#Best Songs of 2015
Ok, yeah, so this has been ready for like months, but I haven’t posted it because I’m lazy. Anyway, best 50 from the past year.
California // Grimes, from Art Angels
Nausea // Jeff Rosenstock, from We Cool?
The Knower // Youth Lagoon, from Savage Hills Ballroom
Satellites // Bill Ryder-Jones, from West Kirby County Primary
Used To // Mutemath, from Vitals
’Cause I’m A Man - HAIM Remix // Tame Impala, from Currents
She Takes Me There // Promised Land Sound, from For Use And Delight
Running Late // Flyying Colours, from EPX2
Boys Life // Small Black, from Boys Life
Dream Lover // Destroyer, from Poison Season
Cheap Shades // Chris Staples, from Cheap Shades EP
Anybody Else // Phil Cook, from Southland Mission
Getting Ready To Get Down // Josh Ritter, from Sermon On The Rocks
Before The World Was Big // Girlpool, from Before The World Was Big
Depreston // Courtney Barnett, from Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Think…
Leave A Trace // CHVRCHES, from Every Open Eye
I Want You Final // Andrew Bryant, from This Is The Life
Compound Fracture // My Morning Jacket, from The Waterfall
To The Top // Twin Shadow, from Eclipse
Good Help (Is So Hard To Find) // Death Cab For Cutie, from Kintsugi
A New Wave // Sleater-Kinney, from No Cities To Love
City On The Hill // Desaparecidos, from Payola
I’m Ready // Geographer, from Ghost Modern
Stoic Resemblance // The Helio Sequence, from The Helio Sequence
Baby Blue // Action Bronson feat. Chance The Rapper, from Mr. Wonderful
Don’t Wanna Fight // Alabama Shakes, from Sound & Color
The Best Room // Modest Mouse, from Strangers To Ourselves
Competition // The Dodos, from Individ
begin again // Purity Ring, from begin again
Style // Ryan Adams, from 1989
Multi-Love // Unknown Mortal Orchestra, from Multi-Love
Bored In The USA // Father John Misty, from I Love You, Honeybear
Snakeskin // Deerhunter, from Fading Frontier
24 Frames // Jason Isbell, from Something More Than Free
Pretty Pimpin // Kurt Vile, from b’lieve i’m goin down…
Half Dome // Toro y Moi, from What For?
Can’t Deny My Love // Brandon Flowers, from The Desired Effect
Where Are U Now // Jack U with Justin Bieber, from Skrillex and Diplo present Jack U
Run Away With Me // Carly Rae Jepsen, from Emotion
Desire // DILLY DALLY, from Sore
Dreams // Beck, from Dreams
Pray For Rain // Pure Bathing Culture, from Pray For Rain
This Is Not A Party // The Wombats, from Glitterbug
Texas Funeral // Hop Along, from Painted Shut
Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo) // EL VY, from Return To The Moon
The Gift Of Sound // Little Comets, from Hope Is Just A State Of Mind
Summer Dress // Ryley Walker, from Primrose Green
Hometown Hero // Andy Shauf, from The Bearer Of Bad News
Alright // Kendrick Lamar, from To Pimp A Butterfly
Mostly // repeat repeat, from Mostly
Best Albums of 2015
Here it is, my long-anticipated, eagerly-awaited yearly take on the best music of the year. Every album has a Spotify link in the title. Best 50 songs coming soon. Key tracks are all gathered in a playlist at the bottom of the post. Hit shuffle and enjoy the year that was.
Alabama Shakes // Sound & Color
The thing I love about the Alabama Shakes is they take the Muscle Shoals sound and expand on it, instead of just trying to emulate it. Some of the popular releases this year, like Leon Bridges, were enjoyable to listen to, but too on the nostalgia nose for me.
Key tracks: “Don’t Wanna Fight,” “Future People,” “Miss You”
Andrew Bryant // This Is The Life
Was turned onto this by The Bitter Southerner, one of my favorite web magazines. A singer-songwriter from Water Valley, MS (just outside of Oxford), this album is just comfortable.
Key tracks: “Keep It Together,” “I Want You Final”
Andy Shauf // The Bearer Of Bad News
Found out about this one from a tweet by David Bazan. Wonderful atmosphere and story-telling, and certainly makes the case for more clarinet. “Wendell Walker” is one of the more visceral songs I’ve ever heard.
Key Tracks: “Hometown Hero,” “I’m Not Falling Asleep,” ’Wendell Walker,” “Jesus, She’s A Good Girl”
CHVRCHES // Every Open Eye
Not much of a departure from their debut, but that’s a-ok with me. They do what they do incredibly well.
Key Tracks: “Never Ending Circles,” “Leave A Trace,” “Make Them Gold”
Courtney Barnett // Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
The universal praise is well-deserved. The music is great, the lyrics are smart, and the whole thing is consistently entertaining. Check our her older EPs.
Key Tracks: “Pedestrian At Best,” “Depreston,” “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party”
David Bazan // Bazan Monthly, Vol. 2 (Soundcloud Link)
Not really an album, but a set of singles released over the first 5 months of the year. Doesn’t matter - I’m a sucker for anything Bazan is involved with. One artist I consistently and deeply relate to. You can listen to the whole thing on Soundcloud (which you should). Can’t wait for his new one coming this year.
Key Tracks: “Oblivion,” “Someone Else’s Bet,” “Over My Eyes”
Death Cab for Cutie // Kintsugi
Not really sure why this one was passed over by everyone. I think it’s a great album, a nice return to the earlier, stripped-down Death Cab. Maybe people didn’t like the idea of a revenge album about Zooey Deschanel.
Key Tracks: “No Room In Frame,” “The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive,” “Good Help (Is So Hard To Find)”
Deerhunter // Fading Frontier
I had heard “Snakeskin” earlier and loved it, but didn’t get into the rest of album until later in the year. Just high-quality, chill indie rock.
Key Tracks; “Living My Life”, “Duplex Planet,” “Snakeskin”
Desaparecidos // Payola
Emo-punk protest song Conor Oberst might be my favorite Conor Oberst.
Key Tracks: “The Left Is Right,” “City On A Hill,” “Radicalized,” “Te Amo Camila Vallejo”
Father John Misty // I Love You, Honeybear
What a combo - beautiful music, deeply cynical yet hilarious lyrics, a bizarre aesthetic. Love every bit of this.
Key Tracks: “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)”, “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt.,” “Strange Encounter,” “Bored In The USA”
Flyying Colours // EPX2
Australian shoegaze! You should be sold by now and I should not have to write this blurb. Recommended for floating off somewhere.
Key Tracks: “Wavygravy,” “Running Late,” “Not Today”
Jason Isbell // Something More Than Free
Did not hit me like Southeastern did, but still fantastic. Not too many better songwriters out there.
Key Tracks: “24 Frames,” “Children of Children,” “Something More Than Free”
Josh Ritter // Sermon On The Rocks
Really good change of pace for Ritter, and a lot of fun to listen to. Fades a little towards the end - probably could have been 10 tracks. Regardless, it’s Josh Ritter, and it’s solid.
Key Tracks: “Young Moses,” “Henrietta, Indiana,” “Getting Ready to Get Down,” “Cumberland”
Kendrick Lamar // To Pimp A Butterfly
Can’t say I listened to this a ton, and can’t say I identify with a whole lot of it, but I can’t deny it’s impressive and important.
Key Tracks: “King Kunta,” “Alright,” “How Much A Dollar Cost,” “The Blacker the Berry”
Kurt Vile // b’lieve i’m goin’ down…
Could put this on at any time and enjoy it. An amazing guitarist + trippy lyrics. Good vibes with this one.
Key Tracks: “Pretty Pimpin’,” “Life Like This,” “Lost my Head there”
Martin Courtney // Many Moons
The soundtrack to the fall we never had this year. Since he’s the frontman for Real Estate, it sounds…familiar, with a little more Nick Drake mixed in.
Key Tracks: “Vestiges,” “Northern Highway,” “Airport Bar”
Mutemath // Vitals
I feel like I’ve grown up with Mutemath. First concert with my then-future wife, friends that helped manage them, first experience with a truly great live band. This is their first album in a while, and they change up their style yet again. I think it’s more successful than Odd Soul, though I would have liked a little more Darren King on the drums. “Used To” in particular is like the summation of every album - the electronics of their self-titled, the brooding atmosphere of Armistice, the New Orleans soul and sway of Odd Soul. Can’t wait to see this live.
Key Tracks: “Light Up,” “Stratosphere,” “Used To,” “Best Of Intentions”
My Morning Jacket // The Waterfall
MMJ never disappoints. Some say this one doesn’t hit the heights of their previous releases, and it does sort of fade out towards the end. But the first three tracks rank up there with their best.
Key Tracks: “Believe (Nobody Knows),” “Compound Fracture,” “Like A River”
Phil Cook // Southland Mission
A Wisconsin transplant who’s found a home in the places and music of the south, Phil Cook and his group of friends in Durham, NC are making some of the best music out there right now. When you surround yourself with folks like Sylvan Esso, Justin Vernon, and Hiss Golden Messenger, you can’t help but make good music (not that he doesn’t have experience - his old band Megafaun, for example). One of my most played albums of the year.
Key Tracks: “1922,” “Great Tide,” “Belong,” “Anybody Else”
Promised Land Sound // For Use And Delight
Hadn’t heard of these Nashville folks before this year, but I’m glad I did. Had a chance to see them in Chicago back in November, and I should have done it.
Key Tracks: “Push And Pull (All The Time),” “She Takes Me There,” “Within Sight”
Ryley Walker // Primrose Green
This could undermine my critique of Leon Bridges - Isn’t this just a revisiting of Nick Drake? Nope. Listen closer - this is way more jazzy and experimental than Drake ever was, with just as much skill on the guitar. Beautiful album.
Key Tracks: “Primrose Green,” “Summer Dress,” “Sweet Satisfaction,” “All Kinds of You”
Sleater-Kinney // No Cities To Love
Has a band ever come back from so long a break to make an album this tight? How does Carrie Brownstein make so much of her time? Are there really only three people in this band?
Key Tracks: “No Cities To Love,” “A New Wave,” “Bury Our Friends”
Sufjan Stevens // Carrie & Lowell
It takes a certain mood to listen to this album and enjoy it. It’s somber, dark, honest stuff. As much as we all enjoy orchestrated Sufjan, this turn back to Seven Swans-style songwriting is tremendously affecting.
Key Tracks: “Should Have Known Better,” “Fourth of July,” No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”
Tame Impala // Currents
It’s so fun to watch a band just get better and better. Not sure how they top this one, but I’m excited to see them try. I’d like to see them turn back to a more stripped-back rock sound for the next one, but this one will do just fine.
Key Tracks: “Let It Happen,” “Eventually,” “’Cause I’m A Man”
Toro y Moi // What For?
Went out to California this past spring, and this album captures what that place was like to me. Takes me back to driving down the Pacific Coast every time I listen. No need to go back to South Carolina chillwave, Chaz.
Key Tracks: “Empty Nesters,” “Half Dome,” “Run Baby Run”
#Best Songs of 2014
Finally finished my top 50 list for this year. So much good music…had a lot to wade through. Last year I just listed them in alphabetical order, but I felt like that was pretty lame. I then tried to list them in the date they were released, but it was way too uneven. So I put a little more work in this time around, but it flows like I like it.
As usual, this list was built from monthly track lists I keep for every month. It’s basically a music diary. I tried not to let other “best of” lists influence me, but I did consult a few just in case I missed anything major. The Aquarium Drunkard and David Roberts are to blame for a few sliding in at the very last, including New Pornographers and Steve Gunn. Everything else is from my ears to this screen. So here’s what we got:
Rent I Pay // Spoon, from They Want My Soul
Silver Timothy // Damien Jurado, from Brothers And Sisters Of The Eternal Son
Forgiven/Forgotten // Angel Olson, from Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Don’t Mean A Thing // St Paul and the Broken Bones, from Half The City
Coastal // Abram Shook, from Sun Marquee
Daughters // Wild Beasts, from Present Tense
Easy (Switch Screens) // Son Lux feat Lorde, from Alternate Worlds EP
Get Well // Nothing, from Guilty Of Everything
Always // Panama, from Always EP
The Tower // Wye Oak, from Shriek
From A Cage // Haley Bonar, from Last War
Mother & Father // Broods, from Evergreen
Unkinder (A Tougher Love) // Thumpers, from Galore
Awake // Tycho, from Awake
Red Eyes // The War On Drugs, from Lost In The Dream
Say Goodbye // Beck, from Morning Phase
JM // Strand Of Oaks, from HEAL
Only Son // Shakey Graves, from And The War Came
Stay Gold // First Aid Kit, from Stay Gold
Brill Bruisers // The New Pornographers, from Brill Bruisers
Horizon // Real Estate, from Atlas
The Ocean // Manchester Orchestra, from Cope
On The Rise // Ryley Walker, from All Kinds Of You
Dress // Sylvan Esso, from Sylvan Esso
Out Alee // Hundred Waters, from The Moon Rang Like A Bell
Your Love Is Killing Me // Sharon Van Etten, from Are We There
Accelerate // Jungle, from Jungle
Jerk Ribs // Kelis, from Food
Runaway // Self, from Super Fake Nice
Nearby // Ten Tom, from See You Again
Have You Seen My Son? // Benjamin Booker, from Benjamin Booker
Do I Have The Time // Jessica Lee Mayfield, from Make My Head Sing…
Lonely Richard // Amen Dunes, from Love
Sleight Orchestra // Dawn Golden, from Still Life
Coming Down // Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, from Only Run
LOW // Young Fathers, from DEAD
Quartz // TV On The Radio, from Seeds
Hunger Of The Pine // alt-J, from This Is All Yours
Florida Kilos // Lana Del Rey, from Ultraviolence
Sugah Daddy // D’Angelo And The Vanguard, from Black Messiah
Springful // Adult Jazz, from Gist Is
Color Decay // Junius Meyvant, from Color Decay single
Takmit // Saintseneca, from Dark Arc
Gold // James Vincent McMorrow, from Post Tropical
Blue Mountains // Sam Amidon, from Lily-O
Milly’s Garden // Steve Gunn, from Way Out Weather
Gimme Something Good // Ryan Adams, from Ryan Adams
Living The Dream // Sturgill Simpson, from Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
Down In The Morning We Thought We’d Never Lose // Frontier Ruckus, from Sitcom Afterlife
Flume // Coeur de Pirate, from Trauma