Music Mostly

10 Best Albums of 2015

The following albums are presented in no particular order. I don’t have a Best Album of 2015, I don’t know if I could choose. So, you get your choice! These are 1o great sets I’ll be glad to remember and revisit in 2016 and after.

10 Best Albums of 2015 Spotify Playlist

J.D. McPherson, “Let The Good Times Roll”

I was surprised to like J.D. McPherson. But the more I listened, the more I realized every song on this album sounds great. And it’s fun. It’s stomping, hard-charging rockabilly, tender blues ballads, classic rhythm and blues. Think Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis. But fractured and kind of weird.

Lord Huron, “Strange Trails”

Speaking of weird. You don’t get stranger than Lord Huron’s epic collection of folk tales, memories, legends and curses. Headed off a little further up in the hills than J.D. McPherson, “Strange Trails” wins with thoughtful storytelling framed by indie rock that’s spooky fun.

Alabama Shakes, “Sound & Color”

I knew I liked Alabama Shakes, but their debut, “Boys & Girls”, didn’t stick. This one though. The variety is incredible. Funk, slow-burning R&B, psychedelic rock, punk, delicate folk, and a song literally called “Shoegaze”. All while Brittany Howard’s voice goes right off the charts. It’s a grower, but all 11 tracks are solid. I came back to this one again and again all year.

Tame Impala, “Currents”

Like Alabama Shakes, I can’t get into the early Tame Impala tracks. But once I heard “Eventually”, I knew this was a record to anticipate. I love when albums take you on a journey. This is definitely trippy, but it’s warm and weird and strangely inviting. It’s a palace of sound, masterfully crafted.

Bronze Radio Return, “Light Me Up”

At first, singer Chris Henderson’s voice irritated me.¬†Think Future Islands with a drop less of melodrama. But a repeat listen in the car brought out just how entertaining this record is. Fits right in my pop music soft-spot next to Walk the Moon’s freewheeling “Talking Is Hard”, NSYNC and all that K-pop.

Courtney Barnett, “Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit”

NPR raved about Courtney all year. This deeply weird, diaristic, guitar-heavy rock record is somehow incredibly personal, yet sprawling. It’s about loneliness, relationships and other frustrations. But also broader issues like big business, environmental tragedies, and real estate. The best songs reference Australia’s troubled housing market. Seriously.

Andrew Combs, “All These Dreams”

Took my brother to the Hi-Fi last year for Apache Relay. We didn’t end up staying for them, but Andrew and his band floored me. Their live performance rocked harder than these calm compositions, lit by Nashville’s city lights. I’d be tempted to call it countrypolitan. But it’s too all around good to be pigeonholed. I’m looking forward to hearing Andrew Combs loosen up and sharpen up a little when Album Two comes around.

Jason Isbell, “Something More Than Free”

Please listen to Jason Isbell’s solo debut, “Southeastern”. Then come back here. He was always going to have trouble matching the stature of a debut that’s growing into a classic. But “Something More Than Free” is more accessible, with just as much keen observation and carefully drawn characters. Highlights like “Flagship”, “Speed Trap Town” and “Children of Children” are labelled Americana but deserve to play on mainstream radio. If The Boss knows the words, shouldn’t you?

Sam Outlaw, “Sam Outlaw”

Found Sam Outlaw trolling around Spotify’s Related Artist listings, trying to find some country to like. Like Andrew Combs, I really wish Sam Outlaw would loosen up a little, but this straight-ahead country sound is well-crafted and sincere. Makes my 10 Best because I kept coming back. I’d take it off my phone, wish I had it, and put it back again. Always a good sign.

My Morning Jacket, “The Waterfall”

I remember “Z” blew me away, “Evil Urges” was uneven with failed experiments and “Circuital” I don’t remember. So, this is a comeback of sorts. A fan friendly tribute that returns to what works in a solid set. It probably sounds super great live. Check out Southern psych-rock highlights like “Spring” and “Compound Fracture”.