Into the top ten now and proof that 2015 really was an exceptional year for music. This batch of records would stand up pretty well to previous years top fives and I've played all of them a lot.
10. Sauna Youth "Distractions" - The Quietus review - If you're coming to London-based post-punk four-piece Sauna Youth as a new listener, then the first thing to point out is that their name is something of a misnomer. Although definitely too young to remember first-hand the DC hardcore scene that occasionally perforates their sound they're probably old enough to recognise that Loud & Quiet's recent comparison of them to Parklife-era Blur might be more than just a music journo shorthand.
9. The Wave Pictures "Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon" - Pitchfork review - Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon is roughly their 16th album, their gnarliest yet, and it’s another collaboration, this one produced and co-written by beret-wearing punk artiste Billy Childish. The garage-rock primitivism marks the first time they’ve really glamourized their limitations. The slight redirection is likely thanks to Childish, who was expelled from art school for having "an attitude of total rejection" and has since devoted his life to demystifying the pompous institutions of modern art and music.
8. Courtney Barnett "Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit" - Pitchfork review - Sit is Barnett's first album, the follow-up to two EPs collected on The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas. Its music is descended from 1990s grunge, descended in turn from '60s garage and psychedelia—the rocks to the balloons of Barnett's thoughts, which blow back and forth above the distorted guitars buoyed by gas we can't actually see. Without her words, the music would sit there; without the music, Barnett would drift away. Half the time, she doesn't even sing, but talks, slipping into melody mid-line as though she just remembered she was playing music.
7. Joanna Newsom "Divers" - Guardian review - A lean, compact summary of the joys of Newsom, still an acquired taste to some, but to others, one of the undisputed greats working in our lifetime. Here are 11 tracks, none of them outstaying their welcome, in which glee and sorrow and erudite lyrical puzzles worthy of Araucaria come wrapped in music of breathtaking agility, conjoining eras and textures without a care.
6. Low "Sixes & Ones" - Guardian review - Ones and Sixes is an ear-pricking listen, particularly on headphones. It’s not just the death watch beetle tick of the programmed drums on Congregation, either. The discrete potato-chip crunch of Parker’s drum beats, and the space around each instrument on first single No Comprende, are two more ways in which producer BJ Burton has brought Low’s music into crisp resolution.