Thursday 31 December 2015

2015: a year in (mostly) pop music

let's face it, 2015 was the year it became cool to like pop music, though when was it ever not? take it from me, a former Music Snob myself. i spent years denying my love of artists such as nicki minaj and katy perry, and i suspect that my fourteen year old self would be appalled at some of the albums featured in this post.

for me the song that started it all, the driving force behind the whole creation of this blog, was carly rae jepsen's run away with me. something about that song resonated so deeply with me and even now it still gives me goosebumps whenever i hear it. it was also my most played song on spotify this year, so that just about says it all. it feels as though all my life has been spent trying to get to that feeling she conveys through the accompanying video, and i finally reached it last weekend when the song came on during a night out. for those three minutes it was like i was living in that video, just me, my best friend and the music. it was truly our moment (mainly because nobody else around us knew the words, nor was dancing) and one i'll never forget. but that's enough about that song, as i've covered it in depth in this post. so without further ado, i present my favourite albums of 2015, in no particular order, as just trying to narrow down my favourite albums to a list of ten was hard enough*.

1. carly rae jepsen: E•MO•TION

for reasons unknown to me, this album did not become the breakout hit i so badly wanted it to be, as i truly feel carly rae jepsen has proven her worth as a credible pop artist. not that call me maybe wasn't an excellent song, but this album represented a much more slick, refined style of pop music. others have shared their views on why this album wasn't a huge success, so i'm going to stick to talking about the music. this is an album about love and longing that somehow manages to steer clear of any clichés commonly seen in this genre. the producers and other artists jepsen worked with on this album (tegan and sara and dev hynes, to name but a few) clearly signalled her desire to create a more slick, sultry and altogether more refined album, and in my humble opinion, she succeeded. 

listen to: emotion, gimme love, your type, when i needed you, let's get lost.

2. grimes: art angels

i am currently working on a full post about grimes' latest release, art angels, but until it is finished this mini-review will have to suffice. this is by far grimes' most pop-sounding album, and this is what makes it my favourite. i approached her music quite tentatively prior to this album, unsure what to make of it, but this one sucked me in straight away. grimes transports us to a whole other world, with the help of her art angels who tell the story, as mentioned in this fader documentary. i will leave you with this: the other night i played two songs from this album for my mother (i.e. forced her to listen) and she loved them.

listen to: flesh without bloodREALiTi, kill v. maim, world princess pt. ii, venus fly, pin. 

3. CHVRCHES: every open eye

it felt like an eternity waiting for the second release from scotland's finest electronic trio, CHVRCHES, but it was totally worth it. lauren mayberry takes charge on this record, and also continues to take no shit from those who think she owes them something simply for being a woman. this is a powerful album about taking back what's yours, pulsating with poignant lyrics that got me through some of the hardest times this year. it's easy to forget about albums released earlier in the year, but this was one i found myself constantly coming back to. 

listen to: never ending circles, clearest blue (this live performance is also pretty special, high enough to carry you over, empty threat, down side of me, afterglow.

4. brandon flowers: the desired effect

another example of this slick, simplistic electronic pop we've been seeing rather a lot of, brandon flowers proved himself to be a credible solo artist with his second album away from the killers. featuring samples from bronski beat and a brief appearance from neil tennant, flowers put a new twist on these old classics.

listen to: can't deny my love, digging up the heart, i can change, lonely town, still want you.

5. jamie xx: in colour

dance music has never really been my cup of tea. whenever i go out with my uni friends i always have a bit of a sulk when dragged into the house/dance music room of the club; cheesy pop is where it's at for me. this album, however, was a pleasant surprise. it soundtracked some of the happiest times i had this summer, and whenever i hear it, i'm transported right back to those good feelings, no matter how bad i might be feeling on that particular day. it's calming yet still manages to pack a punch, providing songs to chill out to as well as to get the party going. 

listen to: loud places, gosh, sleep sound, obvs, i know there's gonna be (good times), girl

6. purity ring: another eternity

yet another band i used to approach with hesitation until their far more accessible sophomore effort, another eternity was bestowed upon us. it still retains that haunting, ethereal quality of their first release and showcases megan james' voice to its best advantage. this is not a band concerned with getting to the top of the charts, and while it might not have been the fastest selling album of the year, it certainly has a place in my heart.

listen to: heartsigh, bodyache, repetition, push pull, flood on the floor, sea castle.

7. palma violets: danger in the club

my biggest fear for palma violets was that they would fall foul of second album syndrome and never produce something as stellar as their first release, 180. that album is a rarity; one of those you can listen to all the way through without skipping a single song. quite a lot to live up to, you could say. but danger in the club certainly didn't disappoint. it is a paradox; somehow it manages to sound more refined yet more experimental than 180. how they did it i'll never know, but who cares when they produced some of the most emotionally charged songs i've heard this year (i would rather die than be in love? i mean please).

listen to: danger in the club, peter and the gun, coming over to my placegirl, you couldn't do much better on the beach, no money honey.

8. selena gomez: revival

much has been made of selena gomez's comeback to the music industry, and i touched briefly on this in my last post. however, revival  as a whole has cemented her place in the industry. it seems many of pop's bright young things - justin bieber and one direction both spring to mind - are keen to prove that they are serious artists, determined not to be tied down to their roots,and the stereotypes that come along with that. whether it's the x factor or disney's wizards of waverly place, it's not about where you came from but where you're going next, and in gomez's came, the only way is up. 

listen to: good for you, hands to myselfsame old lovekill 'em with kindness, sober, survivors.

9. coldplay: a head full of dreams

as a serial procrastinator, i've only just finished listening to coldplay's 2014 release, ghost stories, in the last few months. then before i had time to process that, they went and released their latest offering, a head full of dreams. this is coldplay at their best. packed full of anthemic tracks guaranteed to get everyone at their arena tour next june up on their feet (guess who got tickets) to sweet, but never saccharine, love ballads, this album has got it all. 

listen to: up&up, amazing day, army of one, adventure of a lifetime, a head full of dreams, hymn for the weekend.

10. marina and the diamonds - FROOT

my relationship with marina and the diamonds' music is complex and emotional, and something that needs further explanation in a post of its own. until i get around to this however, this brief summary of FROOT will have to do. for me, electra heart is the one album that has the power to both make and break me all at once, but FROOT is close behind when it comes to emotional intensity. there is a sense of peacefulness, of resolution, that marina is finally okay with the person she has become over the years, and i only hope that one day i can identify with these songs as much as the ones on electra heart. for now though, you can find me blasting songs from FROOT as loud as humanly possible through my crappy laptop speakers at least once a week and trying to be okay with the person i'm becoming. 

listen to: i'm a ruin, solitaire, blue, happy (this acoustic rendition breaks my heart every time, but in a good way), forget, can't pin me down, immortal, froot.

honourable mentions:

the vaccines: english graffiti
lana del rey: honeymoon
one direction: made in the A.M. (naturally)
the wombats: glitterbug
beach house: depression cherry
florence + the machine: how big, how blue, how beautiful
best coast: california nights
foals: what went down
justin bieber: purpose

*(see, i told you it was difficult.) 

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