27 Dec 2015

ALXNDR / RWND (EP review)


ALXNDR, a three piece alt rock band from Newcastle have debuted their EP RNWD a small however promising collection of what ALXNDR love to create, 90s infused, summery, indie-pop. Some may argue that the band have a similar sound to The 1975's earlier stuff.

The band are already some-what of a success, bagging a BBC introducing live session and a huge social media fanbase, not to mention their previous tour which included several sold out shows.

The first song their release RWND is Drive a fantastic, laid-back approach on classic indie songs, the simplicity of the track enables us to listen further and perhaps subconsciously analyse lyrics that give us a greater understanding of the track's lyrical themes of escapism.

Second, is The Pick Up, which again is relaxed however still amazing, it is clear that ALXNDR's sound is meant for those summer nights. Other tracks off the debut include 'Gemini' a gentle love song, Four A.M a fresh burst of indie fun, which include hooks and riffs that compliment the general mood of the song perfectly, and You and Me which has a slight hint of psychedelia in breaks throughout; I feel this works well contrasted against the indie pop impression the band have prevailed in notoriously.

ALXNDR are overall brilliant, the EP is rich with what fans of the genre the band play love, fun, excitement and tainted love.

The band will be back celebrating their successes with a headline tour in the new year.
Be sure to catch a show!

7.8/10

(written by ruby kenwright)

24 Dec 2015

ENTRODUCING #4 - Loaded


The fourth instalment of my column where I talk about a new band for you to get obsessed with is upon us, and I'm going to home in on London-based psych outfit Loaded.

Primary exponents in that kind of heaving, pulsing psychedelic music you generally associate with 80s fuzz heads Spacemen 3 and Loop, the band have made their name doing a stellar job supporting renowned psychedelic bands like Vacant Lots and Telegram at their London dates.

CHASTITY BELT: JUST A COUPLE OF SLUTS

Chastity Belt are a Seattle based indie rock band that have grown in popularity over the past year, and have quickly become one of my favourite bands in the whole wide world. Rumbling basslines, shimmering guitar parts and deadpan, often wryly witty vocals, they're the perfect indie rock band, and with their sophomore record Time To Go Home they put out one of our top three records of 2015. To round off the year, I thought I'd try and interview a few of my favourite bands to round off a really great year for the blog, so I put Julia Shapiro, the band's frontwoman, through a few questions...

why i am obsessed with cassette tapes



Little hard plastic cases with reels of wafer thin black tape. Cassettes are fucking weird. They were introduced after vinyl, but seem so much more retro already. As a medium, they're flawed in so many ways, and I'll get that over and done with now because slagging them off is not what I'm here to do - they warp really quite easily, you can't be sure of their condition til you play them, their sound quality is pretty fucking awful, you've got a lot of rewinding to do if you want to listen to them practically, and you'll spend most your time with a pencil reeling the tape back in to place when it comes lose. And, bar a few good guys out there, you can't get the damn things anywhere. But, y'know, they're a great, great way to listen to music, rightfully dearly beloved by increasing numbers of teens that weren't alive to experience them first time they were a big deal.

In the least cliché way possible, cassette tapes are among the most enjoyable ways you can listen to music. For a start, the sound. It's far from perfect. Cassette tapes' sound quality is really far from studio quality or what you're used to with any kinda digital format. It's defective, I guess. But the sound defects in tape aren't horrific, or ugly like they are on a scratched CD - it just kind of fades from near perfect studio quality, to a sort of warped, fuzzy, vague, homogenous noise. Which, when it's not totally fucked, is kinda endearing.

As well as that, what makes tapes the most fun and involving medium is the fact you can record over them, and you can record WHATEVER YOU WANT on blank ones. Make mixtapes. Actual mixtapes. And it is more impractical than making an iTunes playlist, then burning it to a disc, but the fact you've got to listen to each song one by one whilst pressing buttons every 3 minutes makes the process so much more rewarding. Then listening to it back is always really quite rewarding too. There really isn't actually anything as nice as making yourself a really nice tape.

Also - rectangular cover art. Blocky cuboid cases. These two things just make owning the physical artefact a bit more FUN. They're not as compact as CDs, no, but you can hold them in one hand with the cover art still being big enough for you to enjoy (I realise at this point I'm rambling on about really lame things). What's not to love about the general aesthetic of a cassette tape?

Finally, they're growing in popularity again, amongst lame music geeks like me, so more and more new albums are available in the format of the cassette tape. Cassette Store Day is becoming increasingly popular, and even though it will probably never have anywhere near the following of RSD, it's still a unique event that gives you an increasingly choice of new music on cassette.

It's not the most practical format, or the best sounding, or the most readily available, but the cassette tape is so iconic of DIY culture, and is so rewarding to collect, listen to and there's nothing quite like treating yourself to a handmade compilation. I love the cassette tape, for its pros and its cons, and I couldn't be any more hopeful about a cassette tape revival.

(written by calum cashin)

23 Dec 2015

A Bunch of Dutch and Belgian You Should Absolutely Check Out


Most Dutch music honestly isn’t very good. You shouldn’t really be sad that some of our most popular acts like Kensington (toothless arena rock with a knack for huge choruses but little else) or Dotan (a one-man Imagine Dragons, but only slightly less insufferable than that sounds) haven’t made it over to the shores of the UK yet. Yet, there are some excellent, but more obscure, bands out there. Here is a rather long and rambling list of those, including some from our neighbours Belgium, who have always been a bit ahead of us in terms of music.

Balthazar
A Belgian five-piece whose music is honestly hard to describe. Imagine if post-punk and indie rock had a baby and that baby sounded absurdly chill. Also, with some more violins. Lots of hauntingly gorgeous violins. Some of their songs may sound a tad dull on first listens, but they almost always contain a beautiful hook that assures they won’t ever leave your head after a few plays. They are also absolutely brilliant
Choice cut: Any Suggestions https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj4hXSLUNiI

dEUS
The oldest band on this list and probably the most well-known. This band from Antwerp made a splash with the song Suds & Soda in 1994 and have built up a steady fanbase in some parts of Europe since. All of their seven studio albums are well worth checking out, but in my opinion they hit their pinnacle with 1999’s The Ideal Crash, which marked a turning point from the frantic chaos found on their first albums to the more melancholic vibes on their later records.
Choice cut: Instant Street https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBRLSHI6Gpc

John Coffey
You might have seen this viral video of a singer from a hardcore band catching and drinking a beer while crowdsurfing. That band is John Coffey. I was there when that moment happened and that whole gig was one of the greatest I have ever been to. John Coffey are indeed a post-hardcore band, but most of their songs are very melodic and catchy. They have only released two albums in their current formation, but are quickly becoming one of the most popular loud bands in the Netherlands.
Choice cut: Broke Neck https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HGFaLjYslQ

Monomyth
For fans of bands like Mogwai. Very long spacey rock tracks, loaded with killer riffs and epic climaxes. They have released two albums so far which both contain no more than five tracks, but still manage to clock in at around an hour. Their entire discography can be found on the band's official YouTube channel, so there’s really not an excuse to not check them out.
Choice cut: Ark-M https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1ecVd6lzOM

Raketkanon
Raketkanon are a band from Ghent, Belgium who make punk songs that are all sung in a made-up phonetic language. All their songs titles are people’s names and their two albums so far are titled RKTKN #1 and RKTKN #2. Weird stuff, but pretty great. Their live shows are reportedly amazing (I haven’t had the chance to see them myself yet) and I think they occasionally stop by the UK, so check them out if you can!
Choice cut: Florent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8LU5ACDwJk

De Staat
My favorite band from this list. This five-piece from the modestly huge Dutch city of Nijmegen, De Staat make joyously catchy alternative rock, sounding somewhat like a dancier Queens of the Stone Age. Frontman Torre Florim’s unique drawl might take some getting used to, but it’s a huge part of their unique sound. Their next album O drops in January and I couldn’t be more excited. Lead single Peptalk sounds like a culmination of everything that came before it and that makes it the perfect start for any newcomer.
Choice cut: Peptalk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNCV9RsRd_k

Triggerfinger
‘The loudest band from Antwerp’; Triggerfinger are a sleazy, loud three-piece. Their cover of I Follow Rivers by Lykke Li gave them mainstream exposure in their home country and the Netherlands, but it’s not really representative for the rest of their oeuvre due to being very soft and in my opinion, not very good. The rest of their output, however, is very good. Their last record, By Absence of the Sun, is in my opinion their best so far, containing a brilliant combination of riffs and hooks.
Choice cut: Black Panic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wN2a6hvWnR8

Bonus: De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig
This will probably not make a lick of sense to non-native speakers, but De Jeugd are such a fascinating and unique part of the Dutch music scene that I had to include them. This hip-hop group is often hailed as a prime innovator of the Dutch language, seeing as their lyrics have introduced entire new words and concepts to it. The often hilarious lyrics combined with the sometimes LCD Soundsystem-y beats have made them a live staple at almost every huge Dutch festival. Below is the track De Formule, which has a hook that should be able to transcend the language barrier, followed by a brilliant explosion of noise after four minutes.
Choice cut: De Formule https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgDplQ-nQ_Yc

(written by Reinier van der Zouw)

ENTRODUCING #3 - Papir

They've been going a lot longer than most the bands featured on this column, but primary exponents of Scandanavian noise Papir are another band I just had to put in here after hearing their album IIII, which I'm imagining is maybe their fourth studio album as the record before this one was called III.

22 Dec 2015

Twenty fifteen's best cover art

This year has been swell for albums, and nicely enough it's been bloody good for album artwork. Great artwork quite often can be the reason I buy a physical vinyl copy of an album rather than settle for the digital version, so I thought that along with our albums of the year I'd put up my favourite album artworks in a little gallery, which you can scroll through. There are illustrated covers (probably my favourite), artsy photography, and everything in between, all of which enhances the experience of listening to the music... Starting with Grimes' incredible anime-inspired cover, working through to the ethereal Mercury Rev fairytale album art, and the dark conceptual photography of Drenge's album sleeve, have a look at the album artworks we've been digging at Vapour Trail...
























(words by calum cashin)

ENTRODUCING #2 - The Velcro Hooks

In the second instalment over-enthusiastic posts on new bands over the Christmas break, I thought I'd put forward Velcro Hooks - a Bristol noise band with an aversion to loud, thrashy and droning noises.

☆ Lazarus by David Bowie and why the new album is gonna be incredible ☆


There aren't really all too many post-Scary Monsters Bowie albums I'm into, but the ones I genuinely really like are the ones where he's going out of his way to push boundaries and create something different. 1. Outside and The Next Day (especially the deluxe edition with the James Murphy remix on it) are the two records that I feel are his best since then, but I think Blackstar (out Jan 8th) might be able to even top those.

The lead single and title track is a 10 minute experimental sprawl, of which my feelings on I'm sure you already know - I love it, and think it's one of the songs of 2015. Its genuinely one of the most interesting pop songs I've heard in such a long time, and everything from the extensive instrumentation to the incredible audiovisual feat of the video makes this BRILLIANT.

Then the second track from the record was unveiled; Lazarus. Surely Bowie can't have pulled two brilliant oddballs out the bag, rite? WRONG. More of those sensual-yet-sinister saxes subsume you, drones and crashes in the background create a distinct atmosphere and, whilst lyrics are much less cryptic than on Blackstar, Bowie's elderly croon fits so perfectly with everything going on musically.

The Next Day is a sweltering pop record, not afraid to venture into the odd, but by going full-on experimental here, David Bowie seems to be on track to release his most innovative and crucial record in decades. More exciting than Christmas - January 8th - I'm with David Bowie, aren't you?

☆    ☆    ☆

(written by calum cashin)

21 Dec 2015

ENTRODUCING #1 - The Goa Express

Over the course of Christmas and New Year I'm going to write a bit about lots of bands you probably haven't heard about, in the hope that everyone will find a new obsession; the first of these is The Goa Express, a 5 piece that make authentic psychedelic garage revival music.

5 favourite record labels of 2015

Record labels are something that - since watching High Fidelity for the first time and a Creation records documentary in the same evening - I've always paid the utmost attention to, aspiring to one day have a modest one of my own. So this year, I've had a think about what my favourite labels are, and which of those have done me the most favours in 2015 in terms of brightening up my record collection. Here's five labels that have made my year...


1. SUB POP (and it's Seattle-subsidary Hardly Art)
Seattle label Sub Pop might still be most notorious for being the place that put out Nirvana's debut record (Bleach is still their best selling release), but it's 2015 output has actually been amazing. First things first, Sub Pop put out a number of albums that made our albums of the year list - Beach House's Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, Father John Misty's I Love You Honeybear and Sleater-Kinney's No Cities To Love (all fairly obvious choices) - which is always a positive, but in the form of Strange Wilds' Subjective Concepts they've also put out one of the most promising debuts of the year.

Sub Pop are also in charge of Hardly Art records, which is a smaller label mainly pumping out albums by bands from Seattle. This has been my absolute #1 in 2015, and I've only really lumped it in with Sub Pop because they'd be my #1 and #2. Hardly Art put out Chastity Belt's Time To Go Home, one of my favourite albums in the world right now, as well as the highly acclaimed Agent Intellect album by dark rock band Protomartyr (who you've probably heard a few times if you listen to Iggy Pop's radio show). Also they put out Colleen Green's I Want To Grow Up which is a really great, attitudey grunge-pop records that basically sounds like what Courtney Love would sound like if she was more into candyfloss than she was cocaine.  Some album I've really loved this year have come from these labels, and you should give them all a listen.

2.SACRED BONES
Sacred Bones is an NYC label that deals in psychedelia and other oddball genres, and I think looking back at their release list this year, I'm going to assume its their best ever; Moon Duo's latest record, Moonlust by The Holydrug Couple, Follakzoid's III, Jenny Hval's stunning Apocalypse, girl and Marching Church's debut album. It's a psychedelic list you just can't argue with, with my favourites probably being the primal groove of III and the celestial dreaming that The Holydrug Couple's album propels you into (incidentally, both these artists are from Chile, which is cool - I've heard a lot about Chile's psych scene). It's definitely not a stretch of the imagination to say that the most interesting guitar music released this year has come from this label, and with their distinctive stylised sleeves, I can't wait to get more of them next year...

3.BELLA UNION
A month or two ago I met the founder and operator of this label, Simon Raymonde (formerly of the Cocteau Twins I might add),  and he was every bit as cool as this label... Bella Union is next on the list for the sheer volume of brilliant, magical or just plain solid albums they've put out this year; maybe a list of these will suffice as to why they absolutely kick ass as a label. They released Beach House's two masterworks in the UK, as well as Mercury Rev's Light In You, Ezra Furman's Perpetual Motion People, PINS' Wild Nights and John Grant's Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. That is one hell of a back catalogue, ay? Bar the John Grant album, all of those are pretty far up our end of year lists, and each album I've heard from this label in 2015 has been wonderful. And having just received a promo of the MONEY album out in January, I'm sure 2016 will rule for Bella Union too.

4. ROUGH TRADE
In the pantheon of indie labels, Rough Trade is always there or thereabouts, being pretty fundamental in birthing, sustaining and revitalising indie music since it's 70s inception. This year, their releases were stellar as ever, including some of my favourite indie albums of the year. Girl Band's Holding Hands With Jamie was every bit as scorching as it promised to be - post-punk mayhem, about as fresh as guitar music got this year. Other great albums included Micachu & the Shapes' Good Bad Happy Sad and jennylee's right on!, which are another two really great albums, and Parquet Courts weirdo Monastic Living EP came out there too... Palma Violets' follow up to their 180 album, which is quite divisive, came out here too, but I'm not here to pass comment on it.


5. HEAVENLY RECORDINGS
London's coolest indie label, last year I'd think maybe they were my favourite label of the year, with near classic records like TOY's Join the dots, The Wytches' Annabel Dream Reader and King Gizzard's I'm In Your Mind Fuzz that couldn't quite be topped this year. However, 2015 was also bloody good, with the best albums they put out probably being the second Stealing Sheep album, Y Dydd Olaf by Gwenno, and the Hooton Tennis Club debut being the picks of the bunch. As always, I think Heavenly will be ones to keep a really close eye on in 2016...



Obviously these are just a few of the great labels making a splash in 2015, and if you're interested in these labels and more visit the Indie Label Market next time it's in town (and do all you can to support them). Oh, and if you're one of these labels reading this, that might want to employ an overenthusiastic student to make cups of tea, drop us an email...

(written by calum cashin)

Parquet Courts / Monastic Living (EP review)


Monastic Living is a concept EP/mini-album - New York hotshots Parquet Courts are seeing how far they can push the boundaries of their sound. It's abrasive, somewhat unlistenable in parts, which makes it so much more appealing. The opening track 'No, No, No!' is the only song on the 9 track EP with any vocals, 'I don't wanna be a poet' Savage screeches over heavy drums and a jagged feedback fuelled guitar riff. The whole EP is so punk rock; the band have thrown away the rule book and just made noise, furious noise.

Monastic Living I is close to what we're used to from Parquet Courts but still so far removed; but it's still so damn exciting. The whole thing is evident of a band who are just making music because it's fun and they want to experiment, and there's a blatant disregard for anyone else's opinion coursing through the veins of these tracks, especially in Vow of Silence, which is six minutes of structureless sound. The tracks verge on shoegaze and noise-rock, churning guitars swell until suddenly everything falls silent and the next brazen track begins.

Prison Conversion is the closing track, with a hefty baseline and eight minute long slow burn into an abyss of avant-garde post-punk commotion. This EP is intriguing, it allows us to hear a band just trying things out in a studio and then saying 'fuck it, let's just release this.' I like 'Monastic Listening', it has an urgency about it, it's full of discord and chaos, which is what Parquet Courts are about. There are some really stand out tracks that make me wonder what on earth are these guys about to do next? Yes, it's a tough listen - but that's the point. Maybe you're not meant to enjoy it, just meant to appreciate the creativity and passion of it.

7.8/10

(written by rachel tindall)

20 Dec 2015

Archy Marshall / A New Place 2 Drown (album review)


Without any moniker, Archy Marshall, along with his older brother Jack Marshall, have created the three part project A New Place 2 Drown which includes; a book which showcases the poetry and artwork of Archy and Jack, a 12 track soundtrack from Archy and a short film made by a collaboration with Will Robson-Scott.

The album featuring new music from Archy Marshall (King Krule, Zoo Kid, DJ JD Sports, Edgar The Beatmaker) is very different from any of his other projects. Similarly to how 90s hip hop reflected the dangers of America in their music, how the Manchester scene reflected the gloominess of Northern England, A New Place 2 Drown reflects the dreariness of South London. But by no means is this album dreary - tying in elements of trip hop, post punk and trap beats, the tracks on A New Place 2 Drown are diverse.

From the very beginning the album is really atmospheric with the hazey chords and synths in Any God Of Yours and the distorted vocals in New Builds.Unlike King Krule’s work there are not many definite melodies or guitar riffs however there are still clever lyrics on top of all the complex drum tracks and sound layers. On tracks like Swell, Arise Dear Brother and Sex With Nobody there are very prominent insights into Archy’s mind, like his nonchalant outlook on romance in Arise Dear Brother: “Even though you fucked him I don’t really give a shit”.

Ammi Ammi with Jamie Isaac is a highlight with its laid back downtempo feel. Differently to the other tracks on the album, there is a solid chorus in this track with the repetition of “we just want to let things roll by” where there is more exploration of pitch than the usual baritone murmurs.

Archy Marshall has professed a love for artists of old school hip-hop like Wu-Tang Clan,Snoop Dogg and Nas, and tracks on this album like Buffed Sky, The Sea Liner MK 1 and Empty Vessels get closer to this style than King Krule ever did. As the album progresses the mood gets increasingly sullen and smokey reaching into darker sides of both Archy Marshall’s creativity and feelings.

Finishing the album on an impressive 7 minute song, Thames Water, this track includes all the elements in the album. With beats that allude to the area's budding grime sceneThames Water ties the album off nicely.

If you go into listening to this album expecting another 6 Feet Beneath The Moon you won’t be overjoyed, however, this is a different project to King Krule so rightly Archy Marshall has explored different styles, techniques and genres. Marshall has not left behind some key features of King Krule like the vocal style or relaxed drum tracks.
A New Place 2 Drown is quite unique and interesting especially alongside the book and film. Personally I really like the album for its individuality, and it was certainly a pleasant surprise that he went in new directions from King Krule (but equally a follow up to 6 Feet Beneath The Moon would be appreciated).

8.0/10

The film can be watched and the book purchased on
http://www.anewplace2drown.com

(written by isobel mcleod)

10 KEXP radio sessions you need to watch

KEXP_apparel_01
Unlike most local radio stations, people give a shit about KEXP, a listener powered Seattle station. Not only that, but people all over the world give a shit about KEXP, a station completely dedicated to bringing the people of the internet video sessions of upcoming and established alternative artists. For years now, it's been bringing us KEXP sessions, ususally 4 or 5 songs long and featuring a bit of dialogue, and if you're looking for time to kill, it's always an idea to just put one on and fall in love with the band.

So because of my love of this Seattle station, I got thinking; what are the best sessions? What should everyone see? So I put together this list for you to work your way through as and when it suits you.

DIIV - 2012
NYC dream-pop band weren't the fiercely followed alt powerhouses they're viewed as now when KEXP roped them in for a session, but I think this shows that they always had a lot of potential right from the get go. Look out especially for the drawn out version of Air Conditioning, which you'd really like to think will creep its way back into the 2016 setlists like it did first time I saw 'em.


Grimes - 2012
Visions era Claire Boucher was a completely mesmerising artist on record, but like a lot of artists her art begged the question; could this be recreated live? If so, could just one person do it? Obviously that wouldn't detract from the artistic majesty of the finished product, but it was an interesting thought. With this, the Canadian producer showed she had the talent, the equipment and the know how to churn out especially mesmerising versions of the stuff on record. Truly incredible to watch.


Parquet Courts - 2013
The station's had this lot on a few times, but nothing quite matched their SXSW performance live for KEXP at a Texan bicycle store. Incessant rockabilly-meets-math rock bangers just flow and flow, with some of the tightest playing you'll see in an indie band really hitting you hard. They're still stellar, Parquet Courts, but when the material is 80% Light Up Gold nothing could have stopped them.


Ought - 2015
Montreal post-punk band Ought are the hottest thing in the world right now, if you're a pretentious art student that thinks too much about life, WHICH I AM. This session features a really incredible version of existential dancealong Beautiful Blue Sky and Dinosaur Jr-meets-Talking Heads quirk-pop number Men For Miles. It sees one of the coolest  bands there is at their best.


Dilly Dally - 2015
My first introduction to a band I'd only really read about on blogs slash social media came through KEXP's session with Dilly Dally - a gnarly thrashy indie band fronted by powerful frontwoman Katie Monks and her voice that could smash through glass. This session basically showcases so much energy, and flags up Monks' gravelly voice and the band's ability to string together a brilliantly danceable melody


Chastity Belt - 2015
Again, this was my first introduction to a band who've gone on to become one of my absolute favourites. This session just puts across everything I love about the band Chastity Belt; the Seattle scenesters seem ridiculously cool, showcase some brilliant songwriting, and  talk to the host about feminist issues; WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE? After seeing this I went to Rough Trade, gave the boys there fifteen of my finest pounds and returned with this band's latest album in it's aesthetically gorgeous glory.


 Arctic Monkeys - 2011
[the 9 y/o indie kid-in-the-making whose favourite album was Whatever People Say... speaks in a disappointed tone] Alex Turner is now someone I really can't cope with these days, and his sleazy coke opuses are so far away from what appeals to me that I just don't care, but goddammit, this session. From the promo tour to the Suck It And See record, this shows the raw talent the frontman has; a beautiful few cuts from that album acoustically, if this doesn't move you at least a little you're probably lying to seem cooler than me.


The War On Drugs - 2014
Again, another artist I'm not crazy about, but in this intimate setting the space-age Springsteening of critical darlings War On Drugs is something that you've just gotta lay off and respect... Here, the band's sound is meaningful, and Granduciel's voice has a lot more emotion than it does on the Lost In The Dream album that no one really shut up about last year. An Ocean In Between The Waves cuts through me like a dagger, and Red Eyes is just really a banger - this is a solid session, and I'd give it a listen even if you're cynical about the band.


Ride - 2015
This little acoustic set the band did a few months back is really something you should see. It's one of the first Ride performances you can catch online if you were unlucky/stupid enough to miss them on their tours this year. They do Vapour Trail, they do Twisterella, hell - they even do Only Now, which is probably actually my highlight. This is just essential, ESSENTIAL I SAY.


Bully - 2015
I know most this list is sessions from this year, but in all fairness that is when I discovered the station. The last one on the list is Bully, who put out a wonderful debut this year with Feels Like. Whilst the album was being released, a lot was made of the fact that fiery frontwoman Alicia Bognanno was a wizard in the studio, so maybe the punch they pack in session knocked me for six... Here, the highlight is probably the rocky version of Trying, although this is a good watch all the way through.


 Big thank you to KEXP for existing. You are the good guys. There's an app you can download to listen, and here's their website.

(written by calum cashin)

19 Dec 2015

There's Just One Thing About David Bowie's Blackstar That Really Concerns Me


10 minutes of sprawling futuristic jazz crammed into a classic Bowie allegory, David Bowie's 10 minute comeback single knocked me for six, and I'm sure it wooed countless others. It's probably his most innovative 21st century work to date, and if you needed any proof that the man is still a godlike genius, transcending all humanity, then it chips in to that.

But there's just a few things concerning me that cluster up to one big anxiety - is David Bowie singing this as someone knowing he's going to die soon?

The Thin White Duke has said nay to any chance of a tour in the future, which maybe points to health concerns, which is why I added this point to this bit of the post. This is obviously bad news whatever happens, because it means none of us are ever going to see Bowie live, but added to the lyrical content of Blackstar, its video, and the fact that Bowie has probably taken more drugs, had more sex and done more rock 'n' roll than any of us could ever imagine, it flags up a general concern that our boy Bowie might not be in the best shape.

Blackstar's lyrical content is as follows; a character (referred to solely as 'he') is described, before being depicted as someone becoming a god - immortalised, etc. "Something happened on the day he died," he sings, implying that the song's character reached godlike power in death. Kinda cool I guess. Then you look at the video, and there's all these allusions to the wayward spaceman Major Tom, an alter ego of Bowie, as the camera pinpoints the Major's skull whilst Bowie sings about this transcendency. And it's noted in the videos comments and on forums too; this song talks about Major Tom becoming a god.

Upon realising this, I guess I extended the meaning of this to Bowie, himself, becoming a figure of godlike stature upon death. Not something beyond the realms of reason if you ask me. I mean, obviously these are only lyrics, open to interpretation, but it's my hunch that it's a premature elegy from Bowie, for himself, disguised as one for Major Tom. I think. Maybe. Either that, or it's just a song.

For someone as self aware as Bowie though, I think that Blackstar might be a little more than a throwaway comeback single. It has everything, but I think there's a bit more to it than maybe there seems at first. But the idea of David Bowie being completely mortal is something that just haunts me about this. Good day to you all.



The Blackstar album is out Jan 8th, and features the title track as well as newly unveiled Lazarus. Exciting stuff.

(incoherently rambled by calum cashin)

Wrap your ears around Hartlepool daydreamers GUFRA


It’s a rare occurrence that on the first listen to a song I instantly fall in love with it. Yet as Live Slowly by the indie 4-piece band GUFRA played out of my laptop, I felt as if I’d already heard it over 100 times already.

Opening with a similar sound as Bombay Bicycle Club’s Always Like This, the band then leap in with two memorable guitar riffs played over each other the track to building up and layering itself instrumentally. Enter Ste McGrother’s crisp and chilled out vocals into the mix, and Live Slowly is taken to a whole new level. The relaxed lyrics fit perfectly over the dreamy guitars, making me yearn to be staring out of a car window in the middle of summer (as all the best songs do). With catchy and repetitive lyrics of ‘only time will show, what I already know’ and ‘Oh live slowly’ GUFRA have created a song which will be stuck in your head for hours on end.

To finish the track off the Hartlepool lads up their game and drift into a tranquil and laid back slacker guitar solo, something not many bands would have the courage to attempt on only their third track. GUFRA’s twitter bio may say ‘shit indie band’, but as far as im concerned they are far from it.



(written by jess fleming)

the 5 best EPs of 2015

EPs are one of life's simple pleasures; like an album, but an album you can play at the right speed and still be finished with in quarter of an hour. Although they're kind of overlooked, like think back to the last time you heard someone talk about the 'greatest EP of all time', great EPs are almost certainly the most satisfying stopgap between great albums, so for our first end of year list here's a look at this year's best EP releases. We'll start with #1 for a change, because they're only EPs and that, and whoever cared that much about the 'greatest EPs'?

#1 THE WYTCHES - THUNDER LIZARD'S REPRIEVE
Fresh from releasing one of 2014's great debuts, The Wytches came back faster and angrier for their first release since Annabel Dream Reader came out. Kicking off with the visceral Wastybois, a kind of barnstorming psychobilly (emphasis on the psycho) track, it takes the Brighton trio into territory even more dark than that explored on songs like Burn Out The Bruise and Gravedweller. The EP's other highlights include DADFAC#, which is an instrumental grave-loomer that - 1 minute from its end - takes an apocalyptic turn for the worse, and If not for the money, which is a slower number. This record is, in my eyes, the best thing released so far by one of my absolute favourite few bands of the last few years.

#2 SUNFLOWER BEAN - SHOW ME YOUR SEVEN SECRETS
New York dreampunk newcomers Sunflower Bean have really caught the eyes and the imagination of the music press and indie kids alike. When they first came about, I was thinking; "hey, this guys might be the heir to DIIV's throne as Brooklyn's best shoegaze band if DIIV don't release some bloody new music soon", but even after DIIV have brought out new music, you've got to feel like Sunflower Bean are just going to be so much better than them. This record is their longest release, and the spiralling Somebody Call A Doctor, the woozy Tame Impala and the lethargic Bread are all more than enough proof that Sunflower Bean's debut, out Feb 5th, will be a really great album. But for now, this EP is one of the year's most top drawer records and has been on my stereo non stop for months.

#3 THE VRYLL SOCIETY - PANGEA
Who'd have thought it, eh? When they first arrived, I'll be the first to admit that this band really didn't wow me, as they seemed to be everywhere all at once and they only had one (albeit decent-ish) song up online. But low and behold, about a year down the line, having seen them 3 or 4 times, The Vryll Society have, especially with this EP, blossomed into a transcendent baggy band that have a universal psychedelic appeal. Pangea's the first (I'm sure it won't be the last) great record of their career, and through combining a Stone Roses swagger with a celestial Slowdive influence, songs like Coshh and Air with all their swagger would quite literally put Ian Brown and co to shame. I don't know about you, but I'd take a Vrylls gig at The Joiners over the Ethiad gigs any day...

#4 PALMS AND PELICANS - SUNGAZE
Very few bands manage to seamlessly blend the ethereal tones of shoegaze with out and out pop anthems, but Palms and Pelicans are pretty much the leaders of the field in that respect. Mattea McKinnon and Jack Lawrence's twin vocals compliment each other so well on some really gorgeous, crisp dream pop numbers. Unbelievable is a tender twinkling number, whilst Turn Your Back - probably the highlight - is a Disintergration-era left hook that Robert Smith would have loved to have written. Palms and Pelicans are maybe one of Hampshire's hottest prospects, and this is an EP that is really fun, really poppy, and occasionally beautiful.

#5 SKINNY GIRL DIET - RECLAIM YOUR LIFE
London based riot grrrl three-piece Skinny Girl Diet have seemingly come out of nowhere this year, and this is the release that put the band on the musical map. Silver Spoons is a gunslinging belter that sees the frontwoman Delilah Holiday venomously singing about the aspirations of the working classes, whilst hammering out some guitar riffs that are basically the missing link between the punk rock of the Pistols and the euphoria fuelled fuzz of Supergrass. The other two tracks Wasted Smile and Fix Me are gems too, channeling the likes of Bikini Kill's guitar thrash bombardments and Courtney Love's lethargic voice.

Special mentions - other EPs we've loved in 2015
Juneau - Into The Mouth Of The Wolf - vivid teenage folk. duo paint evocative pictures with strong lyrics and fingerpicked guitars
Mac DeMarco - Another One - another solid addition to MD's discography, dreamy, beachy, personal
Battery Hens - Guts - angry angry southerners with low down dirty grunge riffing
Tuff Love - Dregs - snotty, gritty Scottish indie rock
Spring King - They're Coming After You - tight bouncy indie rock that yields one of our songs of the year in 'City'
Parquet Courts - Monastic Living - America's whitest (yet coolest) garage sensations are back, and this time they've been listening exclusively to The Fall since they last made music
Dorje - Catalyst - solid 5 song heavy rock EP that ticks all the right boxes
Sundara Karma - EPI - with this record indie teenagers found a new favourite band - wonderful songwriting
Ty Segall - Ty Rex - scuzz rock kingpin delivers on a load of Marc Bolan covers - what's not to love?
G.L.O.S.S - Demo - rallying spokespeople for the trans community, G.L.O.S.S are essential
The Japanese House - Pools to bathe in - dreamy, dreamy singer-songwriter perfection

(written by calum cashin)

(written by calum cashin)

18 Dec 2015

Dorje / Catalyst (EP review)


After taking what could be described as ‘a little while’ to hone their sound and feel, Brighton based rockers Dorje release their first extended EP to acclaim and chart positions, which seemed unfathomable before it’s release. There is so much I could talk about with this band, but let’s skip all the stuff about frontman Rob Chapman working for the UK’s most reputable guitar shop as well as owning his own guitar company etc. etc. and keep it short and sweet because in reality, you should get 3 lines into this review, stop reading and go and listen to it.

If you are a fan of intricate and carefully crafted riffs owing influence to grunge, prog and metal amongst endless other genres, then this band is for you. But to get one thing straight- this is not a metal record. It has a heavy feel and features extremely technically proficient musicians but in a way, which is accessible and will drive the catchy hooks and huge choruses into your head mercilessly- which leads to what I would describe as a dark and heavy brand of alternative rock before anything else.

The highlight on the 5 song record is All, a wonderfully crafted effort which is like a showroom for Chapman’s impressive vocal range. The sheer amount of parts in all the tracks crushes any sense of repetitiveness but this one stands out specifically as the melodies are beautiful and the gritty vocals do a stellar job of portraying a range of emotions.

The production on the record is also second to none, especially when you consider the band did it all themselves albeit in a top studio. Interesting vocal effects and extra-terrestrial guitar wizardry make this EP stand out from almost anything else I’ve heard this year, despite the fact that I’m not a Metal nor a Progressive fan.

Dorje are living proof that you don’t need a label or a huge budget to be successful in the music industry and embarked on a mammoth UK tour over the last month.

8.5/10

(written by Oscar Sault)

16 Dec 2015

A playlist of Elliott Smith live versions to break your heart



I must have mentioned more than once that Elliott Smith is almost certainly my favourite singer-songwriter, and his body of work is something that never ceases to amaze me. For that reason, I was overwhelmed when I found a soundcloud page dedicated to 'Elliott Smith Essentials' a few weeks back - it's a page that gives you a load of rare cuts, live versions and session versions of some of the greatest songs ever written.

Due to the fact that there's about 40 songs on there, I made a playlist of my favourite 15 or 16, so sit down with a cup of tea and listen to the incredible talent of one of music's great lost talents. My favourites from here are probably the versions of Angeles, the obscure version of Miss Misery and the fucking haunting version of Needle in the hay.

Put lovingly into a playlist just the right size of a playlist by me, you can find the best of Elliott Smith's live playlist right below and stream it in full - the tracklisting is below;

Side #1
 1. No Name #1, 1998
2. Thirteen (Big Star cover), 1996
3. Miss Misery (2 Meter session version), 1998
4. Everything Means Nothing To Me (Live on the Jon Brion show), 2000
5. Speed Trials (electric version), 1998
6. Waltz #2, 1999
7. St Ides Heaven, 1998

Side #2
1. Angeles, 1998
2. Between the Bars, 1998
3. Needle in the Hay, 1998
4. Baby Britain (acoustic studio version), 1999
5. Roman Candle, 1998
6. Pitseleh, 1998
7. Say Yes, 1998

c

(written by calum cashin)

15 Dec 2015

2015 : THE ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

TWENTY FIFTEEN! 2-0-1-5. 2015. 2015. Many things have happened this year. Corbyn voted in. Piggate. Water on Mars. New fucking Star Wars. Despite lots of bleak stuff happening, there has been lots of cool good things happening in 2015, with the meme of JC dressed as Obi-Wan captioned 'A New Hope' maybe being a concise summation.

For music as well, this has spawned more albums I've personally loved than any other year I've been actively obsessed with hearing new music. Maybe that's because I've been exposed to more than ever, but maybe that's because people like Kendrick and Sleaford Mods have delivered incredible social commentary, Beach House and Outfit have released some of the dreamiest albums you'll ever hear, and lots of other albums I genuinely love to pieces came into existence. Here's a list that we at Vapour Trail put together with a lot of love. Shoegaze, indie, singer-songwriter, alternative and hip-hop coming together, here's a list of 50+ great albums you'll need to hear.

50. Pure Phase Ensemble 4 - Live At SpaceFest
Fronted by Ride's Mark Gardener, this project performing a one off show at Polish music festival SpaceFest, the PPE play slow trickling psychedelia that slowly engulfs the room in the most hypnotic way imaginable. Pretty much sonic incense this, it's every bit as dreamy as a psych album by the man responsible for the classic shoegaze sound to be.

49. Menace Beach - Ratworld
Fuzzy Supergrassed out indie rock, Menace Beach's debut album is a youthful 35 minutes that feels effortlessly cool and beautifully nostalgic. Powered by two great vocalists and some guitars that lean towards the shoegazing persuasion, this is basically the soundtrack to a culty teen movie waiting to happen, and a really accomplished debut by one of Leeds' best newcomers.

48. Drenge - Undertow
When Drenge added a bassist, a lot of people thought they'd lose their signature gritty two-piece sound, but Undertow proved the nay-sayers wrong. The addition of a third member gives Eoin the chance to really flourish as a guitarist, most evident on lead single We Can Do What We Want. This album is angsty, energetic and the perfect progression of Drenge.

47. The Black Tambourines - Freedom
Turbo-charged surf rock by the most nationally recognised bands of Falmouth's infamous music scene, the Freedom album is the one which saw The Black Tambourines finally make a record as exhilarating as their live show. 21st century nuggets of thrashy garage, this is one of the most fun albums of the whole year.

46. Dolores Haze - The Haze is Forever
Swedish riot grrrl four piece Dolores Haze are vicious, venomous, and pummelingly energetic, and this debut album captures their live sound perfectly. Front woman Groovy Nicks' effortlessly cool stage presence comes right across on here, and the band just get one constant groove on.

45. Kagoule - Urth
The debut album of bass-driven Notts trio is as formidable as alt-rock records come. A bunch of brilliant alt-rock nuggets, this band pack a hell of a punch with tracks like Gush just being absolute fucking bangers.

44. Sleater Kinney - No Cities To Love
Their first album in 11 or so years, this record is one powerful 30 minute punch that shows the trio might as well never have been away. Very few albums have such a dynamic explosive quality, as this is literally a joy to listen to in every sense of the term. It's energetic, empowering, and just another reason the band should have an eternally burning mythology in US underground circles.

43. Brian Jonestown Massacre - Musique de film imaginé
Like the soundtrack to a bizarre French film, this mostly instrumental voyage via mellotron is among the most wonderfully dreamy records of the year. It's supposed to be an imaginary French film soundtrack, and lots of bits of it evoke emotion in the same way that all the best film scores do. If it were actually the score to a real film, it would be on a par with Air's Virgin Suicides.

42. Bjork - Vulnicura
Hailed a masterpiece by countless publications, Vulnicura is incandescently hypnotic and to put it simply, an artistic miracle. Björk’s creative complexities reach a pinnacle in stand out track, Black Lake in which she takes the listener on a ten minute journey with more ups and downs than a roller-coaster. Björk's innovative nature never fails to stun me, and Vulnicura is no exception.

41. Shopping - Why Choose
Angular post-punk, this is a perfectly polished record that tackles the subject of the absolute meaninglessness of our lives and consumer culture. Gems like Why Wait and Take It Outside are so completely danceable and get such a groove on that it might as well be The Slits or Gang Of Four playing them. They're a solid prospect as a band, and this captures their live dynamism in a way that'll have you dancing around your room.

40. Mark Gardener and Robin Guthrie - Universal Road
Universal Road is the second album featuring Ride's Mark Gardener on the countdown - what a busy year that chap's had. Teaming up with Robin Guthrie of The Cocteau Twins, the duo make up a shoegazing dream team, and this is exactly the kind of celestial album you'd expect. Gardener's vocals are lush and his songwriting is at a new peak, whilst Guthrie adds a ethereal cloak to the record's sound, making it just a total dream to listen to.

39. Viet Cong - Viet Cong
Post-punk as dark as you'll hear, this seven song album by the Canadian band basically soundtracked my Winter. Lots of clangy guitars, Peter Hook basslines, and songs that effortlessly change from mood to mood, this album is one of the best post-punk pastiches in the business, and at times it's every bit as emotionally affecting as any of the bands that influenced it.

38. Birdskulls - Trickle
Snotty skater punk, this Brighton trio's debut is your typical skate punk record done so well. It's full of lots of hands on punk punches and riffs to bite your face off, but is basically essential listening to anyone into Bloody Knees or Fidlar or pizza.

37. Mercury Rev - The Light In You
The Rev's first album in 8 years is such a glorious little number that just subsumes you in an autumnal fantasia. It's 11 songs long, and bar the punchy faux-Teardrop Explodes numbers Sunflower and Rainy Day Record, every song has that mystical wintery charm that they infamously capture on their 1998 magnum opus. Central Park East is enchanting and winding, and Queen of Swans is the perfect example of that forlorn sound the Rev have honed.

36. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit
Witty stream of consciousness poetry, a lot has been said about this gal's lyrics, and the album is a perfect example of just why that is. On Depreston she tackles bleak first time buying, on Elevator Operator she ponders the meaning and the juxtapositions of life, and Dead Fox she gives climate change the finger. This is a really solid album, and has some of the best lyrics you'll hear all year. Think Pavement from down under.

35. The Cribs - For All My Sisters
It's literally impossible for this band to release a bad album; this has 12 nuggets of indie-pop perfection, as the band have truly honed their craft as brilliant songwriters. The highlight definitely comes from 8 minute closer Pink Snow, but in all honestly there isn't a bad song on here. It's the latest in a really solid back catalogue that's head and shoulders above the likes of the Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines.

34. LoneLady - Hinterland
Quirky dystopic pop, this is my favourite Warp records release of 2015, with it's brilliantly written pop songs marrying top songwriting with oddball sounds and unsettling atmospheres. I found out about this artist on BBC 6's Marc Riley programme and I've been obsessed since.

33. Gwenno - Y Dydd Olaf
All in Welsh this, it's one of the best, most dreamy albums of the past year; it's not really something you can play over and over, but when you put it on it's just one perfect celestial dream. Patriarcheth and Stwff are just the most perfect little examples of ethereal kraut-rock inspired psych-pop, with Gwenno Saunders' voice being every bit as heavenly as the record label that put this out.

32. Painted Caves - Painted Caves
Painted Caves from Milwaukee, Wisconsin create a distinctive, fresh sound on their self titled debut. Marrying traditional Middle-Eastern folk with psychedelic 60s surfer rock, this band are of their own genre - no one else is making sounds like this. The album is sublime, with gorgeous vocals from Ali Lubbad to match the dreamy lyrics that unfurl across tracks such as The Ocean and Half-Human. I can only describe Painted Caves as an album that floats on a sea of surrealism, it bobs up and down blissfully unaware of how lovely it is. Tracks seem to be endless, flutes and guitars streaming like sunlight through a blind, slowly growing until diving into an abyss of delicate songwriting. The whole album has been lovingly crafted, that much is clear, which is why it's one of my albums of the year.
 
 
31. Anna Von Hausswolff - The Miraculous
Von Hausswolf is a Swedish musician who, with her latest album, married some elements from pretty far across the board to create a post-modern masterpiece. She has a massive fuckoff church organ, a voice that can slash through throats, and the ability to create powerful 'doomscapes'. Weird, wonderful, apocalyptic, brilliant.

30. Public Enemy - Man Plans, God Laughs
P.E. get a serious funk on here, ey? In conjunction with them beginning to use a full band live, the legendary hip-hop outfit have a much more fluid sound than you're used to. On this, Chuck D and Flava dish out the soundbites, put out some seriously catchy tunes and show case just why they're one of the greats.

29. Pins - Wild Nights
Wild Nights is the second album by the band PINS, a punk band that riff-heavily lay on the outskirts of the whole desert rock sound that bands like QOTSA have utilised to get to festival headlining levels of big. This record is catchy, punchy, and just the perfect thing to rock out to in leathers on yr motorcycle.

28. Fidlar - Too
When Fidlar's drug-fuelled riotous debut landed in 2013, teenagers all over the world went mad. So when the time came for the follow-up, expectations were high. (even if the band were not) Too is explosive, with all the passion that Fidlar showcased in their debut, but with one vital difference. This album has a message behind it that isn't "GET DRUNK GET HIGH GO SKATING." Overdose is haunting, telling the story of Zac Carper's experience with heroin, and Stupid Decisions is exactly what you'd expect. Nevertheless, the serious lyrics do not distract from the progression Fidlar have made musically. It's a solid follow-up, and a bloody fun one at that.

27. Sauna Youth - Distractions
This 30 minute record is one pummeling intense clout of visceral punk rock, searing apathy and woozy guitar tones - from the punch of first track Transmitters, through Monotony and The Bridge right to closer Creeping, Distractions is an album that ambitiously tries to pummel away at the listener without leaving any room for breath. The four members chant the lyrics, making this a kind of modern day anti consumer call to arms.



26. Outfit - Slowness
Slowness is the second band by Liverpool band Outfit - beautifully put together, flowing, oozing and emotionally compelling, this is a forlorn record that really makes you feel things. The title track is so immersive, Genderless is impeccably atmospheric and New Air is a sadcore contender for song of the year.

25. Bully - Feels Like
The furious debut of American alt-rock band Bully, Feels Like is a frank, straight up, furious exploration of early adulthold. Frontwoman Alicia Bognanno has a razor sharp voice, alternating between the plain vicious and the bouncy and melodic, whilst her sophisticated production pushed the record from strong songwriting to the rock release of the year.

24. Sleaford Mods - Key Markets
More of the same, that's what we want. Sleaford Mods most recent release is more visceral ranting atop beats laid by that guy with the tinnie, and that's just the way we like it. Williamson's vocal performance is impeccable all the way through, with No One's Bothered being the highlight.

23. Follakzoid - III
Follakzoid are the ultimates in locking into a groove. On this, four 10 minute compositions see the Chileans bounding through the psychedelic never realms in a way that is both hypnotic in a way you can lose and immerse yourself in lose an afternoon, and almost danceable in that it could probably creep onto the soundsystem at an off kilter Shoreditch club night. Shiny gold cover, solid gold record.

22. Baby Jesus - self-titled
Psychedelic garage pastiche, this raging Swedish album authentically sounds like it was ripped right outta 1960's Texas - 28 minutes of turbo charge thrashy squalor, this is an essential nugget for fans of all things weird. The band literally get a speedy groove on from the get go, and don't really let go it - the highlight is Cry Cry Cry - THAT ORGAN SOUND, MAN! Seriously, this is a really solid record, and maybe my psych album of the year.

21. BJM - Mini Album Thingy Wingy
The BJM are just the most consistent band in the world, ever, and this is basically more of the good stuff, with shamanic leader Anton Newcombe seemingly going through a late career purple patch that you can't help but admire. This record is notable for it's cover of the garage psych classic Dust (by the 13th Floor Elevators) and swarming opener Pish.

20. Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
Basically the hipster Leonard Cohen, Father John Misty's second album I Love You Honeybear is a cynical, caustic look into love and human relationships, with song titles that look like they're ripped right out of Leonard's back pockets - there's a song on here called Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for two virgins) or something, and it's basically every bit as darkly sarcastic and autumnal as you'd expect. But in all seriousness, this is a really moving album, and its just begging to be listened to on a cold winter's evening.


19. Marching Church - This World Is Not Enough
A solo effort of Elias Bender Ronnenfelt, this is a really eclectic album that really showcases a brighter side to the man that last year depressed us all with heartbreaker Against the moon on Iceage's last album. The highlight comes from the poppy King of Song, but the rest of the record is brilliant in the same way that Julian Casablancas + the Voidz's Tyranny is - Elias obviously felt pressure to write very Iceage music for Iceage, and here he breaks free of the shackles to deliver a really oddball record.

18. Stealing Sheep - Not Real
Jumped up nu-folk, for their second album the arty Liverpool trio really stuck to the formula that served them so well on their 2012 debut. But the results are so good, with the offbeat awkwardness of Evolve and Greed, and the pure pop efforts of the title track and Sequence are beyond delightful. A real cultural force, this is just a really accomplished album by a wonderful band.

17. Speedy Ortiz - Foil Deer
Angsty and aggressive, Speedy Ortiz’s second album Foil Deer packs an almighty punch. With enticing melodies and crafty lyrics it is not to be taken lightly, Sadie Dupuis’ voice taunts and snarls at those who have wronged her and creates an edgy atmosphere. As the album progresses there are some softer, calmer moments, and throughout all of the album the intellect and energy within all components of the songs is never compromised.

16. Ezra Furman - Perpetual Motion People
Perpetual Motion People is a boundary pushing, binary twisting, lipstick covered masterpiece. The third album of Ezra Furman and (his band) The Boyfriends comes in the form of a 45 minute journey of Ezra’s personal discovery. It’s witty, clever and most of all, it has an incredibly important message behind it. Highlights include ‘Wobbly’ and ‘Body Was Made’ both of which tackle serious issues regarding gender, but when intertwined with catchy riffs and a phenomenal brass section, you don’t find yourself overpowered. Not only is Perpetual Motion People musically phenomenal, but it’s one of the most important records released this year in regards to equality for all.

15. Alex G - Beach Music
Lo-fi prince, Alex G is a lo-fi musician who made his big label debut (well, it was on Domino) earlier this year having already put out 5 or 6 self-produced albums really lowkey on the internet. Beach Music is a record that treads the fine line between rough Guided by Voices lo-fi and the dreamier sort practiced by Galaxie 500, all whilst Alex maintains the vocal delivery of Steven Malkmus. This record is low in filler, and has about 10 absolutely gorgeous DIY nuggets for you to soak your teeth into.

14. Hatcham Social - The Birthday of the World
At times psychopathic, at others sympathetic, The Birthday of the World by Hatcham Social is a bird’s-eye view of human civilisation heading towards its speculative end, before relocating to a romantic sci-fi future on Mars. From the sharply frantic Find a Way to Let in Your Sins (Hit a Red Cut a Right) to the reflectively amorous Daring, the album is a telescope, microscope and kaleidoscope all at once.

13. Deafheaven - New Bermuda
On 2013's Sunbather, this metal band released seminal blackgaze album Sunbather, which over 10 tracks, seamlessly blended black metal anguish with dissonant shoegazey guitars (in a move that literally enraged metalheads). Here, on their follow up, they make the fusion much more obviuous; the guitars are heavier, with dreamworlds occasionally bashed in to give the album textural depth. This is the kind of album that doesn't have the re-play-ability that Sunbather does, but on first listen it'll abso-fucking-lutely knock you for six.



12. Beach House - Thank Your Lucky Stars
Beach House's second album of this year's Autumn, this is a much more melodically simple number than Depression Cherry, but is every bit as emotionally engaging and dreamy as its September-released counterpart. Made up of tricklingly euphoric dream-pop tracks like Elegy and Majorette, whilst bringing in high doses of forlorn numbers too in the form of All Your Yeahs and She's So Lovely, this album is just a really, really nice album to kick back and laze to.

11. Grimes - Art Angels
Claire Boucher's fourth album arrived last month, and she's officially out of fucks to give. Despite maybe an onslaught of hipster apathy (I was cynical at first mind), Grimes went well and truly down the pop route on Art Angels, and it's so fucking fun, but also a wonderful, brilliant piece of art. Nothing can stop you enjoying the immediate turbo-charged glimmer-pop of Flesh Without Blood or California, but similarly the subtle whirrs and whizzes of these and every other song on the record is just superb. On this, Grimes has broadened her palate and has come off all the better for it. (Ok, maybe it's not as good as Visions, but maybe it is - either way it's bloody good)

10. Girl Band - Holding Hands With Jamie
Irish noiseniks Girl Band blasted their way to critical acclaim with the album Holding Hands With Jamie, their Rough Trade debut, earlier this year. Opening with what can only be described as the most invasive guitar screeches on first track Um Bongo, it's an album that (bar serene In Plastic) doesn't let up right to it's pummeling end. One of the strongest vocal performances on a record by indie dreamboat Dara Kiely, it's one of the most exciting sounding guitar records of the year and worth every bit of the hype we've been piling onto this band for yonks.

9. Wolf Alice - My Love is Cool
In 2015, no one bloody shut up about Wolf Alice for a second, but the thing about that is that it was all for good reason. Unlike much of their peers, Wolf Alice didn't rush into releasing a debut, and the result of that is My Love Is Cool - an album that is both mature and bristling with primal young energy. Highlights are too numerous to note down, but You're A Germ features one of the best choruses of the year, Swallowtail is a note perfect love song that captures a beautiful naturalistic quality, and Giant Peach's motorik krautpop strut gives home to one of the coolest sounding guitar tracks of the year. 2015 is this band's year, and they totally deserve all the plaudits they get.

8. Spook School - Try To Be Hopeful
"So we'll burn, burn, burn, burn masculinity" the lead singer Nye of Scottish band Spook School sings on the opener to this delightful sugar sweet indie pop record. Tackling issues of trans identity, the band have released one of the most accomplished indie records of the year with Try To Be Hopeful. It's both confrontational and melodic, and bits of it condure up that beautiful youthful feeling that all the best Fortuna POP! type records capture perfectly.

7. Beach House - Depression Cherry
The fifth album by Beach House is almost comically dreamy, by a band so aware of their sound and their style and their image. It comes cased in a velvet red sleeve, and is full of woozy syrupy songs with titles like Days of Candy, Bluebird and Beyond Love. Highlights come in the form of blissful euphoric pop tunes like Space Song and Levitation, alongside Days of Candy, the closer which is just one hypnotic sigh. This is one of the band's best works, and I urge you to burn lots of incense, kick back, and let it engulf you.

6. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
Hip-hop's most important figure at the moment, Kendrick Lamar, especially here on his magnum opus TPAB, is the perfect figure to kick back against racist America with his art. This album melds strong social commentary, poetic spoken word, and a range of styles outside the comfort zone of most modern hip-hop artists like jazz, electronica and allusions to more old school hip-hop. There's a reason that this album has been picked up as the most universally acclaimed, because like Gil Scott Heron and Public Enemy, Kendrick knows what's going on and he's documented it in the most artistically rich and accomplished albums of the past few years.


5. Girlpool - Before the world was big
Teenage girl two piece Girlpool are your friendship goals; Harmony and Cleo's debut album is the ultimate angsty teenage singer songwriter full of lush twin vocal harmonies, metronomic minimalistic instrumentation, and lyrics that apprehensively document what it's like to grow up. Cherry Picking and Ideal World are probably the beautiful little highlights from this, as the band so forlornly project just what it's like to be a teenager realising everything's shit for the first time. A simple, short, yet truly beautiful record.

4. RA! - Oh Unhappy Bella
RA! are a Southampton based band, and this is the only album they put out before their low-key breakup earlier this year. Oh Unhappy Bella is a dark album that melds genres together really effortlessly; in the most part it's a kind of beatsy lo-fi indie sound, but elements of warped dream-pop, hauntology and - at the end - there's even a bit where thrash metal makes sweet, angry love to some frenzied euro-house breakbeats. Lyrically bleak, it's an escapist story-type concept album that doesn't really have a happy ending, but it's a completely essential release for you to check out just once.

3. Chastity Belt - Time To Go Home
Seattle 4-piece Chastity Belt are basically the coolest thing to emerge ever. Gritty
C86 indie-pop, their second album is a work those that had heard their debut would have never thought possible - incredibly tight, it's a sonic reflection of youth and early womanhood exerted by Julia Shapiro's deadpan humour. The highlight of Time To Go Home is the title track, a messy drunken number that tells drunken tales of parties that I'm not cool enough to dream about attending. Drone and Joke are seamless catchy pop numbers, and with the lo-fi Cool Sluts they casually put forward an angsty feminist agenda - they're a cool bunch, and this is an album it's seriously easy to get obsessed with.

2. Ought - Sun Coming Down
Sun Coming Down is the second record by Montreal art-punks Ought - and it's an absolute delight. It's 8 raw thrashy nuggets that see the most distinctive voice in underground music absolutely hone his talents; this is the record that sees Tim Darcy give one of the best vocal and songwriting performances of the year. Each and every song from this album has something ridiculously distinctive about it. During On The Line, you catch Darcy crying out 'that's a very astute observation, if I do say so myself', on winding Strokesian number Men For Miles he asks 'excuse me - d'you think there's a chance we can bring this whole fucker down?' and on Never Better cries of 'this is a high water mark for civilisation' ensue. It's a brilliant lyrical advance on their incredible debut Today More Than Any Other Day, and throughout it remains a witty, quirky, allegorical deconstruction of our futile existence on planet earth.

1. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
There are few albums quite as honest, raw and rich in emotion as Carrie & Lowell, and this is among the most beautiful record I've ever heard. Seemingly until now, Sufjan got more and more ambitious with every single album he released, but here he takes it right back down - for the most part, it's just him and his guitar. Just you and Sufjan. Intimate as fuck. It's intensely personal; Eugene sees him talk about the man that couldn't quite say his first name, and on No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross he let's it out with a 'fuck me, I'm falling apart'. The whole record is full of anecdotes and it's basically just the coping mechanism for him in the wake of his mother's death - but this being Sufjan Stevens, every single sigh, cry and heartfelt moment is pure poetry. The 11 songs on here are all beyond perfect in their own right, from the very first fingerpicks at the start of Death With Dignity to the overcoming ethereal ending to Blue Bucket of Gold. I bought this album a few months back on vinyl, and it's something I sometimes have to listen to over and over again, because nothing can quite follow it. The most beautiful album of the year. The most beautiful album I've heard in my lifetime actively seeking out new music. The most beautiful album.

HERE'S SOME HONOURABLE MENTIONS
We've literally loved way way more than 50 albums this year, so it's only natural that we'd give a heads up to the other artists that lit up our 2015 with pretty solid albums
Youth Lagoon - Algiers - The Godspot - Spector - Max Gowan - The Tailbreakers - Florence & the Machine - Tame Impala - Pond - King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Kid Wave - Arid Wave - jennylee - Jenny Hval - Against Me - Kurt Vile - Best Coast - Spector - Lana Del Rey - The Garden - Benjamin Clementine - Girls Names - The Maccabees - Gengahr - The Holydrug Couple - Tacocat - Strange Wilds - The Helio Sequence - Jamie XX - Nicole Dollanganger - thx to anyone that sent us any music over the whole of 2015!

-written 90% by calum cashin
-#16, 42, 48 by poppy marriott
-#14 by jonah hartley
-#17 by isobel mcleod