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). 

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