Friday, December 11, 2015
Best Music of 2015
It is time again for my annual "Best Of" edition, featuring the music that I've most enjoyed in 2015. Julie heard from me at least once every week, "It's a terrible year in music." That is not entirely true. There was some outstanding stuff (especially if you are a big fan of rap). However lacking in transcendent LP's (see last year's Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs), the class of 2015 is altogether a pretty strong class. If you've not yet given a listen to the albums on this list, now is a great time to start. Enjoy!
10. Our Own House by MisterWives--There is no way this album shows up on the list if not for my daughter Sophie. She likes them...a lot. So we listened to MisterWives...a lot. And the thing of it is, this is a pretty wonderful album. Mandy Lee, in addition to having a cool name, can sing. And is it possible to get the chorus to "Reflections" out of your head (and would you want to even if you could)?
9. Why Make Sense? by Hot Chip--These Brits have been around for a long time and they know how to make folksy, techno-influenced dance pop. Turn up "Huarache Lights" really, really loud and thank me later.
8. No No No by Beirut--These psychedelic indie-folkers led by Zach Condon are brilliantly understated. They actually seem to be pretty normal people who happen to make delightful, thoughtful music. The title track is wonderfully simple and you will likely have the whole family singing along.
7. Thank Your Lucky Stars/Depression Cherry by Beach House--I'm including both albums in the list because they were both released in 2015, in fact about two months apart. These are expansive, dreamy pop soundscapes that pull you into a different, not altogether welcome world. Dark and brilliant.
6. Wilder Mind by Mumford & Sons--Okay, so very few people wanted to like this album. Critics lamented, "Where are the banjos? And the upright bass?!!!" Yes, it was different. But here's the thing: Brother Marcus knows how to right catchy, listenable pop-rock music. And, yes, I like it!!!
5. The Helio Sequence by The Helio Sequence--Why are these guys not famous? Keep Your Eyes Ahead was the best album of 2008 that no one ever heard. The duo's eponymous 2015 entry is engaging at every level. It is simple, really: guitar/vocals, drums/loops, alliterative lyrics that actually say something, and melody that resonates.
4. Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens--Listen once, you become bored. Listen twice, you become depressed. Listen multiple times, you become wise. This is a thrillingly stark, sad album, but the moments of sweetness are profound. I'm not sure any other musician could get away with such vulnerability, and compose such beautiful music as a backdrop. Pretty wonderful and pretty dark: "We're all gonna die..."
3. Star Wars by Wilco--It might be dad rock (and these dudes are getting old), but Wilco can still play. Distortion-heavy guitars, Glenn Kotche's super-bad drumming, and Jeff Tweedy's literate, weird lyrics make for yet another wonderful album and a significant return to form after two general disappointments.
2. B'lieve I'm Goin' Down by Kurt Vile--While no single from the record could match the production of "Jesus Fever" (Smoke Ring for My Halo) or "A Girl Called Alex" (Wakin' on a Pretty Daze), B'lieve showcases a mature singer-songwriter mastering his craft. Vile remains one of the best guitarists out there, too. A brilliant, even funny record.
1. Currents by Tame Impala--There were few times over the course of the summer when this album was not on. Kevin Parker knows how to write, play, and produce wonderfully catchy, trippy, and melodic psych-pop. This album just sounds like summer. A departure from his guitar-heavy freakouts, this is a smooth combination of psychedelia, techno, rock, and pop. I dare say it: this is 21st century disco. And it is very, very good.