10 Oczy Mlody **The Flaming Lips **
Tucked away at the beginning of the year was the 14th album by psychedelic veterans The Flaming Lips. Blending rock and electronica, this colourful LP is a neatly produced experimental piece that, despite the many references to unicorns and a bizarre feature by Miley Cyrus, retains a bewildering coherence. After pushing musical boundaries for 34 years now, Wayne Coyne & co. are still leading the pack with no signs of slowing down.
9 Interplanetary Class Classics The Moonlandingz
Pugnacious, scuzzy and lewd is the debut album by this side project, consisting of members from Fat White Family and Eccentronic Research Council. With help from Sean Lennon & Yoko Ono, we’re treated to 41 minutes of cascading synths, exhilarating cynicism and Iggy Pop-esque snarls.
8 Lotta Sea Lice Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile
As Felix reported at the time, this collaborative album doesn’t quite capture the full frenetic wit of Barnett’s solo work, nor is it the intricate, immersive daydream that we’ve come to expect from Vile. It is, however, soaked in the playful intimacy of two friends and artists, working together to produce something fun, sentimental and wholesome.
7 Migration Bonobo
By far his most sophisticated work to date, Bonobo’s world-influenced electronica is crisp and finessed. Constructing serene, atmospheric soundscapes comes naturally to Simon Green at this point, and he does it better than anyone else.
6 Antisocialites Alvvays
Dropping some of the teenage insecurities of their first album, the sophomore effort by the Canadian cuties is still fun and delicate indie pop, but with a newfound confidence and wisdom. Compelling from start to finish, this brisk record cements the five-piece as ones to watch.
5 Slowdive Slowdive
Over the course of the 22 years since shoegaze darlings Slowdive were panned by critics and dropped from their record label, they’ve amassed a greater following than they’d ever experienced previously. The first of two big comeback albums on this list was a gargantuan sonic assault, reminiscent of their early work but in the format of a more conventional rock LP. Turbulent and tender, this is an album made for live shows; as such, they underwent an extensive and well-attended tour, culminating in a wildly impressive gig at Camden’s roundhouse.
4 The Weather Pond
These Australian psych-rockers first came into being as something of a Tame Impala side project, with multiple members shared between the two bands. Though fully autonomous, Pond has been generally overshadowed by their parent outfit, and so has existed largely under the radar. This latest effort, however, is an absolute standout. With Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker lending a hand on production, the LP is a shimmering whirlwind with incredible energy. Dystopian visions of the band’s hometown, Perth, are seen through a kaleidoscopic lens, sporting anguish and amazement in equal measure.
3 V The Horrors
More muscular than we’ve previously seen them, the dream-pop quintet from Southend-on-Sea have adopted a new sound on this, their fifth full length outing. Rousing new wave with a familiar Human League/OMD vibe punctuates their distinctive industrial drone, resulting in something that is both danceable and disturbing. Opaque and unrelenting, it may have lost some of the artsy innocence of their previous work, but my god, does it sound good.
2 American Dream LCD Soundsystem
There’s always the worry that a return after hiatus as highly anticipated as this one is going to underwhelm, and so very often it does. However, this was not true of LCD. As Felix reported, this is some of the most stellar work we’ve seen from James Murphy and friends. Brooding, reflective and littered with homages to their musical heroes, this nearly faultless LP showed that though they may be getting on a bit, they’re still nowhere near losing their edge.
1 A Deeper Understanding The War on Drugs
The massive critical acclaim of 2014’s Lost in the Dream set the bar desperately high. Producing a follow up that could match it must’ve seemed a nigh on impossible task for the Philadelphia misfits. Adam Granduciel’s response was to retreat into the studio for three years of meticulous crafting. The result didn’t match their earlier effort, it surpassed it, with ease. To dismiss them as Springsteen-esque Dad rock is demeaning; while their inspirations may be rooted in the mid-80s, they’re in no way rehashing that scene. Sublime, extended guitar play hints at big riffs but seldom realises them, creating intricate, effervescent layers of sound that submerge and consume you, superbly engineered with great depth and clarity. If the previous LP was an ethereal dream, this one is an otherworldly reality.