Though I didn’t hear all the music that came out this year (more like a mere fraction), 2015 was a great year for music fans. I may post more about my favorites of the year, but (for now) here are some top albums from 2015.
Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color:Did anyone think the soul-rock throwback band behind the 2012 hit “Hold On” would make anything this dense, ambitious, and incredible? On this album, the group moves beyond imitating the past and crafts a studio album that can satisfy with weird slo-mo funk and fun classic rock sing-alongs. With Sound and Color, the Alabama Shakes stop trying to sound like classic music of the past and start crafting music that could be a classic for the future. And, of course, the powerhouse voice of Brittany Howard is the surging force behind it all.
Tame Impala – Currents: When the year began, the consensus held that Tame Impala was one of modern music’s few real, great rock bands. But could they really make another maximalist psych-rock record? Surprisingly, they didn’t try to. Frontman/mastermind Kevin Parker takes listeners down a rabbit hole of catchy disco, grooving dance rock, and even some psychedelic swirls on this true journey of an album. In ambition, timelessness, and quality, Currents ties the band’s last effort, Lonerism (2015). Now the question remains: where will they go from here?
Shamir – Ratchet: The most lovable, eccentric, and exciting weirdo to emerge from music this year was no doubt Shamir. With a gorgeous R&B falsetto, a hilarious rap flow, and some catchy synths and beats to back it all up, the singer managed to break all the rules. Ratchet, as an album, might not be the strongest model of this artist’s talents but the singles alone (“On the Regular”, “Call It Off”) convince me that Shamir will only get better from here.
Sleater Kinney – No Cities to Love: This trio of punk-rock women probably got more press this year than they did during their original 1994-2005 run. But their comeback album certainly warranted the praise. It’s a sometimes biting, sometimes beautiful half-hour of forceful guitar-driven excitement.
Jamie xx – In Colour: This former member of indie electronic group the xx arguably eclipsed that band’s entire output with this kaleidoscopic concoction of electronic music. If you’re expecting ambient backround noise or Skrillex-type pop, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, Jamie provides a mix of songs and sounds that’s feels both diverse and coherent. It’s not everybody and it’s not all perfect, but the best moments – throbbing dance-epic “Gosh” and hip-hop-reggae-soul mashup “I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times” – make a strong case for the power of this producer.
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Think: Courtney Barnett: Who knew a gently poetic, chaoticly thoughtful singer-songwriter with a penchant for thumping feedback-filled indie rock would release a debut album in 2015? And she’s from Melbourne, Australia. Barnett isn’t just a voice to watch, she’s a voice of now.