My Albums of 2015

I sat down to write this year’s post, looked over to my wife, and said with a definitive tone, “There just was not a lot of good music this year.”

She reminded me with her eyes (again) that I am, in fact, not omniscient and not the presiding Value-Judger of everything. I recant my statement then, and rephrase: “I was bad at listening to new music this year.”

So that brings us to this list, not of the top albums that were released in 2015, but of the albums that I listened to a lot in 2015. That being said, get ready to be Bazan’d and Lamar’d.

1. Curse Your Branches — David Bazan

I am incredibly thankful for this album. The timing of it in my life has to be (brace yourself for the irony here) God-sent. In the time post-bible-college, Rachel and I have been walking right through the tough but good process of deconstruction. That sounds pretty intense, and at times, the intersection of doubt and belief can be hard, but it’s songwriting like this that helps. Hearing Bazan walk away from a faith that defined his identity for so long has been therapeutic this year, even if our end-state isn’t the same. And, as is common with a lot of agnostic thought, I find that the God and the book he is deconstructing is often times one that I left behind in the middle of college.

A lot of the people I talk to who know this album have this general sentiment: “Ah man, it’s just so sad.” And it’s true that sometimes the lines can pierce you when you’re not expecting it, but I hear someone who at the core of it all, has remained honest with himself and his listeners. I’ve realized that this is what pulls me to the artists (authors, musicians, filmmakers et al.) that I love: honest and true storytelling.

On top of all that, I jive with the tunes a whole lot. It’s another one of those vocals that make you frown at first, and then you realize that it’s one of the coolest tones you’ve heard.

Standout Line(s): no congratulations from my faithful family/some of whom are already fasting to intercede for me/because it’s hard to be hard to be, hard to be a decent human being

God knows, if you noticed the millions of small holes/and ponder the weight of an apple compared to the trouble we’re in/Then some grown men might be tempted to question their birthright/In front of their kids and devout wives/Causing the doubt to begin, to spread like original sin

2. To Pimp a Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar

Truth: I almost didn’t make a list this year, because I am insanely insecure to say anything about this album. Thankfully, my friend Levi voiced my thoughts almost exactly, so I just pasted what he said about it. All the bolded things are my way of extra-affirming what Levi wrote.

I literally don’t know what to say. Read this. Also, read this. Also, read this. And this…And here’s something I learned from KDot and wrote about earlier this year. And here’s the California State Senate giving out a Generation Icon Award. Rather than try to add to the overwhelming amount of commentary that already exists surrounding TPAB, I’d rather just say I’m thankful for it. Truly. I’m thankful for the countless conversations it inspired in and among my friends…The crazy thing about Kendrick’s album, or one of the crazy things, is the way an art piece so specific to its particular context completely transcended that space and became the soundtrack to a movement, or resonated globally, or gained appreciation from people like me who have no frame of reference for so much of the world represented there. It’s interesting, the way my ignorance of it almost makes me ashamed to quote lines, or let them speak to me however they do for fear of knowing I’m Mr. White Suburbia, connecting in whatever foreign way I’m connecting. But man, I loved it. It’s not an album for the faint of heart, and it’s not going to please everyone, but it’ll get you thinking and when you do, regardless of where you’re thinking from… quote the lines.

Standout Line(s): I know how people work, I know the price of life/I know how much it’s worth, I know what I know and I know it well/Not to ever forget until I realized I didn’t know shit/The day I came home

You tell me my song is more than a song, it’s surely a blessing/But a prophet ain’t a prophet til they ask you this question:/When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?

The streets don’t fail me now, they tell me it’s a new gang in town/From Compton to Congress, it’s set trippin’ all around/Ain’t nothin’ new but a flow of new DemoCrips and ReBloodlicans/Red state versus a blue state, which one you governin’?

3. Strange Negotiations — David Bazan

I heard about David Bazan over the years from all the “cool dudes” that were like 5 years older than me. I still remember looking through a guy’s ipod on the bus and seeing a million Pedro the Lion songs and wondering how that could be any better than my Relient K albums. Well it’s 2015 and here I am, finally on the Bazan train.

Standout Line(s): Then when I wake up in the morning/I tell myself today I’ll make a change/But falling into my bed at night/I think, man, it was a beautiful day/To stay the same

4. One Wild Life: Soul — Gungor

I’ll say the same thing about the #6 album, this is a breath of fresh air. Jesus music at its core. Listen to “You” and “Us for Them.”

Standout Line(s): If it’s us or them, it’s us for them

And then my world was torn apart/I felt a ground, I felt a heart/And all the universe was one/Just like a Father, Spirit, Son/My heart is open once again/A distant love, a forlorn friend/Maybe it’s always ever been/You

5. Of Brighter Days — Author

I love this album and can sing it through cover to cover right along with my bois. They also hold the spot for my most viewed live performance and I seriously love it so much every time. EVERY. TIME.

6. Brother — The Brilliance

This was such a breath of fresh air for me. It’s ‘worship’ music that I can sing with no swirling thoughts of hesitancy. These are Jesus liturgies for 2015.

When I look into the face of my enemy/I see my brother

7. Bazan Monthly Vol. 1 & 2 — David Bazan

My first Bazan exposure! So groovy. So jammy.

8. Section.80 — Kendrick Lamar

After G.K.M.C. hit me last year, this one was playing non-stop until TPAB came out. Love it so much still.

9. Carrie and Lowell — Sufjan Stevens

I will 100% own up to the fact that this is my first exposure to Sufjan. My bad. But, I was finally ready for it in 2015, and I really got into this one over the summer time. Not exactly the happy summertime jingles you would expect for the season, but iz real nice.

10. Home — Josh Garrels

Truth be told I thought this one would be a lot higher for me this year. It’s great, don’t get me wrong. But I felt like it was missing that certain bite I got from Love, War, and the Sea in Between. Everything on this album seems nice and tied up, and maybe that’s a reflection of a happy peaceful life with what seems like (from instagram of course) a beautiful family. All that said, I can still get down with some Garrels.