Depending on where you've been reading, the year's best album was either made by Kendrick Lamar, Father John Misty or Julia Holter. History will likely shine on the former as 2015's definitive record, but for now cast your eyes over the favourites of Sabotage's top music scribes.
Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass
Natalie Prass' debut album is a record out-of-time, but one that feels totally contemporary. In a departure for a lot of singer/songwriter records, it's an album that's all about the arrangements and production - swelling strings and beautiful, Bacharach melodies, with Natalie's Disney-esque voice another line in the orchestra. The songwriting is incredible too - "I just want to love you violently / I've had enough of talking politely" maybe my lyric of the year. Cannot wait to see what she does next.
Chosen by Harry Harris - @CmonHarris
Flako - Natureboy / Beat Spacek - Modern Streets
There were a couple of albums that came out in 2015, namely Kamasi and Kendrick, that changed the course of music and are rightly being appreciated in round-up list all over the net, but in terms of my favourite it's a toss up between Flako's subtly mesmerising effort on the excellent Five Easy Pieces, and Beat Spacek's brilliantly unique Modern Streets on Ninja Tune. In fact special mention to Ninja Tune for being consistently on their game all year.
Justin Bieber - Purpose
Justin Bieber has, over the years, been deeply irritating. However,when he went through what he called his ‘knucklehead’ period,something remarkable happened: he put out Journals, which contained some killer R&B, cribbing notes from Timbaland, and swilling lean. When Purpose and its singles emerged in 2015, to those who’d enjoyed Confident, the strength of the album was no surprise. What Do You Mean? is arguably the biggest track of the year, and the rest of Purpose stacks up too. Sorry, Love Yourself, Trust, and the massive Where Are U Now? cemented Bieber’s full Justin Timberlake transformation from teeny-bopper to real-deal pop giant.
Richard Hawley - Hollow Meadows
For many, the recovery from a broken leg leads to little more than an unhealthy Midsomer Murders obsession. That is, unless you’re Richard Hawley who swept aside the Radio Times for long enough to construct an album thats intimacy and atmosphere makes you question your relationship with those around you, and those no longer there. Songs span mobile phones, departing offspring and at his most brutally honest a declaration to ‘love until the sun goes cold’. John Nettles and the Midsomers team may be a dab hand at solving homicides in the home counties, but they can’t get to within an ocean's length of that.
Father John Misty- I Love You, Honeybear
Father John Misty is the alter ego of Josh Tillman, formerly of Fleet Foxes, and the good thing about an alter ego is that it allows you to piss about a bit. I Love You Honeybear brings together some achingly beautiful lyrics with moments of surreal levity that bring to mind the likes of Bob Dylan’s 115 Dream - a song that rambles beautifully along for 8 minutes in order to deliver one (perfect) joke.
Tillman spends time sending up both himself (see the ironic laughter track on Bored in the USA) and the folk tradition (“Spent my folk-bucks getting drunk and high”) but gives the impression of a man who’s now comfortable telling these stories. So much of his work is composed of autobiographical stories of a misspent youth, but with numerous touching nods to his current blissfully wedded state. At once hilarious, whimsical and brilliantly constructed – this is 2015’s essential listen.
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
To Pimp A Butterfly was not the gatling gun firing, rap king coronation album that many expected Kendrick Lamar to put out following his verse on Control. It wasn’t an album that you could vibe to constantly in the car or club. 2015 unquestionably belonged to Drake as top rapper (with an honourable mention to Future).
And yet, somehow, To Pimp A Butterfly is still my album the year. No album was as ambitious, as confounding and as multi-faceted as Kendrick’s sophomore (kinda) release. It starts with Boris head Boris Gardener declaring “every n----- is a star” and ends with him talking to Tupac. On a mainstream rap release where everyone was expecting him to be the next Dr. Dre (Made all the more hilarious by Kendrick saving Compton with just three verses; Kendrick CAN become the next Dre, he just doesn’t want to). Kendrick went big on To Pimp A Butterfly, and while it didn’t completely land, there’s no question it’s rap music’s What’s Going On. A vitally important and unquestionably classic album.
Brandon Flowers - The Desired Effect
Like his first solo effort and the better Killers albums, The Desired Effect is a collection of short stories with a plot line for everyone. It's also a collection of cracking pop songs - opener Dreams Come True is all big band and big hope, Can't Deny My Love is an exhibitionist display of vocal range and power, and Lonely Town is pure musical nostalgia. My personal favourite is Diggin' Up The Heart: all synthy Springsteenian small-town woe and pedals to the metal. A top pop album from a master of the craft.
LA Priest - Inji
After the breakup of Late of the Pier, front man Samuel Eastgate, aka Sam Dust, concentrated on his LA Priest project. This was something that he’d started concocting before the band; before the release of the critically acclaimed Fantasy Black Channel; before LotP got lumped into the new rave bracket. Sounding a million miles away from, while also giving us small hints of his work during that time, Inji is a synthy, messy, brilliant record.
From the 80’s Tom Cruise film soundtrack back and forth of Lady’s In Trouble With The Law, to the giddy pop of standout track Oino, this is an album that demands repeat listens, and rewards you thoroughly for doing just that.
Algiers - Algiers
I hadn’t heard of Algiers until a few weeks ago when, walking past Brighton record shop Resident’s window, I noted hey’d named it as their album of the year. From the very first listen it announced itself as a record unlike anything I’ve ever heard- a chain-rattling, hip-hop punk-gospel masterpiece that makes Young Fathers sound like Benjamin Clementine. Try it on headphones: they’ll make a believer of you yet.
Paul Weller- Saturns Pattern
Another year older but still no sense of fading. Weller that is. Same cannot be said for most of us but the Woking Wonder keeps on pushing.
A mini "intimate" tour was followed swiftly by the biggest stage set arena tour Weller has ever put on. It seems his softening approach to a bit more theatre is just what the doctor ordered. As well as arguably his best setlist for a decade alongside Jam and TSC rich pickings much of his 2015 release, Saturns Pattern (grammatical flaw the only one it had) songs sat proudly in the set and remained high spots despite a wave of nostalgia provoked by the summer's wonderfully curated "About The Young Idea" exhibition
This was Weller at his most McCartney, with a side order of Stooges and Balearic-tinged house (small h), but Baby You're A Rich Man era Fabs were never more than a track away.