While I had high expectations for some 2015 releases like the return of Modest Mouse, Jason Isbell’s follow-up to Southeastern, and the last Death Cab for Cutie album to feature Chris Walla, it was instead the year of the female singer-songwriter.
Best Music Videos:
#3: “The Hills,” The Weeknd – While I don’t like the Weeknd as much as everyone tells me I should, this song is great. The story of the video is intriguing and the visuals are very hypnotic. But would this be here if the car didn’t blow up? No…no it wouldn’t.
#2: “Sunday Candy,” Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment – The song is a fun and impressive composition of themes and styles, and the video is a fantastic match. The 3.5-minute long-take features several very impressive visual trick that your inner movie geek will love.
#1: Tame Impala, The Less I Know the Better – Wow, just wow. While I thought this Tame Impala album was not as good as their previous work, this video is crazy and must be seen. Don’t you hate it when your girlfriend sleeps with a gorilla named Trevor? Fun with metaphors!
#4: “Hot Scary Summer,” Villagers – Originally I only listed my top three songs of the year, but this song is better than an honorable mention. This beautiful song is an earnest depiction of relationship breaking apart. I like to think of it as the antidote to “Since U Been Gone” type of breakup song. This is a more realistic version of a breakup in which the two still care about each other, but they know they must go through that painful and scary split.
#3: “Step Brother City,” Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – SSLYBY captured the sprit of Japandroid’s Celebration Rock with this track. This brand of pop-rock is rapid and infectious. SSLYBY has been creating solid music for a decade now, but for me, this is the band at their best.
#2: “Depreston,” Courtney Barnett – The slow building of layers sucks you in, the narrative is insightful, and the lyrics are very funny. For most, this is just another solid song from Barnett, but for me the song resonated and become one of my favorites of the year. Is it a song about our lost adolescence? Is it an effort to fight against the shallow aspects of our society? I’m not sure, but I love it.
#1: “I’m Not the Man,” Ben Folds – This retrospective is a beautiful and poignant song from a man who has made mistakes. While I agree that he shouldn’t be defined by his four divorces, it does seem relevant to this song. Ben reflects on the difference his life has made to others and then builds to this conclusion about his career and his personal life, which still leaves me stunned:
(I used to be) endless potential
(I used to be) heaven and earth
(I used to be) my net worth…
A new day, a new town
Your racehorse, your cash cow
‘Til I let you all down
“The Innocents,” Low
“As Time Goes,” Jr Jr,
“Black Sun,” Death Cab for Cutie
#5: Telekinesis, Ad Infinitum – While I respected Telekinesis’ previous three albums the music never clicked with me until their release this year Ad Infinitum. Michael Lerner spent years between albums redeveloping his synthesizers. And the result was a fantastic collection of melodies and interesting textures. I am excited to see where this new sound will lead the band.
#4: Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color – We all loved their 2012 release Boys & Girls, but somehow they have just continued to kick ass. Their latest album Sound & Color exhibits their growth with a refreshing mix of inventive tracks. With a follow-up album like this, I wonder if they are going to be making fantastic music for the long haul.
#3: Torres, Sprinter – This album starts off with a fantastic and vengeful song in “Strange Hellos.” Throughout the album Mackenzie Scott’s soft voice is backed with strong rock instrumentation. Through her songwriting it is evident that Scott has serious misgivings about her religious upbringing and has lingering and powerful emotions tied to her childhood that provide the album with incredible depth.
#2: Lady Lamb, After – Aly Spaltro aka Lady Lamb the Beekeeper has been creating beautiful indie rock with raw vocals for years. Her 2010 release Mammoth Swoon opened my eyes to her talent and abilities. Her new album After represents a nice step forward with a noticeable improvement in lyrics writing. She is now able to convey an intelligence that reflects her maturity at the advanced age of 25.
#1: Hop Along, Painted Shut – Frances Quinlan’s vocals immediately stand out, but the songs on Painted Shut are full of substance. Painted Shut features an interesting blend of genres that adds another level of enjoyment to beyond the well-crafted songs. The oppressive subjects of the songs on the album are complemented by Quinlan’s passionate vocals, possibly signifying a decision to fight back. Every song on this album is great and I can’t pick a favorite, so here is the whole album:
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Bully, Feels Like
Low, Ones and Sixes
Passion Pit, Kindred