With my life in total upheaval this year, I ended the year with some big gaps in my musical exposure. Aiming to course correct in 2016, especially since I got a bluetooth speaker for Christmas increasing the audio quality of my home music by 100%.
I still managed to fuss and whittle a year’s worth of great releases down to 20 albums. Since I self-regulate EPs and covers out of my Top 10, some good stuff landed in the Honorable Mentions. Hope you enjoy and for those who aren’t music nerds, hope you discover some new tunes!
Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique – Love Is Free
Annie Bacon & Her Oshen – Stranded Songs
Ryan Adams – 1989
Westkust – Last Forever
Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Barreacudas – Can Do Easy
Mikal Cronin – MCIII
Josh Ritter – Sermon on the Rocks
Great Peacock – Making Ghosts
This album assaults you with loud, dark noise from the opening drumbeats of “Newspaper Spoons” to the driving closing jam on the 11+ minute “Death.” Clearly influenced by Joy Division and Gang of Four (the riffs on the excellent “Bunker Buster” borrow heavily from the latter), but that is totally fine with me.
I spent 2014 very, very sad and 2015 very, very angsty. My levels of frustration have been through the roof and while other albums on this list capture my exasperation in a more sophisticated way, this one appeals most to my inner 16-year-old who just wants to scream along to songs like “Trying”.
On the sophistication front, Laura Marling continues to amaze me. More on her in my forthcoming “Best Concerts” post. This album didn’t grab me quite as much as Once I Was an Eagle, but after seeing her live and putting it on for repeat listens, it grew on me. “Strange” is a perfect example of the lyrical and musical talent that makes me excited for what this woman will be putting out in 20-30 years.
After telling my subletting neighbor to turn this album down for blaring it to seduce a young lady on a warm spring “windows open” night, I took a break from listening. It’s total bro-hipster, but damn if it’s not a fantastic album and lyrics like “I want to take you in the kitchen/Lift up your wedding dress that someone was probably murdered in” will keep me coming back.
When my inner 16-year-old is done raging out to Bully, she flips over to Waxahatchee to lie in bed and listen to sweet/angsty songs. While I was happy The Juliana Hatfield Three put out a new album this year, this one filled that particular void for me more.
This album is the one that moved up several slots as I finalized the list. I’m sure you’ll notice how sonically different it is from the rest of my picks. Although I suppose there’s definitely traceable 90s pop influence on this one, with standouts like “Kill vs. Maim” it’s more of a throwback to the future for me.
I feel pretty lucky that I got to see Leon Bridges play a sold out show at a club in Amsterdam just before this album came out. Having listened to Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and the like since I can remember music, there was no way I wasn’t going to love this.
If only every band that took a decade-long hiatus could come back and put out THIS. Even though two of my other favorite bands of yore, Belle & Sebastian and The Decemberists put out albums on THE SAME DAY, this eclipsed them both with nonstop listens the first half of the year and revisits throughout 2015. It’s a fucking incredible album.
Much of my album ordering comes from pouring over what I can of the available Spotify Year in Music data (can’t they just give us the option to export the raw data?). This one didn’t show up on the “most listened to” and for a good reason…I just can’t. The receptionist at my yoga studio was listening to it in the studio the other day and I started crying as I put on my shoes. It’s absolutely DEVASTATING. Plus, even though Sufjan stopped his 50 states project…this is the Oregon album, so it hits waaaaaay too close to home.
1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit
You know those times in your life when you’ve dropped the needle, popped in the tape, hit the physical or digital “play” button and just knew this was going to be one of your favorite albums not just this year, but ever? I called it in my 2014 best concerts recap : “The secret is going to be out once her new album comes out next year.”
What were your favorite albums this year?