Our Albums of the Year: Numbers 30-22

Here is day one of the countdown of our top 30 favourite albums of the year. Today 30-22, tomorrow 21-11, then the top ten on Wednesday. What I would say before we start though is that the most innovative and exciting “popular music” genre at the moment is around the intersection of “R&B” and “electronic”.

I don’t think many rock or indie bands have come close to the creativity of Solange, Kanye, Beyonce, Kendrik Lamar, or Frank Ocean, in the last couple of years. But … my taste is somewhat more rock, so I appreciate that this list is not the “best” in any objective music critic sense. It’s what I like basically. Having said that, as you will see, none of our top 5 albums is exactly a traditional rock or even indie album … but more of that to come. This year, we also have more well-known artists than last year – no excuse for David Atkinson to complain about the obscurity of the list I hope!

Let’s start with cheating – I could not separate four shared number 30 albums from four very different female artists.

  1. Angel Olsson - My Woman
    To be honest … have only just got into this and clearly it should be in the top 30, but too late to think deeply about exactly where. A singer songwriter with styles that cut across pop, rock, soul, folk but with an unflinching ability to examine the challenges of life and love …

  2. Petite MellerLil Empire
    Her weird “French philosophy doctorate student pretending to be Lolita” shtick does her no favours in our opinion, but her ability to write a truly great pop tune is second to none (or very few) at the moment. Brings in elements of “world music” and her videos are great too (this is perhaps my fave “pop” video of the year – filmed in Mongolia no less).

  3. Amelie Sande - Long Live the Angels
    She struggled to cope with her sudden fame after her debut, playing at the 2012 Olympics and so on. Then some personal romance issues came into play – that all adds up to a second album that is perhaps deep than the first, whilst retaining the obvious instant accessibility of songs like this one. Very high-class pop/soul and a brilliant vocalist.

  4. Esme PattersonWe Were Wild
    I’d never heard of her until she supported Frank Turner recently. The Seattle singer songwriter can sound like Laura Marling or Sheryl Crow one minute, then rock out like the next. It all makes for a varied but very enjoyable debut album and whilst she is not operating in the most fashionable genre currently, let’s hope we hear more from her.


  1. The Hunna - 100
    This young-ish British indie band want to be Green Day but sometimes come off as bit more like McFly. But there is a place for lively, tuneful, pop-rock and this is a very good example of the genre. We agonised over including The Blossoms in this list – another indie band that actually broke through to greater commercial success in 2015 – but on balance The Hunna just pipped them on sheer energy.

  2. Green DayRevolution Radio
    Talking of the masters of the pop-punk genre, this is their best album for some years, perhaps since American Idiot. A strong collection of songs with a bit of social comment but mainly just straight ahead, catchy, driving, commercial “punk” that hits the spot.

  3. Black FoxxesI’m Not Well
    One of those albums that didn’t seem to get the attention it deserved (although the estimable Drowned in Sound website loved it). The British rock trio aren’t operating in a fashionable genre, but like Biffy Clyro they may find a slow-burning success if they stick it out. Blues influenced, moderately heavy rock with nods to Biffy, Placebo, Rival Sons, and Nirvana. Best pure rock debut of the year.

  4. Tegan and Sara – Love You To Death
    The previous album from the Canadian twins was right at the top of our 2013 list and this suffered from being similar but maybe not quite as good. Their indie background shines through in the attitude and lyrics but the tunes are classic pop gold, with a bittersweet sensibility and an addictive quality. This track in particular is gorgeous and has the cutest dog-based pop video ever. However, it really should have morphed into a huge bangin’ dance tune after about 2 minutes … that is my issue here, this album needed a bit more variation and just a bit of madness I guess, then it could have been right at the top of our list again.

  5. The AmazingAmbulance
    This is the fifth album from the Swedish indie band – we have not really come across them previously. If we said this album is the best music to fall asleep to we have ever experienced, that might sound like an insult. It’s not. This could be described as prog rock, folk, ambient maybe in places but it is relaxing yet engaging – you can listen to it with concentration or just drift very happily. I have yet to get beyond track four – the brilliant Ambulance – on a plane without dropping off.

  6. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
    A rather nerdy young man (Will Toledo) releasing music made in his bedroom has graduated to producing one of the most unexpectedly excellent albums of the year (86% on Metacritic). DIY “slacker rock” is the genre with a laid-back somewhat chaotic air to the songs, with deft and often humorous lyrics about growing up, friends, drugs and stuff. “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School For Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn't a Problem)” is a song title that tells you a lot about the album. But it all hangs together, with a real band providing a surprisingly dynamic rock feel to it – not quite as good as last year’s stunning debut from Courtney Barnett but a similar vibe.

  7. Viola Beach – Viola Beach
    You just can’t talk about this without thinking of the tragic background – five young men, perhaps on the cusp of a great career, killed in a tragic car accident on tour in Sweden. But this isn’t a sympathy vote. This is very impressive indie-dance pop, in the Two Door Cinema Club style, but with a hint of sophistication that suggests they might have developed into some sort of British Vampire Weekend – some of their use of interesting rhythms goes well beyond the basic indie norm here. Strong songs, a worthy memorial and a very enjoyable listen, but also very, very sad.

  8. Eliza And the Bear - Eliza And the Bear
    A bit of a guilty pleasure this one – nothing too deep but hugely catchy indie-folk-pop tunes, ideal for singing along at Festivals. “I got friends, I got family here …” and all that. Comparisons might be the Mumfords, Imagine Dragons … All done in the true spirit of popular music, with a smile on the face and a chiming guitar in the hands; hey deserve to be big.



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