Albums of the Year – Numbers 30 to 21

Continuing our run-down of the Spend Matters Albums of the Year.

Today, 30 – 21, with some serious metal, punk, country, pop, electronica ... all sorts of great music!

30 Iron Maiden                                The Book of Souls

This triple-album metal monolithic masterpiece was a huge global hit and became the first vinyl record ever to be sold by Tesco, the UK’s largest retail chain! It’s energy and invention do not sound like a band which has been going for 40 years, although it is a bit “prog rock” in places, with three tracks clocking in at over ten minutes. Whilst the core is heavy, driving rock, there is variation (lovely piano and violin on Empire of the Clouds, for instance) and strong enough tunes to show this is more than just a head-bangers dream!

 29  Years and Years         Communion

Featuring several huge “hit singles” (as we used to call them) from the young British band, and very much in that light pop-dance style that was very prevalent in 2015. Yet there is some very skilled pop song-writing here, making the album a much more interesting proposition than we might have expected – and simply a very enjoyable listen. (Very good at Reading Festival too).

28  Ryan Adams                               1989

Serious Americana artist and brilliant song-writer does a non-ironic track by track cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989! Shock horror! He sounds like Springsteen on several tracks and got the best reviews he has had for years. Most loved it, a few hated it, but it seemed to me (as a deep Adams fan) that both he and Swift came out of it well – it certainly shows that she is one of the very best songwriters of her generation.

 27  The Vaccines                               English Graffiti

A disappointing commercial performance for the band’s third album, which we liked a lot. Slightly more sophisticated and varied than their earlier “Wet Suit” sound, maybe that is why it didn’t sell so well, but a collection of classic, tuneful indie-pop-rock songs.

 26  Lanterns On The Lake              Beings

Haven’t listened to this a lot to be fair so hard to judge - it seems a little darker, more experimental and less euphoric than their last brilliant album, Until The Colours Run, so it may need a few more listens to really appreciate, I suspect. Much of the time, LOTL create soundscapes rather than traditional songs, highly atmospheric, a bit like Sigur Ros but with more vocals. When they get it just right, it is a beautiful noise.

25  The Decemberists                    What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

A little less mandolin than their classic The King is Dead (our no 2 album of 2011) but a similar sort of indie / folk sound, with great tunes and in “The Singer Addresses His Audience” a rival to Father John Misty for wittiest lyrics of the year.

24  Django Django                            Born Under Saturn

A second album from the Scottish surf-dance-pop merchants, building nicely on their debut (a surprise hit in 2012). There is little more variation this time, without losing that core feel-good vibe, although the psychedelic harmony vocals get a bit-samey and we’d suggest album no 3 needs to experiment a bit more with that aspect!

23  Miley Cyrus              Miley Cyrus and her Dead Petz

This selection caused major ructions in the Smith household, with exclamations of “Miley Cyrus! what are you thinking of??!!” But listen with an open mind. Large parts of this sprawling 90 minute work, released for free download, are really a Flaming Lips (Wayne Coyne) album with Miley on vocals, and that includes some really beautiful songs. The rest is Cyrus being often very rude, direct, irritating (a 50 second track titled “Fu**** Fu**** Up” for instance) in places and yet rather wonderful in others. Who would have thought it - the sound of a young woman becoming a serious artist and one who may well do amazing things in years to come. (Look up her video of “Silent Night” from this Christmas to see that she really can sing too).

22  Natalie Prass                               Natalie Prass

The US singer-songwriter sings in a deceptively under-stated manner on this, her debut, but the power comes from the lyrics, the emotion in her voice and the brilliant arrangements, using brass and strings as well as more conventional ‘rock’ settings. There are aspects of pop, folk, country, soul and blues in here but it all hangs together beautifully as Prass sings of doomed relationships and much more – yet she creates an overall effect that is is uplifting, not depressing.

21  The Wonder Years                   No Closer To Heaven

The “pop-punk” band have developed their own pretty unique blend of strong tunes, personal lyrics (often with a sense of nostalgia and loss), and a quiet/loud thing going on within many songs, with singing in the main plus a bit of “metal" type vocals at times – that all separates them from most punk / EMO / metal bands and indeed makes them hard to classify! A worthy follow-up to the also excellent The Greatest Generation.


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