2015 has been a rather interesting year in music, and it’s also been a year which I have been unable to update this site as much. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be able to update this blog as frequently as I’d like, and just do an occasional discussion post or list post such as this one. No need to worry, however, as you can still catch my opinions over at the Iris Records blog, as well as my podcasts over there as well.
All blog updates aside, I have been enjoying a handful of albums this year, which you can view below. If your favorite album doesn’t appear on my list, chances are I haven’t heard it or didn’t dig it as much! So without further ado, here are my favorite albums of 2015, so far.
Blur – “The Magic Whip”
This is the London quartet’s first album in nearly 12 years, their last being 2003’s Think Tank. Recorded in Hong Kong (which is evidently reflected in the album’s artwork), this new record definitely recalls sounds of their Britpop heyday, such as the bouncing “Lonesome Street”, while incorporating their noisier 13-era sounds with the buzzing “Go Out”, and even some styles from frontman Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz projects and solo efforts, especially on “My Terracotta Heart” and “Thought I Was a Spaceman”. The Magic Whip is a mixed bag of tracks that works. A very solid comeback record indeed.
Title Fight – “Hyperview”
On the Pennsylvania-based band’s third album, Title Fight abandons the hardcore punk styles that dominated their first two albums in favor of a more atmospheric, shoegaze-inspired feel. While Hyperview is a definite departure from the harsher sound of their earlier output, that doesn’t mean the songs on this record are in any means watered down and uninteresting. Tracks like “Chlorine” and “Mrahc” are viciously hazy ear candy, while “Murder Your Memory” and “Your Pain is Mine Now” are a pair of shimmering, blissful guitar tunes.
Whale Fall – “The Madrean”
Despite being released in late December 2014, I still consider it technically to be a 2015 album. Inspired by the landscapes of the American Southwest region where the album takes its name, The Madrean is a sprawling blend of cinematic post rock and western film soundtracks. Each track is a beautifully crafted listen, featuring crisp percussion, dramatic horns, and clean guitar rhythms. These elements all combine to form a climactic, vivid listening experience, transporting the listener to the place where the album was inspired. Definitely one of the best examples of post-rock I’ve heard so far this year.
Best Coast – “California Nights”
I’ve given this band a fair share of criticism in the past for being extremely bland and derivative, but recently, I’ve had a change of heart upon hearing this new record. California Nights packs a load more punch than their previous two records: the songs are larger, the drums are louder, the guitars are thicker. A clear highlight is the record’s title track, which is an obvious node to 90’s shoegaze. Singer Bethany Cosentino’s vocals soar over a sea of reverb-soaked guitars, and while the lyrics aren’t very surprising for the band (none of the lyrics on this album are), the instrumentation is a leap in the right direction. And tracks such as “Heaven Sent” show the direction I think the band should have gone all along — the hook power of their past albums with a lot more power and of course, more haze.
Wavves and Cloud Nothings – “No Life For Me”
This album came out very recently (yesterday), but it was great enough to land on this list. An album that’s been slated to drop for months now, the collaborative effort from Cleveland-based Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi (whose last album was my #1 record of last year) and San Diego-based Wavves’ Nate Williams is a crushing, yet short, collection of rock songs. Recorded in two separate sessions in 2014 and 2015 respectively, and produced by Sweet Valley, the album features a load of irresistibly catchy tunes, such as “How it’s Gonna Go” and the title track, which is perhaps the finest piece of indie rock of the year (so far!). If you’re as big a fan of these two bands as I am, then there’s no doubt you’ll love the hell out of this record.
Drake – “If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late”
The debate as to whether this project by the famed Canadian rapper/singer is actually an album or a mixtape still goes on. Regardless of what this thing is, I really enjoyed it. It’s the first Drake project in a while that featured him straight rapping without any singing, and it’s among his catchiest works yet. “Energy” and “10 Bands” are absolute bangers, and tracks like “Madonna” are strange yet somehow pleasing. The album/tape takes an even more obtuse turn with “Wednesday Night Interlude”, a nocturnal PartyNextDoor joint that’s seductive and gorgeously produced. While some of the project’s lyrics are second rate compared to Drake’s previous works, the creative production and memorable lines make fans clamor back for more.
Death Grips – “Jenny Death”
This album was released as the second half of the Sacramento noise/hip hop trio’s “final” fifth album The Powers That B. While I felt the album’s first half, Niggas on the Moon, was interesting yet left a lot to be desired, Jenny Death is easily one of the group’s most visceral and catchy records to date. The album also features more live drums and guitars than previous Death Grips efforts, and also contains some of the band’s most diverse and head-scratching endeavors yet, such as the twerk rap-inspired “Pss Pss”. As with the band’s other records, it’s extremely hard to describe, and is definitely an acquired taste for new listeners. Once you get past the harsh screams and noise, it’s an extremely fun record, and a depressing one as well if you dig a little deeper.
Vaadat Chagirim – “Sinking as a Stone”
Sinking as a Stone is definitely one of the best discoveries I’ve made this year, as well as one of my favorite records of 2015. This is the sophomore record from the Israeli shoegaze outfit, and none of the lyrics are in English That shouldn’t be much of an issue, however, as the vocals act as another instrument rather than laid on top of the instrumentation. It’s an awe-inspiring album that’s been on heavy rotation since I first heard it.
Kendrick Lamar – “To Pimp a Butterfly”
Of course, what favorite albums of 2015 (so far) list would be complete without this record. All the praises I have to say about this album have already been said, but I can’t help but echo the acclaim. Lamar is easily one of music’s most creative artists, and gives creative life to an otherwise bland and uninspired mainstream rap environment. This record is enthralling as it is inspiring, confusing as it is enchanting. It’s surely not the most accessible mainstream rap record on the market right now, but it’s probably one of the most rewarding.
Bully – “Feels Like”
This is the debut record from the Nashville-based indie rock outfit, and it’s almost hard to believe this is a debut — the songs on this record are just so damn great. Filled with riffs upon riffs, hooks upon hooks, and shouts upon shouts, Feels Like never seems to let up. They seem to be one of the most exciting new faces in indie rock today, and for good reason. This record is incredibly solid, featuring the headbanger “Trash” and rowdy opener “I Remember” as highlights. While not reinventing the wheel when it comes to this style, Bully come forth with a great collection of songs that will resonate for some time.