Matthew’s Favorite Music of 2015

Posted on December 28, 2015 by

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How’s everyone enjoying their holidays? Are you excited for some off-brand fun from the half of BBGT who gets really, really obsessive about music? Probably! I listen to lots of music. You’d think that, because this is such a huge passion of mine, I would be all over doing the annual top ten albums post, but I get weirdly intimidated and panic that I’ve missed or didn’t “get” something. But it’s fun, and it’s fun to think that somebody else might discover something they really like from this.

So, in no particular order, here’s my favorite albums of 2015. And instead of ten, it’s… thirty-one. Sorry. Here’s a Spotify playlist of tracks from these albums (mostly in the order they are in this post), in case you’d prefer to listen that way. 

Favorite Rocking Out And Fucking The Patriarchy Albums

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

A bit more psychedelic and dangerous evolution of the blues rock on their first, already classic album. Brittany Howard is a goddamn champion – listen to that wail at the start of “Don’t Wanna Fight”.

Screaming Females – Rose Mountain

Screaming Females might be best known this year for their blistering take on Taylor Swift, but Rose Mountain is just as full of fresh, gritty, and seething jams.

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

They have a Bob’s Burgers music video. WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?

Favorite Album For Guitars, With FEELINGS

Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool?

Rosenstock’s previous band, Bomb the Music Industry!, was one of my favorites, and I had the uniquely weird experience in 2012 of learning that they were disbanding while waiting for what was apparently one of their last concerts ever to start. Rosenstock’s first solo record came out this year, and it’s (unsurprisingly) exactly like everything I loved about BTMI!. He feels weird about getting older, his guitars blister, and he sings with passion rather than any particular vocal blessings (which is especially inspiring to me). We’re cool, Jeff.

Favorite Album For FEELINGS, With Guitars

The Mountain Goats – Beat The Champ

The latest Mountain Goats’ offering is an atypical one, which is one way to say that every single song is a character portrait of a professional wrestler. Most people I’ve talked to about it (I know lots of hardcore Mountain Goats fans, as does every Mountain Goats fan) seems to generally feel like it wasn’t necessarily the group’s strongest release, but for my money, the idea gave frontman John Darnielle the space to explore desperation and frustration, of both quiet and volatile qualities.

Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

A pretty fantastic debut album, and another great entry in the “seriously, don’t listen to this if you need to be productive” category.

Favorite Indie Rock Haze Album

Best Coast – California Nights

I know, I know. The band’s name is “Best Coast” and the album’s name is “California Nights” but it’s not obnoxious like it sounds. It’s some pretty gentle, bittersweet shoegazey pop.

Favorite “Weirder” Indie Music Album

Elvis Depressedly – New Alhambra

It’s not that weird, but in comparison to Best Coast, this is the sort of stuff you might be scratching your head at on a college radio station. In a pleasant way.

Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Does Florence + The Machine count as indie anymore?

Favorite Weirdly Specific Combination of Things I Already Like

Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield – Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith

I just recently got on board with The Avett Brothers (every hipster’s favorite folk band) and I’ve been a fan of Jessica Lea Mayfield’s post-grunge take on downtempo country for a while, so when I found out the two of them were doing a whole album of covers of one of my favorite musicians ever, I lost my shit. A lot of it is very faithful takes on Smith’s songs, but I want to highlight their take on “Somebody I Used To Know” for the adapatation of one of Smith’s best “I got your number now that you’re gone” fuck yous as a “I’M BETTER OFF WITHOUT YOU HAHA” fuck you.

Favorite Album To Have An Existential Crisis To

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

It is hard to listen to lyrics like “Maybe love is just an economy based on resource scarcity” and do basically anything afterwards.

Favorite Mid-2000s Album Of the Mid-2010s

Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves

Modest Mouse released their first album in almost a decade this year and I loved it, but I’m seeing it on pretty much no one else’s Album of the Year lists. It doesn’t really innovate from their old sound at all, especially for the long gap since 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, but what it lacks in innovation it makes up in being exactly the Modest Mouse you remember.

Favorite Albums If Your Favorite Album Is David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life In The Bush of Ghosts, But That Was 34 Years Ago

Ibeyi – Ibeyi

Ibeyi is made up of French-Cuban twin sisters who make music with pianos, traditional percussion instruments, and electronic beats, and it manages to sound like a perfectly natural blend of soul, electronic music, and jazz. I know this is a very long list, but this is one of my absolute favorite discoveries of the year.

Mbongwana Star – From Kinshasa

This one is especially great to do work to!

Favorite Album Whose Name I Still Don’t Get

Wilco – Star Wars

It’s great if your favorite Wilco album is Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and you want some tunes that sound more on the side of that than their more country albums. It’s not great if you actually want an album that has anything to do with Star Wars.

Favorite Rock Album For People Who Hate Drums

Girlpool – Before The World Was Big

Apparently “folk punk” is a thing now.

Favorite New Album That’s Way Too Long By A Band I Only Just Learned About Whose Singer Sounds Uncannily Like The Guy From Bright Eyes

Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy

Seriously, he sounds so much like Conor Oberst, it drove me crazy.

Favorite Album That Everybody Already Knows Is Everyone’s Favorite Album

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Everybody already knows this is everyone’s favorite album.

Favorite Albums If You Like Hip-Hop AND Jazz and Wish There Were Just Some Way To Do Both

Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf

Definitely check out if you liked Gorillaz.

Ghostface Killah + BadBadNotGood – SOUR SOUL

The AV Club described it as “Just when Ghostface Killah needed an extra spring in his step, three white kids from Toronto gave him a pair of working moon shoes in the form of 12 brilliantly structured jazz-funk tracks”, which seems sufficient. Definitely check out if “trip hop” is a term that you recognize.

Favorite Album To Recommend To People Who Are Still Upset That Zayn Left One Direction

BIGBANG – MADE

We all know someone. Perhaps you too were largely unversed in the work of One Direction, and were left at a loss as to how to best help their devastated fans in their time of struggle. The answer, obviously, is just leaving the western hemisphere entirely, and casually suggesting they dive into the crazy world of k-pop. My girlfriend will undoubtedly kill me for putting BIGBANG on this list instead of BTS’s The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2, but that’s just how boy bands work, I suppose.

Favorite Album For Feelin’ Classy As Fuck (aka Jazz)

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

It’s a two-and-a-half-hour, triple album jazz album that’s on a ton of major outlets’ album of the year lists. Ones which aren’t focused exclusively on jazz. This isn’t how this usually works.

Favorite Album If 11:11 Is Your Favorite Regina Spektor Album

Cécile McLorin Salvant – For One To Love

I’m weird and my jazz tastes tend to be primarily hard bop, but every now and again I come across a jazz vocalist that really clicks with me.

Favorite Albums of Poppy Bleepy Bloops

Grimes – Art Angels

I finally checked out Grimes this year! Grimes is pretty great!

CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye

But if Grimes gets a little too weird for you, I can’t imagine that there’s anyone that wouldn’t like CHVRCHES, which is just lovely.

Favorite Album of Relaxing Bleepy Bloops

Worriedaboutsatan – Even Temper

It’s more of the slightly unsettling kind of relaxation that somehow remains soothing, a la Boards of Canada.

Favorite Album of Aggressive Bleepy Bloops

Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden of Delete

I found this one through an article titled “Has Electronic Music Entered Its Grunge Phase?”, so you already know if this sounds like it’s gonna be up your alley or not.

Favorite Album If Your Introduction To Electronic Music Was Skrillex-type Dubstep And You’re Looking For Something More Tasteful Because That Was A Little Embarrassing

JLin – Dark Energy

It’s not as aggressively weird as the previous entry on this list, but anyone who first learned about electronic music a few years back when dubstep was really trendy will find things to like here.

Favorite Electronic Music I Like, But Don’t Totally Understand, Because Electronic Music

Holly Herndon – Platform

I really like the tension between the electronic and the human in this one. Do read the “critical reception” part of the Wikipedia article if you want to read a lot of descriptions that make very little sense.

Favorite Album If You Like The Kind of Metal That You Can Zone Out And Do Work To, And Also Uses, Like, A Viola

Dead To A Dying World – Litany

I do not know much about metal, but Pitchfork called it “a vivid hybrid of doom, black metal, and crust punk, buttressed by baroque classical flourishes”, which is kind of hilarious. I just know that I can zone out to it but it’s engaging enough to do work to. And there’s a viola here and there, so that means it’s smart.

Actual Favorite Album of the Year

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

I use music for a lot of things. I like music that’s gentle and/or hazy enough to zone out and do work to, clever enough to conversely pry apart intricate lyrics, or that will just make me sad, which is a thing I do on purpose for some reason. Sufjan Stevens’ autobiographical album about the life and death of his mother who abandoned him when he was a child definitely covers the last item on my list, but it hits all of them. Even as someone who mostly just thinks Stevens’ Illinoise is mostly just alright, this is music that is so insanely beautiful that it makes it hard to recall when music last made you feel that way. It’s incredibly sad, of course, but it’s a rewarding sad that works like sad acupuncture on the human condition – it sounds painful, but it’s healing.

 

Anyway, if you liked my thoughts, there are a few other lists that you might like! The AV Club’s top 15 is very up my alley (like it usually is), and NPR has a whole goddamn top fifty if you’re really worried about something having slipped through the cracks. I also rather liked Paste Magazine’s top 50 this year. I’m still waiting eagerly for Jeph Jacque’s top 10 for 2015, which is usually one of my favorites, and I haven’t gotten around to The Guardian’s Top 40 yet, so I’m very excited to find new things and then regret their absence on this list.

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Posted in: Bonus Posts