1. Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian at Best!
Aussie head girl Courtney plays rambunctious anti-noise, her tumbling post modern vignettes are laced with irony dripping streams of consciousness dissection of the passée nature of EVERYTHING in 2015. Anyone else think her Antipodean tone has a smidgen of Sheryl Crow about it?! No?! Just me then!
2. LoneLady – Groove It Out
‘Groove It Out’ clocks in at six minutes, it bleeds the lines between funk, disco and post punk: marvellously encapsulating the dance floor shudder of the Detroit sound being implanted with the knowing post punk rhythms of Gang of Four . Sewn with the attitude of our heroine LoneLady, whose dulcet icy cold vocals survey the dystopia amongst the thud of drum machine, litters of playful futurist samples and bassy grooves.
3. Ezra Furman – Lousy Connection
A bombastic, gem of 50s flecked sax pop that possesses the grandiosity of musical theatre. That’s intersected by Ezra’s intense vocal outbursts that chart vividly his eye for the fluctuations of both personal and social consciousness. Like the meeting place between prime time pop strut of Dexy’s Midnight Runners and the graceful bittersweet vignettes of Rufus Wainwright, it documents a twenty first Century in flux see sawing between joy and tragedy, complexity and simplicity, uncertainty and clarity, love and pain.
4. Girls Names – A Hunger Artist
A raging new-wave sound that hovers above like an angry thunder cloud, firing off reverb-heavy riffs like lighting bolts, relentless rhythm powered by ominous drums: it speeds down the motorway with reckless abandon lit up at the side of the road with synth patterns that flicker like street lights.
5. Real Lies – Seven Sisters
North Londoners Real Lies produce the sublime ‘Seven Sisters’. Like the meeting point between the production suss of KLF and New Order, while the vocal dexterity is redolent of Pet Shop Boys with even a smidgeon of, whisper it, early East 17. Their sound may warmly transport you back to the early 90s electronic and rave sounds of your youth.But crucially its spliced with a knowing heart and soul: these half-spoken half-sung vocals are under cut with a disquiet that speaks to what it is like to be young and falling through the cracks of British society in 2015
6. Jenny Hval – That Battle Is Over
‘That Battle Is Over’ inches closer to the edge of history, powered by a drum beat and a rumbling undercurrent, this sweetly sung melody is undercut with brutal self-doubt borne of modern consumerism culture that holds you down rips apart individual self-worth. This anxious nowhere lullaby that’s vaguely reminiscent of early Lana Del Rey and the soul of a Prince ballad: it’s a document our time is both captivating and constantly disorientating, a line from John Lennon‘s ‘Merry Xmas (War Is Over)’ interjects unexpectedly before the falsetto vocal effect spins off the dial. It sounds utterly original; one of the best tracks I’ve heard all year.
7. Trust Fund – Cut Me Out
An ace bedroom fuzz pop tune that’s anxious jangle, trembling cymbals and kick drum twitch, convulses abrasively like an early Pixies or Husker Du classic, stripped to the bone. Teetering on the precipice of this schizo-punky-rhythm with its multiple chorus false starts and fizzing riffs, is Ellis Jones’ tortured falsetto that’s part Daniel Johnston part Sparklehorse serrating its way through the fear of rejection.
8. Young Fathers – Rain or Shine
Scottish Post hip hop collective Young Fathers deliver a insistent chant for resolution, the wooshing samples and dizzying array of voices over this insidious groove make this an unstoppable cut.
9. Sally Dige – Hard Dige
The title track sees Germany’s Dige removing masks to reveal more of the fragile beneath, an intoxicating mix of shadowy Italian-electro-pop laced with tumbling synths and drum machine punctures: it’s the sound of early Depeche Mode in a stand-off with early Madonna in some urban dungeon.
10. The Decemberists – Make You Better
Portland’s favourite sons deliver a gorgeously, affecting heart on the sleeve anthem. That comforts and swoons amid its undulating waves of guitar and Meloy’s impassioned delivery.
11. Canatloupe – Ambition
‘Ambition’ simmers with a bass driven underbelly and spiralling Casio motifs. Vocalist Eleanor Lee’s vocals embody the contradiction of making your way up the career ladder, each note shimmering with a stately cleverness detailing that as it elegantly emerges in the intersection between early Saint Etienne and subtlety of The Knife.
12. La Priest – Learning To Love
A playful five minutes of funky grooving switching back and forth from R&B ballad interludes to insatiable dance floor filling. All decorated with bounding beats and squelchy synth sounds alongside Dust’s vocal sampling: vocoder affects that sound like they are offcuts from a Doctor Who villain, to slinky, soulful punctuations. Every pore of this track oozes with creativity, and at the controls is LA PRIEST like some kind of mad professor hatching his plans for a pop invasion in his basement. ‘Learning to Love’ is like some kind of glorious mash up between ‘Discovery’ era Daft Punk and early Prince, but much more twisted than that sounds; this is a pop tune with real heart and vision.
13. Memory Maze – The Closest thing to Heaven
A dizzying psych tinged electro pop song with heart fluttering choruses (‘I want you to much baby/something’s got to give’). A carousel of synth textures and waves of guitars and bittersweet harmonies paint out the overwhelming roller-coaster of emotions spawned by the ups and downs of love. It’s a delightfully addictive concoction, that draws fond comparisons with the falsetto psych rush of Flaming Lips , the melancholic synth pop of M83 and the spinning gazey delicacy of Radio Dept.
14. FEWS – ILL
Eight minutes of rumbling motorik beats and psych flourishes, while ominous vocals pour forth like lava over a mountainous terrain. Expanding into a Komische laced time tunnel of spiralling crescendos and frequency shifts, ‘ILL’ is superb, like several mini mind bending epiphanies in one track, it’s the sound of the experimental percussive undulations of CAN colliding with the noisy adventurousness of Sonic Boom.
15. Jib Kidder – Dozens
Sees Schuster-Craig entwined on vocals by friend and collaborator Julia Holter underscored by a shuffling beat and twelve string Americana arpeggios. It occupies a place between the early psych pop of Animal Collective, the summery regret of Avi Buffalo and the experimentalist genre merging of the Flaming Lips. Unsettling gorgeous it has us dreaming of fading sunsets and swimming in vast oceans on summers days.
16. Le Thug – Basketball Land
A drum machine beat that thuds like a heartbeat, shrouded in a gaze flecked distorted mist: that’s pierced by Clio’s infinitely elegant vocals that bristle with sad eyed mantras. That are the aural equivalent of opening a window upon existential angst, reflecting the desolation of loneliness and empty urban landscapes(‘I really don’t know what’s happening to me’).
17. Gwenno- Patriarchaeth
Delicate fluttering space shimmer of ‘Patriarchaeth’ a sweetly sung lullaby with a message: housing a narrative that bemoans the still pervasive traditional male dominance of Welsh society (“Patriarchy and your soul is under siege.”)
18. Fever Dream – Serotonin Hit
It feels like a thunderous kick to the solar plexus. Infused with an unsettling existential angst that marks out Fever Dream with a lot more in their armoury than just another copyist ‘nu gaze band’, ‘Serotonin Hit’ is a heady bricolage of gaze, psych and slacker pop sounds that has us declaring it the most memorable tune we’ve clapped ears on this week.
19. Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells – This Dark Desire
Aidan Moffat has a unique ability to imbue each lyric with a knowing humanity and grandeur that triumphantly taps into wider existential themes. So on the face of it some of the more mundane subjects like being a father, a husband and wanting to break free of those responsibilities are given a universality of the everyman. Here the bountiful temptress of the city that can ‘chew you up and spit you out’ (‘This Dark Desire’) is a dark monologue with illusions to prostitution delivered over a piano motif.
20. Strange U – Strange Universe in Africa
A London MC with a delicious fusion of beats and samples from Africa and the street, whilst his delivery is pin sharp and rife with political and social consciousness and the pining for the ‘motherland’ .
21. Mercury Rev – Queen of Swans
Tip-toeing into view on a bed of subtle sighing misty eyed orchestration, Jonathan Donahue’s exquisite vocal falsetto tenderly aches and swoops with a sensitivity: shivering with the wistful sound of time and love running out. Before cascading into a glorious psych-pop- epic that hints at the soulful crescendos of Love, it’s the aural equivalent of the rise and fall a ballet (little wonder given the title), graceful and elegantly emotive.
22. Kate Tempest – Good Place
MC Tempest delivers an expertly solemn document of living life in a society where horizons are narrowed and days are darkened by poverty, austerity and injustice. Then switches to a expression of self empowerment for the working classes… “There must be more to life than pixels?!”.
23. Kathryn Joseph – The Bird
The ghostly hauntings of ‘The Bird’ that’s brittle circular piano motif, is painted by Joseph’s spellbinding expression of hurt through haunted pointed metaphors (“you bring me dead birds/ and then you go”) before turning it into a cry of universal suffrage (“and it sounds like all of our lives”) her quivering vocals slithering down each punctured piano note, that rises and falls and is enveloped by a cinematic majesty.