Two years ago, I gave you my top 20 albums. I was a much better music listener then. Last year, I gave you my top 15. And your boy, well, he’s fallen even further. This year I was only gonna give you ten albums. But I was embarassed to be honest. So I made a short list of my top albums, and then I followed up with my top songs not on those albums.
This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about an interview done for FACT by Venetian Snares. Here’s the summative quote: “I love reviews where they just describe the sound in the tune. Why?! Just play the fucking song at that point. It’s ridiculous. It contains these sounds. Who cares? Congratulations for hearing!”
This quote resonated with me. Venetian snares is a smart man. This year, I’m going to try my hardest not to describe the sound in the tune. I’m going to tell you why I like it, or what this song evokes. BUT you can listen to the song for yourself. I made a playlist of all the songs on spotify. Click this link, and listen along with the reviews.
LINK TO ALL THE SONGS FORTHCOMING:
So, w/o further ado: best 2015 musics
10) Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
Returning readers from last year will notice a familiar name leading off the top 10 again this year — It’s Panopticon! I love ‘em. They’re actually one guy, for the most part, which is even more impressive considering the quality of the metal parts, the bluegrass parts, and the more sweeping orchestral parts. If you’re not into metal, you should still check out the first and last tracks. The timing of the album is perfect for me too, because I moved to california this past summer and the winter here is much better described as “Autumn Eternal.” There are still deciduous trees with beautiful orange leaves around here, and it’s December 12th.
Best Tracks: Tamarack’s Gold Returns, A Superior Lament
9) floating points – eleania
The general feel of this album is like trying to have a snowball fight but instead of snow as packing material you are using jelly. Sometimes there are drums, and sometimes there aren’t, and the songs seem to be noodling around until woah all of a sudden you’re at a crescendo and where did those strings come from? Some songs have a video game menu screen vibe. I wonder what classical composers would have done had they known about the amen break. Been defenestrated, probably.
Best Tracks: Silhouettes, Peroration Six
8) dusky – ordinary world EP
Dusky is like an idle mine game that you have minimized in your browser while you do other things. Every time I check back on them, they reward me with two new dance songs and a huge positive feeling. 2015 was no different. This is great music to listen to while you’re on a bike ride. (the best song ever to listen to while riding a bike is Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr by Trivium, but that came out a decade ago). You can skip Parakeet Feet on this EP.
Best Tracks: Skin Deep, Squeezer
7) chris stapleton – traveller
The qualms most people have with country music are bogus. There’s a lot of really good country music. There’s a lot of really good music in every genre. Most music in the top 100, regardless of genre, is really bad. So why are you judging country by its popular hits when you judge other genres by their quality deep cuts? THANKFULLY, chris stapleton is here to change your opinion. He’s both popular (he won the country music award for best male artist this year) AND he avoids the nauseating mashup of “we gotta party tonight with a lot of name brand things to get suburban teens to buy them” and “I have to appeal to rural demographics by checking the subject-matter boxes” that makes most pop country really really really bad. He checks the boxes in a way that makes you trust him.
Best Tracks: Traveller, Fire Away
6) future – march madness, diamonds dancing, jumpman, thought it was a drought
It’s like, how is future so prolific given that he’s addicted to depressants? Beats me. So here’s sort of a hodgepodge of his best tracks from the year.
First up is Thought it Was a Drought from DS2, which also wins the award for “best color scheme of album” of the year. I went a coupla days with “I just fucked ya bitch in some gucci fluip fluops” in my head, toeing the line of coherence through progressively stranger morphs of the words “flip flops” (flooooooip flouuuuups). Plus the snare sample here is that nice crunchy hoof flam sound that was 100% of the reason why Stolen Dance by milky chance was good.
Second up is Jumpman and Diamonds Dancing off of future’s collab with drake, which would be thrice as good if we got rid of drake from the album. Drake is so bad. But! Future is so good. The crow squak sample in jumpman really seals the deal. In a lot of ariana grande/chance the rapper songs w/ garbage features (child gambino, iggy azealea, big sean, that guy who wears sunglasses a lot because he has a problem with his eyes whose name I cant remember), the bad verse comes up second, so you can enjoy the regular artist and then skip to the next track before the featured verse. UNFORTUNATELY, there’s a lot of [verse 1: drake] going on here, hampering the songs mightily. Fight through, for Future.
Third up is March Madness, which is definitely the best song of these four. Try listening to it three times in a row. Then go for four.
5) carly rae jepsen – emotion
I get the feeling people think I’m being ironic when I stan for carly rae (and ariana), but i’m not. I really really really really like them. The intro sax on the first track of the album makes me want to chug fireball. Interscope did a bad job of selecting singles for this album, though. Usually with these typa pop albums, you can spot the singles from a mile away. But I was wrong! Listen to the tracks I like instead! Also, I’d like to debute a conspiracy theory that carly rae jepsen has severe scoliosis. All her promotional pictures feature bent ebows and knees, everything crossed over everything. sco – li – o – sis (clap clap clapclapclap).
Best Tracks: Making the Most of the Night, LA Hallucinations
4) solomun – tulum dj set
The number one meme of the Boiler Room is the DJ being good but the crowd not dancing (That’s actually by design, but dont tell the perpetually salty youtube commenters). This set rocked, especially for me, a guy who keeps a healthy distance from all things [extremely PLUR raver affecting a spanish lisp to sound cultured voice] Ibiza. Plus, the people dance, and they’re all stylish and beautiful! I want to be stylish and beautiful. No idea where Tulum is. Plus whens the last time you saw a DJ in the mix enjoying wine in moderation? Props to solomun. And whoever edited the video interspersed oceanic clips! Hell yeah. Sometimes when I’m not doing anything on a saturday night I put this on in the background.
Best tracks: Club Soda (obligatory!), Sorry I am Late, new dorp new york
3 – Liturgy – The Ark Work
This bad boy wins my award for “most creative album of the year.” (n.b. theres something about experimental electronic music like OPN/Arca that almost automatically disqualifies it from being “most creative,” but i cant really articulate why. Something bout how it’s weird by definition?) Strongest atmospheric vibes for me too. Gladiators transmitted from the past to the far future, battling in the destroyed Colosseum amidst the wreckage of a nuclear winter. This album is not very amenable to piecemeal consumption — way better as a coherent whole, and probably doubly amazing to listen to in a highly marble environment. do me a solid and jam out to this in saint peter’s basilica.
Best tracks: Follow/Kel Valhaal, Quetzacoatl
2) earl sweatshirt – I don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
First time i listened to this was on chromebook speakers on spring break this year. I was all “woah i wonder what it sounds like with better sound quality” JOKES ON ME, it sounds the same. That’s the appeal! The other appeal is that earl is incredibly sad. I guess this album isn’t for everyone. Maybe another appeal is that earl rhymes vowel sounds more than he rhymes words. If i was like…. afrika bambaata, I’d probably get really frustrated with this album because its darn antithetical to the genre conventions of when hip hop started. personal rather than collective, bad times not good times, rhymes are weird, too slow to dance to, can’t tell where any of the samples are from. But be honest, whens the last time you listened to any hip hop from before 1990 that isn’t the *timeless classic* let me clear my throat?
Best tracks: AM//Radio, Wool (feat. vince staples)
- kendrick lamar – to pimp a butterfly
Ready for some strong praise? To Pimp A Butterfly is the best piece of music made this year. Even divorced from the music, the lyrics would be the best written words of the year, and, even divorced from the lyrics, the music would still be in my top 10.
I’m sorta assuming you’ve heard this album. If you haven’t, put on some headphones, sit in a comfy chair, look up the lyrics, and follow along as you listen. It’s about an hour. I promise you’ll have a good time!
Here’s my best argument for the album’s superiority. I’m not the album’s intended audience: Kendrick is most assuredly not writing with nerdy white midwestern grad students in mind. I can only emphasize with the album’s heavy westcoastness and heavy blackness in the most superficial ways. But the end of the album still makes me cry (forreal) — I’m sure he’s evoking even more powerfully in other people. The best art means something to everyone. And it means something regardless of engagement, too: every song is great as a standalone entity, even the interludes. It’s a great album if you interpret all the lyrics as being from kendric, it’s a great album if you read into the handful of characters he’s playing and consider their conflicting viewpoints. It’s a great album if you don’t listen to the lyrics at all. Shouts Thundercat. Check back in 2019 to see if it makes the top of my decade list!!! (The winner will most def be my beautiful dark twisted fantasy, I don’t want to get your hopes up too high)
Best tracks: for free interlude, the blacker the berry. ALL TRAX ARE GOOD
~BEST 2015 SONGS (THAT WEREN’T ON THE BEST 2015 ALBUMS)~
I was like “what’s a good way to review all these other songs in a non boring way?” So I drank a bunch of beers and wrote a sentence or two for each, Christgau style.
Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin
It’s got both a hefty inspirational dose (intentional or otherwise) of Green Grass and High Tides by Outlaws, and the lyrics are the right combination of thoughtful and hilarious.
Father & ILoveMakonnen – All Black Hummers
ILoveMakonnen is the alternate universe Heems we all want and deserve. When the club was going up, I was tentative. Now I’m sold.
Travis Scott (featuring some pals of his) – 3500
Usually, a rap song over 7 minutes is an immediate warning sign, but here we go! “Ain’t nobody triller than Scooter” is a sick ass line because it reminds me of how cool it was to ride a razor scooter way back when even though that’s not what future’s tryna get across. Then it sounds like 2 chains says “I’m not bothered by a memer” and I like that. It hits me. But that’s also wrong. He says different words than those.
Bully – I remember
There are two types of people in this world: those who go to the art musuem and enjoy the art as a standalone construct, and those who go to the art museum and enjoy the art after reading the information on the accompanying plaque first. I’m the latter. I look up bands on wikipedia. But I don’t know a thing about this band. Are they popular? Am I “really cool” for finding them first? No idea, man. Love the energy here.
Kanye – All Day
There’s nobody on this earth more compelling than Kanye. You can’t argue that. I don’t even have to justify this selection. Kanye justifies himself. Every single album the production is what the future sounds like, and the world hasn’t caught up to yeezus yet. He’s about to lap the world.
deafheaven – luna
At the start we’re chugging along and I’m like “ohhh yeahh baby this is prime slayer type metal” and then it begins to sound very modern. In Chicago, I didn’t listen to as much metal, but the chapparal climate of Davis really pushes me metalward. Strange twist of fate, a lot of the bloopy electronic I used to love has been crowded out. [thomas pynchon writing voice] his taste arc has taken a turn below the intercept, returning him to the metallic past.
ariana grande – focus
Ariana grande, like nobody else in this world aside from every footwork producer ever, understands my insatiable desire for quarter note snare hits >= 160 BPM (here, it’s done with clapping). RIP Rashad, long live whoever produced this for Ariana. Come to think of it, are there any ariana grande footwork remixes? Youtube proves inconclusive.
Action Bronson & Chance the rapper – Baby Blue
A track made in heaven. Bronson, a personal favorite, inherits the ghostface flow and sauces it up with a Strong Brand Identity. And then Chance comes in for the kill.
spinn feat danny brown – dubby
Danny Brown’s from Detroit, but I’ll let him in. Best footwork track of the year.
- major lazer – lean on
Have you ever listened to a song hundreds of times and still liked it? Not I, said the bear. This song has proved its longevity beyond all others. I first heard it around april, at a pool in Alabama (shouts trevor). Loved it then. Turned it on now, for good times’ sake. Still love it. How else does one define a masterpiece?