5. Kagoule - Urth
What a storming breakthrough year the Nottingham three piece had. Some say supporting Johnny Marr would be their highlight but let’s face facts, not many get to finish fifth on our annual top ten of the year.
This is a fierce record which follows in the mould of Nirvana, Pavement and Sonic Youth. The duelling vocals of Cai Burns and Lucy Hatter are not treading new ground but they are delivered well and en-route to be added to that list. Refreshingly, the guitars are used as a weapon to assault the senses.
This is an album of remarkable consistency for a band so young. It has the presence of a top seasoned band returning to their fiery beginnings. For a group of teenagers to achieve this, it really does set the excitement levels high.
Standing above the crowd is ‘Made of Concrete’. Amidst all the angst and thrash comes a riff worthy of Modest Mouse. Furthermore, it witnesses Hatter altering her vocals to this more radio friendly track and making her sound like a star.
‘It Knows It’ is another track which pops its head above the rest. The riff conjures memories of Nirvana circa ‘In Utero’. Do compliments come any bigger?
Kagoule are obviously not at an ‘In Utero’ level but neither were Nirvana on ‘Bleach’ but they are throwing some big right hooks in attempt to become that sort of punk-rock heavyweight.
4. Tom Williams - New House
The second mini album of 2015 from Williams is perhaps his finest to date. His band The Boat will need to come back all guns blazing because this heartfelt effort hits staggering heights at times.
For anyone renting with a landlord as sensitive as a Donald Trump speech in Mecca, the sentiments of anguish on opener ‘New House’ will resonate well. It may not be the fist in the air defiance of Frank Turner but rather a warm arm round the shoulder and equally as moving.
‘In The Snow’ features Catherine Black on cello which helps to make this a great piece of dark and squalid art. Everything sounds so bleak and claustrophobic and the use of tuning radios towards the end makes this easily the most interesting track of the album.
The most compelling track however is ‘Play Guitar’. Has a song without a chorus ever being so captivating? The reference points in the song are instantly recognisable like the great novels of Irvine Welsh and John Niven (minus the heavy drug use). What makes it so great is the combination of kitchen sink realism with hope and love embedded into every chord.
In an era where bands only last a month, TT looked despondently to the floor when The Boat said they were taking a year off. That’s going to be that then; they’ll never come back now. Well, if they don’t, the heartbreak has been removed by Williams’s two brilliant mini albums in 2015. If this is his solo starting point, have another year folks because this, this is great.
3. Hatcham Social - The Birthday Of The World
When will Hatcham Social stop making great records? The answer is seemingly never! ‘The Birthday of the World’ is their fifth LP from the New Cross outfit and they are on top their game.
Opener ‘Bucket of Blood’ sums up everything to love about this record. There is a bit of the Charlatans, The Horrors, Jesus and the Mary Chain, and The Creation all blended into the mix and yet it’s a distinctive Hatcham Social sound.
Weird and wonderful is a phrase often bounded around for the band and with the warped production swarming over the lullaby strings of ‘Wondrous Place’ it’s easy to see why. Despite this achievement, it’s the overarching feeling that ‘The Birthday of the World’ is made by friends who adore what they are doing as much as the few of us left who love buying it.
‘Our Love Will Carry Us Through The Stars’ combines strings with pianos reminiscent of British Sea Power circa ‘Open Season’ to create a sound so light in touch that, whisper and you won’t hear the beauty floating around you.
The one question a record this distinct and career defining throws up is what next? ‘Life In An Endless Love Song’ provides the possibly best answer which is, who cares? This song has love bursting from every pore and as long as this remains, well, nothing else will ever matter. Viva la Hatcham Social.
2. Reverend & The Makers – Mirrors
Bugged out, pure pop, Phil Spector production, Primal Scream, New Orleans Jazz, great guitar hooks, synths, horns, Love, Beatles, Kinks, Ennio Morricone, this album has the lot. You would be forgiven in thinking this is a muddled affair, not at all, this is the best pop album of the year. John McLure is one clever bastard!
For a band that walked their own path rather than the one London’s elite music PR companies told them to, this is the stadium filler they were probably always told to write. As it is, it serves as another great fuck you to the people who never supported the band’s ever increasing creativity.
‘Black Widow’ opens with drums from Primal Scream’s ‘Movin’ on Up’ before a monster riff worthy of Black Keys muddies the water to a level of pure filth. The dirty riff and the Peter Green-esque solo mesh so well with Maclure’s vocals it’s incredulous to think this is not their archetypal sound.
Most of the album differs in tone to ‘Black Widow’ and is a just pure pop brilliance. So many are under two minutes and thus, the need to play them again and again only increases.
‘The Trip’ is 90 seconds of stomping glam and psyche with a great early Noel Gallagher solo to round things off with. ‘Makin’ Babies’ clocks in at 1min 59 and is spritely Belle & Sebastien pop song injected with their Sheffield grit. Meanwhile, ‘Something To Remember’ sounds like a 90 second collaboration between Ronnettes, Scott Walker and Crosby Stills and Nash.
This is an album of relentless quality. The bar for all bands has been nudged that bit higher with this record. Simply put, you must buy this record and revel in its genius.
1. Gaz Coombes - Matador
Coombes’ debut solo effort ‘Here Come The Bombs’ was a mixed affair, often too many ideas denying a great tune from breaking out. His second offering ‘Matador’ however, combines the elaborate ideas with great song writing with aplomb.
As album beginnings go, the sweeping majesty of ‘Buffalo’ and ‘20/20’ prove to be one of the finest of all time. The spiky acoustic guitars of Supergrass loom large against a backdrop of haunting backing vocals, choirs, and great production values courtesy of Coombes himself.
The simplicity of ‘The Girl Who Fell To Earth’ and ‘Detroit’ is where their genius lays, a point which was missed by Pitchfork’s review earlier this year. Less is more and sold out tours mesmerised by the beauty of these songs is firm proof they did connect!
There are only two problems with this album. Firstly, ‘The English Rose’ is a little close to a well-defined Arcade Fire sound for it Coombes to consider this homage to them. Secondly, the full version of ‘Matador’ does not feature. All in all, a small price to pay for what was comfortably the best album of 2015.