Another year, another strong desire to have more time to listen to all the great music that came out. It’s 2016 now, far later than people thought the concept of an “album” would last. We’re in the playlists and singles era, after all. The music industry is continuing to change, with Apple finally taking iTunes into the streaming world and Rdio going out of business. Oh Rdio, I’ll miss you most of all.
When it came to making this list, over the course of the day I Was able to narrow down an overwhelming list of well-liked albums to 18 I really wanted on my list. Since Colin pretty much always goes before me, I did have the advantage of bumping the latest albums from Hop Along, Sleater-Kinney, Courtney Barnett, and Beach Slang – all of whom might have placed fairly highly on my list had he not already written about them better than I can. Also I’m going to guess John will feature I Love You, Honeybear and Carrie & Lowell, so I decided not to worry about them.
The final two casualties were the goofy collaboration between Franz Ferdinand and Sparks, FFS, and the new Go! Team album, which maybe isn’t as good as I think it is as someone who got way into that band this year. Please consider those above albums as fully recommended as the 10 below.
Currents is not a perfect album, but the successes Tame Impala found here are as great as they were anywhere else music was released in 2015. Yeah, it’s not Lonerism 2, but not a lot of bands can make the same thing work over and over. Think of this like Tame Impala’s Random Access Memories; deeply contemporary, but also disco-flavored and fun. The first, most celebrated track, “Let It Happen,” is an excellent example: What starts out as a cool, dreamy song about inner discomfort goes on a damn funky journey over almost eight minutes, playing with out expectations for how music should sound, finally ending up with a new appreciation for where it started – which is what I think Colin’s fandom will do when given enough time. Speaking of him, he said this album was inescapable, which just shows me how out of touch I am because for a few months there I thought I was the only person who liked this album.
It was tempting to call FFS the best band team up of the last year, but in the end I had to give it to Wavves and Cloud Nothings because they are two groups I’ve wanted to really like for a while who came together and made a surprise album that won me over harder than anything else either group has done. No Life for Me has a stripped down, garage rock vibe made more obvious by the album artwork which says they recorded it over a couple days at one guy’s house and then put it out pretty much immediately. It’s also less than a half an hour long, but they called it an LP and it has nine tracks, so I’m counting it. You know, brevity is something I’ve learned to appreciate. You can listen to this thing almost three times in a hour. That’s a great way to figure out which songs are your favorites. What’s yours? I think mine is “Come Down.”
Now for some sad bastard music. Sprained Ankle is an intimate, raw album about the catharsis of accepting this twisted, dark, beautiful world. Remember the scene at the end of Inside Out when Joy lets Sadness take the wheel and the little girl just cries about how she misses home and the difficulty she’s having coping with the move? It’s like Julien Baker stretched those feelings out over a whole album. It’s really pretty and totally the thing you could imagine being ruined by reading a review on Pitchfork or going to a concert where way too many young people are talking about how they “get it.” I don’t get it, you don’t get it, nobody gets it. That’s the point. Bet you weren’t expect some Inside Out spoilers, were you?
First of all, some bullshit: no one in Wolf Alice is named Alice. It’s like, what the fuck guys? You think you’re so cool you can just name your band something that sounds like a person and then not have a person who has that name? Lead singer Ellie Rowsell should have to legally change her name to Alice. Or Wolf, I’d accept Wolf. Maybe even like Wolice or something. Anyway, “Bros” is maybe my favorite song of the year, is it popular? I seriously don’t know if anyone listened to anything this last year except for Father John Misty, Kendrick Lamar, and Adele.
You bet your ass I’m a big dumb sucker. When we did our top 10 stuff of the first half of the year podcast, I threw Beneath the Skin on the table, even though I didn’t particularly like the album at the time. Now it’s six months later and look at this coincidence, sixth place on my top 10 albums of 2015. Does that mean in a year it would be number one? Maybe, only the finest scientific minds of our time could ever answer that question. In the meantime, I look forward to one of these new Of Monsters and Men songs lending undue emotional heft to a movie trailer. I can feel it coming.
I like that Grimes albums look like fucked up anime you probably shouldn’t rent because you’re only nine years old and who knows what’s going on in there? Certainly not your parents who only like Sean Connery or Meryl Streep movies. The music doesn’t really sound like that though. The second song on Art Angels, “California,” could be like a Carly Rae Jepsen song. But like a schadenfreude version of Carly Rae Jepsen instead of the unlimited positivity one we have. It’s a pop album with spooky undertones, a match that definitely works well. I mean, remember BABYMETAL? Like that but with synths instead of heavy metal.
Beach House put out two albums in a crazy short span of time, which may have helped their cause even more than they needed. Because Beach House is one of my favorite bands and they probably would be here on the strength of just Depression Cherry alone. In fact, hold on one second. OK, I’ve deleted Thank Your Lucky Stars from the header. This spot goes to Depression Cherry, which stands on it’s own for the same reason Currents was on here – it’s not necessarily the band returning to what worked in the past, but rather a new angle into their cleverness. Here’s a (not very) funny story: about half of Depression Cherry was added on Apple Music well ahead of the album’s full release. I didn’t know that, but I did listen to that half album like a million times. I was like “this is sweet, it’s so good but a little short.” Oh past Sean, you fool!
This album came out in February, which is a month in every year since the Gregorian calendar was invented. This particular February was in 2015. I have to clarify that because I told my coworker this would be on my list earlier today and he asked, “did that come out last year?” Which was scary because I already uploaded the pictures and stuff. Here’s a fun game: try to memorize all the lyrics to “When I Was Done Dying” and then yell them at strangers on the beach. Well, I bet that’s a fun game. I haven’t tried it myself. I’m a dreamer, a schemer, but not a Justin Belieber.
My fear that Geographer is secretly terrible persists, and I guess that calling an album Ghost Modern could be a pretty damn lame move by a shit band. Like if someone told me that Maroon 5 had an album called Ghost Modern I’d roll my eyes out of my head and into orbit. But Geographer, as far as I know, is not Maroon 5. It’s a guy who sings in a delightful falsetto, a lady who plays cello, and a couple other guys. “I’m Ready” for more from them (that’s the name of one of the best songs on the album, it’s the second track, you don’t have to work for it)!
Never underestimate The xx, that’s my motto. I don’t get to use it very often. You know what In Colour makes me feel like? It’s those head scratcher things with all the prongs, you know what I mean? The ones that you can pushes down your scalp and it slowly climbs back up and makes you feel tingly. At least that’s true on some of the other songs. There are others, like number one summer jam “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” which made me feel like said confidence about imminent merriment is well deserved. And the strange samples of “Gosh” might not work for everyone, but they really work for me. Even both of Jamie xx’s The xx bandmates show up on a couple tracks, so put your thumbs in the air like you just don’t care.