Sunday, January 10, 2016

Justin's Favorite Music Albums of 2015

Instead of calling them the best of i'm just gonna be more honest to the fact that these are my favorites of the year, but doesn't necessarily mean they're the best.

The first seven are in particular order, while the rest are just favorites but no particular order.

1. Yowler - The Offer

I was really impressed with this little album from Maryn Jones of all dogs, the  indie rock band that also got its album on this list this year, and Saintseneca. These songs are more quiet, dreamy, and almost folksy. I'd call it dream rock. Somewhere between dream pop and indie rock. Each song is just beautifully crafted, and I found myself incapable of listening to anything else for the whole record, which if you know me I'm usually passing between albums before songs are even over, but this one I found myself wanting to listen to the whole album. Favorite Song: Yowler

2. Schmieds Puls - I Care A Little Less About Everything Now

Like a cross between Basia Bulat and Alanis Morissette (yes you heard that right), lead singer Mira Lu Kovacs gives this Austrian band a unique sound with just her voice alone. Pretty firmly in the indie folk genre but would have fit quite well in the whole 90's Lilith Fair tradition of girl rock.

3. Nicole Dollanganger - Natural Born Losers

Don't the cover throw you off, that's kind of Dollanganger's whole schtick, call it shock pop or call it dream folk or call it weird, whatever it is Dollanganger crafts some really lovely songs with some really weird and dark lyrics. Discovered by Grimes' Claire Boucher and the first artist she's added to her new music label Eerie Organization, Dollanganger already has a pretty big Tumblr following and quite a large back catalogue of albums on Bandcamp ( almost all free and legal to download) but she is just getting started I believe. Hoping that now becoming part of a big label won't change anything about her weird and beautiful indie pop.

4. Julien Baker - Sprained Ankle

Baker is just legit folksy acoustic music. Somehow she is on many year end lists this year, and that is because she has created a rather lovely album where she sings about pain, heartbreak, and all the things humans endure. In fact her whole album seems like a love song to the human experience, soft and wistful, and rising in crescendo to a powerful howl. Not many artists can write straightforward music this way and get away with it in our current climate of music, especially on their debut album, but Baker does it with flying colors.

5. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie and Lowell

For a long time I thought for sure that Carrie and Lowell would be my most favorite album of the year. When I first heard it, I was enchanted with Stevens' return to his indie folk roots, and I still am. That some other albums made it above his doesn't mean I am enjoying it any less now. I've long been a fan of Stevens' and my favorite albums were his earliest stuff. But that isn't what is best about this album, as usual for Stevens, it's his lyrics which in this album in particular are an exploration of his mother's death. They are achingly honest about his grief, "there's no shade in the shadow of the cross.", and his memories of her, and his hope for her afterlife. I'll be listening to this one over and over for a long time.

6. Siskiyou - Nervous

Although I'm not as much of a fan of Nervous as I am of Siskiyou's first two albums, I did enjoy the new album quite a bit. For a while there, we weren't sure Siskiyou would make a new album, after hearing they were going on indefinite hiatus. Colin Huebert, formerly of Great Lake Swimmers, had developed a chronic inner ear condition, and began to deal with high levels of anxiety brought on by hyperacusis, and feelings of claustrophobia. All this made it almost impossible for Huebert to handle the interior environment of a sound studio, and it was very up in the air if we'd ever get new music. But after finding some sense of healing from meditation, and rehearsing the new songs at extremely low volume, and the whole feeling of being trapped in one's own head fills the album with a 'nervous' and very real soundscape. Hence the very apt title. It's a great album, and I might even come to like it more after many listens.

7. Moon King - Secret Life

Moon King is Maddie Wilde and Daniel Woodhead (brother of Doldrum's Airick Woodhead), and their sound is atmospheric indie rock with an 80's feel. Sort of shoegazey, sort of dream rock-y, all around awesome.

All albums below in no particular order other than alphabetical, though i do like some more than others, I just found it harder to give them a numerical place.

All Dogs - Kicking Every Day

They were just a random listen one day, but after a few listens i kinda fell in love with this noisy indie rock/punk band. With a strong 90's influence and the genius of Maryn Jones, a name that will be up there with Waxahatchee, Courtney Barnett, etc. someday, this album is just great.

Casa Del Mirto - The Nature

You wouldn't know it from the list above, but I listened to A LOT of synth pop this past year. It's kinda one of my new favorite styles, and of most of the albums I listened to, I loved this one by this band the best. The Italian synth poppers make some great atmospheric music.

Chvrches - Every Open Eye

Chvrches continues to cement themselves as pretty much the best electro-indie pop band out there right now.

Deportees - The Big Sleep

Another random listen one day, but I was glad of it. Good stuff from this Swedish band that's been around since 2003 actually, and has a pretty big back catalogue as well.

Hibou - Self Titled

Hibou is Peter Michels, former drummer of Craft Spells. The sound is that similar pretty dream pop, and it is well worth the listen. For fans of Beach House etc.

Low - Ones and Sixes

Imagine my surprise when one of my most favorite bands of all time quietly released a new album to little fanfare or advertisement. It's good, a solid Low record.

Martin Courtney - Many Moons

From one of the members of Real Estate, Courtney plays similar sounding music, but with a slight alt-country tinge to it. Very Good.

Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper

Panda Bear continues to make fun music that fills the Animal Collective gap as they work on their next album. Mr. Noah is a pretty fun song.

Purity Ring - Another Eternity

I dug their first album, and their second is no change. Great electro-synth pop.

Superhumanoids  - Do You Feel Ok

I could just quote what I said above, same line...i loved their first album, love this one too, great 80's influenced synth pop

Tame Impala - Currents

With more electronics added their their psychedelic rock sound, Tame Impala continues to expand their sound and it works. Good album.

Tanlines - Highlights

Great 80's influenced synth pop.

Twin Shadow - Eclipse

More 80's influenced indie pop, I love Twin Shadow.

I also delved into rap, hip hop, and synthwave/retrowave this past year, and while I could try to rate all those albums of those genres that came out in 2015, i'll just pick the ones that I liked the most. I also had a favorite mashup album too. Also included: Best Covers album and Best Reissue.

Best Rap Album: Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly

Yeah I know, it's on everyone's year end list. But there's a reason for that.

Best Hip Hop Album: Kwabs - Love + War

 I added this album for the song 'Walk' alone, which is pretty much my most favorite song of 2015...I don't know why, it just is.

Best Retrowave/Synthwave Album: Timecop1983 - Reflections

 I found myself really loving 80's influenced music this year, and retrowave is the most 80's influenced you can get. It's instrumental music usually that sounds like your favorite 80's movies. Reflections is a great album of that genre.

Best Mashup Album: Yeezer

There's been quite a few Weezer mashups, but this one with Kanye West is just the best.

Best Covers Album: Lotte Kestner - Best of Requested Covers

Beautiful indie folk covers of hits like Nick Drake's Pink Moon, Crowded House's Don't Dream It's Over, Radiohead's How To Disappear Completely, John Lennon's Imagine, and Mazzy Star's Fade Into You as well as others.

Best Reissue: Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy

Still one of the greatest albums of all time, this tenth anniversary edition includes several demos from the Black Sheep Boy time period, and the songs from the Black Sheep Boy Appendix.

(I would have probably also listed Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill re-issue if I'd known about it here, another amazing album that continues to be one of my faves 20 years since it came out.)