Now the Pazz & Jop is out, so I can check for albums from early in the year that I’d forgotten. Here’s my best-of list, in which compared to the nominal P&J critic I overvalue sonic beauty and timbre, production and engineering, and harmony; undervalue lyrics, melody. (For reference: 2013 and 2012)
Best-of 2015 (version 3)
- Punch Brothers, best of the year, of which every time I listened I think of someone to whom I could drop-ship a copy.
- Joanna Newsom, almost as good as Have One on Me, maybe better if you appreciate the efficiency of packing as much into a single-album package.
- Sufjan Stevens, took a while to grow on me, unusual in serving equally well as background music or listening music
- Low, my favorite of all the Lows so far, just the right mix of spooky and something else
- Dave Rawlings Machine, is not a Gillian Welch record, but as close as we get is still a really engrossing listen
- Sturgill Simpson, like everyone else who liked this album, I don’t much like country, but I keep listening for that vocal tone and will file it away between Bill Callahan and Nick Cave
- Torres, rockous and catchy in the same way that Metric used to be
- Metric, rockous and catchy almost in the same way that Metric used to be
- Decemberists, slowest burner of the year (as was The King is Dead) but now pop-easy to listen to and hum along
Some pop music highlights from last year.
Chvrches, The Blow, Lorde and Haim. Lily & Madeleine. Not Savages, although I see the attraction.
Bill Callahan, The National and San Fermin. And, if I fire up the stereo before breakfast, I can hop right on those vocal ranges.
Tim Hecker, Sigur Rós, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and one other brooding album of electronic soundscape. Was it Darkside? Playing these was easier than diagnosing that intermittent ground loop hum.
Only for the Callahan did I purchase an actual album (and, at that, only a direct-from-artist download). For everything else, it’s just a 320 kbit stream via MOG – a service that will be defunct shortly. Whither next year? I predict a seat on the vinyl renaissance bandwagon, complete with 7-foot-tall, reinforced, damped and big-boots-proof turntable stand.
Daft Punk took on more spins than any other record. (They’re new; you probably haven’t heard of them.) House-cleaning day, cocktail hour and dancy-dance time take up, altogether, an awful lot of stereo time – and those robots cover all three styles. On the occasion that more robots were needed, Deltron 3030 took some time in the rotation.
Where I find tunes:
Walking the dog, when I listen to Sound Opinions, All Songs, MTM or Musicheads.
Where I’ll find all the stuff I missed:
Pazz & Jop 2013
NPR Jazz critics’ poll
Pitchfork top 50
Some recommendations from the year-to-date; this written (mostly) before the holiday-gatherings-and-music-banter season, which is typically when I fill in on all the stuff I missed. As in 2010, entire albums only and based on highly subjective and imprecise listening. That which moves, moves.
Five winners from 2012, without justification
How to Destroy Angels.
Five more, whose inclusion might require justification
Andrew Bird. continues being: creative, interesting, musical, wonderful. Wouldn’t every person in the English-speaking world have this on their shelf? Why wasn’t this the best-selling album at your local Walmart last year?
Bat for Lashes. I liked Cindi Lauper too, and not for the lyrics. In addition to this and Sun, I dug through the Regina Spektor and Sharon Van Etten. But not Apple, contrary to its 101 mentions in the P&J.
Alt-J. No, I hadn’t heard of them before the Mercury win; but, I’ve enjoyed using the phrase “boffin-rock” ever since.
Swans? Okay, Swans.
Shearwater. Earworms for recovering boffin-rockers.
Camera-phone photos in the dark at concerts? I know, even before camera phones, pics at concerts never turned out well. (Can you spot me in this photo? No? That’s okay.) Nonetheless, I had a friend give it a shot, so to speak.
There was no color information there anyway, so I let Picasa pretend I was speaking in the 1880s. Note the audience’s transfixion, courtesy my stunning Powerpoint skillset. The fifteen-minute talk felt very similar to eighth-grade band solo contest: hours of nervous energy beforehand, then autopilot home. I was apparently more relaxed during the Q&A.
Though I’m pretty sure I received the best press reviews from Knoxville’s independent press last weekend, this guy played a nice banjo ditty too.
Then, in the pickup bar to the chorus, the curtain launches open, spots turn on, and it’s shout harmony, dueling drum kits and hipster tromboning, oh my!
I know, concert camera phone, yada. But, some of the best indie baroque space dance pop I’ve heard in years.