terms – Young Fathers are angry and provocative, and these feelings never stray. Whether it’s over the slow-building bass in Shame, the melodic repetitiveness of the xylophone in 27 or the confrontational strings that liberate Old Rock n Roll, the triumvirate want you to listen to what they have to say – and there’s an awful lot on their minds. It’s unlike anything else you’ll have heard this year – and this is most definitely a good thing.
Top Tracks: Sirens, Old Rock n Roll
EL VY – Return To The Moon
2015’s most pleasant surprise saw The National’s Matt Bernigner and Brent Knopf of Ramona Falls join forces to form the indie-rock hybrid EL VY – and Return To The Moon was a glorious illustration of their respective talents. Berninger’s up to his usual tricks – amusing, devastated, and ever-eloquent in proving it. But, there’s a spring in his step – Knopf’s nimble, kaleidoscopic musical approach gives him a brand new platform to vent his worldly observations. The record’s playful – mischievous, almost: ‘I’ll be the one in the lobby in the collared f##k me shirt – the green one / I’ll be the one in the lobby in the green collared f##k me shirt – the green one’ the Ohio-born baritone teases during I’m The Man To Be, the album’s naughtiest song. But with Berninger, there’s always room for a heart-wrenching, existential crisis – and tracks such as No Time To Crank The Sun and the album’s closing track, Careless, are as stunning as they are miserable. Return To The Moon is a wonderful example of two heavyweights of their genre showcasing exactly what they’re good at. They’re having a great time, too – which just adds to the fun.
Top Tracks: Need A Friend, No Time To Crank The Sun
A$AP Rocky – LONG. LAST. A$AP
‘I’m claiming ownership of my legacy, look at it: At Long Last A$AP. A-L-L-A. Like slang for Allah. It’s the return of the God MC’ Rocky revealed in an interview with GQ prior to the album’s release. ‘I was named after Rakim, and I’m finally facing what it means: I was born to do this s##t, and I hope I get to do it for a very long time.’ 2015 was a momentous year for hip-hop, and ALLA felt like Rocky claiming the mantel – mature, self-aware and, judging by the prior quote, really quite confident. Coming in at 18 tracks and 66 minutes long, the record is a grand affair; featuring samples from Southern Blues to the Psychedelic, artists ranging from Kanye West to Rod Stewart and a plethora of producers that include Danger Mouse, Mark Ronson and even Rocky himself. Despite the eclectic mixture of influence, the album never strays – lyrically, A$AP Mob’s poster boy is much smarter, and ensures that each track remains under his umbrella of influence. At Long Last A$AP is the album’s title, but could just as easily qualify as the listener’s reaction. After years of banging at the door, 2015 saw Rocky finally enter hip-hop’s elite. I hope he gets to do it for a very long time, too.
Top Tracks: Jukebox Joints, Back Home
Slaves – Are You Satisfied?
PUNK! SHOUTING! MERCURY PRIZE NOMINATON! Tunbridge Wells duo Slaves announced their arrival in 2015 with their gloriously entertaining debut. ‘Cheer up London! It’s not that bad! / Cheer up London, you’re already dead and it’s not that bad!’ singer/drummer Isaac sniggers over his bandmate Lawrie’s dislocated guitar – Slaves aren’t afraid to have their say on contemporary British society, but they’re closer to Scroobius Pip than they are Sleaford Mods as a state-of-the-nation act. Flamboyantly minimal in its delivery, Are You Satisfied manages to stay carefree whilst remaining relevant – operating on the periphery, yet still being heartily embraced by the mainstream. Essentially, it’s bloody good fun. Short, snappy and riff-riddled – Slaves were one of the big British winners of 2015. The question remains as to where they’ll go from here, but if Are You Satisfied is anything to go by, it’ll be loud. Very, very loud.
Top Tracks: The Hunter, Feed The Mantaray