Best of 2015: Albums + Tracks

2015 was all over the place. For every giant step forward there seemed to always be at least one step back. But regardless of the issue, it seemed that new and incredible records were being released constantly. These records ranged from perpetually engaging in dialogue about different social and political issues to just providing a sonic space to enjoy.

  1. Protomartyr’s The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)a2791434963_10
    The third release from Detroit outfit Protomartyr is harrowing and complex while simultaneously maintaining balance and order. For every textured guitar riff there is a steady drum beat. For every discordant arrangement there is a refrain of lead singer Joe Casey’s familiar baritone. Throughout The Agent Intellect‘s 45 minutes, the record’s sonic characteristics rise to meet the heavy subject matter of Casey’s lyrics. In it’s entirety, the record speaks to the confusion of mortality, whether it be the repetition of They don’t see us (“Clandestine Time”), drunks leaving children in cars parked outside bars (“Uncle Mother’s”), or the Pope’s visit (“Pontiac 87”). Even after a number of listens, The Agent Intellect never fails to offer up something new that wasn’t there before.
  2. Grimes’ Art Angels (4AD)1035x1035-CRsEmWxUYAAob4j
    With Art Angels, Claire Boucher (otherwise known as Grimes) makes a complete revolution around the sun and emerges as a fully evolved musician. Citing a sprawling spectrum of influences, this record makes it okay for die hard obscurists to love pop music. Made of qual parts feminist manifesto and sugary California anthems, Grimes reclaims her position of power after nearly three years of single releases. Art Angels is Grimes’ complete creative endeavor, ranging from filmic music videos to trying her own hand at designing the album’s artwork.



  3. Turnover’s Peripheral Vision (Run For Cover)

    The term “easy listening” is usually reserved for the occasional John Mayer song flowing out of your parents’ satellite radio. But Turnover’s Peripheral Vision begs to differ. Released by Run For Cover Records, a label notorious for is post punk and emo-laiden artist roster, Turnover’s third album is a breath of fresh air. The band has certainly grown up; they’ve abandoned the distorted guitars and boyish vocals for delay pedals and sentimental lyrics. Peripheral Vision has created a new brand of easy listening— one that you actually want to pay attention to. 
  4. Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear (Sub Pop)

    Last February, Josh Tillman, otherwise known as Father John Misty, returned with his sophomore album only to show us that he’d gone soft. A lot has happened to Tillman in the past three years: he married artist Emma Elizabeth Tillman and moved from LA to New Orleans.Honeybear is not without Tillman’s trademark sarcasm though. In a handful of interviews, he’s stated that a large part of his struggle with writing the album was how to make the love songs sincere enough. The collection of tracks is an homage to Emma and includes a tongue in cheek pop song (“True Affection”), notes about their sex life (“I Love You, Honeybear”), and a touching ballad of the couple’s first encounter (“I Went To The Store One Day”). Honeybear is a real treat. 
  5. Beach House’s Thank Your Lucky Stars (Sub Pop)


    The second of two records released in just under two months, Thank Your Lucky Stars is the confident and refined sister of Depression Cherry. Whereas the first record was all about noise texture—from the velvet sleeve that packages the album to the cathedral anthems—the second is complimentary with 9 more tracks of buzzing synths and crunching drums. Frontwoman Victoria Legrand is a force of nature on both records as well as during live performances, but her strong vocals are the centerpiece of Thank Your Lucky Stars. Featured songs like “Majorette” and “Elegy to the Void” give listeners what they didn’t find on Depression Cherry.
  6. Joanna Newsom’s Divers (Drag City)

    There are hardly any words that can accurately describe the four records that Joanna Newsom has released in her career. Newsom is a magician whose music enters a space as a tornado of harmonies and harp arrangements and leaves with cascading horns and vocal scales. Vocal about her choices to not allow any of her music to be accessed by streaming services, Divers is that much more sacred. In it’s entirety, the record is both subtle and powerful—a collection of ornate songs, each with profound depth.

  7. Tame Impala’s Currents (Interscope)

    Currents could not have arrived with more perfect timing. A synth heavy record that boasts tracks about isolation, independence, and introversion, the album finds frontman Kevin Parker turning over a new leaf. From the obvious “Yes, I’m Changing” to the more subtle electronic arrangements, Currents defines Tame Impala’s evolution. The album pulls the band from the company of bands like The War On Drugs into the realm of Daft Punk’s electronic anthems. In addition to their sonic presence, the band also accepted the important aesthetic responsibility of artful music videos to supplement the record.
  8. Tobias Jesso Jr.’s Goon (True Panther)
    Halfway through March, Tobias Jesso Jr. released the album that people didn’t know they needed. The Canadian-born, LA-based Jesso broke up with his girlfriend, found out she was dating someone else, and got his bike stolen, which all led to Goon being written. For a guy who started messing around on the piano only a year ago, Jesso has done pretty well for himself. Immediately after the album’s release, he embarked on a tour with a lone piano and a couple self deprecating jokes up his sleeve. Goon is a record that is both strong and intimate— and dads like it too.


  9. Chastity Belt’s Time To Go Home (Hardly Art)

    With Time To Go Home, Seattle four piece Chastity Belt provided the exact dose of wry and witty feminism that 2015 needed. In the company of Tacocat, Childbirth, Colleen Green, and other similar artists, Time To Go Home is a landscape of crashing drums, delayed guitars, and honest lyrics. During live performances, frontwoman Julia Shapiro manages to address important topics with comical mannerisms that are accompanied by a cutting aftertaste. Chastity Belt releases music not unlike a Long Island Ice Tea—it’s fun and goes down easy but cuts deep when it lands in your stomach.
  10. Foxing’s Dealer (Triple Crown)

    Dealer marks a maturation of sonic and lyric style for Foxing, not unlike Turnover, their emo revival genre mates. Heavily influenced by the childhood experiences of frontman Conor Murphy, the record attempts to tackle conversations about sex, religion, guilt, and original sin. The album’s single, “The Magdalene”, is a candid autobiography addressing the loss of virginity and the questions that consequently follow. The rest of the record is both pleading and triumphant, with weaving chords, whispering background vocals, and necessary quiet.


Best Tracks of the Year

  1. “Kill V. Maim” – Grimes
  2. “Alright” – Kendrick Lamar
  3. “Hotline Bling” – Drake
  4. “Norf Norf” – Vince Staples
  5. “When We Were Young” – Adele

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