The Music Writers' Poll: 2015 Album Of The Year

23 December 2015 | 11:33 am | Hannah Story

"Parker is equal parts pining and striving forward, lyrically anyway, and sonically the record reflects that tension."

Currents Tame Impala

It's Tame Impala's second time topping The Music's annual Writers' Poll, having taken the prize for second record Lonerism back in 2012. Their debut Innerspeaker was pipped at the post in 2010 by Arcade Fire's The Suburbs and The National's High Violet, coming in at #3. Both Currents and Lonerism are critical darlings, with the band scoring Album Of The Year, Best Group and Best Rock Album at the 2012 and 2015 ARIAs. Both records are also significant expansions on the previous album, Lonerism teasing out the psychedelic threads of Innerspeaker with a little bit of synth, and Currents taking Lonerism and somehow making it more sprawling and funkier, an evolution possibly influenced by collaborator Mark Ronson (on whose record Uptown Funk, which came in at #25 this year, band leader Parker sang and played guitar).

But let's be frank: 'the band' is Kevin Parker, and the record is his break-up album. This is the psychedelic The Boatman's Call, if Nick Cave never wrote about being in love with PJ Harvey, but skipped straight to the mourning/trying to get over it part. Parker is equal parts pining and striving forward, lyrically anyway, and sonically the record reflects that tension, winding on-and-onwards, sometimes cluttered, sometimes sparse, sometimes meandering, sometimes moving at a pace towards the next groovy chorus.

The band haven't had the best year when it comes to their live sets, especially after Sydney Opera House's complaints last month, but they definitely proved themselves as Splendour In The Grass headliners back in July. It seemed like their long road travelling across Europe and the United States had paid off, as they showed off a newly dynamic frontman, Parker chuckling at the "Fuck you, Trevor!" sign in the crowd and actually managing to build a quite intimate relationship with the Amphitheatre, a spark of showmanship after years of hiding-behind-hair guitar noodling.

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And what of the rest of the list? Courtney Barnett deserved all of the praise she got for her debut full-length Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, a record of sparkling lyrical wit and intricate guitar work, and something absolutely impossible to replicate. Kendrick Lamar brought political commentary into the mix, his hip hop beat poetry transgressing any limitations of style or genre. The rest of our top 20 moves across genres, from Sufjan Stevens, Foals and Father John Misty's more contemplative indie-rock to the bombastic lovesickness of pop powerhouse Florence + The Machine, the moody dance of Grimes and Jamie xx, and the return of '90s heroes Blur and Sleater-Kinney. Metal is represented by Deafheaven, R&B by The Weeknd, pop by Carly Rae Jepsen, and hip hop by Dr Dre and Hermitude, who with Perth's POND polish off this year's Australian contingent. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Beach House and Marlon Williams defy categorisation, making records that push against the boundaries of genre, but always, always get people on their feet.

The Top 20

  1. Currents Tame Impala
  2. Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit Courtney Barnett
  3. To Pimp A Butterfly Kendrick Lamar
  4. Carrie & Lowell Sufjan Stevens
  5. Art Angels Grimes
  6. I Love You, Honeybear Father John Misty
  7. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful Florence + The Machine
  8. In Colour Jamie xx
  9. What Went Down Foals
  10. The Magic Whip Blur
  11. New Bermuda Deafheaven
  12. No Cities To Love Sleater-Kinney
  13. Beauty Behind The Madness The Weeknd
  14. Emotion Carly Rae Jepsen
  15. Man It Feels Like Space Again POND
  16. Multi-Love Unknown Mortal Orchestra
  17. Compton Dr Dre
  18. Depression Cherry Beach House
  19. Dark Night Sweet Light Hermitude
  20. Marlon Williams Marlon Williams

Almost made it:

High Royal Headache

Twelvefour The Paper Kites

Sound & Color Alabama Shakes

If You're Reading This It's Too Late Drake

Previous winners:

Built On Glass Chet Faker (2014)

Yeezus Kanye West (2013)

Lonerism Tame Impala (2012)

Bon Iver Bon Iver (2011)

The Best Of Home

  1. Currents Tame Impala (1)
  2. Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit Courtney Barnett (2)
  3. Man It Feels Like Space Again POND (15)
  4. Dark Night Sweet Light Hermitude (19)
  5. High Royal Headache (21)
  6. Twelvefour The Paper Kites (22)
  7. The Positions Gang Of Youths (32)
  8. When The Storms Would Come Holy Holy (33)
  9. The Great Mixtape Sampa The Great (46)
  10. It's You Gold Class (49)