[sic] Magazine

Editor’s Top Albums of 2015

2015 was a somewhat fractured year. Or should that be fractal year? (Endless patterns but nothing too discernible.) It was an ‘anything goes’ year. Predictably most things…went. I usually find that most years have some kind of theme, at least for me personally if not for the general public. There have been years of post-punk revival, of electro and IDM dominance, of shoegaze and post rock. This year felt like the year of dreampop. There can be a hundred discs in the review pile and only a finite number can be actioned. Yet more often than not during the past twelve months dreampop wriggled its way to the top.

Other ‘zines want to tell you that taut angular post-punk ruled the waves this year, citing the likes of Viet Cong and Sleaford Mods. Dear reader, I’ve been around that block so many times that I feel I know every corner and alley there is to know. That’s my neighborhood and yes those bands are perfectly serviceable. The problem is that I can tell you instantly from where those melodies originate. That is, if you can find a melody! (Joking) I feel much the same way about the New Order album. Yes, it is a return to past form. Yet the emphasis is really on the ‘return’ part. Nothing new here. Just a revisit of vintage eighties NO and Electronic. Would your life be any different if you hadn’t heard Music Complete? NO.

Not that I mind old(er) acts returning. Judge as you find. Andy Whitaker and Oz Cooper’s Soup project found plenty of favour within these offices as did the ex-Chameleons vehicle Red-Sided Garter Snakes. Sufjan’s album was nice and the Dead Guitars, as a friend remarked during a recent concert, just keep getting better and better.

Some of the acts already mentioned will be placed in the ten.

As to dreampop, well there was a ton of it. Beach House dropped two albums. Depression Cherry was half brilliant and Thank Your Lucky Stars took us full circle back to Beach House origins. Not that theirs is a particularly broad spectrum.

I want to mention some other acts who may have passed unnoticed. Tamaryn and Pale Blue gave us terrific 2015 releases, the latter more in the vein of Italo pop (port-royal, Moroder) The Lovely Intangibles blended surf, western and dreampop into their cinematic sound. Deafcult and Russia’s Pinkshinyultrablast led the latest wave of shoegaze while the likes of Girls Names and Cheetahs got themselves an eighties fuzzbox and sure as hell used it.

Was it a great year? They’re all great years.

Here’s my ten: _

No 10. The Red-Sided Garter SnakesEndless Sea (Blue Apple Music)

An amorphous collective of musicians including two original Chameleons plus Puressence singer extraordinaire James Mudriczki. Hoping for more in 2016 though I understand that guitarist Dave Fielding has left to pursue other musical interests. Pity really. In the absence of The (real) Chameleons for over a decade Endless Sea was a nice proxy albeit very different.


12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

No 9. Vittoria FleetGreed (n5MD)

Hadn’t heard (of) them before but their label is one you can trust, like WARP or Kranky. Mightily impressed when I played it. Siren singer and chilled beats. What’s not to like?



No 8. Chris DuncanArchitect (Fat Cat)

There’s nearly always a Fat Cat record in my ten. Usually The Twilight Sad. Architect was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize and I can see why. When it hits the target it really scores heavily. Unique sound, great songs – this young man certainly has a Mercury Prizewinning album in his locker. Architect isn’t quite it though. Just lacking the consistency overall and a touch of variety perhaps. Nice though not to be too out of sync with the Mercury. Hope for them yet! (Or me) Review


No 7. Girls NamesArms Around A Vision (Tough Love Records)

Third album for the Norn Iron group is expansive, challenging and sure moves the needle from the previous LPs. Arms Around A Vision is Girls Names singularity. The moment they became self aware. Lawks, this will divide opinion. A grower, maybe. Maybe not.




No 6. TamarynCranekiss (Mexican Summer)

Less soporific than past efforts, Cranekiss isn’t afraid to dazzle. Which it does.

More sensual than a durex playkit on a bed of feathers.



No 5. FoalsWhat Went Down (Transgressive Records)

Oh my. They sure surprised me here. Yes, admittedly this is a bit of a mainstream pick coming from me but it’s just so good. So good. Would be an album of the year if it just were not for the year. I saw Foals once, at Brussels airport. They walked past me looking lost. Then ten minutes later they walked past me in the opposite direction. Since they have quit trying to be Talking Heads and settled for Spoon. I kinda wish I’d said hello now.



No 4. Chelsea WolfeAbyss (Sargent House)

Because the night is dark.
And full of terrors.




No 3. Dead GuitarsShelter (Sireena)

Who opens their live set with eight new songs? Answer – the people who wrote Shelter, a veritable songwrtiing goldmine. Psychedelia, artrock and Britpop collide here. Their drummer tells me it isn’t as good as the next album. Bloody Hell.




No 2. Pinkshinyultrablast. – Everything Else Matters (Club AC30)

Shoegaze fans will be thinking nothing else matters because Pinkshinyultrablast have been unlucky not to nab top spot. Comparisons to Lush are nonsensical. The St Petersberg’ shoegazers are far superior. Instead of another Thrift Store knockoff of Cocteau Twins we get a serious collection of rock songs albeit done up in ‘gazer production. Underneath the spangly effects there are nods to folk roots and arena rock. Plus it all sounds slightly unhinged – a major plus point in my book.



No 1. The Black LampsThe Black Lamps – (Of National Importance)

Virtual unknowns outside their native Barnsley, The Black Lamps dropped their debut self titled album officially in February but I had it around Christmas 2014. That’s one whole year knowing I pretty much had already found my album of 2015. You never know, of course. But I knew. Beautiful, nostalgia drenched dreampop/post punk in the vein of Lowlife and The Chameleons. Of course it went straight out of the review stack and into my personal collection.

So how about some music then! Want some songs? Knock yourself out. Your feedback is very welcome too. All comments gratefully received. I also attract your attention to the brilliant 2015 round up by our very own Sub Editor, Rob Gannon, a man without whom you would not have much of a magazine, frankly, and a man with his finger well and truly on the pulse, music wise.

Sub Editor’s albums and EPs of 2015 – an essential read.

Sub Editor’s 2015 playlist