9 Great Albums of 2015 [SotW December]
The other day I was reading some content marketing gibberish…I know, I don’t know why either. But towards the end of the article an obscure stat grabbed my attention. I don’t know how they reached this conclusion, whoever they are, but apparently odd numbers outperform even numbers on ubiquitous, Buzzfeed-style internet lists such as this…
But that’s not the only reason I chose 9 albums ahead of the more traditional 10. The main reason is that I felt 2015 was a ‘9’ kind of year. Perhaps it was my state-of-mind or a slight waning interest in new music or my natural cynicism ripening with age; perhaps it was a combination of all three that made me feel a bit flat about last year’s album crop.
Having said that, the choice was difficult and I’m sure there are a litany of omissions here. The Libertines and Blur – bands I love – put in solid shifts with Anthems of Doomed Youth and The Magic Whip respectively. Meanwhile Tame Impala and Hot Chip both released strong albums; Beach House had time to release two. Then there’s Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment and their debut Surf. All these guys fall in at #10.
9. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
An album strikingly assured, puzzling and witty, Barnett’s droll voice delivers all manner of mundane scenarios, sprayed over a fuzzy, 90’s punk backdrop. All in all, it’s a difficult album to judge, enigmatic, impossible to label. And that’s the allure; that’s what a good album should be…
8. Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down
Dude just seems like a nice guy. I like the strange balance he finds between ramshackle order and pretty chaos. His music oozes with reverb and mellow vibes, such as lead single ‘Pretty Pimpin” or ‘Life Like This’.
7. Grimes – Art Angels
Grimes is a crossover pop act I respect. Claire Boucher seems to enjoy the fame but only on her terms, the result being a quality album, certainly the strongest of the Purity Ring, Chvrches mini-genre. ‘REALiTi’ is still my favourite track.
6. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Enough’s been said about this album; about the conscientious, feisty lyrics; about the amalgamation of musical styles on display; about the sense that its whole essence is important. I don’t think it warranted quite that level of hyperbole but hey, it’s still one of the greatest hip-hop albums to emerge in a long time.
5. Beirut – No No No
Haters gonna hate, as one person who won’t make this list might sing, and some haters found Beirut’s latest effort a bit sub-par. No No No arrived without much fanfare and, given its EP-esque length and minimal sound, didn’t take off. Yet the album is effortlessly infectious and harmonious (as with all Beirut albums), and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
4. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
So haunting and mournful, Carrie & Lowell makes Morrissey sound like Katy Perry (Ok, I admit, that’s a bit far). Each time I listen, the introspective, unplugged beauty elicits the same emotions in me as Jeff Buckley or Elliott Smith, at once entrancing and raw.
3. Jamie xx – In Colour
If there were an award for Best Album Title That Sums Up the Album Itself, In Colour would be a serious contender. A rainbow of musical styles, all mismatched into pure gold, Jamie xx is on fire following his awesome Gil Scott-Heron remix album. I’m excited to see what’s next.
2. Neon Indian – VEGA Intl. Night School
Seeing Neon Indian in December cemented this album highhhhh on this list (I was high when I saw him, in case you were wondering about the hhhhs). No but seriously, this album is dope. Gone is the greenness they displayed in their early work, vaporized into thin air and replaced with catchy-ass beats and groove.
1. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
This album came out of left field and took me by storm early in 2015. Josh Tillman has this amazing propensity to sing exactly what I’m thinking, but to do it in a way which makes it ten times more witty and wacky yet also melodious as fuck. He has a rich, emotive voice, which is placed over all manner of equally rich sounds: anthemic brass, folky guitar, strings and piano, you name it. It works.