Saturday, 26 December 2015

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:

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