We admit it – sometimes there are records we miss completely.
Battling through a perfect storm of PR mailblasts, Dropbox links, SoundCloud streams and Bandcamp purchases, inevitably there will be records that just slip through the cracks. This is what makes the end-of-year list season so exciting – it’s a chance for us to work out what we missed and hoover up everything we unjustly ignored.
Occasionally it wasn’t our fault (honest), when the records emerged as we were basting the Christmas goose or loading up on cheap grain alcohol in preparation for New Year’s Eve merriment (we see you, Tarzana). Other times, we simply blame the bullet hell – try as we might, can’t catch ’em all.
Read more: FACT’s 50 best albums of 2015
(Beer on the Rug)
It was terrible timing for Angel 1 to release Rex in December. We were still fumbling to describe 2014’s singular debut, Allegra Bin 1, and this next installment is even more adventurous. At its maximalist peak, tracks like ‘Digital Scale’ and ‘Plate Glass’ play like colorful inversions of Oneohtrix Point Never’s Garden of Delete, but there are also gentler moments to lose yourself in, like the closing ‘Bottle’ and the surprising guitar-led centerpiece ‘Vegetation God’. With Rex, Beer On The Rug joins 1080p and Constellation Tatsu on the list of labels for which Angel 1 has provided a definitive releases.
If you didn’t know that Dominique Dumont was a contemporary duo from Latvia you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the work of some long-forgotten French duo. Comme Ça is a brief 25 minutes in length, but its six tracks cover wistful pop, calypso, dub and even an excursion into highlife grooves via 70s Paris. Even by Antinote’s impeccably high standards, this record is unmissable.
Dwellings & Druss
A two-handed offshoot from Salford’s DIY heroes Gnod, Level 3 from Dwellings & Druss offers two slabs of immersive and utterly wavey electronics, a slow-burning metamorphosis through mucky industrial shadows, levitating drones, fractal krautrockisms and mutant Geiger counters. Just one of many delights from the Tesla Tapes stable last year.
Elliot Onofrio, better known as Fifty Grand, has always had a knack for crafting something hauntingly beautiful. His end of the year release Helena’s Skin takes the macabre delicateness of his previous work and builds it into a more immersive, instrumental world. But even without lyrics, the collection is extremely narrative — each piece is so finely decorated, it’s hard not to image pain, change and hardships embedded in every detail. It’s the kind of thing you want to soundtrack a movie, but it’s completely satisfying to keep the story your own.
A Long Player
Scottish producer Jaisu has spent the last few years building up one of the most impressive resumes in the UK: he’s produced for Danny Brown, Tony Yayo and Big Twins, and counts everyone from Alchemist to Novelist as fans. Despite its name, A Long Player feels like a beat tape – but that’s where Jaisu excels, rolling out track after track of laidback hip-hop and soul and sidestepping a thousand beatmaker cliches in the process.
Jerusalem in my Heart
If He Dies, If If If If If If
Jerusalem in My Heart, the collaborative project orbiting around Montreal-based, Lebanon-born musician Radwan Moumneh, released a second album in 2015 that turned out to be one of the most striking and personal manifestations of contemporary Arabic music we’ve heard in recent years. Moumneh’s haunting voice lights a path through frayed and fragmented landscapes of drones, found sounds, buzuk, bansuri flute and laminated layers of treated voices, filtering one culture through another in an endless, quivering cycle.
One of our 10 rappers to watch in 2016, Mozzy is easily one of the best lyricists in the game right now, tangling with the grit of gang life and illustrating it with rare flair. Of the four (!) solo albums he dropped last year, Bladadah might be the best, highlighting the ominous darkness in Mozzy’s persona. Unlike so many rap full-lengths right now, Bladadah is much more than a bare collection of half-decent tracks punctuated by a few hot singles – instead it’s an hour-long slice of Northern Californian doom, joining the dots between Mob Figaz’s Husalah and Mac Dre.
Despite co-signs from Lukid and Jacques Greene, Scottish producer Samoyed all but vanished after 2013. His debut album, which slipped out at the tail end of 2015, completely surpasses the promise of his early releases, combining the best bits of Talk Talk, Tears For Fears and Gigi Masin with a dash of 80s Japanese pop. If you can get through standout track ‘Fawn’ without getting a lump in your throat, you’re made of sterner stuff than us.
Tamia will always have 1998’s ‘So Into You’ as one of the hugest hallmarks of her career (plus a whole generation of people who only know the hook from Fabolous’ reinvigoration of the track in 2003, bah humbug), but Love Life, her contribution to 2015’s ludicrously robust R&B output, is one of her best albums to date. Kicking the year off with the post-coital, Little Anthony & the Imperials-interpolating slinker ‘Sandwich and a Soda’, the Ontario native promised to deliver one of the most grown collections within the genre. Round that out with writing and production from The-Dream, Tricky Stewart and Lil’ Ronnie and you have one of the most fine-tuned records from a year which gave us far too many to choose from.
Alien Wildlife Estate
(Pacific City Sound Visions)
You can always rely on post-hypnagogic genius (and ex-Skater) Spencer Clark. His catalogue is chock-full of unheard woozy gems, and this latest collaboration with Finnish “free folk” weirdo Jan Anderzen (best known for his tenure in Fonal’s Kemialliset Ystävät) delivers on every level. Sure, if you’re not interested in hearing mind-altering cassette drones, distorted elevator Muzak and crackling echoes of former lives then you’ll probably hate it, but maybe it’s the wake-up call you need.