Friday, December 18, 2015

2015 Albums of the Year (Numbers 10-1)

And last but not least, here are my top ten Albums:

10. Blur - The Magic Whip

Most bands coming off a lengthy hiatus from recording come back to middling results. Blur, taking advantage of a cancelled festival appearance, holed up in the studio and quickly banged out a killer set of tracks. The Magic Whip stands solidly alongside their best works.

9. Chvrches - Every Open Eye

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

8. Empress Of - Me

Confident set of tracks that keep revealing more and more layers with each listen.

7. Tame Impala -  Currents

Meticulously recorded and emotionally heartfelt, Tame Impala burst forth into the upper echelons of indie alt-rock with this trippy collection of songs.

6. Bjork - Vulnicura

Bjork returns to form with this painfully intimate set of tracks documenting the dissolution of her marriage. Challenging yet essential listening.

5. Selena Gomez - Revival

Simply put: the best pop record of the year.

4. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

A song cycle as tribute to his deceased mother, Carrie and Lowell is Sufjan's elegant attempt to come to terms with death and mortality. By turns universal and painfully intimate, these songs touch one in many ways.

3. Braids - Deep in the Iris

Braids' first two records are a dichotomy, the first was a quirky set of guitar-based pop songs and the second an impressionistic whirl of electronic musings. Both had their charms but there just seemed to be something missing from each. Deep in the Iris merges their two sensibilities into a potent mix that always satisfies.


Like Braids, HEALTH finally made a record that bridged the gap between their two competing sides. A perfect mix of noise experimentation and pop smarts.

1. Grimes - Art Angels

Until Art Angels, I will have to admit I was only a marginal Grimes fan. With this record I was completely blown away with its stylistic breadth and its willingness to just be balls out weird. This was the one album of the year I just couldn't stop playing.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

2015 Albums of the Year (Numbers 20-11)

And on it goes:

20. Julien Baker - Sprained Ankle

This record really blew me away this year. As intimate as it possibly can be, Sprained Ankle is wry, witty, and full of raw emotion. You sense she has lived deeply inside these songs, inhabiting them like a second skin.

19. Beach House - Thank Your Lucky Stars

Beach House surprised everyone with two albums and they couldn't be any more different. Depression Cherry, to me, was a droning, one note, beige mess of songs that made me feel that Beach House had lost their mind. Thank Your Lucky Stars feels like a mea culpa, and a welcome return to form.

18. Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool

This record throws together alt-rock, indie pop, shoegaze, Britpop, and a hundred other genres together in a mix that shouldn't work, but just keeps finding ways to creep back into your psyche.

17. Everything Everything - Get To Heaven

As I mentioned in my top songs countdown, Everything Everything are weird. Very weird. When I play this record for others, I get lots of head scratching. You either get them or you don't. I, for one, am very glad I get them.

16. Drake - If You're Reading This It's Too Late

If You're Reading This It's Too Late, is a dark, insular record that has no real "singles," but collectively shows Drake at the height of his powers.

15. Years & Years - Communion

Perfect blend of pop smarts, R&B sass, and dance floor power.

13. Young Galaxy - Falsework

The quirky Canadians once again work with producer Dan Lissvik, creating a sublime selection of arty synthpop.

12. Little Boots - Working Girl

While probably too arch and distant to be fully embraced by Top 40 radio, Little Boots' record Working Girl is one of the most hook filled alnbum recent memory. She is a jewel just waiting to be discovered.

11. Jamie xx - In Colour

Eclectic and thoroughly entertaining collection of tracks that hit on almost all of Jamie xx's influences.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2015 Albums of the Year (Numbers 30-21)

Continuing the list:

30. Torres - Sprinter

When I first heard Sprinter, I was immediately brought back to the first time I heard PJ Harvey. Torres is a brutally honest songwriter, and these songs leave you emotionally wrecked.

29. Roisin Murphy - Hairless Toys

The Grand Dame of quirky pop, Roisin Murphy unleashed another batch of challenging, yet still accessible songs.

28. Deafheaven - New Bermuda

Deafheaven continue their brilliant exploration of black metal and shoegaze on their latest record.

27. ON AN ON - And the Wave Has Two Sides

ON AN ON keeps getting better and better with each release. Their songs quietly encroach on one's inner peace; the emotional impact not felt until much later, leaving one gasping for breath.

26. Purity Ring - Another Eternity

Another Eternity finds Purity Ring making a bold leap into technicolor. While Shrines was creepy and gothic, this record paints in bold, bright strokes. Many decried that they had "sold out," but for me it's a logical progression.

25. The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness

Like Purity Ring, The Weeknd made a monster leap into the pop world. While he still sings on the same subjects of sex, drugs, and more sex and more drugs, there is less of a nihilistic slant to his viewpoint, and more of a tongue in cheek stance.

24. Major Lazer - Peace is the Mission

EDM, hip-hop, dancehall, R&B, and pop all crash together into a breathlessly inventive and fun record.

23. Arca - Mutant

Taking off from where his record Xen left off, Mutant is another stunner. Longer, yet more concise, Mutant unfolds with more purpose, the angular production weaving themes in and out of the 20 blisteringly inventive tracks.

22. VV Brown - Glitch

Armed with a commanding voice whose deep tones with make your inners rumble, VV Brown matches it up to some dark electronica in a record that gets deep under the skin.

21. Deerhunter - Fading Frontier

Deerhunter will never put out a boring record, that is for sure. For the most part, Fading Frontier could almost be considered their "pop" record, albeit a very off-kilter one. Aside from a couple of meandering tracks, Bradford Cox and Co. have really tightened their sound and focus on some killer hooks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

2015 Albums of the Year (Numbers 40-31)

Continuing with my list:

40. New Order - Music Complete

Their best record since Technique.

39. Rival Consoles - Howl

Intriguing soundscapes that pulse and undulate with deeply felt emotions.

38. Foals - What Went Down

I will admit that this record took me awhile to warm up to. Foals doesn't really change their sound dramatically, instead letting it subtly evolve over time. While it lacks some killer singles that their previous records had, What Went Down is their most consistent record to date, and their most gorgeous.

37. Boxed In - Boxed In

If we can't get a new LCD Soundsystem record, Boxed In will fill in nicely.

36. Nero - Between II Worlds

Based on their songs released prior to this record, I assumed Nero was going to go full on cinematic, however, it appears they took that as a base point and threw in some old industrial records in the mix for flavor. Between II Worlds is pop music on steroids.

35. Best Coast - California Nights

Granted, their lyrics will never win any contests, however, will killer hooks and melodies found here, who really cares?

34. Oneohtrix Point Never - Garden of Delete

Strange and odd electronica that never fails to grab one's attention.

33. Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear

By turns hilarious, cutting, witty, and heart breaking, I Love You, Honeybear is a classic collection of songs from Father John Misty.

32. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

Melbourne, Australia singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett has a witty, deadpan style that is a refreshing change of pace. She has a spunky attitude that really carries over in her songs.

31. Jessica Pratt - On Your Own Love Again

Haunting set of tracks that are all grounded by Jessica Pratt's enchantingly odd vocals.

Monday, December 14, 2015

2015 Albums of the Year (Numbers 50-41)

It was a much better year for singles this year for me than albums. With that said, the albums that I liked this year, I really liked a lot. Here are my Top 50 albums for 2015:

50. The Chemical Brothers - Born in the Echoes

The Chemical Brothers have hit their new renaissance phase. Continuing where Further left off, Born in the Echoes is the sound of the Chems bursting forward with more fresh, new ideas.

49. Lower Dens - Escape From Evil

This is the album where Lower Dens make the decision to embrace melody and more pop-oriented elements. Their lyrics are still dark and foreboding, but there is less of wall going up, at least sonically speaking.

48. Ciara - Jackie

While she will never be as huge as Beyonce or Rihanna, Ciara puts out as good if not better music, in my opinion. Jackie is a welcome return for her, full of catchy jams and elegant ballads.

47. Viet Cong - Viet Cong

The band formerly known as Viet Cong (external pressures caused them to change their name, which at the moment they have not made) put out the most viscerally intense record this year. Regardless of what they change their name to, it will be exciting to see what they come up with next.

46. Metric - Pagans in Vegas

For me, Emily Haines and Co. have always been more of a singles band than an album band. Pagans in Vegas is their first release that actually sounds like a fully cohesive record. The singles and the deep album cuts are all on the same footing.

45. Kate Boy - One

More brilliant Swedish synthpop. There must be something in the water over there.

44. Neon Indian - VEGA INTL. Night School

Ridiculously clever, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink record from Neon Indian that astonishes with its creative breadth.

43. Twin Shadow - Eclipse

Eclipse is Twin Shadow's attempt at a big "POP RECORD!!!!" from an 80s mold. What could have come across as stunted or as pastiche, Twin Shadow wears his heart on his sleeve throughout and, even better, throws down some killer melodies to boot.

42. Zedd - True Colors

Pretty much the perfect marriage of pop and EDM.

41. Hot Chip - Why Make Sense?

I have never "gotten" Hot Chip. Their records always feeling very flat to me. Live they are brilliant, but they have never put together a cohesive album that made me really take notice. Why Make Sense? finally changes that.