The Top 20 Albums of 2015: 10-1
Okay, down to brass tacks.
If you need to catch up:
On Friday, I posted the "not quite" Top 20 Yesterday, I posted #20-11 And now, without further ado, the top 10!
10. Father John Misty - I Love You Honey Bear
Every once in a while you just have to top your hat to great songwriting no matter the genre.
Joshua Tillman writes beautiful songs.
And I love his voice, there is an earthiness and an earnestness to his singing.
As much as I generally hated 70's bloated production, this is a throwback in the least offensive way.
It is a 70's sound but not bloated and smart.
The album often makes me feel like I am floating away on thought clouds.
Remember how you listened to the Boogie Nights soundtrack and remembered there were some real gems in the 70's?
This album reminds me of that feeling, the feeling that maybe there was something good about that style of music making that was lost between fighting through the insane 30 minute songs.
It certainly doesn't hurt with me that he was first known as a drummer (for Fleet Foxes).
This is another album I just had to include, if for no other reason, I listened to it all the time.
Stereogum made it an album of the week.
Metacritic rated I Love You Honeybear at 87
9. Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp
I love Katie Crutchfield.
Not in that way, not in the stupid fan loves artist they never know way. Certainly not in that man loves celebrity woman kind of way.
I am in love with her sensibilities as a song writer, and in the way she presents herself. I love her music, which seems to come right from her heart.
I have listened to Breathless seemingly a million times this year.
I love the playfulness of La Loose.
Blue moves me, "Summer of Love" is thoughtful, and "Half Moon," wow.
"Our love tastes like sugar, but it pulls all the life out of me"
Yup, "Half Moon."
Ivy Trip was one of the first albums I remember loving in 2015. All these months later, it still hits my ears a great deal. Her albums, her band, and her songwriting have improved with every new release.
Pitchfork gave Ivy Tripp an 8.1
NPR also approved of the album.
8. Titus Andronicus - The Most Lamentable Tragedy
In retrospect, one of the better albums of my childhood was Breakfast in American by Supertramp.
I cannot fully explain why, but for some reason The Most Lamentable Tragedy (the double album by Titus Andronicus) reminds me of Breakfast In America (and I know they do not sound similar at all).
Maybe it is just the feeling that like Breakfast in America, "The Most Lamentable Tragedy" will not be fully appreciated until much later.
On my first listen, I was not sure I liked it. One of the things I loved about their previous album "The Monitor" was that they seemed serious and playful. This new album seems (seemed) much more serious on first listen.
But I have to admit, this one has been a grower, every time that I listen to it again it gains some traction.
I love their punk attitude, I love that they just let it rip from the go, and I love that they don't seem to give two shits about marketing themselves or doing anything other than playing.
In this way they remind me of some of the things I love about The Clash and Fugazi.
There is also a bit of New York Dolls in Titus Andronicus.
They seem to authentically care that people listen to their music without all the bullshit.
1) Listen to this album several times, let it ferment in the background of your brain, it will start really kicking your ass.
2) Once you "get it" start turning it up. Way up!
The omnipresent Pitchfork gives the album an 8.1
Spin Magazine gives it an 8/10
7. Julien Baker - Sprained Ankle
This album was one of the latest releases that made the list.
I was not prepared for this one at all.
Julien Baker is 20 years old, and I had honestly never heard of her.
She has a breathy voice, I am not sure it has much real "power" but wow, it profoundly affects my mood.
When I first heard the song Good News, I misted up, and I never mist up.
The singing, lyrics, and songwriting are all insane for a 20 year old. But there is something more here.
I cannot entirely explain it, normally, I would say that she is someone to watch, but I think it might be good to watch and listen to her now.
I mean this in the best possible way, but I get an early Elliot Smith feeling here in terms of emotional impact.
She is incredibly emotionally honest, talking about loss, drugs, faith, depression in a heartbreaking way.
Turn your lights down, put on some good headphones and just listen (maybe with a good glass of something).
Consequence of Sound gave Sprained Ankle a B (low)
Stereogum loved it (as they should)
6. Majical Cloudz - Are You Alone
I already wrote a whole blog post about Are You Alone. So, it should come as no surprise to find it here.
To me, this album was a profoundly sad gut-punch.
Perhaps that is why it has not been on more top-20 lists. It is not a happy place.
But, it is a profoundly sad meaningful place.
There is a gravitas to Devon Welsh's voice that I appreciate, he has emotional credibility.
When I was listening to songs like Control, Are You Alone, and Silver Car Crash it took me to replay many of the sad scenes in my life.
In particular, it returned me to seeing in my minds eye some of the true terrors of prison. Seeing, for instance, the horrific "treatment" of the Mentally Ill.
Seeing people so drugged up and lost that they were wandering the yard with only one shoe and drooling.
Seeing people locked in a tiny cell 23 hours a day (with no books or television) only because they had a mental diagnosis.
As I was told by one of the therapists "It's not optimal."
I get that same feeling of loss, helpless anger, and sadness from this album.
I am not saying this is what the songs are about, I am saying that is what these songs made me feel.
Any music that connects me to memories and feelings is great music in my mind.
"Falling asleep because you're so tired that the world doesn't spin anymore."
This is an album about looking into the void and trying to understand.
Pitchfork gave the album an 8.0
Spin rated in 8/10
5. Chvrches - Every Open Eye
One of my favorite blog pieces that I wrote this year was my review of Every Open Eye (I compared it to the soundtracks of John Hughes movies).
Oddly, I have not seen this album on many top 20 lists. This surprises me because while it is an electro-pop album - it is a really fun pop album.
For weeks this album made me smile (which was good given the dark hearts of some of the other albums on my list).
Every once in awhile, a breath of fresh air and happiness is a great thing. Chvrches is that air.
Whenever I am getting a little down, I just listen to "Make Them Gold" and everything is okay again.
I am not suggesting that all the song lyrics are inherently happy, but, there is a hopefulness built in to every layer of this cake.
This has also been one of my favorite workout albums of the year.
Is it a little cheesy at times, maybe, but not in a bad way.
Not everything has to confront and try to solve the great mysteries or plumb the depths of the horror that surrounds us.
Again, what did I listen to a lot this year? Chvrches was up there.
So, if you want to smile, this is your ticket.
Pitchfork gave the album a 7.7 (why so serious?)
Metacritic says the aggregate is 77 (why so serious?)
4. Vince Staples - Summertime 06
Yes, I had beef with Vince.
Okay, to be fair, he said like three things to me on twitter and I turned it into beef for blog generation.
I imagine he thought about it for a grand total of ten seconds.
No matter what Vince thinks about 90's hip-hop, and every generation buries it's forefathers (right?), he is still incredibly talented.
I started getting into Vince Staples because I loved his EP "Hell Can Wait:
Summertime 06 is a monster. It is a double album and it is pretty much all killer with no filler.
Every single time I hear the opening to Lift Me Up, my head starts bobbing.
And let's not even start on Norf Norf, that song is a crusher.
But, when you get to disc two, the goodies just keep on rolling.
By far and away my hip-hop album of the year (sorry to pimp a butterfly).
He may not like old school hip-hop but his flow is immaculate and the production is incredible.
For once, Pitchfork and I are on the same page 8.8
And Spin Magazine gives Summertime 06 9/10
3. Girlpool Before the World Was Big
Yes, I know Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad play folkish instruments. But this is punk rock at it's finest.
Girlpool are two girls, some guitars, and lots of guts.
They are totally DIY, they just put it out there and it is not always perfect or pretty.
The songs are amazing, so, so, so, good.
People often confuse talent with quality. I know Christina Aguilera can hit every note in the universe, but how many times have I wanted to listen to her do it?
There is something to be said for telling stories, for being emotionally honest, and for cutting out the crap.
This Girlpool record is spare, sparse, straightforward music
I spent most of the year wanting to hear Harmony and Cleo again and again.
Ideal World, Before the World Was Big, Chinatown, Crowded Stranger, Emily, I Like That You Can See it all made my playlists this year.
And what I put on my playlists might be the best true indicator of what I really liked this year.
Pitchfork gave the album a 7.8
Consequence of Sound gave it a B
2. Alabama Shakes - Sound and Color
Best rock and roll album this year.
Not the best "alternative" rock album.
The best rock and roll album, of any variety, this year.
Brittany Howard (lead everything for Alabama Shakes) is everything that is good about music.
She can really sing, she can wail on the guitar, and she is actually better live.
I loved Sound and Color so much I wrote about it in the context of the state of music in general.
It is not just me, there is a reason my summer obsession Mr. Robot ended the season, more or less, with a song from Sound and Color.
So much music is almost entirely concocted marketing bullshit these days.
Most mainstream people will have Justin Bieber up high - the songs aren't his, he has the emotional honesty of a mask, and he uses backing vocal tracks live.
Some will have some teen idol up high, again, someone who doesn't write music, cannot sing live, and is mostly famous for being hot and dancing well.
Brittany Howard is the trifecta, writes, sings, plays.
This album is awesome, if you haven't heard it, you should.
Pitchfork says 8.1
And the Grammy's just came in with multiple nominations for Alabama Shakes (for once I bow to the Grammy's).
1. Beach House - Depression Cherry
Depression Cherry is my top album of the year because there was a month where I probably listened to it every day.
Since it was released, there has not been a week I have gone without listening to it.
This despite the fact that I used to hate (or at least ignore Beach House).
I have gone back and listened to old Beach House albums, and I still don't love them.
I cannot explain why this album and I connected. But we connected.
How in the world does an aging punk rock guy love a chillwave album full of organ music?
Sometimes you just have the throw up your hands and embrace what you are feeling.
I could say much more, but I have written about Depression Cherry extensively on the blog.
This is an album of dreamy and beautifully crafted music.
I will say that for months, this album has kept me in a really relaxed and happy place.
I hope it will for you as well!
Pitchfork (my nemesis) says 8.4
Metacritic comes in with a very low 76 (stupid Metacritic)
Good news, it is over.
Bad news, I have to start listing and listening to 2016 albums now.
Happy New Year!
What do you think of the list (now that it is finally done)? What would you include? Where do you think I messed up? Let me know, leave a comment!