Saturday, 26 December 2015

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs/Albums of 2015 - The Lists (+ Spotify Playlist)

For the benefit of those who like cold, hard data, here is The Metaphorical Boat's top albums and songs of 2015 in easy to digest list form.

Top Songs of 2015:

  1. Ten Fé -  Make Me Better
  2. All Tvvins - Thank You
  3. Cheerleader - The Sunshine of Your Youth
  4. Enya - Echoes in Rain
  5. The Chemical Brothers - Go
  6. Suede - Outsiders
  7. Silences - The Sea
  8. Public Service Broadcasting - Go!
  9. Courtney Barnett - Pedestrian At Best
  10. The School - All I Want From You Is Everything
  11. Beck - Dreams
  12. C Duncan - Garden
  13. Carly Rae Jepsen - I Really Like You
  14. Blossoms - Charlemagne
  15. Foals - What Went Down
  16. Galantis - Peanut Butter Jelly
  17. Destroyer - Dream Lover
  18. nano.RIPE - Kotae Awase
  19. Pleasure Beach - Go
  20. In An Instant - Come the Night
  21. Daveit Ferris - This is Your Captain Speaking
  22. Jane Weaver - I Need a Connection
  23. Swim Deep - One Great Song And I Could Change The World
  24. FFS - Johnny Delusional
  25. Hooton Tennis Club  -  Kathleen Sat On The Arm Of Her Favourite Chair
  26. The Weeknd - Can't Feel My Face
  27. Malojian - Communion Girls
  28. Father John Misty - Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)
  29. The Wood Burning Savages - Premier League
  30. The Bohicas - Swarm
  31. Eagles of Death Metal - Complexity
  32. Chris Tall - Time Of Your Life
  33. THE DLX - Let Go
  34. Wonder Villains - Alternative Ulster
  35. The Cadbury Sisters - Sarah
  36. Lauren Bird - Goodbye, Good Luck
  37. Titus Andronicus - Dimed Out
  38. Format:B - Chunky
  39. Moumoon - Hello, shooting-star
  40. Tame Impala - ‘Cause I’m A Man
  41. Kassassin Street - Radio Silence
  42. Walk The Moon - Shut Up and Dance
  43. Best Boy Grip - Sharks
  44. Peter Cat - Keeping Up With Jacob
  45. Peixefante - Por Baixo da Blusa
  46. The Corner Laughers - Fairytale Tourist
  47. The Emerald Armada - This House
  48. Flemmings - Get Away From Me Right Now
  49. Pure Youth - New November
  50. Gengahr - Heroine

Top Albums of 2015:

  1. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit & Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
  2. Public Service Broadcasting - The Race For Space
  3. Cheerleader - The Sunshine of Your Youth
  4. Enya - Dark Sky Island
  5. nano.RIPE - Nanairo Megane no Himitsu
  6. Best Boy Grip - Best Boy Grip
  7. Malojian - Southlands
  8. Lotus Land - Lotus Land
  9. C Duncan - Architect
  10. Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool

And for the first time this year, here is a playlist of our top songs for 2015 which are on Spotify, plus a track from the top 10 album on our list that didn't make it on our top songs list (songs by nano.RIPE, Moumoon & Flemmings were not on Spotify):

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Albums of 2015: 5-1

5. nano.RIPE - Nanairo Megane no Himitsu

So for the second year in a row, Japanese rock band nano.RIPE make our year-end top 10 album list, this time with the wonderful "Nanairo Megane no Himitsu" (English translation: "A Secret of Colours in a Kaleidoscope"). Vocalist Kimiko's high-pitched vocals may still be quite a bit of an acquired taste, but if you can get over both this and lyrics entirely in Japanese you'll find a wonderful and varied album, be it the folksy opener "Kotae Awase", the fizzy pop of "Toumei na Sekai, or the experimental "Apollo". 

4. Enya - Dark Sky Island
(Warner Brothers)
For a full explanation of why "Dark Sky Island" is one of the best albums of 2015, please read my review of the album on Drowned In Sound, but in short, it's another stunning album of songs that could eminate from no other artist bar Enya herself.

3. Cheerleader - The Sunshine of Your Youth
(Bright Antenna)

Never has nostalgia sounded to fresh on Cheerleader's debut album "The Sunshine of Your Youth". The band produce a sound that seems like it's been beamed in directly from the early 90s pre-Britpop indie scene, yet with a widescreen production that is very much of the here and now. There's shades of Lightning SeedsThe Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Foster The People over the course of the ten tracks on the album, full of hazy love for the past.

2. Public Service Broadcasting - The Race For Space
(Test Card Recordings)

Public Service Broadcasting were responsible for our #1 album of the year back in 2013 with "Inform - Educate - Entertain", and now in 2015 they find themselves ranking highly again with their follow-up album "The Race For Space". 

Unlike their debut album, which mined a whole smorgasbord of eras and subjects for inspiration, "The Race For Space" tackles one unified subject, namely the exploration of space by the USA and the Soviet Union between the late 50s and early 70s. That doesn't mean that the music on offer isn't as diverse as ever though, with the album taking in everything from Aphex Twin-esque electronica ("Sputnik"), superhero funk ("Gagarin"), and Eno-ish ambiance on "Tomorrow". The album also sees the band incorporating live vocals for the first time, with the choir on the title track, and the involvement of Smoke Fairies on the ethereal "Valentina". The album sent Public Service Broadcasting into the stratosphere in 2015, and rightly so. 

1. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit & Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
(Marathon Artists)

Australian Courtney Barnett has found herself on top of nearly every Best Album of 2015 list this year, and now she can be pleased in the knowledge that she's also topped The Metaphorical Boat's year end list with her somewhat clunkily titled "Sometimes I Sit & Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit".
The main strengths of "Sometimes..." are twofold. Firstly, Barnett's finely observed poetic lyrics, which are filled with wit and hilarity, yet can also be venomous or tender depending on where the mood takes her, be they on tales of mistaken identity ("Elevator Operator"), moving house ("Depreston"), environmentalism ("Kim's Caravan"), or even just going swimming ("Aqua Profunda!"). But great observant lyrics mean nothing without great music to accompany it, and the wonderful rock arrangements on "Sometimes..." marries the two to such a perfection that we haven't seen in many years, quite possibly since the days of Sleeper in the Britpop era.

So congratulations to Courtney Barnett on topping our list for 2015. Here's a track from said brilliant album to enjoy:

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Albums of 2015: 10-6

After all the fun and hijinks of looking at our favourite songs of 2015, it is time to delve into listageddon once more, by looking at the ten albums that most shaped The Metaphorical Boat's listening habits over the past twelve months.

To repeat the same thing I've said the past four years, it is usually much harder to decide on an order for best albums of the year than it is for best songs. For single tracks, it goes in order of which songs I'd be happy enough to hear again and again in descending order. For albums on the other hand, there are a lot more variables involved. Should an album with lots of decent tracks receive a better placing than an album with two of the greatest songs of the year and some filler? Should an album that works well as a complete work be given preference to an album with better songs, but with more variety and a poorer flow? Should an act who I've loved immensely in the past place highly even if their album from this year didn't match up to their usual high standards?

So after taking these thoughts into consideration, and after much self-deliberation, here is the first half of The Metaphorical Boat's top albums of 2015:

10. Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool
(Dirty Hit)

Wolf Alice had one of the most beloved debut albums by a rock band in 2015 with "My Love Is Cool". Although they've been tagged as grunge-rock revivalists, there's quite a lot of depth and breadth on offer on the album, from the more grungier tracks like "Bros" and "Giant Peach" to the more introspective tracks like "Freazy" and "Turn To Dust". 

It's a shame that they left "Moaning Lisa Smile", one of their strongest tracks, off the album (in the UK at least), but in spite of that it's still one of the best rock albums released all year.

9. C Duncan - Architect
(Fat Cat)

Glaswegian singer-songwriter Christopher Duncan's debut album "Gardens" apparently only cost £50 to make. That works out at approximately £4.17 per song, which by far offers the best value for money of all the albums that have made our list this year.

Not that you'd notice the budgeting limitations mind, given that the sound of "Architect" is so lush and rich. The album mixes lavish folk production with multi-tracked choral vocals that have been layered to perfection, whilst still managing to churn out one of the best pop tunes of the year ("Garden"). The fact that C Duncan has one of the finest voices in alternative music since Andrew Montgomery is a major plus as well.

8. Lotus Land - Lotus Land

When I took a surprise trip to Japan back in August, I stumbled across an album by the trio Lotus Land whilst visiting Tower Records in Akihabara and bought it based on a mixture of a whim and a music video for the track that was running in the background without sound. It wasn't until a few months after I arrived back home that I remembered that I'd bought it and gave it a spin. I was completely taken from the opening keys of the first track.

Lotus Land could best be described as "instrumental electro-jazz-dance", mixing keyboards, bass and drums into something that is of a technical standard that goes exceeds expectations, a melodic heart that has real earworm potential, and enough of a groove to warrant frenetic movements without the aid of ethanol. Even within Japan, the band are something of an undiscovered gem, but "Lotus Land" is such a richly rewarding album that one hopes that that reputation does not last for long.

7. Malojian - Southlands

"Southlands" is the second album that Stevie Scullion has released under his Malojian moniker, and has been the receiver of much critical praise and a nomination for this year's Northern Ireland Music Prize. 

It is an album that travails the spectrum of folk music, from the plainative ("It Ain't Easy"), the rocky ("No Alibis", "Shame On Me"), through to the more poppy tunes (the beautiful yet haunting "Communion Girls"). He's even managed to do what no other artist has done this year and record a song that you could imagine being recorded by Mungo Jerry - the thoroughly bizarre yet incredibly infectious "Bath Tub Blues". 

6. Best Boy Grip - Best Boy Grip
(Amelia Records)

Derry musician Eoin O'Callaghan, aka Best Boy Grip, is an artist that we have loved ever since we heard the wonderfully dark power-pop song "Barbara" nearly four years ago. He'd been releasing new music periodically in the intervening period, and in 2015 he finally released the self-titled debut album, which is definitely our favourite Northern Irish album of the year.

"Best Boy Grip" is both a welcome album and a somewhat surprising album. Given that BBG built their reputation on the deep piano-pop tunes, it's much more guitar heavy than we'd come to expect, with tracks like the forceful single "Sharks" and the charmingly odd alternative-rock number "Weird Fingers" underlying this. Even "Runaway", a song that had all the hallmarks of a Broadway musical number when it first came out has been given a rocky makeover, albeit one which doesn't lose the charm of the original recording.

But it is still the piano-led tracks that are the highlights of the set, from the aforementioned "Barbara", to the darkly humorous "Billy", through to the emotional "Monster & Me", which just last week became only the second song in seven years to pass the Asda Car Park Test. (The Asda Car Park Test is a test of the emotional beauty of a song, whereby a song that is playing on my car's stereo is so beautiful and affecting that it makes me bleary-eyed to such an extent that for my own safety and the safety of other drivers on the road, I have to stop in the nearest car park until I can safely begin driving again, the nearest one of convenience usually being an Asda. In case you didn't realise, I'm a bit weird). 

Sunday, 20 December 2015