2015 was an incredible year for music. I could easily do a Top 50 list if I had all the time in the world, and limiting it to 10 made me feel guilty because of all the great releases I had to cut out, but the ones talked about here are the albums that I listened to and enjoyed the most this year. Without further adieu:
10. Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss
I’ve been a fan of hers for awhile and I believe this is her coming of age moment. She took the step up to the level that I always knew she could be at with this album. Snarling distortion in wave after wave, dark droning chords and arpeggios, with that siren howl riding on top of it. I’d say this is without a doubt the most apropos title of any album released this year, because it feels like you’re staring into the Abyss for it’s duration, and by the end the Abyss is most assuredly staring back into you.
9. METZ – II
This is just pedal to the fucking metal from start to finish, and I, for one, need some of this in my life. I feel like I can chew up cinder blocks and bend steel beams with my face when this thing is on. I’m pretty sure I drank gasoline, swallowed a grenade, and shit out a hell demon the first time I played this thing through. I can’t say much more about this one. It’s a bloodbath.
8. Miguel – Wildheart
I was surprised I like this album so much being that this type of thing isn’t really in my wheelhouse anymore. Obviously his voice is the main attraction, and the sexy lyrics don’t hurt because everyone likes sex, but I think what really makes it stand out to me is the varying instrumentation and song structures from other musicians in this genre. I suppose it’s some kind of progressive alt-R&B, it’s sexy, and it’s a very fun album to listen to. A fresh change of pace from my typical listening material.
7. EL VY – Return to the Moon
I honestly don’t understand the poor reviews on this album. It’s a side project of Matt Berninger (The National) and Brent Knopf of (Ramona Falls, Menomena), so I think a lot of the negativity comes from people comparing this to those other bands, albeit unfairly. I love The National; they are probably my favorite “indie” (whatever that means) band. I think Berninger is a genius songwriter and his delivery is incredible, so maybe I’m biased and would like anything he does. I definitely think that’s the case, come to think of it. It’s fun to hear him to different things with EL VY than he does with The National. Return to the Moon is a concept album, and it feels like he’s having more fun, just shooting from the hip with no regard for conserving ammo, whereas with The National he’s a focused sniper at long range with one bullet to win the war. There are some absolute gem lyrics (“I’m peaceful ’cause my dick’s in the sunlight, held up by kites”) and melodies here, and Knopf does a great job providing the music for this party.
6. Beach House – Depression Cherry
For reasons unbeknownst to me, I’ve always been on the outside looking in when it comes to Beach House. I thought it might be that it’s because their songs take patience and develop so subtly over their duration that it never grabbed my attention, and that might make sense for a lot of people, but I love post-rock, and so if I can wait 10+ minutes almost regularly for those songs to hit the climax, why can’t I wait 3 or 4 minutes for Beach House’s songs? I doesn’t make sense, however, this time around I didn’t have to give much effort. The opening track “Levitation” hooked me and allowed me to let them in, and they went ahead and made themselves at home. Victoria Legrand’s voice should be considered a national treasure as far as I’m concerned, and it’s the perfect vessel to deliver this ode to love and loss that is Depression Cherry.
5. Bjork – Vulnicura
Vulnicura is about the end of Bjork’s relationship with her long time partner and father of her child. I think this is such a beautiful piece of music for a lot of reasons, yet I struggle to listen to it as often as I would like because of how emotionally devastating it is. This is the heaviest, deepest, saddest album released this year, and it’s also one of the most beautiful.
4. Tame Impala – Currents
I’m not a seasoned Tame Impala fan so I don’t have a well formed opinion on how this fits in their catalog or what steps they have taken in any direction. All I can say here is Currents is full of jams and it is incredibly fun to listen to. “Let It Happen” is my song of the year.
3. HEALTH – Death Magic
I hadn’t heard of HEALTH before this and I wasn’t prepared for what they bring. It’s such a unique sound, with so many elements collaborating to make a whole far greater than the sum of it’s parts. Short songs and hairpin turns in the landscape make this an exciting listen that’s halfway over before you can start to grasp what is actually going on. The elegant vocals are a perfect contrast to the hard, cold metal and sharp edge feelings the music produces.
2. Deafheaven – New Bermuda
Deafheaven have been gaining a big head of steam since they began, and New Bermuda has continued the pace and upped the bar once again. This is a relentless foray into new frontiers. Top notch metal with beautiful, absolutely beautiful, post-rock scattered throughout. Putting it all together in these song structures is a monumental achievement in music writing. The lyrics are indiscernible, so I find it laughable that places such as Pitchfork focus on the lyrics to the extent they do in their review of this. George Clarke’s howls and screams are an additional layer, an additional instrument, and are the driver of the aggression that is present, much in the way that Jonsi accentuates Sigur Ros’ sound with his atmospheric harmonies. Whether he knows it or not, Clarke isn’t there to be poetic or prophetic, he’s there to put a stamp on the brutality. There aren’t any standout songs here; each of the five is just as important as the others. New Bermuda is something to behold, and I would venture to guess it will be the album released in 2015 that best stands the test of time. On top of that, they are a force in a live setting and I definitely recommend catching them if you can.
1. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
Much in the way that Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds were my clear cut #1 back in the second month of 2013, I knew Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear had the crown about 5 listens through back in February once again. For someone such as myself, nothing strikes a chord like a bunch of satire and cynicism. Throw in some romantic hyperbole and tongue-in-cheek loathing of society as a whole as well as of oneself, and you’ve got a witches brew of thought provoking songs that are downright captivating. You won’t find any incredible chord progressions, key changes, or master guitar work, it’s the lyrics that make this soar; quite the polar opposite of the aforementioned Deafheaven album, yet no less pertinent or epic. Trying to pick one song is impossible, and each has a different reason to love it; “Holy Shit” because it’s genius, or “True Affection” because it’s so damn groovy, or “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt” because it’s hilarious, or “Chateau #4 (In C for Two Virgins)” because it’s the lightest, easy to listen to song in recent memory (I defy you to skip it), and so on. It’s a master work, and I can’t wait to see what Josh Tillman has to say next.
Honorable mentions: The Dodos, Lord Huron, American Wrestlers, Hop Along, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Blur, Other Lives, Gang of Youths, Majical Cloudz, Coliseum, Vince Staples
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