It’s here! The Acoustic Egg Box Top 10 favourite album of 2015 as compiled by a bloke who has too much time on his hands and considers editing and grammar to be the unnecessary enemy of a poor vocabulary. Joking aside, if anyone reading this blog decides to go out and buy one of these albums as a result of doing so, I’ll be a happy man, as these talented musicians deserve all the support they can get. Oh yes, and if anyone wants to complain that I have a joint No.1 then they can write to my publisher.
10: MERCURY REV – The Light In You (Bella Union) Another comeback album in my Top 20. This time only a seven-year gap, but the itch has more than been scratched with this set of beautifully arranged and mesmerising songs – no more so than on the six-minute orchestrally lush mini-epic “Central Park East”. Poppier track “Are You Ready?” breaks things up a little, but the sweeping late 60’s psychedelic feel permeates this whole glorious affair.
9: SAUN & STARR – Look Closer (Daptone) Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings backing singers have made the best soul album of the year and are now quite deservedly a bona fide act in their own right. This album was my soundtrack to summer 2015 with its old school retro vibe and sunny disposition rendering it hard not to love. Standout tracks are Mr Teddy, Sunshine (You’re Blowin’ My Cool) and Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. Timeless cool
8: NATALIE PRASS – Natalie Prass (Spacebomb) The fact that Prass is signed to Matthew E White’s label is in itself a guarantee of quality but this album is in a different class altogether. Over the course of nine songs, this young lady’s pure-as-the-driven-snow voice glides effortlessly through her soulful, lyrically astute & lushly arranged debut in a way that would have made our own Dusty Springfield proud. If she never makes another record, this one will still be an immense legacy to leave behind.
7: NEW ORDER – Music Complete (Mute) Another great comeback album in my top 20 is this “just like they’ve never been away” effort from New Order. Their first one proper since 2005, this is the best album they’ve made since 1989’s Balearic masterpiece, Technique – it also contains several songs that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on it including “Plastic” which was one of the dance tracks of the year. Peter who?
6: KONTIKI SUITE – The Greatest Show On Earth (Sunstone) Had I been publishing a chart in 2013, their debut “On Sunset Lake” would also have been in the Top 10 – one album on and how Carlisle’s finest have remained largely undiscovered is a mystery! Purveyors of their own sublime take on Byrdsian style psychedelic country folk/rock, I can assure all discerning music lovers that you NEED this band in your collection! (Full LP review – 8th Oct)
5: C DUNCAN – Architect (Fatcat) Recorded in his Glasgow bedroom, classically trained multi-instrumentalist (viola, piano, bass and acoustic guitar and drums to name but a few) and composer C Duncan’s Mercury Music Prize nominated debut is an intricate, multi-layered work of immense craft and at times utterly beguiling beauty. It also contains “Garden” which is 2015’s best single by a Scottish artist by a country mile!
4: MARTIN COURTNEY – Many Moons (Domino) Singer and guitarist with Real Estate, whose “Atlas” album was No.3 in the Acoustic Eggbox 2014 album chart, Courtney has delivered a warm, sunny, Autumn afternoon of an album which is distinct enough to be his own work but also recognisably Real Estate-esque. If you like jangly 60’s country/ folk with nods to Big Star, Jonathan Wilson and, inevitably, the Byrds, this is for you. Gorgeous.
3: ISRAEL NASH – Israel Nash’s Silver Season (Loose) It’s hardly surprising that this superb fourth from Israel Nash is in my top 3; the soulful, cosmic country with a hint of psychedelia and gentle steel guitar over the top of occasionally impenetrable lyrics and enough melody to make the songs warm and memorable is right up my Laurel Canyon in a Fleet Foxes meets Neil Young kind of way. Check out LA Lately as it really is a totally cool tune, man.
=1: RICHARD HAWLEY – Hollow Meadows (Parlophone) Sheffield’s finest released his most personal and heartfelt album yet in 2015. “Heart Of Oak” and “Which Way” aside, the remaining nine tracks are proper, string-laden, emotional ballads – ballads which lend themselves to Hawley’s fine baritone and recall great singers of a bygone era: Orbison, Presley, Monroe et al. If you’ve got any soul, opening track “I Still Want You” will bring a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye and when you’ve finally pulled yourself together, the closer “What Love Means” will start you off again. Treasure this man, we don’t have many of his ilk left in this country – unless of course you class Sam Smith as a singer, in which case you can just fuck off and stop buying records now!
=1: FATHER JOHN MISTY – I Love You Honeybear (Bella Union) Father John Misty is erstwhile Fleet Foxes drummer, Josh Tillman and this is his second breathtaking album in a row. He’s given us eleven songs that are by turns, cynical, bitter, heartbreaking, funny and painfully personal and which recall the humour of Randy Newman (especially Bored In The USA), the early piano-led genius of Elton John and the tunesmithery of Burt Bacharach. The lushness of the orchestral arrangements and the beauty and content of his lyrical output put him on the top table of today’s current crop of singer-songwriters, if not at the head of that table. Anyone that writes the line “And the malaprops make me wanna fucking scream, I wonder if she knows what that word even means” in a bitter anti-love song aimed at an old, irritating lover deserves our respect. Make no mistake, this album is a classic and will be lauded as such many years from now.