Countdown The Top 15 Albums Of 2015: # 1 – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard “Paper Mache Dream Balloon”

Who: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

What: “Paper Mache Dream Balloon”

Where: Recorded mainly at frontman Stu Mackenzie’s family farm.

Why: This time around the undisputed Aussie kings of global psychedelia had a clear goal; to make an all acoustic psychedelic pop freak out record for the modern age. All thirty three minutes and forty six seconds of this twelve track homage to early ’70’s recording-studio-in-a-barn, communal-living, dropped out, back-to-the-woods band culture demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that they surpassed even their wildest expectations. And so the question asked by Canned Heat in the dying days of the Summer of 1969 from the stage of the Woodstock Music And Art Fair in upstate New York remains, “I’m goin’ up to the country babe, don’t you wanna go?”.

When: Released November 13, 2015

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Countdown The Top 15 Albums Of 2015: # 2 – Wilco “Star Wars”

Who: Wilco

What: “Star Wars”

Where: Recorded at The Loft

Why: Jeff Tweedy remained unmoved by his lawyers who, due to the heavily protected trademark issues involved with the name “Star Wars”, advised against it’s use as a title for Wilco’s ninth studio album in 20 years. Tweedy countered, “The album has nothing to do with Star Wars. It just makes me feel good. It makes me feel limitless and like there’s still possibilities and still surprise in the world, you know?”. Other folks in the fold probably advised Tweedy against using the old cat painting which hangs in the kitchen of his recording studio as the album’s cover art too, not to mention releasing the album for free to fans through the band’s website. Tweedy ignored them all and in doing so managed to do something not easily done in the heavily calculated marketing savvy “culture of cool” that is popular music these days; he surprised us. That’s rock ‘n’ roll.

When: Released July 16, 2015

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Countdown The Top 15 Albums Of 2015: # 3 – Blur “Magic Whip”

Who: Blur

What: “Magic Whip”

Where: Recorded in Avon Studios, Hong Kong & Studio 13, London

Why: With the release of Magic Whip, Blur’s first album of new material in 12 years and first in 16 years with their original lineup, the band has proven once and for all that when it comes down to all the scrappy bouts and rows over Brit Pop supremacy, after all is sang and done, ultimately, they matter and Oasis do not.

When: Released April 27, 2015

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Countdown The Top 15 Albums Of 2015: # 4 – Ringo Starr “Postcards From Paradise”

Who: Ringo Starr

What: “Postcards From Paradise”

Where: Recorded in Roccabella West, Los Angeles and Rydenhurst, UK

Why: As a rule Ringo Starr’s albums are for the most part criminally overlooked. Perhaps not since his sobering 1992 album “Time Takes Time” has there been any kind of thoughtful examination of his post Beatles output. All too often greeted with not much more than a collective yawn the music world’s response to a new Ringo Starr album is generally nothing short of patronizing (“Oh look dear, Ringo has a new record out, isn’t that cute that he’s still trying?”).

There has been little to no serious examination of Starr’s music for decades now and there is much to talk about here. Ringo’s twenty plus year’s of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery (reportedly not even the cocaine crazed Keith Moon could keep up with him) made Lennon’s lost weekend look like a children’s tea party, one that eventually took a serious toll. Starr’s life saving sobriety had him step away from the music world and not release an album for close to ten years back in the early 1980’s.

After a decade of self imposed exile Ringo returned, reinvigorated by a new musical partnership with Mark Hudson. Over a fifteen year period from 1992 through to 2007 the two fostered a musical legacy that endured some five years longer than Starr’s association with the Fab Four, producing 10 albums and close to 100 songs. In 2002 Ringo said of Hudson, “Mark puts the fun back in recording. We always have such a great time. He lets the musicians know that anything is possible. He’s a great musician, has lots of energy and he’s a lot of fun to work with”. And then it all ended.

Much mystery surrounds the dissolution of the partnership between Starr and Hudson. In June of 2007 Ringo rather unceremoniously announced through his attorny that his partnership with Hudson was over and that they would no longer be working together. In spite of the fact that Hudson had already co-written and recorded all 12 songs that were to appear on his then un-released “Liverpool 8” album Ringo brought in Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics to remix the whole thing and rather cheekily credited Stewart as “re-producer” upon the albums eventual release in 2008. Since then Ringo has not looked back self producing his last three albums including his latest.

2015’s “Postcards From Paradise” is perhaps the leanest most direct Ringo Starr album since the one that successfully launched his solo career some 40 years ago, the now legendary “Ringo” album of 1973. Gone is the easy going party atmosphere that inhabited much of Starr’s previous efforts replaced this time around by a tighter more serious tone as witnessed by the hard edged sax driven reggae of “Island In The Sun”, the synclavier heavy soul funk of “Bamboula”, the urban dance floor groove of “You Bring The Party Down”, the psychedelic dream pop of the title track and the heartfelt balladry of “Not Looking Back”.

At a time in his life when most folks his age are busy finding a comfortable spot to rest in this 75 year old is rocking alright and it ain’t no rocking chair!

When: Released March 31, 2015

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Countdown The Top 15 Albums Of 2015: # 5 – Cage The Elephant “Tell Me I’m Pretty”

Who: Cage The Elephant

What: “Tell Me I’m Pretty”

Where: Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee.

Why: One part homage to the Tony Visconti produced British glam rock of the early 1970’s and one part hip shaking psychedelia circa 1966 this record thoroughly swings throughout and lets the listener know in no uncertain terms that the kids are indeed alright.

When: Released December 18, 2015

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Countdown The Top 15 Albums Of 2015: # 6 – Tame Impala “Currents”

Who: Tame Impala

What: “Currents”

Where: Recorded in Western Australia’s port city of Fremantle at Kevin Parker’s home studio.

Why: Headline reads: “World’s Most Successful Modern Day Psychedelic Rock Band Sells Out”. Nowadays nothing sells like success, an era in which even the very concept of “selling out” seems foreign, downright alien even. The words themselves “sold out” feel odd and strange on the new millennial tongue. And so the tired old debate continues: Is rock dead? No. It’s just trying to get laid.

When: Released July 17, 2015

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Countdown The Top 15 Albums Of 2015: #7 – Bob Dylan “Shadows In The Night”

Who: Bob Dylan

What: “Shadows In The Night”

Where: Recorded at studio B in Capitol Studios, Hollywood, California where Frank Sinatra recorded.

Why: Although this is an album of covers made famous by Frank Sinatra from the great American songbook it is not to be confused with yet another blatant cash grab from an ageing unrepentant rock star (right Rod?). True to the heartfelt story-telling intention of Sinatra’s originals yet worlds apart stylistically Dylan strips these songs bare boiling them down to their raw emotional essence and reconstructs them top to bottom on a canvas coloured mostly by his gripping vocal interpretations supported by both Tony Garnier’s sparse upright bass work and Donny Herron’s haunting pedal-steel guitar artistry.

When: Released February 3, 2015

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