Album & Single Reviews

Published on December 16th, 2015 | by Mike Ainscoe


Mike Ainscoe Top Albums 2015

As Ant & Dec might say, in no particular order, these are a dozen albums I enjoyed this year. Or should I quote Bake Off’s Paul Hollywood? “I don’t like ‘em……….I love ‘em.” Enough. On with the list.

Riverside – ‘Love, Fear & The Time Machine’

A bit of a discovery are Polish proggers Riverside, whose new album broke the mould and apparently went a bit lighter and more accessible from their previous stuff, yet all the better for it. Opening track on both the album and the live show, ‘Lost (Why Should I Be Frightened By A Hat?)’ comes out as one of my top 3 favourite songs of the year, not least because of the title.


Steven Wilson – ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’

Having this on the list of top albums of the year is a bit like jumping on the bandwagon but another exceptional effort by the man with the Midas touch. Perhaps he should be nicknamed Goldfinger (dah daaaah dah). Challenging and lengthy prog pieces join forces with some gorgeous songwriting and sentiment and the best use of shocking pink in cover art you’re likely to find. Class.


Tim Bowness – ‘Stupid Things That Mean The World’

While Wilson reaps the rewards and acclaim, his buddy from NoMan delivers another low key yet stylish album.  It occasionally ups the ante and rocks gently, but all in all a lush and thoughtful, and definitely  reflective record, which with his previous ‘Abandoned Dancehall Dreams’ album makes for a potent pairing.


Lucy Ward – ‘I Dreamt I Was A Bird’

Following ‘Simple Flame’ can’t have been easy but this makes a mockery of the suggestion as Lucy Ward again took folk music into another dimension. On record and live, Lucy is a riveting performer mixing folkiness with intimate and personal experience. Perhaps THE album of the year for me.


Magic Pie – ‘King For A Day’

The surprise of the year. Proper old fashioned (as in complimentary) prog. An album which came to me for review by mistake but their loss was my gain. From Norway, classic prog epics and punchy shorter tracks, provide another example that the Scandanavians know how to prog rock.


Stick In The Wheel ‘From Here’

First appearing dark, dour and stark, the mood doesn’t change over time, yet reveals more and more  as folk music takes a twist and turn down the less salubrious landscape of the east end. The uncompromising conciseness is both bold and unexpected. Wow. No surprise that it’s the fRoots critics album of the year.


Ange Hardy – ‘Esteesee’

After grabbing a spot on last year’s  list with ‘Lament Of The Black Sheep’, Ange does it again with her folk concept album which has lit up ‘best of the year’ lists elsewhere already. Not afraid to throw in a few curve balls, at its best there are some truly exquisite moments, and ‘Along The Coleridge Way’ is a contender for my track of the year.


False Lights – ‘Salvor’

Their EP featured on last year’s list and no surprise that the album follows suit. Jim Moray & Sam Carter and their band of electric folk rabble rousers take a shedload of trad songs and plug them in. A terrific live band too, as you’d expect and a fantastic closing set for the 2015 English Folk Expo. ‘Crossing The Bar’ from the EP was a track of the year in 2014 so could I also include it this year?


Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman – ‘Tomorrow Will Follow Today’

The duo who’ve come back from a lengthy break with a vengeance. Having been listening to the album since bagging a pre-release at last October’s English Folk Expo, the thrill hasn’t worn off. Taking delight in the smutty and the innuendo riddled songs, they even have a go at political songs in election year. A duo really at the top of their game.


Frank Turner – ‘Positive Songs For Negative People’

Frank has been high on the playlist since a close encounter at Cambridge Folk Festival when the album was on the verge of release. Uplifting and stirring, yes there may even be some anthems in there, but as usual carrying strong messages of positivity and clarion calls.  Even makes you want to get a tattoo.


‘Eliza Carthy & Tim Eriksen – ‘Bottle

Perhaps the best, i.e., my favourite of Eliza’s collaborations, and an album which was just waiting to be made.  An intriguing combination of English folk and Americana with amplifiers thrown in for good measure, which is when the interest is really piqued. Tim even plays her dad’s electric guitar on one track!


Amorphis – ‘Under The Red Cloud’

An album you hear and wonder why you haven’t heard of this band before. Closing track ‘White Night’ almost makes track of the year shortlist; a bit metal and perfect combo of clean and harsh vocals without being outrageously hardcore.

Honourable mentions for:

Gentleman’s Pistols – ‘Hustler’s Row’

O’Hooley & Tidow – ‘Summat’s Brewin’

Richard Hawley – ‘Hollow Meadows’

Neal Morse Band – ‘The Grand Experiment’ (opening track ‘The Call’ is my song of the year!)

Eclipse – ‘Armageddonize’

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About the Author

Mike's mellowed in his old age, discovering the delights of traditional folk and acoustic music and the constant stream of new music coming through his passion as a gig-goer, music photographer and writer. With favourite artists and favourite songs which change daily, even hourly, he adds another spoke to the Sonic Bandwagon wheel of fortune.

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