Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 10: Albums of 2015

Each year that passes leaves me increasingly worried that I've reached that age at which you can no longer appreciate new music. I had a lot going on in 2014, and ended up not even having a top ten albums, but merely singles. Luckily, my faith was restored in 2015, and I definitely have a top 10.

What's to say about 2015 in music? For pop radio, it almost seemed to be a year of breakout hits, one-hit wonders, etc, except that Taylor Swift, Justin Beiber, and Adele all dominated as well. The pop charts didn't do much to impress me, but that's not to say they were without winners. And there were plenty of independant pieces that totally rocked. Below are ten of my favorite albums from 2015.

10. Hypercolor by Carrick
Carrick Moore Gerety utilizes a great deal of pop-style production for his first major solo project. It lacks some of the soul of his work with Everybody Else, but his voice will make ANY track pretty good, and there is some definite songwriting prowess exhibited as well.

Key Tracks:
"I Get High"
"All I Think About"

9. Still Got That Hunger by The Zombies
The Zombies toured this year to support their 1968 classic Odyssey and Oracle, as well as this crowd-funded masterpiece featuring 80% new material. I understand jazz saw a big comeback overall this year, and I hope the jazz-influenced stylings of this classic '60s group were not overlooked.

Key Tracks:
"Chasing the Past"
"Edge of the Rainbow"
"Maybe Tomorrow"

8. Kintsugi by Death Cab For Cutie
Perhaps it's the loss of Chris Walla that gives this album a more tired feeling, but it just didn't have what Death Cab For Cutie's previous albums have had. Still, it packs quite a few punches. It has more in common with Ben Gibbard's Former Lives than Death Cab's Narrow Stairs, utilizing his storytelling as he bemoans lost relationships and more. It's a step down from Codes and Keys, but still a nice piece of work.

Key Tracks:
"No Room in Frame"
"Black Sun"
"Little Wanderer"

7. Grand Romantic by Nate Ruess
I don't know why I was so hell-bent on finding flaws in Grand Romantic, but I eventually had to admit that even "Ah-Ha," which initially got on my nerves, is a solid and catchy tune. There were a couple of misses on the album, but overall, Nate Ruess blends pop and indie sounds together with his out-of-this-world voice for a wonderful album.

Key Tracks:
"Nothing Without Love"
"You Light My Fire"
"Great Big Storm"

6. Alone in the Universe by Jeff Lynne's ELO
Jeff Lynne's flair for production makes his new project sound as fresh and new as anything from this year, as well as remaining consistent with the earlier works of ELO. As I said in my review, this album features a hefty helping of slide guitar and songwriting that is not to be missed.

Key Tracks:
"When I was a Boy"
"Love and Rain"
"Ain't it a Drag"

5. Glean by They Might Be Giants
Still one of the most enjoyable groups out there, They Might Be Giants reintroduced their "Dial-A-Song" concept this year, which meant a new song every week. This provided them with a great deal of new material for GleamGleam is as varied in style as fans have come to expect from the group, yet all drawn together by the sound understanding of musical principles and songwriting that these gents have shown us year after year.

Key Tracks:
"Let Me Tell You About My Operation"

4. Aureate Gloom by of Montreal
Only a mild step back from what I consider to be of Montreal's best work on Lousy With Sylvianbriar, Kevin Barnes faces divorce and another lineup of the band with his usual verbose and vitriolic tongue. With the backdrop of a funky throwback sound, Barnes also finds time to discuss politics and his own dark side. If you missed my full review, it can be found here.

Key Tracks:
"Last Rites at the Jane Hotel"
"Empyrean Abattoir"

3. The High Country by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Featuring some of  Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin's catchiest lo-fi work yet, The High Country is not only one of my favorite albums of the year, but some of the strongest work by the band. As I stated in my review, they have retained the sincerity of their first album, Broom, and the earworm qualities they broke out in Pershing, but with a great deal of finesse. The High Country is totally one of my favorite albums of 2015.

Key Tracks:
"Full Possession of All Her Powers"
"Step Brother City"

2. Guitars and Microphones by Kate Pierson
Very close to topping this list, Kate Pierson's debut solo album is a masterpiece. For years, she has played an important role in The B-52's, but as of this year, with the help of Nick Valensi (of The Strokes) and Sia, she is sounding her barbaric yawp as a solo artist. Despite the fact that she's a seasoned artist, everything sounds fresh. The upbeat nature of the songs makes them addictive, as does their catchiness and power-pop tendencies.

Key Tracks:
"Bottoms Up"
"Throw Down the Roses"
"Mister Sister"

1. Uptown Special by Mark Ronson
I deliberated for a long time on which album was my number 1, but Uptown Special totally deserves it. As I said in my review, this record combines different styles, recording artists, and moods into one stellar album with a throwback soul sound. The success Mark Ronson has seen with this album (#27 here in the U.S.) is not only understandable, but well-deserved. Uptown Special is a block party, a romp, and a piece of poetry, making it my favorite album of the year.

Key Tracks:
"Leaving Los Feliz"
"I Can't Lose"
"In Case of Fire"