My Top Music of 2015

Hello reader.

For several years (decades even) I often get asked to summarize what recorded music I liked most of a given year. The past two years’ lists were pretty popular (and voluminous) so I decided to do it again this year.

A key change that occurred in my life in 2015 was that for most of the year my right ear was more than 90% deaf. This has been an on-again-off-again situation for several years now and it’s both aggravating and depressing when it happens. As a result I was aware of music being released but only listened to it briefly, or in a cursory manner. When my hearing finally returned to normal in early December I dove right into as much of the new music as I had half-introduced myself. The result is that I listened to far less music this year than I had previously. (Also: 2014 was a great year for new music, so I felt 2015 wasn’t as good, broken ear or not.)

This is also the third year that Soundcloud played a really big role in either being the source of a lot of my favorite new artists and releases, or a resource for finding them. I really wish Spotify (and others) would allow you to place Soundcloud songs into playlists, but then I wish a lot of things were true in the streaming music arena. (Insert discussion about fair artist compensation and territoriality here.)

So first: here is my Spotify playlist of the songs I played the crap out of this year:

And here are my lists of songs, albums and other stuff.

Favorite Track:

“When You’re Out” by KAUF.

I played this song a lot early in the year when I was going through a tumultuous apartment move and purge. It kept me sane (as did numerous close friends, you know who you are.)

Favorite Album:

OK Lady by Roman Gianarthur

Released with no real fanfare in around June 2015 on Soundcloud (100% free.) I played this so many times it should be boring to me now, but it is not. This set is like if Radiohead collaborated with Questlove, or early-2000’s D’Angelo. It’s amazing. Bonus points for having Janelle Monae on there as well. Infinitely listenable.

Favorite albums:

  • Refused: Freedom
  • Chemical Brothers: Born In The Echoes
  • CHVRCHES: Every Open Eye (Especially “Leave a Trace” and “Keep You On My Side”)
  • The Lone Bellow: Then Came The Morning
  • Flight Facilites: Down To Earth
  • Jamie XX: In Colour
  • Punch Brothers: Phosphorescent Blues
  • Grimes: Art Angels

Favorite Singles:

  • KAUF: When You’re Out (See above)
  • Alessia Cara: Here
  • Alabama Shakes: Don’t Wanna Fight
  • The Weeknd: Earned It
  • Refused: Elektra
  • Major Lazer: Lean On
  • Chemical Brothers: Go
  • CHVRCHES: Leave A Trace
  • Cee Lo Green: Taxi Cab Confessions
  • Missy Elliot: WTF (Where They From)
  • Death Cab For Cutie: Black Sun
  • Grimes: Go

Favorite music thing I found without expecting to love it as much as I did:

Tycho: Elsewhere (Burning Man Sunrise DJ Set 2015)

I have never been to burning man and I’m unsure I ever want to, but sets like this make me wish I were there for a piece of its existence.

Albums I was excited about but didn’t love as much as expected:

Faith No More: Sol Invictus

I have no real argument as to why, and I appear to be in some form of minority for this opinion. Refused was a much better album so I listened to that instead (and it’s been over 10 years for them as well.)

D’Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah

Let me be clear: I’m still happy it got released, and kudos to all involved for putting it together, but as a complete work it kind of left me cold. “Charade” is my favorite cut, and his devastating live performance of that cut on SNL sealed the deal on that song for me, but it just didn’t grab me. I felt the same way about the Kendrick Lamar album and I know I’m certainly in the minority on that one. Oh well.

Songs I don’t hate but that I don’t need to ever hear again kthxbye:

Mark Ronson with Bruno Mars: Uptown Funk (killer, but I’m done.)
Adele: Hello (already!)
Drake: Hotline Bling
Ariana Grande: Anything.
Taylor Swift: Anything. (But good for her.)
Selena Gomez: Good For You

Favorite Jazz album:

Robert Glasper: Covered

Which might as well mean “only jazz album.” I used to listen to so much more but I just didn’t trip across any releases this year.

Honorable Mention:

Punch Brothers: Phosphorescent Blues.

I missed my chance to see them live but I hope they come around again. (The same goes for The Lone Bellow, who I hear are just incredible live.) Punch Brothers are the most unexpected mix of musicianship and diverse range of influences (bluegrass, Pennywise, Scriabin!) I have ever heard in my life. A very high level of musicianship and collaboration. Definitely strongly recommended.

So there it is. Brief. But it’s what I listened to and liked. And now you can too.

Happy New Year to you all. Thanks for reading.

Adam D.