Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to the best non Hip-Hop albums of 2015! I noticed this year on my list, I had a lot more experimental and bizarre sounding albums. I tried to think about if this was in any way related to my year. I’m in a weird space right now for sure. Some might say I’m having my quarter-life crisis. I’m tired of my job, I’m tired of my hobbies, I’m tired of the city I live in, and I probably said all of these things in my list last year, but last year I had a sense of because I had a plan to fix these things. This year I was able to run a Kickstarter and finance my first ever film! It was an incredibly experience and I learned so much about myself and my craft.
But then there were so many setbacks and complications, that it still isn’t finished, (a couple of more weeks I swear) and now I feel more stuck than ever. So in a way I feel like my musical tastes this year were more experimental. On some level I need to be pushing the boundaries, exploring, and doing new things. I can’t seem to change my job, I can’t afford to move yet (I think I said I would last year), and I can’t release my film until the holidays are over and the new year starts. I am sitting and waiting to start my next chapter, so in the meantime I’m listening to some whackier music than usual. No Coldplay or Decemberists, on my list this year! I’m sure a lot of you out there feel this way about your lives too, and I want you to know that’s okay! It takes time to figure out who you are and where you are going, and it’s never too late to start over. I always say you gotta look around every few years and be honest with yourself; “Do I like my job?” “Do I like where I live?” “Do I like the people I’ve surrounded myself with?”. If the answer is no then pack up and head somewhere else (that’s what I did when I was 20, and I came to NYC!). They say the Journey of 1,000 miles begins with just one foot step. I’ve decided to huddle up in my apartment writing sketches and eating Ramen, so when 2016 starts and I get my tax return, I’ll make so many new videos and feel whole again!
Also I’m going to have a super fancy premiere party for my movie because… TREAT YO SELF! So as I patiently wait for 2015 to end, I’m trying to put the pieces in place to have a new and exciting 2016. I recommend you do the same! Take some stupid cooking class in 2016, learn to sail, learn to dance, quit your job and go on a road trip like that car commercial recommends. If you do quit your job and go on a road trip (which I am super close to doing BTW), then I’ve made an excellent Spotify playlist of this year’s best music you can listen to! Look I tied it all together! Now on to the list!
Most Random Album:
Ryan Adams – 1989 ￼ Best Songs: “Blank Space”, “Style”, “Shake it Off”, “I Know Places”
Last year this record was held by Julian Casablancas + The Voidz’ album Tyranny, which later became one of my favorite albums of the year. Now when I read that Ryan Adams was releasing an entire album cover of Taylor Swift, I was horrified. I love Ryan Adams’ music, and I am not at all a fan of Taylor Swift and her 19 producer’s writing style. But I was wrong, you hear me? DEAD WRONG. It’s rare for a white person to admit they’re wrong, so enjoy it. Not only does Ryan recreate each song in his own image, and give them added weight and depth, he even makes the album artwork better! Taking the image of birds on Taylor’s sweater, and making a nice photo of birds on the beach. That captures the album in a nutshell. It was amazing to me, because when you strip down Taylor Swift’s music of all it’s high gloss production, you can see how lame the lyrics are and how routine and boring the song structures are, so Ryan Adams went to make a tribute, and accidentally made a reveal. Great Album, give it a try!
Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness ￼ Often compared to English darling Kate Bush, Julia Holter is a baroque and pop singer from California. In addition to writing a debut album inspired by the greek play Hippolytus and being one of my women crush Wednesday’s (so hot, want to touch the hiney), Julia just released her third album Have You In My Wilderness to wide critical acclaim. It’s a fantastic album of sadness and beauty, and you can check out a song below!
Father John Misty- I Love You, Honeybear
Best Songs – “True Affection”, “Chateau Lobby #4”, “When You’re Smiling”
Sounding like a soulful Fleet Foxes, Father John Misty popped up in 2012 when he released his album Fear Fun. I like his latest release quite a bit more, as it’s more soulful and pretty, and really expands on his ability to combine lyrics about murdering and cursing with heartfelt lyrics and beautiful melodies.
10) Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon ￼ Best Songs: – “Shaolin Monk Motherfunk”, “Borderline with My Atoms”, “By Fire”, “Molasses”
Described on their website as Multi-demensional, Polyrhythmic gangster shit, Hiatus Kaiyote is by far one of the most talented and interesting bands out their right now. Hailing from Melbourne, Hiatus combines Neo-Soul with Jazz, Funk, and some electronica for one of the wildest and most interesting albums in a while. Although the album is a bit too long for it’s own good, it should still be recognized this year for it’s uniqueness.
9) Tame Impala – Currents ￼ Best Songs – “Let It Happen”, “The Moment”, “The Less I Know The Better”, “Past Life”
Usually I think critics are mostly right on the money, but sometimes it seems like they all agree to anoint or hate on a particular release, and their logic just doesn’t seem to add up to me. I won’t waste you time giving specific examples (Chris Rock’s “Top Five” was one of the worst films I’ve ever seen), but I find myself slightly confused when it comes to Tame Impala’s new album Currents. Some critics I’ve seen are already using it in the same sentence as Radiohead’s Kid A, and others have complained about the band abandoning their “trademark sound”. I can categorically tell you that neither of these things are true. Tame Impala has crafted a very fun, enjoyable album, that is full of hits and misses, and is a clear evolution of their previous sound. Anyone who heard Tame Impala’s cover of Michael Jackson’s “Stranger In Moscow”, knows their sound was heading in this direction. I would also wager that anyone who has kept up with the indie music scene over the last few years and heard ANYTHING, could have seen the band going in a direction that chilled out and included more funk, soul, and some slight R&B. Unknown Mortal Orchestra did that, Caribou did that (better I might add), hell even Belle and Sebastian did that to a degree. I had trouble with this album on my list, because “Let it Happen” and “The moment” are such incredible songs, yet “Cause I’m a Man”, “Yes I’m Changing”, and “Eventually” are so lame. It’s an uneven album, but a memorable one.
8) Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love ￼ Best Songs – “Ur Life One Night”, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”, “The World Is Crowded”, “Necessary Evil”
In a similar vein to Tame Impala, but much lighter, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Multi-Love is homage to funky psychedelic 70’s music. It feels at times like current revivalist bands Foxygen or Tame Impala, but at other times feels like poppier Frank Zappa, which I suppose is like The Flaming Lips. It’s extremely catchy throughout, and features many interesting lyrics referring to today’s obsession with technology in the dating world.
7) Destroyer – Poison Season ￼ Best Songs – “Dream Lover”, “Hell”, “Times Square”, “Archer On The Beach”
An artist that has been around a long time, and just never seems to put out a bad album, Destroyer’s Poison Season is his best album since Rubies. This album is sometimes haunting with it’s chilling piano and dark lyrics, but at other times it’s fun and lively and channels the beach music of the previous album Chinatown.
6) Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool ￼ Best Songs – “Bros”, “Your Loves Whore”, “Monaning Lisa Smile”, “Giant Peach”
Oh god, I’m so in love. I wrote about this band once before in my “13 songs for an indie summer” article. Wolf Alice’s debut My Love Is Cool is really great, combining 90’s grunge rock with early 00’s indie music. Check out a fantastic live performance below.
5) Grimes – Art Angels ￼ Best Songs – “Belly of the Beat”, “Easily”, “Pin”, “World Princess part II”
Despite the album cover looking a bit like a Nintendo 64 game, Art Angels is a really impressive and current record. Infusing her earlier, more avant-garde music with pop (Janelle Monae guests), Grimes has created one of the best album of the year. It’s so much more accessible then her earlier work, but still so strange, beautiful, and never boring. It’s probably slightly longer then it needs to be, and starts slow, but once it hits it’s stride, you get 8 or 9 songs in a row of just pure bliss.
4) Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell ￼ Best Songs – “Death with Dingnity”, “Should Have Known Better”, “Carrie & Lowell”, “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”
I’ll admit I was a Sufjan Stevens fanatic for a bit. I listened to his silly Christmas albums (sorry, holiday albums), and thought I wanted to learn the banjo, but I fell off of his most recent works. They were too experimental and frenzied, and it seemed like the days of Illinois were long gone. Then Sufjan returned this year, with an absolutely tragic record that details the loss of his parents in an extremely intimate and gorgeous way. It’s far more stripped down than Illinois, but it’s way less repetitive and boring than Seven Swans. It’s a perfect marriage of the two styles, and features some of his saddest, most relatable lyrics I’ve heard. “There’s blood on that blade / Fuck me, I’m falling apart / My assassin / Like casper the ghost / There is no shade in the shadow of the cross”. Is this album about a loss of faith? That’s up to your interpretation.
3) Royal Headache – High ￼ Best Songs – “My Own Fantasy”, “Need You”, “Wouldn’t You Know”, “Love Her If I Tried”
Have I ever mentioned that I love The Strokes? Well I remember when I was in high school, for halloween I went as… Oh I’ve told that story before? Many times? Oh… well sorry. Listen I’m a white guy, and I have problems with my parents, which means I am just a huge sucker for Rock ‘n Roll music. But like classic lo-fi, garage, punk rock stuff. Leather jackets, ripped jeans, and cigarettes. I want more Ramones, The Clash, White Stripes, Rolling Stones, Arctic Monkeys, Weezer etc. Lots of Bands nowadays try to capture that 70’s/80’s punk, mixed with lo-fi surf rock, Wavves and Cloud Nothings do an alright job, but Royal Headache really nails it for me. Sometimes feeling The Ramones, sometimes feeling like The Strokes, and sometimes even feeling like The Replacements, Royal Headache have crafted a fantastic rock album. The slow songs are super sketchy, and the loud songs make you stomp your feet and want to turn the sound up. Every song is great, I just can’t recommend this album enough.
2) Jamie xx – In Colour ￼ Best Songs – “Sleep Sound”, “SeeSaw”, “Loud Places”, “Girl”
I won’t waste your time on this album, as I’ve already written a review for it here. But this was clearly one of the best albums of the year. It really wowed me at first, then I didn’t listen to it for a bit, and now it’s wowing me all over again later in the year. That’s the sign of a great album. I’d love to own it on Vinyl and hang it on my wall if it weren’t for the rainbow cover. It’s just… well it wouldn’t work in my room is all I’m saying.
1) Neon Indian – Vega INTL Night School Best Songs – “Annie”, “Street Level”, “The Glitzy Hive”, “Dear Skorpio Magazine”
Now if you know me at all, you probably know I don’t really dance (at least not well), and I definitely don’t sing (other than Kansas “Carry on my wayward son” I sing that at work all the time, only I change son to someone’s name). But if you were to go to Park avenue around 12am most weekdays, you would find me walking home from work singing and spinning around and dancing all the way home to this album. It’s just so damn good. It ditches Neon Indian’s cold and lo-fi electronic music of the past, and trades it in for extremely colorful funk and soul. It has 80’s influences like early Red Hot Chili Peppers (The Uplift Mofo Party Plan), The Police, Tom Tom Club and more, but it most abundantly is a tribute to the one and only Prince. In it’s second half it moves more to 80’s techno, and then remerges again as funk and soul. But each track so perfectly leads into the next one, it’s truly a work of art. I have nothing articulate to say about this album other than it is one of a kind, and I just can’t stop listening to it. It’s so much fun, so colorful, and whacky, and interesting. I’m so glad Neon Indian is back. You can hear the prince influences in the track I posted below.