50 Best Albums of 2015 #19-#12

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Our best albums of 2015, numbers 19 to 12.

19. Vintage Trouble

1 Hopeful Rd. (Bluenote)

With their previous album, bluesy, retro soul-fest The Bomb Shelter Sessions, the California soul rockers made friends in high, hard-rocking places (AC/DC, The Who, the Stones…). Their third album was even more beautifully, soulfully in-the-past, with a stylish range of soft and hip-shaking songs. Familiar territory, done really well.

18. Jeff Lynne’s ELO

Alone In The Universe (Columbia)

Jeff Lynne’s first album as ELO since 2001, Alone In The Universe was a showcase for his many talents – he wrote, sang, played and produced virtually every note here. Encouraged by the ecstatic reaction to his 2014 Hyde Park concert – his first show for nearly 30 years – for the new album he wrote songs for a huge audience again: 10 tracks recalling the band’s super-melodic heyday, when Lynne bestrode the planet like a bearded, Brummie colossus.

17. We Are Harlot

We Are Harlot (Roadrunner)

Swapping teen metalcore (with his old group Asking Alexandria) for hard 80s rock, bird’s nest-haired Danny Worsnop scratched all his Aerosmith and Van Halen itches to glorious effect on his new band’s debut. With heavy, sassy, enormously fun numbers such as One More Night to hand, We Are Harlot channelled Worsnop’s former weight into a catchy, melodic framework.

16. Von Hertzen Brothers

New Day Rising (Spinefarm)

Six albums in, the Finnish siblings continue to stir their blend of rock, prog, pop and metal. This time, however, producer ‘GGGarth’ Richardson made them sound more polished than ever before. New Day Rising could be their most commercial release yet, hitting a stadium-friendly high in the triumphant title track.

15. Alabama Shakes

_Sound & Colour _(Rough Trade)

Led by dynamic frontwoman Brittany Howard, Alabama Shakes returned with a record whose scope easily outmuscled that of their 2012 debut. Heaving garage-soul served as a rough fix, around which the band spread clouds of nebulous psych-funk, sinewy Memphis blues, Ramonesy riff-rock and experimental oddness. Its crowning glory was Howard’s extraordinary voice, a hearty conflation of Bon Scott and Mahalia Jackson.

14. Motörhead

Bad Magic (UDR)

The last couple of years have been hard on Lemmy, but still he goes on. The voice may be slightly weaker now, otherwise Motörhead’s 22nd studio album was business as usual: great hard and fast heavy metal rock’n’roll, typified by standout track Thunder & Lightning.

13. Ghost

Meliora (Spinefarm)

Get past the schlocky showmanship and Ghost have always been a more sophisticated band than their detractors allowed, and Meliora is their most coherent album yet. The 70s art/occult rock influences persist, but the stunning Satanic hymn He Is is proof that there’s real artistry beneath the Swedes’ knowing myth-making.

12. Keith Richards

_Crosseyed Heart _(Virgin/EMI)

The Stone sounded surprisingly dextrous on his first solo album in 23 years, delving into reggae and flamenco between classic bluesy numbers. Though it stayed well within the 71-year-old guitar legend’s comfort zone, Crosseyed Heart recaptured some of the agreeably sloppy, ragged feel of vintage Stones recordings.

50 Best Albums of 2015 #11