Anthony Firmin: Top 20 Albums of 2015
1. Our Oceans – Our Oceans
A perfect album? I seemed to think so as I couldn’t fault it any way, the guys from Exivious did well with this debut. There is so much space and atmosphere with singer/guitarist Tymon Kruidenier sounding eerily like Jeff Buckley especially on Reawaken. Illuminate is the standout track if I had to pick one.
“The album warmed me, made me float along like a subtle breeze on a summers day.”
2. Shattered Skies - The World We Used To Know
Another debut prog album, again where every track was blisteringly good. The band are currently looking for a “replacement singer” so I am hoping the anthem that is The End And The Rebirth is a genuine prediction as it would be sad to lose them so quickly!
3. Steven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. Erase
The fourth solo album from Mr Wilson sees another twist as he references a wide variety of influences although it is less jazzy than its predecessor. It grabs you and holds you all the way through. Modern, dark, moody, intelligent – gripping!
4. Please Come Home - Lonely Robot
The It Bites frontman John Mitchells’s first solo offering sounding very proggy albeit with a wide cinematic sound. Plenty of guests playing or singing on it from Steve Rothery (Marillion) to Peter Cox (Go West) to Nik Kershaw and Heather Findlay. The Boy In The Radio is my favourite track on the album but there isn’t a bad song on it!
Please come home lonely robot, your heart is beautiful, programmed to receive.
5. Billy Gibbons - Perfectamundo
Sounding nothing like you would expect, with this first solo outing you have to struggle to hear the guitars! Lots of autotune is used on his voice to great effect along with a latin feel and some modern beats. Every track has a surprise in store.
6. Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind - Boil Your Blood
An EP rather than an album but nonetheless it sees Jim Jones moving on from the punk’n’roll of the JJ Revue and into a darker more brooding territory whilst still retaining the intensity of his former band. Subtly manic.
7. Anderson Ponty Band - Better Late Than Never
I was hugely sceptical of this release but upon hearing it any fears I had dissipated. Ex-Yes singer Jon Anderson hooked up with Ex-Zappa violinist Jean Luc Ponty and the result is surprisingly good. The “live” album is littered with Yes songs, the new songs sitting comfortably alongside with a seriously on form Anderson sprinkling the reggae vibes he is so keen on throughout the album. Their interpretation of Owner Of A Lonely Heart is quite spectacular with Ponty’s violin making a huge presence and fitting in perfectly.
8. Mötorhead - Bad Magic
Aftershock was a massive album for the band, it saw them return to a consistency that had been missing since the earlier days. Granted all the albums had some great music on them but this returned them to another level. And Bad Magic carries on where Aftershook finished. There isn’t a bad track on it, even a cover of the ‘Stones Sympathy For The Devil works. It’s powerful rock’n’roll, a great finale to an even greater band.
9. The Strypes - Little Victories
Discovered this band a couple of years ago; they had class, presence and style and played some awesome rock’n’roll blues. This album sees a more mature sound and performance with a little to much of a nod towards the 90’s indie sound but still retaining that blues edginess in places. Enjoyed it nonetheless.
10. Steve Hackett - Wolflight
A return to solo form for Mr Hackett after being a Genesis covers artist for quite a few years. There are some stunning pieces on the album hinting back to his time with Genesis, Love Song To A Vampire and the title track show he still has the ability to make powerful prog rock.
11. UFO - A Conspiracy Of Stars
A band who surprisingly have managed to keep going through thick and thin. Phil Mogg may sing a couple of octaves now but his voice is still distinctive and his lyrics observant and poignant, Andy Parker providing a swing more than just a regular drum beat allowing the band to breath life into some interesting styles across this album. There are no real standout tracks but every track is good hence delivering a solid, consistent album.
12. Def Leppard - Def Leppard
Def Leppard albums don’t come out very often (I know I will be derided for even including this album in this list) but it is actually rather good. Yes, every song sounds exactly like you’d expect it to coming from them but it is a consistently good album. Let’s Go…
13. The SoapGirls - Calls For Rebellion
The French duo of Mille and Mie (who now reside in South Africa) have cut an album of punk infused pop songs which are both foot tappingly good and with strong meaningful lyrical content. And they are just as anarchical live as they are on this album. Choice cuts for me are Champagne Cocaine and Hater which hooked me straight away with its irresitable chorus of I’m a hater, that’s what I do, you hate me, I fucking hate you
14. Federal Charm – Across The Divide
The Stockport lads have done good and this album is an absolute cracker. They continue their journey through the blues rock genre and are now touring steadily to promote it. My choice tracks from the album are the blistering Hercules and Silhouette.
15. Leprous - The Congregation
I had never heard of Leprous before I was asked this year to photograph and review their gig which was one of the most impressive club gigs I have ever been to. This is a great Prog/math metal/djent album which has been regularly played. The Price sets the tone for the whole album.
16. Daddy Long Legs - Rides Tonight Live
“Is everyone ready for the next step in the evolution of rock’n’roll music” says music svengali Kim Fowley at the start of this record. Well this live album is pure rock’n’roll, very pure with a solid beat and some amazing blues harp playing. It is best listened to with a generous glass of bourbon or seen live, the Death Train Blues is a rollin’!
17. Deep Purple - Long Beach 1971
In the early 70’s Deep Purple had a fearsome reputation as a live band with powerful performances. This one was a bootleg for many years and shows how good they were and how they could improvise, Blackmore and Lord are on fire. With only 4 songs making up the 60+ minutes this is really for fans only but shows that Made In Japan was a not a one-off.
18. TesseracT - Polaris
An edgier, modern rock side of the Prog movement with moments of djent to keep everyone happy. This album also starts to embody a whole plethora of genres generating a quite interesting overall sound. I am looking forward to seeing them play live again.
19. Vintage Trouble - 1 Hopeful Road
The previous album from VT was an absolute masterstroke and captured their brand of soul infused rock’n’roll perfectly. This album is not as immediate as its predecessor, probably suffering from too much production thereby loosing the edge it so desperately needs. Having said that it is still an enjoyable album with Run Like The River being the stand out track.
20. The Picturebooks - Imaginary Horse
Although released in 2014 pretty much nobody had heard of the band until they toured with The Answer at the beginning of 2015 when they blew everything apart destroying drums, stages and peoples hearing. With just guitar and drums the songs show no compromise, The Rabbit And The Wolf being the stand out track.