2015 went in directions I never could have anticipated. Here is what I loved this year.
Best Albums of 2015
1. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
What a triumph. After an almost ten year hiatus, to return and be this great? Sleater-Kinney are one of the greatest bands to ever exist and No Cities is chokablock with burners. Corin Tucker still wails, Carrie Brownstein is still a guitar god, and Janet Weiss is still one of the greatest drummersalive. This album is so powerful and true, it crushes and makes my heart ache with joy. Album of the year, band of your life.
Like being engulfed in a supernova but you can hear a tender voice whispering sweet nothings as the flames consume your body. Imagine the noise of a collapsing building restructured with a melody. The proper follow up “Die Slow” demanded.
Dance album of the year. Finally someone makes the sequel to Discovery that Daft Punk couldn’t be bothered with. Adventure has about five peak moments and never lets up. My most listened to album of 2015.
4. Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION
Jepsen is now two for two for great albums that were ignored by the general public. Like Kiss, E•MO•TION is front to back pop bangers, impeccably produced and performed. Jepsen is over here making fucking albums, ALBUMS! and people don’t even care. Hope she never stops, “Run Away With Me” and “Making The Most of the Night” already classics.
Yasutaka Nakata first came on my radar when I was advised by many a twitter denizen to listen to Perfume’s 2013 album Level3. That album sounds like being executed by a thousand lazer synths at once. It’s incredible but eventually overwhelming. Nakata produces for Perfume but Capsule is his main band and he has a long career of various pop and dance meldings and experimentation. Wave Runner is actually straight ahead dance pop for the most part, but it’s more aggressive than what I am used to hearing. Every song sounds like it was made for a space launch.
I keep thinking I don’t like Drake that much and then I listen to this repeatedly for a month.
The surprise of the year was the r&b album from the former lead singer of Silverchair. Mostly midtempo, Talk isn’t going from some white guy lover man schtick, instead displaying a wounded vulnerability that Silverchair tended to overpower with it’s alt rock thud. Johns is a confident crooner, and the production is wonderfully varied and unique.
The production shimmers and it sounds like the vocals were chopped and filtered and sprinkled around the tracks like ornaments. Danity Kane is the worst thing that created the best things.
A double album without the feeling of being worn down by the length. Staples raps with fury and with a smirk and the beats are undeniable.
Local H are one of my all time favorite bands. They are responsible for two of my all time favorite albums and their live show is without peer. Hey, Killer is a better than solid collection of crushers, peaking with “John The Baptist Blues”, which has one of those riffs that makes life worth living.
Can a mumble and a gurgle be profound? I say yes. Future raps of opulence and excess overwhelmed by sadness. Is this guy ok? Someone check on Future!
One of the greatest to ever do it, still doing it. This is one of those front to back, bring a smile and bring a tear kinda albums.
The accusing tone of “songs made by committee” holds less weight to me than say, a film made by committee. A great pop song can be written by someone alone, just flowing out of them as the muse hits. Or it can be made in the lab, tinkering so that the chorus is bigger and the verses are tighter and the whole package races out the door like a spaceship at lift off. That is what this album delivers, carefully crafted and molded pop/dance without a speck of dust or grit. In a way, it is perfect.
My senior year of college I became a Ken Andrews obsessive after hearing the album Make Believe he released under the On moniker. I went back and got all his other shit, did an embarrassing interview with Andrews for my college radio station(the recording is in my basement somewhere, safe from us all), devoured his other solo and side project work (Year of the Rabbit is a used bin staple, but it rocks), and of course meeting other Ken Andrews fanatics in my travels. The uniting principle for all of us Andrewsheads is his first band Failure and their 1996 opus Fantastic Planet, one of those cult pieces that burrows deep inside a small audience and has them still talking about and obsessing some 20 years later. The Heart is a Monster is a direct sequel to FP and it ended up being even better than anyone could have hoped. For the hardcore Andrewsheads it is a fulfillment of long held hopes and dreams.
FOB’s strange pop comeback barrels on, and for every strange left turn decision that I have trouble reconciling (Big Sean on the last album, the Munster’s sample on this one), they still deliver some career best work(“Jetpack Blues”, “Fourth of July”) and make a song with SebastiAn (“American Beauty/American Psycho”) that sounds just a like a SebastiAn song. So, good. And the remix album for this was not half bad either.
This one reminded me of when Bjork made albums with beats and melodies you could dance to and play over and over again.
Not to discount the previous Destroy This Place albums, but this is the first one that sounds like a real, fully fleshed out Band. The influences are obvious but the tracks aren’t boneheaded, and if you thought the last Foo Fighters album was a dud this one picks up the slack. “No Apologies” is a particular triumph as it is one of the great closing tracks. Great closing tracks are so few and far between! These guys are on a roll.
Dre didn’t owe us shit but he dropped this anyway. I guess there is a backlash to this album but it knocks and I didn’t think Dre was into knocking anything anymore.
This thing has a weird gurgle sound on the keyboard for the first half but the songs themselves are solid and the back half is all hits. Best thing Alan has done since “Parking Lot Nights”.
My kneejerk response was too slight, but it has grown on me with repeated listens and the riffs are strong. I was also foolish in not realizing that “I Love You All The Time” is a new one for the canon.
Grimes – Art Angels
John Carpenter- Lost Themes
Shamir – Ratchet
Jack Ü – Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü
Best Songs of 2015
- “Cool for the Summer” by Demi Lovato: “Cool for the Summer” was my most listened to song this past year. It is a perfect piece of pop design, with the kind of blow-out-the-speakers chorus that Max Martin has become the master of creating. Demi Lovato imbues the track with the obvious sexual fire but also a yearning humanity that I don’t get from someone like Katy Perry. Other artists perform, but Lovato owns this track. There are many ways to sell the “bodytype” line, Lovato made it legendary.
- “Back Together” by Robin Thicke featuring Nicki Minaj: Robin Thicke is the most hated man in pop music, and all he did was be kinda skeevy and have a drug problem. In comparison to Justin Bieber and R. Kelly, he’s practically a saint. So this comeback track failed to do just that, but it still stands a supreme piece of production and writing by, yup, Max Martin. My wife and I listen to this song a lot.
- “A New Wave” by Sleater-Kinney: This is the feeling of infinite possibilities, set to music.
- “Run Away With Me” by Carly Rae Jepsen: Jepsen bringing that sax fire. Bowie would be proud.
- “Cool On Fire” by Daniel Johns: The best groove on the album.
- “10 Bands” by Drake: Fuck it, let’s not even discuss it, man.
- “tender green life” by dumblonde: The vocals are pitched up almost to a chirp, and the coo over the chorus is inspired. The whole thing sounds like “You know what would be crazy? If we did THIS!” But 11 times.
- “John the Baptist Blues” by Local H: Monster riff milked for 6 glorious minutes. Rock n roll heaven.
- “L.A. LOOKS” by HEALTH: The closest HEALTH will get to being poppy, and the closest to a love song. “It’s not love but I still want you.”
- “Sign” by Girls’ Generation: On an album of pop perfection, this one is the most perfect.
- “Solid” by Ty Dolla $ign featuring Babyface: No drums! Just the guitar and that hook. When the notes go higher and then ring in unison, ohhhhhhhhh baby.
- “Keep Searchin'” by R. Kelly: R. Kelly is probably a sexual predator. That said, he still possesses one of the greatest voices on the planet. It’s tough. His new album is ok, but this bonus track is some wonderful throwback shit. Almost sounds like Michael Jackson near the finale. Oh, Michael was problematic too.
- “To Ü” by Jack Ü featuring AlunaGeorge: Best drop of the year.
- “Wolves” by Kate Pierson: Kate Pierson has a hall of fame voice. Her work in the B-52s is peerless. Her solo album is a fun jaunt, and this track is it’s peak.
- “All Day” by Kanye West featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney: The definitive version is live with flame throwers, but the studio version is also fire.
- “B Boy” by Meek Mill featuring Big Sean and A$AP Ferg: What? Big Sean on a good song? 2015 was out of control. Best song that Meek Mill kept off his album.
- “Coffee” by Miguel: I thought the new Miguel album was a disappointment(Please no more California Songs) but “Coffee” was a strong single and closest to the sound I loved on his last album.
- “Right Here, Right Now” by Giorgio Moroder featuring Kylie Minogue: Moroder dropped the ball on his album but “Right Here” is a flames collaboration with Kylie, who tends to pull greatness from her producers. If the rest of album wasn’t a stinkfish I’d say make a whole project together.
- “Nightclub Amnesia” by Ratatat: Every Ratatat album has a song that makes you forget that Ratatat albums are largely boring filler.
- “Dreamin’ Boy” by CAPSULE: “Are you ready?”