The Best Music of 2015

2015

Another year down, another list of tunes. There was a lot of good stuff out there, really a wide variety of awesomeness. Tell grandma that all music today isn’t bad, you just need to know where to look. Consider this your road map to jamtastic awesomeness from the fine year of 2015.

Biggest Disappointments

angry neil

Let’s just start out by saying none of these were bad per se, they just didn’t live up the hype. There were a lot of big releases this year that just didn’t hit the mark. They tried and failed, and as my Mom always told me, “At least you tried.” Thanks Mom.

6. Yo La Tengo – Stuff Like That There

I was so excited about a new Yo La Tengo album that I snagged that thing up immediately, threw it on the speakers, and…it turned out to be a relatively lame covers album. Shit.

5. Ty Segall – Ty Rex

Ty Segall gave us three releases under his name in 2015, but for the first time in many years, didn’t give us a new album of fresh rocktastic material. Two live albums of old stuff and a cover album of T Rex are still good, but not great.

4. The Sword – High Country

The Sword didn’t unleash their glorious blend of Stoner Rock and Metal, but deviated from the norm and toned it down quite a bit. Instead of an onslaught of guitars, they mixed up the arrangements, instruments, and just plain mellowed out. You’ve gotta respect that from a band, but sometimes, I say stick with what works. Crank those axes up to 11!

3. Elvis Perkins – I Aubade

It’s been six years since that other guy named Elvis released an album. My hopes were high, but after a ton of listens, I couldn’t get into the is one. I tried Elvis #2, believe me, I tried!

2. Calexico – Edge of the Sun

I’ve been listening to a lot of Calexico these days and decided my new favorite is their 2012 album Algiers. This followup goes at the bottom of the barrel in their discography. Overproduced, poorly written, and with a host of unnecessary guest stars, skip this one and just replay Feast of Wire instead.

1. Neil Young – The Monsanto Years

Oh Neil, you’re so cranky. No, I didn’t have high expectations for this album, but after seeing Neil Young live this year, all I can think of now is him getting pissed off at Starbucks and everything in between. This album completely supported my new image of Neil as a very angry old man.

Most Anticipated

portlandia

Nothing gets us music nerds all hot and bothered like kick ass bands releasing fresh new tunes. I’m talking like IHOP pancake fresh. Well, maybe that wasn’t a good analogy actually.

6. Jamie xx – In Colour

Despite the fact that the dude spells color the weird British way, there was some definite excitement for his solo release. It was a solid album, but didn’t trip my switch as a best of.

5. Sun Kill Moon – Universal Themes

Mark Kozelek released by far my favorite album last year with Benji, a uniquely dark and personal album that was unlike anything I’d heard before. Where his stream of consciousness style worked on his last album, it sounded more like wild rambling on this one, but still worth a listen.

4. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall

Okay, let’s just state for the record that I love MMJ. I was stoked for their new album, but it just seems too light for one of the most exciting bands in Rock. Either way, I’m sure all of the songs on the album sound amazing live, because come on, it’s MMJ.

3. Screaming Females – Rose Mountain

Their 2012 album Ugly was an absolute monster, but for this one, they dialed it back quite a bit. Surprisingly, it worked out pretty well, with this always awesome band putting out yet another great album.

2. Deafheaven – New Bermuda

After the unreal Sunbather from last year, I couldn’t wait to get my ears on this one. Where their last release was a crazy blend of Black Metal and Noise Rock, this guy sticks more with the Black Metal side of things. That said, this is an epic album unto itself, proving these guys aren’t messing around. I mean, they yell a lot, so you’ve gotta believe they mean business.

1. Sleater Kinney – No Cities To Love

The reigning chicks of badass in the Rock world came back in 2015 with a vengeance. Forget all the hilarious jokes from Carrie Brownstein on Portlandia, because when she grabs a guitar and teams up with Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss, all Hell breaks loose.

Most Jammed

"Baseball is fun!"

These albums weren’t the best of the year, but that didn’t stop them from blasting on my speakers all…the…time. 

6. Left Lane Cruiser – Dirty Spliff Blues

A dirty spliff is when you roll a J with tobacco in it. That pretty much sums up the album. Pure Blues badass rocking and nothing more.

5. The Heavy Eyes – He Dreams of Lions

I hadn’t heard of these lads before because they’re not really too well known. That’s a crying shame, because this is Stoner Rock at its best.

4. Foals – What Went Down

I feel like Foals are the perfect band: Catchy melodies as loud as possible. They’ve got it figured out. This album is no Holy Fire, yet I couldn’t stop listening to it. They’re tricky like that.

3. Cage the Elephant – Tell Me I’m Pretty

I like the band, but I’ll admit I don’t love them. However I do love when Dan Auerbach takes the production helm, and he did a number on this one. Their wild Alternative sound turned into old school Garage Rock and the album was on constant play as a result.

2. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Freedom Tower

I’m not sure how I’d never heard of these dudes before this year, but I made up for lost time by jamming to this one constantly. I wouldn’t call them Blues, I wouldn’t call them Garage Rock, I wouldn’t even call them Alternative. Basically it’s like they cracked a bottle of whiskey, turned up the amps, and hit record.

1. The Dead Weather – Dodge & Burn

No, this wasn’t their best album. No, this wasn’t one of the best of the year. Then why did I listen to it every single day for a month straight? Why was I rocking it so loud the windows were rattling? Because it’s The Dead Weather, arguably the most badass band around today next to Hall & Oates.

Honorable Mention

battles

These albums almost made it. Like when you’re in a race and almost to the finish and you see a sno-cone machine out of the corner of your eye and obviously exit the race to get a sno-cone. Yeah, pretty much exactly like that.

6. Silversun Pickups – Better Nature

This album didn’t get as much buzz as some of their previous work, but I’ve gotta say, I dug it. These guys were hipsters before there were hipsters and they’re as sharp as ever, with a well crafted and catchy album.

5. The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily,

Dan Auerbach has been everywhere except in the studio making a decent Black Keys album. Oh well, we can at least enjoy this funky and soulful masterpiece until he figures out how to play the Blues again.

4. Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last

John Dwyer is the most prolific dude in music next to Ty Segall. Prolific isn’t always a good thing, because there’s a big difference between quantity and quality. However, just like his pal Ty, he never seems to skip a beat, with this album rocking as loud as ever.

3. Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness

Julia Holter is definitely an artist. Her music challenges the listener in an artsy kind of way, proving that she just isn’t your run of the mill singer/songwriter. For all of her avante garde work in the past, her album this year is much easier to digest and turned out to be a really fun listen.

2. JEFF The Brotherhood – Global Chakra Rhythms

After the release of Wasted on a Dream this year, I was pretty sure the duo was set on keeping the exact same sound on every album and just singing songs about drinking beer. Hey, it worked, who was I to complain? Then they dumped their major label and released this trippy and droning gem, unlike anything they’d done before. I guess I was wrong. I’ll need to listen to Country to hear songs about beer now. Or just drink beer and listen to this instead, that sounds better than listening to Country.

1. Battles – La Di Da Di

For having possibly the dumbest name for an album and most pointless album cover, the instrumental crew still managed to release a great one. The fact that they focus their music on the drums makes their sound so compelling and different than anything else out there. All three of their albums have been top notch, so I say, keep ’em coming!

The Top 15 of 2015

liturgy

Rarely does a top tunes list span so many different genres. It was a wild year in the music world and I’ll be damned, all these albums crushed it.

15. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

The former Fleet Foxes drummer certainly has made a name for himself. Josh Tillman released a great follow up to Fear Fun that is basically one big love song. A personal and beautiful album, it proves that this bearded dude can cook up some quality tuneskies and probably vegan breakfast burritos as well.

14. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

Brittany Howard and crew show everybody how it’s done down in ‘Bama. Their sophomore release is every bit as rocking as their debut, and considering it topped the charts, they’re just getting better and better, like my basketball game. That’s actually false.

13. Swans – The Gate

Michael Gira released this live album on record store day as a fundraiser to help pay for their next album, which is also announced to be their last. So there are rappers talking about the same worthless crap making millions, pop stars all over the TV just for their looks, and then you’ve got Swans. The ultimate Post-Rock band that pushes the envelope on experimental music, struggling to get by. It sure is a crazy world we live in.

12. Mikal Cronin – III

I swear this dude kicks out some of the tightest albums out there. Crisp production, catchy melodies, and rocking guitar riffs, he basically gives you everything you want on an album. It’s like a Lays chip, just try listening to it once. You can’t do it!

11. A Place to Bury Strangers – Transfixiation

Noise, more noise, and then some more noise after that. It doesn’t hurt the ears as much as you’d thing, but ends up being pretty listenable. Their brand of tunes is mixture of Noise Rock, Shoegaze, and Industrial. Any band that can make killer music out of noise is alright with me.

10. Beirut – No No No

No, it’s not the capital of Lebanon or the deviation on the standard beer pong game, it’s a band. They stripped down their sound and made one of the more enjoyable albums of the year. It didn’t get as much buzz as some of their earlier stuff, but it’s one of those albums that’s hard not to enjoy. Like everything from Bon Jovi. Just kidding. Really, I’m kidding.

9. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Good point, sitting and doing nothing is pretty awesome. I call it a standard Monday at the office. Anyway, Courtney Barnett is one of the more exciting new musicians out there. Take some wild rambling thoughts, give them a British accent, and then rock out like Neil Young. Works for me.

8. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress

After a ten year hiatus Godspeed returned with a vengeance in 2012, delivering some of the best instrumental Post-Rock jams around. This album doesn’t hit as hard as some of their earlier work, but with four songs clocking in at 40 minutes, they’re doing the same thing they’ve always done. The closing track “Piss Crowns Are Trebled” might be one of the best of their career.

7. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down…

I don’t think I’ve heard a Kurt Vile album that wasn’t awesome. No other singer/songwriter can groove like this guy. His vocal delivery makes him sounds like some sort of stoner, just slowly talking about how much he needs Doritos. Yet if you dive into his music, and see the volume of his output, you’ll realize this guy definitely isn’t a lazy pot head. So far he has not written a song about Doritos. Yet.

6. Songhoy Blues – Music In Exile

Hold on, a new Blues album from some dudes hailing from Mali? Damn straight, they call the style “Desert Blues” and it definitely is awesome. I can’t understand a thing they’re saying, but hey, can anyone understand Bob Dylan from the last 40 years?

5. Tame Impala – Currents

When I first listened to this album, I said “What the Hell?” No I did, I said it out loud. I wanted some more Psychedelic awesomeness. Then I listened to it again and again. I can now safely say Kevin Parker is a genius and everything he touches is gold. Maybe next time they tour through Denver he can hook it up with some gold.

4. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Nothing this dude does is alike. I mean, compare this to Age of Adz and you wouldn’t believe it’s the same person. This album is as personal as he’s ever gotten, singing touching and honest songs about his troubled mother Carrie and stepfather Lowell. That’s where the title comes from, get it?

3. Kamasi Washington – The Epic

I’d never heard of this sax player, mainly because I’m not a Hip Hop fan, since he’s been featured on as many Rap albums as he has Jazz. Then this year he releases an epic album indeed, clocking in at almost three hours. Yet unlike many other Jazz albums, this thing is all across the board, touching tons of different genres and eras. From Funk to old school Jazz crooners, the solos are wild, the heads are memorable, the band is tight, and it’s a great listen for all three hours.

2. Fuzz – II

Who would have thought that Fuzz would come back for another album and it would be louder than their monster debut? Their fuzzed out (obviously) brand of Garage Rock stretches out a bit and gains some traction. Surprisingly, Ty Segall doesn’t take the crown as the king of this album, it goes to guitarist Charlie Moothart. Just make sure you listen to this loud, some albums are meant to annoy the neighbors.

1. Liturgy – The Ark Work

They’re a Black Metal band by definition, but to my ear, there’s a lot more going on. It’s rare to hear an album as dense as this. The amount of instruments, noises, voices, sounds, and everything else are seemingly endless. Not to get too nerdy on you, but from an audio recording standpoint, there’s only so much frequency you can use. Eventually things pile up on each other. If you want to really create a wall of sound, it must be very artfully crafted. And there you have The Ark Work, the best of 2015 for a reason.

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