I had quite a few albums vying for the number 25 spot on this list and after much deliberation I’ve had to go for The Shires. It may see them taking their Lady Antebellum influences very literally on an album that could be mistaken for Need You Now, but the tunes here are sweet and lovable. Ben and Crissie sound lovely together, it’s all very lovely to be honest. Standouts like Brave and Nashville Grey Skies lift this past just being a ‘nice’ album though and helped it become the most successful British Country album in recent memory.
Yes, the same Ellie Goulding who has appeared in the top 5 of my end of year lists on two separate occasions. Her third album had everything going for it, but the final result just doesn’t feel as tight as her usual output. The main issue is the length, this is like she has released both the original version and the Super Deluxe Mega Special Edition on the same day. There’s an excellent 12 track pop record in here, Ellie hits her stride on the Coldplay-ish Lost and Found, while Something In The Way You Move is the follow up #1 to Love Me Like You Do that never happened. Even when she’s not at her best, Ellie Goulding still delivers when it comes to pop hits.
The Blade is a slow burn, this isn’t as immediate as anything else on this list, but there’s something buried deep in here that puts it ahead of most country releases in 2015. The killer title track is a heartbreaking song, while Bombshell manages to see Ashley deliver another career best performance. In a year where Bro Country was on the downturn, The Blade is a shining light of the future of the genre.
When Kelly Clarkson is on form, she hits it out of the park. For me Piece by Piece is her best album since her Breakaway heyday, where she brims full of confidence, shedding the layers for some of her most personal records in years. Warpaint and Nostalgic are bonafide pop bangers, while Piece by Piece and Let Your Tears Fall see her deliver career high vocals.
The most impressive thing about Purpose is that Justin Bieber sounds completely confident for the very first time. He isn’t trying to prove he’s hip like on the mixed Believe, here he has a distinctive sound throughout and manages to sustain the pace across 13 tracks. Even with 3 killer singles on the off, it’s tracks like I’ll Show You and Halsey collaboration The Feeling that make this by far Bieber’s best album yet. Who knew Bieber would finally achieve his potential in 2015?
Kacey Musgraves plays to her own tune, she is unlike anything else in music right now. On the surface it may seem like she’s of the Ashley Monroe, Miranda Lambert ilk, but spend a few months with Pageant Material and you’ll understand why she’s one of country music’s most unique talents. She knows her way around a hook, ‘mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy’ is a highlight here, but outside of that she tells personal stories of real life and she’s totally believable throughout.
One of my biggest regrets in 2015 is not paying enough attention to Every Open Eye on release, one of the best pop records of the year and the album to make me finally understand the appeal of CHVRCHES. Plastered all over these sort of lists for the last few years, I thought they were one of those ‘pop for indie fans’ type of bands. I guess I was wrong as Every Open Eye features some of the biggest pop hooks of 2015. Clearest Blue is the obvious high point, the moment where the song explodes into this banging dance tune is glorious.
When 2015 started, we had already heard the 6 opening tracks of Rebel Heart, all of which are probably among the best tracks here. This may have been why as a complete album felt a bit disappointing, the mass leaks of every single song in demo form months before release didn’t help either. On reflection though it’s one of the most daring, inventive and memorable albums of the Queen of Pop’s career. Standout Nas collaboration Veni Vedi Vici puts it best ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’. Even in 2015 she’s on top of her game, as she will no doubt be for years to come.
5 tracks of pure sex on record, FKA Twigs finally found me in 2015 with this EP. I hadn’t discovered her LP1 album in time for last year’s list, but I had to show some appreciation here. There’s movement integrated into every beat of the music, you can tell she’s a dancer when she creates sounds, which makes the whole of M3LL155X that much more of a sensual experience. FKA Twigs definitely isn’t for everyone, but this music is exactly my sort of thing. Seeing her debut some of the new music as part of her Soundtrack 7 performance at the Manchester International Festival was a highlight of 2015.
A Head Full of Dreams is not Coldplay’s best album. In fact it’s probably worse than every other one of their records except career low point X&Y, but this is Coldplay, even at their worst they still deliver better records than most of the current industry. Standouts here are the obvious Coldplay euphoria of the title track and Adventure of a Lifetime, while closer Up&Up sees Noel Gallagher turn up halfway through to turn the whole thing into the best Oasis song in years. It ends up halfway between Mylo Xyloto and Ghost Stories, which ends up not being a bad thing after all.
Carrie Underwood is the kind of artist who could get away with releasing the same album time and again, throw a couple of big singles on there, tour with a hit filled set-list, rinse and repeat. Storyteller isn’t this and it’s probably the most exciting album of her career. The diversity seen across tracks like Choctaw County Affair, Relapse and Church Bells is tied together by Carrie’s powerful vocal performance throughout. Few could deny that this girl can sing and with some of my all time favourite Carrie songs on this album it’s obvious to see why Storyteller was my favourite Country album of 2015.
I could write pages and ages on the 2015 that The Weeknd has had, from the shock hit of 2015 with Fifty Shades of Grey track Earned It, or being integrated in pop music so much that performing with Taylor Swift isn’t that surprising; 2015 has been Abel’s year. I’ve been a big fan of The Weeknd for a long time, he has featured in the top 10 of 2 of my lists in the past, but seeing him make it to the mainstream left me baffled for most of the year. Earned It made sense, The Hills makes sense to me, Kanye collab Tell Your Friends is a classic, even Can’t Feel My Face is as likely as the Dirty Diana cover included on his third mixtape. It’s the worldwide domination that surprises me, the music hasn’t actually changed that drastically. Who ever thought a song about being high on cocaine would be so many people’s ‘jam’ of the year? The music is still great, which is probably the most impressive thing about a breakout album like Beauty Behind The Madness.
Early on in 2015 I was very worried about Rudimental’s second album. The singles weren’t resonating with the public, Never Let Me Go and I Will For Love were retreads of the first album and were doing nothing on the chart without a big name feature. It wasn’t until some of the promo singles began to appear, including the title track and standout Rumour Mill, that I started to relax. Lay It All On Me was the final push I needed to go head first into We The Generation, a sophomore album that manages to be totally different to debut Home and yet still sounds like Rudimental throughout. While every other dance act was either trying to remake Home (See: Sigma) or remake their own debut (See: Disclosure) Rudimental pulled a wonderfully diverse and memorable collection out of the bag.
Only Ciara could open an album named after her own mother with a song that features the hook ‘I’m a bad motherfucker’. In 2015 Ciara sounds more alive than ever following the birth of her first child. It’s like she has come to terms with the artist she is meant to be and is loving every second. In an industry where charts, exposure and release schedules are everything, Ciara is an anomaly an outstandingly talented performer who is doing it for the love of the music, not the chance of stardom. Tracks like One Woman Army, Give Me Love and Dance Like We’re Making Love were born for the club, but Ciara doesn’t even need that. She’s delivering joy to her fans, through an album where she manages to stick to her own lane effortlessly. When everyone else was scrambling around the prospect of a new Rihanna album, Ciara just stuck to what she always does and delivered one of the best albums of her decade long career.
14 million copies in 5 weeks. Your faves literally have never and could never. 25 is my favourite Adele album too, she deserves everything she has done in 2015.
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