As 2015 hurtles to a close, and in a break from the norm the Last Mixed Tape has chosen it’s Top 20 International Albums of 2015.
It has been a landmark year in many ways, with stunning debut from the likes of Shamir and Jamie XX, timely returns by Blur, Florence + the Machine, influential L.P’s like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and career defining records from Father John Misty, Chrvches, Best Coast and more.
See below for TLMT’s Top 20 International Albums of the Year and listen to the Spotify Playlist.
20. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp
Self-contained and intimate, Waxahatchee hits her stride with the full-on indie-folk (with a hint of alternative-rock) sound of Ivy Tripp.
Key Track: ‘Air’
19. Mac Demarco – Another One
Short but sweet, Mac Demaro’s Another One further establishes the Canadian as a songwriter with a voice all of his own. Fuzzy, hazey music that takes it’s time.
Key Track: ‘Another One’
18. Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass
An album filled with beautifully tempered stylistic flourishes, Natalie Prass produces a debut that is big on ideas while also letting the artist’s pin-point songwriting shine through.
Key Track: ‘Bird of Prey’
17. Shamir – Rachet
With shades of Prince circa Sign O The Times, Rachet captures the sound of promising new artist finding his feet and projecting his own outlook.
Key Track: ‘Vegas’
16. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Admittedly a grower for me personally, few can argue the impact both musically and culturally that Kendrick Lamar’s third album has had, indeed it was so influential it inspired the perennially influential David Bowie. Enough said.
Key Track: ‘Alright’
15. Florence + the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Few returns this year felt more earned or hard-fought than the re-emergence of Florence + the Machine. Unburdened by the overblown production than hampered Ceremonials, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is an album that carries the scars of time and uses them to make a deeply personal record coupled with the bombast of Florence Welch’s thunderous vocal.
Key Track: ‘Ship To Wreck’
14. Foals – What Went Down
Four albums in and Foals bring their most weighty record to date. Big on sound and ambition, What Went Down finds the group lifting the full force of their music without ever being overcome by it.
Key Tracks: ‘Mountain At the Gates’
13. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love
A comeback that lived-up to it’s past, Sleater-Kinney used the decade-long hiatus between 2005’s The Wood to bring a album that is incredibly quick on its feet and spartan. Honed-in post-punk at its best, nothing is left to chance.
Key Tracks: ‘Surface Envy’
12. Sleaford Mods – Key Markets
As hard-edged and bristly a record than we have seen in quite some time, Sleaford Mods’ Key Markets has all the relatable street poetry of the Fall with the twisting lyricism of Ian Dury. Post-punk and hip-hop crashing together perfectly.
Key Track: ‘No One’s Bothered’
11. Blur – The Magic Whip
A welcome return from the brit-pop legends, The Magic Whip was far from a nostalgia project from the band and has carved out it’s own identity within Blur’s eclectic back-catalog.
Key Track: ‘Go Out’
10. Slaves – Are You Satisfied?
A band who truly revel in the primitive, noise-driven ethos of punk, Slaves give the genre a much needed wake-up call with Are You Satisfied?.
Key Track: ‘Cheer Up London’
9. Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too
A brilliant merging of alternative hip-hop and electro-pop, Young Fathers achieve one of the hardest tasks in music by creating a sound that is not only original but relevant.
Key Track: ‘Rain or Shine’
8. Pins – Wild Nights
Manchester band Pins returned with the impactful yet focused sound of Wild Nights. Playing more like a cohesive album than their raw-edged debut Girls Like Us, the group’s sophomore outing finds them really exploring their sound whilst also giving it the forceful noise-rock twist that made their music so compelling to begin with.
Key Track: ‘Young Girls’
7. Richard Hawley – Hollow Meadows
Richard Hawley once again shows himself to be a master of craft with the brilliant Hollow Meadows. An album for songwriters and for fans of great music in general.
Key Track: ‘Heart of Oak’
6. Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool
Wolf Alice released a sublime debut this year in the shape of My Love Is Cool. Capturing the sound of a band who have a sure handle on who they are, the L.P. is effortlessly relevant to right now.
Key Track: ‘Freazy’
5. Best Coast – California Nights
A stellar return to form, Best Coast followed the lack-luster sound of their second album The Only Place with the greatly realised production of California Nights. An album of defined moods, the duo slip from dream-pop to alternative-rock to jangle-pop whilst never missing a step.
Key Track: ‘Fading Fast’
4. Jamie XX – In Colour
Jamie XX made the leap to solo artist this year and more than met the hype and expectation that proceeded it. Delivering one of the most musically and stylistically diverse albums in quite some time.
Key Track: ‘Loud Places’
3. Chvrches – Every Open Eye
Synth-pop at it’s finest, Chvrches side-stepped the second album slump with an L.P. that improves on the strong foundations laid by the trio’s debut The Bones of What You Believe. Lyrics seem more meaningful, the production is deeper and the songs tighter. Resulting in a record brimming with sonic vibrancy.
Key Track: ‘Leave A Trace’
2. Beach House – Depression Cherry
The far stronger of Beach House’s two 2015 records, ‘Depression Cherry’ was slightly divisive upon it’s release. However, for the me the album was a slow-burner which grew with each listen until finally the deep, lush textural moods of the album were clear to see.
Key Track: ‘Levitation’
And the Last Mixed Tape’s International Album of the Year 2015 is…
1. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
Few albums in recent memory can match the bare unbridled honesty and complete emotive abandon of Father John Misty’s sophomore effort. Dark, funny, sexy and unashamedly romantic Misty covers the highs and lows of love, much of which can be summed-up in the lyric “I wanna take you in the kitchen Lift up your wedding dress someone was probably murdered in”.
Key Tracks: ‘Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)’