The 10 Best Albums of 2015

Now that 2015 is well and truly in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for the annual obligation of music snobs everywhere, the best-of list.

Aside: I’ve never understood why best-of lists are supposed to happen in December. Why forgo 1/12 of the year’s music? Regardless, allons-y!

Everything, Everything

Get to Heaven

It actually took me longer to write this description than any of the others below. I think that’s because it’s the most expansive record here – covering everything from gun violence to the disillusionment of the working class to the folly of war. Ultimately it just sounds So. Damn. Current.

Honestly this is the record you should be listening to this year. Problem is that it’s a total art rock record that’s weiiiiiired. I mean, just look at the video below.

But go with it. The weird is what let’s them dig into almost anything and deliver fresh perspectives with brilliant rock songs. You’ll love it.


Courtney Barnett

Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

My number 1A album of the year is everything Everything, Everything is not. Where EE is the weird art rockers singing about abstract metaphors, Courtney Barnett and her band make crowd pleasing blues rock about the mundane things in life: house hunting for a move to the suburbs and swimming laps at the pool.

But sometimes, you think your biggest thoughts while you’re swimming those laps. And there’s nothing more universal than getting older and facing the trappings of adulthood. It all makes this album tremendously relatable.

We can all learn something from this Aussie upstart. I predict very big things ahead.


Girlpool

Before the World Was Big

Come for the close-harmony girl group vocals. Stay for the lo-fi production, simple but powerful guitar work (no drums!) and, most importantly, the new and authentic voice telling stories you don’t always hear in the indie scene. You’ll be singing along — and raging against the patriarchy — in no time.


Public Service Broadcasting

The Race for Space

When PSB visited the European Space Agency, they issued a press release that described the band this way:

The critically acclaimed Public Service Broadcasting make instrumental electronica incorporating public information films and other archive footage. Their latest album is the spaceflight-themed The Race for Space.

So about as much fun as a Ken Burns documentary, right? Nope.

PSB turns these found sounds into songs of incredible energy and tension. When Apollo 8 goes behind the dark side of the moon (go with me) and all you hear is a soft, subtle beating-heart drum, the anticipation is thick. “There’s a cheer in this room,” says a relieved mission control when contact is re-established. This room, too — every time.


Spector

Moth Boys

9 of the 12 songs on Spector’s debut are “loved” in my iTunes. Only 6 of the 11 tracks on this one are. I guess they’re going backwards? (Not really.)

This is probably Tracy’s favorite album on my list too, so you know it’s doing something right.

The formula is simple: Take a band full of millennials, spend enough nights wooing and boozing, and then throw in some earth-shaking heartbreak. Nobody, but nobody, does heartbreak like Spector. Don’t ask me why that makes me so happy.


Sweet Baboo

The Boombox Ballads

Every year my list contains one British act no one has ever heard of. This year, it’s Sweet Baboo, nom de guerre of Welsh songwriter Steven Black.

After collaborating with favorites of this reporter like Gruff Ryhs and Slow Club, Black put out a solo record last year that legit sounds like Mr. Rogers channeling Paul McCartney. Plus it’s aces.


Darren Hayman

Florence

I’ve described Hayman’s original band, Hefner, as something of a British Weezer. And in a fair number of ways, Hayman is a British Rivers Cuomo, but where the Yankee version has devolved into bro-centric navel gazing, Hayman never lost his way, never lost his heart. He still writes simple love songs more honest and more real than just about anything else out there.

The songs here are so delicate that if you breathe wrong, you might break them. But the images they burn into your brain are real and gripping. That’s really the whole trick right there, innit?


Wavves

V

If Hefner was the British Weezer, then Wavves are the new American Weezer. (Look, I’m writing about music. I’m contractually obligated to say things like that.)

Regardless, Wavves plays straight ahead post-punk rock songs about how much their head hurts (appealing to the guy with chronic headaches) and how without you it’s worse. Sorry about the hangover, bros, but appreciate the jammin’ tunes.


FFS

FFS

Franz Ferdinand managed to convince Sparks, their 70’s glam rock idols, to make an album together and the result is the best Franz album in years – and I’ve always liked Franz!

The collaboration enhanced the operatic quality that’s always been evident in Franz Ferdinand’s work. (Some of the tracks sound verifiably Bohemian Rhapsodic.) It was a great move for FF at a time when it’s possible, just possible their sound was growing stale enough for an actual revival to be underway in Glasgow.

So of course, FFS find themselves forced to sing about how and why collaborations don’t work, natch.


Grimes

Art Angels

Somehow this is the “poppiest” album on this list despite also being the most out there noise rock album. Basically Grimes takes all the hallmarks from a genre that makes Tracy wistful for nails on the chalkboard (seriously, ask her about the Peaches show she saw with me), mixes it up with dance beats and turns it to jammin’ pop songs. It has no right to work, but hot damn, does it ever.


Next 10

(It was a very good year)

  • California Nights, Best Coast
  • The Magic Whip, Blur
  • Every Open Eye, CHVRCHES
  • Kintsugi, Death Cab for Cutie
  • Are You Alone, Majical Cloudz
  • Gracetown, San Cisco
  • Are You Satisfied, Slaves
  • Before We Forgot How to Dream, SOAK
  • English Graffiti, The Vaccines
  • Glitterbug, The Wombats

And one more post-rock album that probably only makes sense to me

  • Dust and Disquiet, Caspian

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