Nordic Music Review Favourite Albums 2015
As always this is personal opinion, and we deliberately call it our 'Favourite' Albums list for a reason. Other opinions are available, and as always we welcome yours, so feel to drop us a line to tell us what you liked, what we missed and what we maybe shouldn't have included.
Thanks for reading this and we will try to bring you the best of Nordic music in 2016. Best wishes to everyone for the New Year.
25 DIG DEEPER - 'How You Spend Your Days'
The great thing about doing this is that we get to revisit some releases from right at the beginning of the year, and Norwegian band Dig Deeper with their album ‘How You Spend Your Days’ has continued to grow on me throughout this period. Described as ‘Mountain Rock’, it fuses together different styles of guitar based music, and its packed full of good melodies - its well worth checking out.
24 Soley - 'Ask the Deep'
We didn’t formally review Soleys album ‘Ask the Deep’ because it got so much attention elsewhere, and there are so many beautifully written reviews out there (I think we pointed people in the direction of the tremendous review written by Edward Hancox if I remember), but the former member of Seabear released her excellent and haunting album, full of darkness and mystery back in May, and her reputation as a versatile multi-instrumentalist and composer continues to grow – even if I do love her piano compositions more than anything.
23 Juha Kujanpää - Kultasiipi (Goldwing)
We’ve done our very best to review a wide range of different styles of music this year, and Finnish composer Juha Kujanpää released an extraordinary instrumental based album called 'Kultasiipi' combining Nordic Folk, modern classical and some rock influences towards the end of the year. Some of the tracks such as ‘Impromptu’ are just the most beautiful compositions and positively compare with the likes of Max Richter and Arvo Part. This is well worth its inclusion in our favourite albums list.
22 Katzenjammer - 'Rockland'
Not forgetting we’re a review site aimed, in the first instance, at increasing awareness of Nordic music in the UK, we almost always get a really great reaction when we point people in the direction of Katzenjammer, and their album ‘Rockland’, released back in January (I think dates may have varied across countries), is packed full of outrageous tunes, whilst their live shows in the UK have been excellent, and great fun too.
21 Susanne Sundfor - 'Ten Love Songs'
Susanne Sundfor’s album ‘Ten Love Songs’ has appeared in many peoples ‘Album of the Year’ lists, and this was another excellent release from the Norwegian artist, with a diverse album based around a very simple theme.
20 Mew - '+ ='
Danish band ‘Mew’ followed up their No More Stories…. (etc)’ Album with a simpler titled release called +=, and its a triumphant return which is big, bold and full of confidence. Their live shows in the UK were very well received and they sneaked back at the end of the year to do 2 in London too.
19 Gold Celeste - 'The Glow'
We’ve covered Gold Celeste’s release ‘Glow as well as their recent UK gig, and the album has definitely continued to grow over the last few months of the year. The Norwegian band released a dream pop album with lovely layers of sound, flowing melodies and really interesting lyrics.
18 Laura Moisio - 'Ikuinen Valo'
Laura Moisio popped up in last years favourite album lists too, and I really loved her most recent release ‘Ikuinen Valo’, a warm and gorgeous album, the instrumentation is written with a real sensitivity and her vocals are simply outstanding. It’s the first album on our list sung in that countries native language, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
17 Valsaland - 'Fängelset
Valsaland released their debut album ‘'Fängelset’ at the end of the year, and it brings together their outstanding (and award winning) single / video releases from the last year with some extra tracks. Post rock, but not as we’ve heard it before, the vast array of instruments used set out compelling visions of the world we live in, and the accompanying videos are powerful and beautifully presented.
16 Dråpe- 'Relax / Relapse'
Norwegian band ‘Dråpe’ released their ‘Relax / Relapse’ album in October, and even if it took us a while to review it, we’ve listened to it so much, it’s a dream pop album packed full of addictive melodies and carefully blended synths guitars and vocals. In ‘?’ and ‘My Friend the Scientist’ there are 2 exceptionally good tracks as well.
15 Bjork – Vulnicura
Bjorks album ‘Vulnicura’ was an astonishing release, personal, intense and so powerful that I actually found it difficult to write about. In many ways it was more accessible than some of her previous releases too, and whilst it did slightly divide opinion in those we asked on whether it was a true ‘favourite’, it is well worth its inclusion in our end of year list.
14 Amason - Sky City
Swedish band Amason released their stylish and smooth album ‘Sky City’ in August, and its had a good reception in the UK, with a real laid back quality and the vocals, particularly from Amanda Bergman are outstanding. This will appeal to a wide range of musical tastes too.
13 NEØV - 'Dominique'
Early in the year we had a release from Finnish band NEØV, and 'Dominque' remains a real favourite of mine, melodic noise pop – shimmering shoegaze with real tunes. There are great melodies, and a distinctness in sound and instrumentation that I like, and its all very laid back. Still recommended to get your hands on a copy.
12 Lockerbie - 'Kafari'
Another album that I’ve just listened to so much this year, Lockerbie's ‘Kafari’ has just continued to grow and grow, stylish post rock and another band to effectively utilise brass in their instrumentation. This is lovely songwriting, understated and clever, full of flowing melodies and as a band their music continues to evolve.
11 Black Lizard – Solarize
Its not often the collective Nordic Music Review ‘helpers’ and occasional review writers agree on something (or anything), but Black Lizards were pretty much mentioned by everyone when I asked them for favourites of the year. Their album ‘Solarize’ is really easy to like, psych rock with great tunes and a real identity. We saw them live in Manchester and they were great there too, and tracks such as ‘All Her Time’ are amongst our most listened to playlisted songs of the year.
10 Bang Gang - 'The Wolves Are Whispering'
We’re amongst some real favourite treasured albums from the last 12 months now, and Bang Gang's ‘The Wolves are Whsipering; is such a lovely album, and a welcome return too. This album is so genuine and heartfelt, and the depth is in the beauty of the lyrics as well as the music itself. I really do like this album very much.
9 The Tallest Man On Earth - 'Dark Bird is Home'
I realise that not everyone loves the ‘The Tallest Man On Earth’, but he received a few ‘votes’ when I asked for opinions, and his release ‘Dark Bird is Home’ was confirmed by Spotify as one of ‘my most listened to albums’ when I checked what I’ve been listening to this year (along with Major Parkinson obviously). He remains an exceptional songwriter, individual and compelling, and when someone ‘new’ to Nordic music asks who they should listen to, I will often ask if they’ve come across his music, so we’re delighted to include this in our Top 10.
8 Frisk Frugt - 'Den Europæiske Spejlbue'
Frisk Frugt's album ‘Den Europæiske Spejlbue‘ is utterly outstanding, brilliantly conceived and totally original. To many I realise it's probably a bit overly complex and even indecipherable, but to me there is so much in this release that I have remained entertained all year. It's also Kavus Torabi’s (Knifeworld, Cardiacs) Album of the Year, and he really does know what he’s talking about.
7 23:23 - Softest Wave, Torero, Drifter
This is where it gets slightly complex, because 23:23 (the Finnish songwriter Rami Vierula) confused us by releasing 3 Albums simultaneously back in May, ‘Softest Wave’, ‘Torero’ and ‘Drifter’ and whilst Drifter remains my favourite, I’ve decided just to simplify things by including all 3 at the same time in our favourites list. This is a real low-fi, hazy, treasure trove of music, with tracks written over a number of years, and they all feel precious and collectible. Amongst my most listened to music from 2015, I realise this might not be for everyone, but to me there is a genuine and rare songwriting quality here.
6 Bror Forsgren - 'Narcissus'
Bror Forsgren's album ‘Narcissus’ is a spectacular achievement and a hugely enjoyable listen. It is ‘epic’ in many ways, and a complex mix of many different musical styles, utilizing a full orchestra and bringing together influences from across the musical spectrum. The Norwegian composer / instrumentalist has released something very special here, and I really recommend it.
5 Dreamers Circus - 'Second Movement'
I came across Dreamers Circus very late in 2015, the Danish folk trio have made an extraordinary impression with their release ‘Second Movement’, and it recently won the Album of the Year in the Danish Music Awards Folk 2015. A beautiful blend of classical music from across the ages and traditional folk, the album is truly exceptional and I really think would appeal to such a vast number of people. And they come to the UK in February too.
4 Sara Forslund - 'Water Became Wild'
Sara Forslund's ‘Water Became Wild’ is a beautiful, striking and personal release which was released by the Swedish songwriter earlier in the year. It is stripped back, with every note and instrument used intelligently and sparingly. Utterly captivating, I like it even more than I did when I reviewed it back in June, and as always I find it helps if you turn her music up really loud so that it takes over every little corner of your house.
3 Árstíðir – Hvel
Árstíðir's ‘Hvel’ made an instant impression back in March with a release which has both an intimacy which makes it feel deeply personal as well as a power to it too. The songwriting is completely beautiful and utterly mesmerizing, and it is performed by the most extraordinary musicians from Iceland. ‘Hvel’ has a real magical quality to it, and I will always remember the first time I heard it.
2 Agent Fresco - 'Destrier'
Quite simply ‘Agent Fresco’s Destrier is a blistering album, and staggeringly impressive too. With a phenomenal mix of brutal guitars and the most sensitive vocals, the Icelandic band have put together an album which continues to keep me interested months after its original releases. It hits the mark in so many different ways, and the album has so many ‘favourite’ tracks on it.
1 The Stillwalkers - 'The Stillwalkers'
Normally at this point i think I’m supposed to say that it was impossible to choose an Album to list at ‘Number 1’ on the basis that there were so many amazing and very different releases to compare and consider. But if truth be told, ‘The Stillwakers’ self titled album has been such a personal favourite since its release, and the fact that another Nordic Music Review ‘helper’ then voted for it too, this actually became an ‘easy’ choice for our 2015 ‘Album of the Year’.
This is an outstanding debut, a release at the heart of an ‘indie guitar band’ genre, but packed full of great melodies, brilliant instrumentation and genuinely loveable songs. There are 10 very strong tracks, put together on a low budget with real love, care and enthusiasm from a small Finnish band who just want to write great music with tunes in.
Last year our 2 top Album of the Year choices (Mirel Wagner and Monotown) went on to win prestigious awards for their albums. ‘The Stillwalkers’ probably won’t, but that hardly matters, to me this will always be a truly special and treasured album, and I have no hesitation in listing it as the Nordic Music Review Album of the Year for 2015.