I nearly did a ‘Top XX albums of 2015’ list but I figured I haven’t actually listened to that many this year. So instead I just listed all* the albums released since January that I’d properly heard from beginning to end and, in true The Internet style, ranked them.
(*Well actually all-but-one: but I’ve omitted Finish Flag‘s on the grounds of #conflictofinterest. Check his stuff out though, it’s maaaaagnificent.)
I’ve seen a shit ton of records on other people’s year-end lists that I should probably investigate – Bjork, Sufjan Stevens, Rae Morris etc etc – but here’s how I rank the ones I did hear, for better or worse.
And for what it’s worth, here are the albums I’ve put at No1 in these list things in past years:
2010: Lights – Ellie Goulding
2011: 21 – Adele
2012: Electra Heart – Marina and the Diamonds
2013: Salute – Little Mix
2014: 1989 – Taylor Swift
54. Everything Is 4 – Jason Derulo
Not without merit, but certainly ‘not a classic’.
53. 1989 – Ryan Adams
In which a man with a guitar takes the decade’s greatest pop album and makes it boring as fuck. Imagine if Taylor covered one of his albums? There’d be RAGE!
52. Lady Sings The Blues – Rebecca Ferguson
Not a terrible album by any means, but I’m in a huff with her/her label for covering an entire Billie Holiday era rather than bringing out any new originals. Next year please, R-Fergz.
51. Title – Meghan Trainor
All About That Bass is one of my least favourite chart hits of all time but, on the grounds that she wrote Fifth Harmony’s Sledgehammer and therefore can’t be all bad, I investigated the full album and… it wasn’t awful. 3am especially is rather pleasant.
50. Male – Natalie Imbruglia
Her off Torn covers a load of songs by male artists in one of 2015’s quietest comebacks. It’s not an enthralling ride, to be fair, but there are some really nice moments on it. I Will Follow You Into The Dark is certainly worth a spin.
49. Ben Haenow – Ben Haenow
As original as a cheese sandwich, Ben’s album wins no points for breaking new ground, but I like it a lot more than I expected. Make It Back To Me is a lovely raw ballad while single Second Hand Heart – with or without a guest vocal from The Queen – is, if you ask me, somewhat under-appreciated.
48. Life – Sigma
The singles are good, as are some of the other bits, but the duo’s general ‘sound’ – which has been enjoying a strong chart reign for the last few years – is starting to sound like it needs a makeover.
47. Honeymoon – Lana Del Rey
S’alright. I just don’t really jizz over it, you know what I mean? Is it just me? It’s just me, isn’t it.
46. Storyteller – Carrie Underwood
LOVE Heartbeat, the song she did on The X Factor, and actually this whole album is very agreeable. Does n’half start to blend into one long song after a while, though.
45. Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz – Miley Cyrus
There are some great tracks on here and I respect the shit out of its ~artistic integrity~ but I’m more of a Party In The USA/Wrecking Ball kind of pop consumer, you know?
44. Sounds Good Feels Good – 5 Seconds Of Summer
You know this album was NUMBER ONE this year? I feel like it passed me by completely. I enjoyed the ladzzz’ last set and this really just delivers more of the same. Reasonably good.
43. Letters To Ghosts – Lucie Silvas
Nine years after her last album, Lucie finally returns with a record that makes a very good soundtrack for general housework chores, in my experience.
42. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – Florence and The Machine
Not a patch on Ceremonials ‘imo’ but HBHBHB is still another solid album from Flo. Great title, too.
41. Deja Vu – Giorgio Moroder
There are some big songs on here (BRITNEY, for crying out loud) and the guy is obviously a musical God but *whispers* I don’t love the whole album.
40. We Are – Lucy Spraggan
I adored Lucy’s 2013 collection Join The Club, and We Are pleasingly continues among almost identical lines. Her storytelling remains her biggest strength, especially on songs like 23, The Postman and Coming Down.
39. Brave – The Shires
I saw the female half of this duo in an amateur production of Honk! many years ago, before she then popped up on The X Factor. Little anecdote for you there.
38. White Light – The Corrs
The year’s most welcome comeback didn’t exactly set the world on fire but was as nice as a nice cup of tea and a sit down after a long one at work. Lead single Bring On The Night is great, and there’s plenty to love elsewhere: Stay, Kiss Of Life and Strange Romance especially.
37. Working Girl – Little Boots
2008 debut Hands feels like a million years ago now but Little Boots is still quietly getting on with being one of the country’s best pop artists; popping out her third v good album in July. No Pressure is the highlight for me.
36. A Head Full Of Dreams – Coldplay
As someone who actually enjoys a bit of Coldplay every now and then, I find A Head Full Of Dreams to be a decent shift in direction but still a long way behind Mylo Xyloto and, come to think of it, 2014’s then-maligned Ghost Stories as well.
35. I Cry When I Laugh – Jess Glynne
I saw someone tweet that Jess’s album contains so many hit singles that it may as well count as an entry into the Now! compilation series. I enjoyed that tweet.
34. Wake Up – The Vamps
They make me feel 97 but, in a pop-by-numbers sort of way, this is a great, hassle-free listen. Well done The Vamps.
33. Reflection – Fifth Harmony
Bit dry in places, to be quite honest, and I would have liked a bit more along the lines of Sledgehammer and the omitted Miss Movin’ On, but this a very sophisticated, polished, high-sass girlband album. In particular Like Mariah is great and This Is How We Roll is a right jam.
32. I Am – Leona Lewis
Probably her weakest non-Christmas studio album of the four, but Leona’s still in fine form. Power and Thunder are the two favourites for me.
31. Love, Sax and Flashbacks – Fleur East
There’s a 10/10 EP hidden in here, and its tracklist is Sax, Breakfast, More And More, Kitchen and Baby Don’t Dance. And maybe Paris. Unfortunately the rest is a little harder to get excited about.
30. 85% Proof – Will Young
It’s no Echoes but 85% Proof is still a great, long overdue album from the first man of modern TV talent shows. You don’t get stuff like Joy, Brave Man and Like A River from Gareth Gates now, do you?
29. Feline – Ella Eyre
It’s a shame Ella Eyre hasn’t taken off in the way it once looked as though she might, but there’s a lot to love about Feline. Comeback, If I Go and Two are the three you need if the prospect of buying a whole album seems absurd.
28. Beauty Behind The Madness – The Weeknd
The Weeknd isn’t the kind of artist I’d rush to listen to on a commute ‘tbqh’, but Beauty Behind The Madness is still a very well put-together collection and deservedly one of 2015’s biggest hits. Thanks be to Ariana for shifting his trajectory.
27. The Veronicas – The Veronicas
There’s a lot to be said for an album that’s nothing fancier or cleverer than just 14 straightforward pop songs. From the beautiful single You Ruin Me to the care-free head-bopper Teenage Millionaire, there’s very little filler.
26. Made In The AM – One Direction
Last year’s FOUR was – don’t look at me like that – completely brilliant, and set a standard that Made In The AM doesn’t quite match. But it’s still a typically slick, shiny record. Perfect and Infinity are great ballads to add to their repertoire, and I’ve also got a big soft spot for Long Way Down and I Want To Write You A Song.
25. Rebel Heart – Madonna
Ultimately not as entertaining as the online ridicule/tributes to the album artwork (well done to whoever made a mock-up with Lisa Scott-Lee’s face in place of Madonna’s), but Rebel Heart is an impressive – if slightly flawed – album from someone who’s still one of pop’s biggest stars.
24. Do It For Love – Alesha Dixon
YES I PUT ALESHA DIXON ABOVE MADONNA, WHAT OF IT?? I took a chance on paying ten sterling pounds for this record and I don’t regret it: Alesha’s shift from major label priority to independent DIY hasn’t really affected the quality of her music, and there are some lovely bops on offer. Best lyric, in tribute to her daughter: “Delivering a message from my womb to the charts”. Incredible.
23. Confident – Demi Lovato
Demetria’s last three albums – Here We Go Again, Unbroken and Demi – are among my favourites of recent years, so the fact that Confident was a solid 7/10 as opposed to 9.5/10 was a little disappointing, but that’s not to say it’s not still packed with chart-ready jams: Kingdom Come is great, she sings the shit out of Lionheart, and of course the two big singles are A++.
22. Unbreakable – Janet Jackson
Its standard edition lasts longer than an hour so Unbreakable is certainly not a brief listen, but it’s a great new body of work from an iconic artist, and much better than the mixed reaction to first single No Sleeep (no typo) would have you believe. Missy Elliot collaboration Burnitup! and the slightly poppier Shoulda Known Better are particularly strong.
21. The Original High – Adam Lambert
A big hit-ready album decked out with the industry’s biggest writers and producers, The Original High is a stuffed with radio-ready tracks including There I Said It and its great lyric “I won’t apologise to you anymore, ‘cos I’m a grown-ass maaaa-yaaan!”
20. Right Here Right Now – Jordin Sparks
Charting in the US at number 161, it’s hard to call Right Here Right Now anything other than a commercial failure, but artistically speaking it’s arguably Jordin’s best record to date – even if no individual track matches Battlefield or No Air. There’s a great sense of cohesion amongst the R’n’B-flavoured songs; highlights being the Elijah Blake duet Unhappy, sexjam Silhouette, lead single Double Tap and the Dem Jointz-produced title track.
19. Nick Jonas – Nick Jonas
Trailed by completely brilliant single Jealous, the whole Nick Jonas album ‘experience’ is a slick affair that properly marks him out as Someone To Keep An Eye On – and not just for photoshoots like this.
18. The Fool – Ryn Weaver
The best album this year that nobody heard, this is so under-rated it makes Carly Rae’s Emotion look like a mainstream success. Loads of great songs here but Promises is easily the best.
17. Lucid Dreaming – Say Lou Lou
Excellent. Would have been a tiny bit more excellent if Better In The Dark was on it but sometimes life doesn’t quite go your way.
16. Jackie – Ciara
I know many people would say Ciara’s been brilliant for years but I’ve only very recently joined the bandwagon, and Jackie is ace. Dance Like We’re Making Love is amazing but the emotionally raw Only One is my most listened-to track.
15. Communion – Years & Years
Oh GOD I still can’t emotionally cope with Without.
14. Purpose – Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber made a strong album this year and half the planet lost their shit, as if he hasn’t always been a generally great popstar. The slightly maturer shift in direction is mostly successful, although something along the lines of this or this wouldn’t have gone amiss.
13. Get Weird – Little Mix
Not quite as flawless as 2013’s Salute but better than 2012’s patchy DNA, Get Weird is the sound of Little Mix ditching the gimmicks and perusing pure, (mostly) family-friendly pop. Weird People and Black Magic are the two highlights, but the likes of Lightning, an easy successor to DNA (the song), and second single Love Me Like You also justify the price. Sexybop™ A.D.I.D.A.S. is brill, too.
12. Blue Neighborhood – Troye Sivan
You don’t walk away from Blue Neighborhood with a spring in your step and a gleeful smile on your face but it’s a deeply affecting record nonetheless – songs like Talk Me Down and The Quiet are great angstjams while my personal fave Lost Boy hints at something a bit lighter.
11. Sucker – Charli XCX
If you don’t like what you already know of Charli XCX’s music, this album won’t change your mind – but she more than meets the hype for me. Famous, Sucker and obviously Boom Clap are the easy highlights.
10. Revival – Selena Gomez
I thought this was fucking awful on first listen. But while much of Selena’s last album – Stars Dance – was immediately enjoyable but quickly disposable, this is more of an enduring, slow-burning set: her strength isn’t her voice, but she can perform and Tell The Story better than many of her contemporaries. Sober is my favourite track here, but Hands To Myself is filthyawesome, Good For You is one of the year’s best singles and bonus add-on Me And My Girls is simultaneously ludicrous and ingenious.
09. Delirium – Ellie Goulding
Lights was my top album of 2010 and Halcyon was one of my favourites from 2012, so I was keener than keen to see where Ellie would head with Delirium. It’s FUCKING LONG for a start (the inevitable repack next year will probably run for three days), but mostly very good: Keep On Dancin’ and Lost And Found are two of its most amazing but most contrasting tracks; the former being an almost gloomy shuffle-a-long electroditty and the latter sounding like a spruced-up, Max Martin’ed song from her first album. It’s Something In The Way You Move that steals the show for me, though.
08. The Desired Effect – Brandon Flowers
Better than any Killers album (don’t @ me), The Desired Effect is a beautiful pop record with a frontman that makes it accessible to fans of all genres. I Can Change, Between Me And You and Never Get You Right – three of the more low-key, downtempo moments – are all sublime.
07. Piece By Piece – Kelly Clarkson
Maybe I can’t see through my own Kellybias but I feel like I loved this album a lot more than most: granted, it sags a little in the middle (Warpaint and I Had A Dream can quite easily get in the bin) but the rest is an exhilarating ride that leaves the rock-influenced hair-flipping of her mid-00s Imperial Phase firmly in the past. The Matthew Koma-penned Someone houses one of her most restrained vocal performances ever (plus the great opening line, “So this is my apology for saying all those shitty things I wish I didn’t really mean: sorry I’m not sorry”), while the glitchy Take You High is an unexpected curveball unlike anything she’s put her name to before. The title track is a stunning, pretty moving sequel to 2004’s Because Of You, and late-album bangers Dance With Me and Nostalgic would have made great singles.
06. FROOT – Marina and the Diamonds
It’s a brave album, this: completely ditching the panel of industry hitmakers from 2012’s Electra Heart, Marina is now the only songwriter, and David Kosten her only producer. It’s ‘very Marina’ but the lack of interference paints a much clearer picture of her as an artist than we’ve ever had before, and if you’re to cherry-pick a few songs I’d recommend Savages, Froot, Happy, Blue and Gold. Oh, and Immortal. And Weeds. And Forget. And I’m A Ruin.
05. Queen of the Clouds – Tove Lo
Split into three clearly defined chapters – The Sex, The Love and The Pain – Queen Of The Clouds is a ballsy full-length debut that barely ever stumbles. Like Em Young is a track very few of Tove’s contemporaries would dare attempt (“Hey boy, you’re too young for me but I don’t care ’cause you’re all I see”), Thousand Miles is basically dripping with angst and latest single Moments is juuuuust perfect.
04. Every Open Eye – CHVRCHES
Like their last album The Bones Of What You Believe but significantly bigger, Every Open Eye is CHVRCHES at their stadium-ready personal best. The lyrics are consistently intelligent, Lauren Mayberry’s vocal is completely unique and it’s only High Enough To Carry You Over – on which she hands over the vocal reigns – when the record even slightly loses pace.
03. 25 – Adele
I’m gonna rank the songs as follows:
- When We Were Young
2. Water Under The Bridge
4. Send My Love (To Your New Lover) <<< DO THIS ONE AT THE BRITS PLEASE
6. All I Ask
7. Sweetest Devotion
8. River Lea
9. I Miss You
10. Million Years Ago
11. Love In The Dark
Glad we’re all in agreement.
02. E•MO•TION – Carly Rae Jepsen
This album came out while I had a play on and, in a constant state of tiredness, was angsting over EVERY ELEMENT OF LIFE. Carly perfectly soundtracked it. Not to bash Call Me Maybe, but Emotion is the sound of a popstar proving she’s got so much more in her than one borderline-novelty radio anthem.
It’s almost flawless: there are one or two tracks I tend to skippety-skip but generally this is emotive, title-justifying perfection. Run Away With Me is the year-defining No1 anthem that never was, Gimmie Love is beautiful, Your Type shows Sam Smith how to tackle unrequited #feelings, Let’s Get Lost is bop-a-long brilliance, Favourite Colour is UTTERLY GORGEOUS, When I Needed You is a middle-finger-wagging “fuck you” and I Really Like You is what Shake It Off was to Taylor Swift’s 1989: a red herring in terms of the album’s general “vibe”, but still 100% amazing.
This album is so special, and if I was in Proper Music Critic mode (haha) it would probably be Number 1 on this list. In the end, though, I decided it made more sense to put the album that had the most total plays on my iTunes library at the top.
And that album was…
01. Breathe In. Breathe Out. – Hilary Duff
With nearly 700 plays between all of its tracks on my iTunes, this was by far my most listened-to ‘LP’ of 2015.
I loved Hilary back in the day (TRY TELLING ME SO YESTERDAY ISN’T AN ALL-TIME CLASSIC, I DARE YOU) but it’s still a high-camp, sparkling surprise that Breathe In. Breathe Out. is totally brilliant, and a sharp change in direction from her two country-flavoured 2014 singles. It’s carefree, it’s pretension-free, and it’s bloody glorious.
Tove Lo lends a hand to lead single Sparks and gayest song of all time One In A Million, while Matthew Koma adds his own flavour to the super-fluffy Confetti, uber-banger Arms Around A Memory and the album’s head-and-shoulders highlight: its stunning title track, which launches into its chorus with the fantastic lyric “I made a Top 10 list of all the things I’ll miss / Your lying eyes and lips, they didn’t make it”.
Hilary’s obviously no Adele in the vocal department but she uses her instrument to great effect throughout, and she’s served well by some of the year’s best (and most under-rated) pop songs. My Kind is a very clear, very honest approach to a short-lived fling; Lies is a heartbroken kiss-off with sassy edges (“We’re falling apart like a house of cards, and I know in my heart that this has gone too far: I’m done with your lies”) and Tattoo, penned by Ed Sheeran, is a fragile ode to a finished relationship that’s going to take QUITE SOME TIME to get over. International bonus track Outlaw is also incredible, if only for the (apparent) lyric “I feel like an outlaw, I’m on the run in my red lace bra”. You don’t get that with Adele.