The Music I Couldn’t Live Without in 2015

Favorite Albums

01 Nils Frahm — Solo (minus ‘Walls)

If you walked into our apartment at any point this year, there was an 87% chance this record was playing.

02 Daniel Johns — Talk

A rare return to form from a musical genius.

03 Nicolas Jaar — Nymphs III

Another musical genius, writing his own script, and building life-saving atmospheres of sound like no-one’s business.

04 Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp A Butterfly

Maaaaaaan. The sound of really going for it.

05 Sufjan Stevens — Carrie & Lowell


Spirit of my silence 
I can hear you 
But I’m afraid to be near you
And I don’t know where to begin

06 Tame Impala — Currents

Indispensable, imaginative, magical record.

07 Jamie XX — In Color

Summertime. The colour of those three months.

08 Nils Frahm — Nymphs IV

As above.

09 Carly Rae Jepsen — Emotion

> 1989.

10 Drake — If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

“Kanye knows he is no longer the most popular man in rap. 
“Currently that spot is taken,” West says. 
“Let’s be honest he got last summer.” 
“You know. There’s only one person.” 
“Yeah. He got last summer. And I’d never given it up till last summer.” 
Now he’s thinking about taking it back. 
“It’s a real question for me. Do I want to?”

Favorite Tracks

01 Nicolas Jaar — Swim

From my email to Tebs:

“I slept on the new Jaar EPs for months. And then it was the middle of the night and the baby wasn’t sleeping and I was like, I need something to take my mind away. Swim runs 13+ minutes. It’s Aphex Twin, it’s Amnesiac, but it’s also completely Jaar. He’s so young, and so confident musically. I’ll go wherever he takes me.”

02 Daniel Johns — Faithless: Best song on one of the best albums.

03 D’Angelo — Really Love: The high point of a classic.

04 Drake — Wednesday Night Interlude: Feels. True feels.

05 Susanne Sundfor — Fade Away: Just couldn’t stop listening to this.

06 Carly Rae Jepsen — All That: I could have picked four or five songs, but this is the best.

07 Miley Cyrus — Adore You: My brother sent me this. I missed it completely. But it didn’t miss me.

08 Anderson Paak — Off The Ground: Probably my favourite new talent this year.

09 Courtney Barnett — Depreston: I know every single detail of this song.

10 Lido — 06:59 AM: Just frantic highs.

Most Played Song:

For the second year in a row, it’s Nils Frahm.

His album ‘Solo’ minus the track ‘Walls’ was on constant repeat all year.

It was my wake up album for months.

We played it when the baby was being born, and then it was all we listened to through those first few weeks of his life.

It’s quiet enough not to wake or disturb the baby, but it’s also beautiful — it shifts the mood of a room.

An Old Album I Discovered/Rediscovered This Year:

The Touré-Raichel Collective released The Tel Aviv Session in 2012, but I didn’t discover it until this year.

The music is a collaboration between Vieux Farka Touré (son of Ali Farka Touré) and Israeli singer Idan Raichel.

It’s in that vein of Buena Vista Social Club — ‘accessible world’ music — but it’s deeper than that. ‘Azawade’ is my favourite example, but the whole album stands up.

Musical Highlights

Listening to ‘Beach Baby’ right after my son was born, at 4am in the low light of the birth room. Unforgettable to create human life.

The saxophone on Paul Kelly’s ‘You Can Put Your Shoes Under My Bed’.

The upbeat joy of Classix and T-Pain collaborating.

The first time I listened end to end to ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’.

From the WSJ:

“Space Exploration Technology Corp. executed an impressive return to flight Monday by flawlessly launching an upgraded variant of its Falcon 9 rocket and then maneuvering a big part back to earth for a pinpoint, precedent-setting landing.
… Once the spent first stage plummeted toward earth, used its thrusters to steadily slow and then touched down vertically — surrounded by a huge plume of exhaust ...
The gentle landing, after several failed attempts to return an identical section of the booster to a barge, marked the first time any large rocket has managed a controlled recovery after delivering a payload into orbit.”

I feel like Kendrick went SpaceX on ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’. And he landed it.

Jon Waltz’ charming ‘Anna’.

Listening end to end to ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’ on July 4th weekend.

Banks’ vocal majesty on ‘Better’

Listening to ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’ at 4am at The W in Austin, and hearing ‘Now and Forever’ for the first time.

Playing basketball on New Year’s Day with Kanye’s ‘Only One’ on repeat.

The snares on ‘Be Thankful For What You’ve Got’.

Listening to ‘Live Forever’ while reading this Noel Gallagher interview.

Watching the baby well up with emotion the first time he heard Adele.

This clip:

Discovering ‘The Japanese House’.

Discovering Jason Isbell.

The guitar solo on ‘Impossible Germany’.

Matt Corby, finally, with some new music.

The stunning, heartbreaking Szymon album.

The final scene of David Simon’s ‘Show Me A Hero’. Actually, all the Springsteen in ‘Show Me A Hero’.

The cultural moment of ‘Hotline Bling’.

Better than all that Bieber tropical-pop, the gyrating ‘Wizkid’.

Thundercat, and the Song Exploder that went along with it.

Everything Anderson Paak did this year.

It being Future’s year.

The lanky sweetness of Tobias Jesso Jr.

And Cameron AG.

Vince Staples’ line in the sand:

‘My Love’.

My December 5 playlist. Naveen’s 201511 Playlist:

Jamie XX with THE song of the summer.

Jahkoy beating out Jeremih, Trey Songz, and Miguel as my favourite new RnB this year.

Despite the hype, the best Bieber song was ‘I’ll Show You’.

The-Dream with a return to form.

‘White Iverson’, the third best song of the summer.

Sorry I’m not sorry for playing ‘Miami 2 Ibiza’ a lot on my headphones at work.

‘One Too Many Mornings’, probably the best song I heard all year.

Did I mention Anderson Paak?

And finally, discovering Daniel Wilson.

Musical Lowlights

Another brick from Coldplay.

Another brick from My Morning Jacket.

Majical Cloudz not quite bringing it on his follow-up.

Kendrick bringing it, and making you realise that no-one else really is right now. Especially Big Sean.

Waiting all this time for Detox, only to work out that Dre is such a bad dude that you can’t morally justify listening to the album.

Disclosure’s pancake sophomore effort.

Ryan Adam’s ‘1989’.

Music taste in the internet age

Lastly, I want to refer back to what I wrote last year, which is now more real than ever:

“The people with real taste are the ones who are best at finding stuff to listen to that they genuinely love for a long time.
That’s the superior gauge of someone’s taste. How much joy they manage to extract from music. How much they bump their quality of life through music.
Good taste in music matters because it makes your life better.
Building up the ability to find songs you love (aka taste) is something you have to work at. You have to be clear about what you like, fast at identifying it when you hear it, good and patient at unearthing it and proactive in fostering new sources of it.
You can get a better measure of someone’s musical taste by knowing:
how many songs they find per year to love
how much they love each of those songs
how many times they can listen to that song before their love for it expires.
Musical Taste = Found Songs × Love Per Song × Listens Before Love Expires
Taste requires effort. You can’t just sit back and hope all those great songs fall in your lap. You could be listening to the radio for 3 hours straight and not hear a single song you love.
You need to really get out there and find things if you want to have taste.
Thinking differently about taste is important because the list of bands you like doesn’t matter. What does matter is how much music improves your life.
If you want music to make your life better, it’s best to ignore what people say you should like and just focus on finding as many songs as possible that you can love for the longest time.
That’s the taste that counts.”