Top 20: The best albums of 2015
Buro 24/7 Middle East's favourite music from this year...
As 2015 comes to a close, we're rounding up some of the best albums to hit the shelves, digitally or otherwise, in the last 12 months. Buro 24/7 Middle East presents an eclectic mix of genres that are sounding off to be the ultimate way to bring in the new year.
Adele — 25
On pure statistics alone, this is arguably the album of the year. Selling nearly a million iTunes downloads on the first day, 1.9 million copies in the US in the first two days, and then smashing NSYNC's previous record for single-week sales by nearly a million copies, 25 is a record breaker. The first single "Hello" is also receiving plenty of airtime while the music video has easily surpassed half a billion views.
Jess Glynne — I Cry When I Laugh
Having completed pop apprenticeships with the likes of Clean Bandit and Tinie Tempah, Jess Glynne has launched an album to set herself up as an artist in her own right. On "Don't Be So Hard On Yourself", Glynne tackles the issue of heartbreak and depression, saying, "I had my heart broken and I was in a dark place. It was even harder because my dreams were coming true and I had to put a smile on my face every day and power through. This is the message of the song: To not let sadness defeat you."
The Weeknd — Beauty Behind the Madness
Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd, is breaking new ground with his album, Beauty Behind the Madness. Gaining mainstream popularity thanks to the hit "Earned It" that appeared on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, he went on to dazzle the music world through a collaboration with Ariana Grande "Love Me Harder" and then the highly infectious and upbeat "Can't Feel My Face". Other hits on the album include "The Hills" and "In The Night", which stars girlfriend Bella Hadid.
Björk — Vulnicura
A deeply personal album, Björk's Vulnicura centres around her failed 14-year relationship with artist Matthew Barney. The singer retains haunting sounds throughout the album and even when the tempo moves up a beat or two, the lyrics remind us of the nature of the album. Cue the perfectly demonstrated lyrics in "Quicksand" where she sings, "When we're broken we are whole, and when we're whole we're broken."
Carly Rae Jepsen — E-MO-TION
With a supporting writing cast that includes Ariel Rechtshaid — the producer for Usher and Beyonce — it's no surprise that Carly Rae Jepsen's sophomore album has reached the same heights as her breakthrough first album. With a more mature sound, she manages to retain all of her infectious melodies and rhymes, proving she's no one-hit wonder.
Florence + Machine — How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
The album is named after Los Angeles' skyline and also inspired in part, by Florence Welch's trips to Jamaica. A more personal album than the previous two, the new album still talks about failed relationships but with an added sense of vulnerability. Florence has at times been accused of hiding behind backing vocals but in this album, she's all about exposing her inner self and that powerful voice.
Grimes — Art Angels
Claire Boucher, who is better known as Grimes, is a singer and producer who conjures up electronic beats that fall somewhere between the world of pop and dance. Expect the unexpected though as Boucher says, "I like music that might make me feel uncomfortable the first time I listen to it. I think that's good, that's important; sometimes it never gets better but sometimes it gets great."
Jamie XX — In Colour
Jamie XX's debut album In Colour, is a personal coming-of-age story. As part of the London-based musical group The xx, Jamie started to develop ideas for his solo project while working on the band's yet-to-be-titled third album. Playing many of the instruments himself, guitar riffs and piano dominate the sound. To add a little flavour though, reggae artist Popcaan and rapper Young Thug both contribute vocal tracks.
Blur — The Magic Whip
The Magic Whip is the first album since 2003's Think Tank, which wouldn't have come about had they not been stranded in Hong Kong during their Asian tour. Using their time to good use in the studio, the new album features Asian musical influences, a far cry from their previous offerings, with more electronic mixed in with their brand of rock.
The Chemical Brothers — Born In The Echoes
Following 2010's Further, the electronic band surfaces once more with a new album full of party anthems, festival fillers and hard-hitting club beats like "Just Bang" and "EML Ritual". The duo also include various softer instrumental pieces, perhaps a nod to their recent works on film scores.
One Direction — Made in the A.M.
This is the boy band's first album as a four-piece and their last album before the planned year-long hiatus. Songs like "Drag Me Down" and "Perfect" are already hits and they're still commanding a lot of airtime. Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, there is no special meaning to the album name other than the fact that they wrote and recorded most of it during the early hours of the morning.
Muse — Drones
According to vocalist Matt Bellamy, the band's seventh album is about that person who "loses faith in themselves, loses faith in love, loses faith in everything and decides to become this machine-like being, with no feelings or no emotions." Though reverting to a heavier rock sound, Drones also has some intimate moments, especially on "Dead Inside", which led to the initial assumption that the song is about Bellamy's ex-fiancee Kate Hudson. In truth though, the whole album is less romance and more politics.
James Bay — Chaos And The Calm
Thanks to the hit single "Hold Back The River", James Bay is becoming a global superstar. As a singer/songwriter, perhaps the one thing that sets Bay apart in producing excellent tunes is the fact that he comes up with the music first, as opposed to the conventional lyrics approach first.
Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Sometimes all you need to listen to is the first track to know you've got a good album on your hands. That's exactly the case with Courtney Barnett's "Elevator Operator" where you not only get clever wordplay but also an infectious tune. Thankfully the same brilliant songmaking thread runs throughout the album.
Mark Ronson — Uptown Special
Recently in Dubai for the launch of the networking space Intersect by Lexus, Ronson has had a fantastic musical year. His album was extremely well-received and thanks to "Uptown Funk", featuring Bruno Mars, Ronson was pushed to the forefront of the industry. Apart from Mars, Stevie Wonder also guests on the album.
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds — Chasing Yesterday
Self-produced, the band's album is heavily influenced by past hits, from the Beatles to Pink Floyd and David Bowie. All these greats can be heard in the opening track "Riverman", which critics have called one of Gallgaher's best songs ever.
Justin Bieber — Purpose
Bieber claims the album to be his best work yet and if this is an indication of future projects, then we can say goodbye to the teenage bubble gum sounds and welcome a more diverse musical influence. The biggest example of his new taste is arguably "Sorry", a collaboration with Skrillex and Blood Diamonds.
Coldplay — A Head Full of Dreams
Besides their own musical prowess, A Head Full Of Dreams is also about the band's collaborations with other artists. Beyonce makes an appearance and more intriguingly, Gwyneth Paltrow, ex-wife of frontman Chris Martin, also takes to the mic. Elsewhere, you can expect Coldplay's signature warm sounds intertwined with anthemic tracks like "Adventure of a Lifetime".
Ellie Goulding — Delirium
Working with Swedish musical giants like Max Martin and Carl Falk, Ellie Goulding moves away from her Indie-centric sound to a mix of club-ready beats like "On My Mind", peppered with ballads that include the hit song "Love Me Like You Do" — the Fifty Shades of Grey theme song.
Meghan Trainor — Title
"All About That Bass" is undoubtedly one of the biggest songs in recent history and Trainor followed that up with the similar-sounding "Lips Are Moving". However, Trainor proves that she is no one-trick pony. On "Like I'm Gonna Lose You" — her song with John Legend — Trainor shows off not only her vocal range but her ability to convey deep emotion.
Josh Groban — Stages
If classical is more your scene, then Josh Groban's Stages will be right up your alley. Showcasing his powerful voice, Groban powers through the songs yet at times pulls back with tenderness, really bringing the whole theatrical experience to the album. Case in point would be "Bring Him Home", a song that is also performed in the popular play Les Miserables.