Top Ten Albums of 2015:
“The Powers That B” by Death Grips
A double album that had its first half leak in 2014 (by the band) and a meme-ish cry for its second half with “Jenny Death when?”. I didn’t fully appreciate the first batch of songs until the entire thing was released together… then I LOVED it all. The styles from disc one to disc two are nowhere near the same, which only makes the two sides stronger. PLus, I finally got to see my favorite drummer (Zach Hill) perform with the band/group when they came through this summer. AMAZING.
Stand-out track: Inanimate Sensation
“Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit” by Courtney Barnett
Though her style of music is not new, Courtney’s take on the everyday life while exploring various genres of “guitar-music” was a needed breath of fresh air.
Stand-out track: Dead Fox
“Positive Songs For Negative People” by Frank Turner
Frank has yet to disappoint me with an album. There are a few songs that don’t hit me with full force here and there, but with this LP Frank added a couple tracks to his list of “truly great songs”.
“White Men Are Black Men Too” by Young Fathers
New to the Young Fathers’ game, I was hooked with “Shame” and then bought a great album from front to back. I love when artists can mold their own sound and play with numerous genres (see Death Grips and even Courtney Barnett).
Stand-out track: Shame
“Faith In the Future” by Craig Finn
At this point, I wouldn’t mind if Craig solo output became his focus With the decline in my love for The Hold Steady, Craig’s two solo efforts have been the fix I need for his storytelling and unique voice. This LP plays it straight, but the soundscape fits both the narrative and Craig’s maturity perfectly.
Stand-out track: Saint Peter Upside Down
“The Most Lamentable Tragedy” by Titus Andronicus
I knew that I liked a few songs from the beginning, but a double album can sometimes be challenging, especially when incorporating it with a five act play. After giving it a few tries, focusing more and more on a new track or two each time, it finally clicked (after about 6-8 spins). While I still cannot say it is a perfect play, the album as a whole is definitely layered and flows nicely. (PS: The overall feeling and underlying story about mental illness is portrayed quite well.)
Stand-out track: I’m Going Insane (Finish Him)
“The Magic Whip” by Blur
It’s nice to see Blur back and not just releasing a cash grab (best-of with “two new tracks!” or a new album of songs that didn’t make the cut on previous albums). While this is still the same Blur you knew and loved from the 90s (and early 2000s), they have matured and taken this album into a newer world – every album in their catalog has had this changing of gears.
Stand-out track: New World Towers
“Endless Voids” by Dead Neanderthals
My love of Dead Neanderthals has been professed profusely on Twitter and Instagram over the past year. I was a little too late in the game to make Prime a top ten album last year (though it has since been included retroactively), but this year I faced a different problem. Dead Neanderthals released TWO albums (and collaborated, but you’ll read #9 soon enough) and left me wondering which is better and will they both make the top ten? I honestly do not know if I have made the right decision here and because the 8-15 spots this year were so damn close, I don’t know that I’ve celebrated their output enough. AHHHH!!!
Stand-out track: Endless Voids
“Sluimer” by Fantoom
As mentioned in the review above (#8), here we have Dead Neanderthals collaborating with Dirk Serries and Martina Verhoeven. I will not pump up the Dead Neanderthals in this review (though they were great), it was Martina’s bass that really stole the show in my opinion. The entire track is just spooky, eerie, and oddly relaxing – think a well-underplayed horror film soundtrack.
Stand-out track: Sluimer
“The Epic” by Kamasi Washington
Already having 3 double albums on the list, you’d call me crazy if I were to suggest an even longer story, right? Well, Kamasi had to do the crazy thing here and release a TRIPLE album! Not only is the album named “The Epic”, but it actually lives up to the self-proclamation. Kamasi produces both a fitting tribute to the greats before him while declaring himself a great in his own right – the perfect way to give tribute without being a “tribute album”. Be warned, this journey is three hours long, should you choose to take the voyage.
Stand-out track: Askim
But wait, there’s more…
11. “Worship The Sun” by Dead Neanderthals
Dead Neanderthals impress me with a classic sounding free jazz album.
12. “i’ve always been good at true love” by the i.l.y’s
Zach Hill’s pet project that was released freely. (you’re welcome)
13. “Mercury” by ZibraZibra
Originally released by The Supercollider back in 2010 on iTunes, Mercury was re-released by ZibraZibra this year. The Supercollider was a project between ZibraZibra’s guitarist and singer, while the other guys in ZibraZibra were busy. This disinction between new music/re-release was made fuzzy and made me question how I handled it at year-end review. As you can see, I included it.
14. “Kannon” by Sunn O)))
The only thing really dogging it in my mind is the length (just over 30 minutes). I like my drone, and by that fact, Sunn O))), to be LONG – think hour or more. This felt more like a warm-up or reintroduction, since it has been 6 years since Monoliths & Dimensions.
15. “Ones and Sixes” by Low
I feel so stupid not listening to Low until this year. I have an urge to go back into their catalog and devour it, but I instead have just been savoring this release. (This has only been growing on me more and more, which means it could still keep moving up the charts after December 31, 2015.)
16. “New Bermuda” by Deafheaven
This may take a while to fully appreciate or disseminate between hype and reality. I love Sunbather, which this is not. Having expectations and hype only hindered this release for me. We’ll see if I ever get a clean slate and be able to take this album in without any other thoughts.
17. “Vega Intl Night School” by Neon Indian
Some catchy, glossy, 80s synth-pop songs, but not a lot of depth/weight. Get album to just chill to.
18. “Zipper Down” by Eagles of Death Metal
Well know the popular/recent story surrounding these guys, but let’s shelve that. This release is probably their best since their debut. A little more maturity, but still a ton of fun.
19. “Abyss” by Chelsea Wolfe
Dark. Being a male/female shouldn’t matter, but being in the darker side of music (and related to the metal spectrum), it is nice to hear a female voice in the crowd.
20. “Honeymoon” by Lana Del Rey
I was let down by her previous release, but I am happy to say I see this release as a step int he right direction. This is stuck somewhere half-way between “Born to Die” and “Ultraviolence” with signs of Lana being able to jump into newer waters.
No, seriously, EVEN MORE!
21. “Panic Stations” by Motion City Soundtrack
22. “The Anthropocene Extinction” by Cattle Decapitation
23. “Thank Your Lucky Stars” by Beach House
24. “Dodge and Burn” by the Dead Weather
25. “Momentary Masters” by Albert Hammond, Jr.
26. “Divers” by Joanna Newsom
27. “To Us, The Beautiful!” by Franz Nicolay
28. “Drones” by Muse
29. “All Hands” by Doomtree
30. “The Color Before the Sun” by Coheed and Cambria
31. “Kintsugi” by Death Cab for Cutie
32. “Last of Our Kind” by the Darkness
33. “Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz” by Miley Cyrus
This release is technically “ungraded” and remains sort of liquid. i do not know if this release counts as an actual album or is more of a “mix tape” of sorts. The instrumentation is done by the Flaming Lips (who I love and I love the music here), but that music is really just long sample or steams of tracks they have already released for the most part. I absolutely love the fact that Miley doesn’t care about answering to anyone but herself, but outside of being a good warm-up for a real collab between her and the Lips, I don’t know what this is/does.