I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: to some degree, 2015 was disappointing. If I had to wager a guess, I’d say I listened to at least 3,000 songs this year, yet I was constantly having to go back and figure out who was who. That is, I’d listen to a record, then two days later have no idea what the record sounded like. In other words, many of this year’s records simply failed to make an impression on me. No staying power! This was probably best illustrated by the fact that the record I might have listened to as much as any other record was one that came out in 2014, but I’ll get to that later. Were there any standouts? Of course there were. What’s more, those standouts weren’t just better than average, but legitimately good!
In terms of what dominated the musical landscape of 2015 — or, at least, my musical landscape — there was not only the somewhat typical mix of punk and female vocalists, but a surprising influx of emo bands. (Yes, emo bands.) What’s more, several punk bands from the Boston area — bands I had never heard of, mind you — kind of grabbed me by the throat. In looking at my top 20, half of the records were fronted by women. Again, this comes as little surprise to me, as I’m a sucker for strong female vocalists. So, it was another year of constant listening, notation, and listening again, and I’ll admit that I’m spent.
Album Cover of the Year:
Girlpool – Before the World Was Big
Vocal Moment of the Year:
Hop Along – “Texas Funeral” (At the 3-minute mark, Frances Quinlan an her raspy drawl erupts with the line “Keep your melting stars.” Her voice was the one that transcended all others in 2015, as I couldn’t get over how raw and honest it was.)
Song I Heard Once and Knew Immediately It Would Be On My Year-End List:
Hop Along – “Texas Funeral” (Yeah, yeah. I know I just mentioned it. Still, it was a total no-brainer for me.)
Lyric of the Year:
Hop Along – “Horseshoe Crabs” (“They used to find me / Pitching horseshoe crabs / Back into the sun”)
The Five Most Overrated Record(s) of the Year Based On the Critics’ Picks:
[NOTE: Keep in mind that I’m basing this solely on records I actually listened to. I couldn’t tell you a thing about, say, Kanye or Father John Misty, whose name alone makes me hate him.]
Beach Slang – The Things We Do to Find People Who Like Us (Hey, look, a Replacements retread!)
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style (This is easily my most controversial pick, if only because I really like this record. The problem, though, is that it’s a compilation of previously released materials, and therefore doesn’t qualify as a 2015 release as far as I’m concerned. More to come on this.)
Colleen Green – I Want to Grow Up (Boring. I gave it several listens and just couldn’t figure out what was so goddamn special about it.)
Royal Headache – High (Again, I really like Royal Headache, and I especially liked their debut, but come on. This record, while it has a few good moments, is average at best. Lacks the energy and fun of their previous effort in a big way.)
Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (This record suffers from reputation proceeding content. Critics wanted to love this record simply because it was Sleater-Kinney, but I found it to be Shitty-Kinney.)
Most Disappointing Records That I Was Highly Anticipating:
Best Coast – California Nights (It’s starting to feel like they’re just releasing the same record over and over again. Great vocals, but a total snore.)
Daughn Gibson – Carnation (I loved his debut, All Hell, if only because I had zero expectations. His follow-up, Me Moan, was pretty bad. Carnation was downright awful.)
Of Montreal – Aureate Gloom (I loved their last record, Lousy with Sylvanbriar, and while Aureate Gloom is above average, it paled in comparison to its predecessor.)
Royal Headache – High (See above.)
Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (See above.)
Videos of the Year:
Diet Cig – “Scene Sick”
The Dodos – “Competition”
Meat Wave – “Sham King”
Record That Would Have Been in My Top Ten Records of the Year Had It Been Released in 2015:
SLOTHRUST – Of Course You Do
[NOTE: This was the record that I mentioned earlier, the one that I listened to over and over again. Seriously, the opening four tracks whoop ass.]
Song That Arguably Would Have Been My Choice for “Song of the Year” Had It Actually Been Released This Year and Not Part of a Previously Released Compilation:
Car Seat Headrest – “Los Borrachos (I Don’t Have Any Hope Left, But the Weather Is Nice)” (Here’s a fun live version of the track, at roughly 1:30 in. Sure, Will Toledo seems a bit full of himself, but whatever. He’s young.)
Ten Honorable Mentions of 2015:
20. Girlpool – Before the World Was Big (Wichita)
19. Adult Mom – Momentary Lapse of Happily (Tiny Engines)
18. Young Jesus – Grow/Decompose (Hellhole Supermarket)
17. Sorority Noise – Joy, Departed (Topshelf)
16. Radical Dads – Universal Coolers (Old Flame)
15. Sweet John Bloom – Weird Prayer (Tiny Engines)
14. Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer (Domino)
13. Eskimeaux – O.K. (Double Double Whammy)
12. Worriers – Imaginary Life (Don Giovanni)
11. Cloakroom – Further Out (Run for Cover)
Top Ten Records of 2015:
10. Palehound – Dry Food (Exploding in Sound)
9. Pile – You’re Better Than This (Exploding in Sound)
8. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (Merge)
7. Dilly Dally – Sore (Partisan)
6. Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (SideOneDummy)
5. QUARTERBACKS – QUARTERBACKS (Team Love)
4. All Dogs – Kicking Every Day (Salinas)
3. Built to Spill – Untethered Moon (Warner Bros.)
2. Lithuania – Hardcore Friends (Lame-O)
1. Hop Along – Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)
I had never heard of Hop Along prior to 2015. Somehow I stumbled across a live version of “Texas Funeral” and found that I was immediately hooked. Not sure how you can possibly listen to Frances Quinlan’s vocals without being struck by them. No, you may not like them, but you’ll find them polarizing all the same. There’s a desperation in every note, as if she might break into pieces at any moment. (Incidentally, you can hear her singing background vocals on Lithuania’s “Hardcore Friends.”) Painted Shut is a murderer’s row of great songs, and I found myself listening to it way more than any other record this year. In addition to “Texas Funeral” and “Horseshoe Crabs,” the album is littered with stand-out tracks like “Well-Dressed,” “Sister Cities,” “Waitress” and “Powerful Man.” It’s not only Quinlan’s vocals and the drummer’s insistent beats that move the record ever forward (that’s her brother on percussion, by the way), but her literary-quality lyrics. The songs themselves are smart, and Quinlan’s ability to transform even the simplest word into something memorable is due solely to her magnificent range as a vocalist. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that they’re a Philly-based band, so…
As always, I made two CD-length mixes this year, which, as usual, forced me to omit several strong contenders. While I once again don’t know how many records I actually plowed through, I know that I had roughly 200 potential tracks that made the final cut.
Once again, there are no CDs this year. No hard copies, that is. I once again made two mixes, both of which would fit on a standard CD. And, yes, I made my usual cover art, which you can check out below. I would implore you to look at my lists below, open Spotify, and make your own playlist. Hell, I may make one myself and share it with the world if I’m so inclined.
As for the tracks below, I linked to both studio versions and live versions. Most of the links below feature the actual studio versions of the songs, with some exceptions: there’s a live version of Mourn’s “Misery Factory,” a live version of Waxahatchee’s “Poison,” a live version of Hop Along’s “Texas Funeral” (simply because I think it sounds great live), and a live version of Hop Along’s “Horseshoe Crabs” (again, because it sounds great live).
As I began doing last year, I added an * to indicate songs that opened records, and a ^ to indicate those that did closing duty.
With that, I give you the 47 songs that comprise my 2015 mixes…
Monsoon front cover.
Monsoon interior artwork.
Blizzard front cover.
Blizzard interior artwork.
Monsoon (The Best “Fast” Tracks of 2015):
1. Ratatat – “Abrasive” (Magnifique)
2. Born Ruffians – “We Made It” (Ruff)
3. The Dodos – “Competition” (Individ)
4. Built to Spill – “Living Zoo” (Untethered Moon)
5. Lithuania – “Deaf Gene” (Hardcore Friends)
6. Sweet John Bloom – “Trust Me” (Weird Prayer)
7. Meat Wave – “Sunlight” (Delusion Moon)
8. Mourn – “Misery Factory” (Mourn)
9. White Reaper – “Last 4th of July” (White Reaper Does It Again)
10. Royal Headache – “Need You” (High)
11. Worriers – “They/Them/Theirs” (Imaginary Life)
12. All Dogs – “That Kind of Girl” (Kicking Every Day)
13. Dilly Dally – “Desire“* (Sore)
14. Waxahatchee – “Poison” (Ivy Tripp)
15. Hop Along – “Texas Funeral” (Painted Shut)
16. Radical Dads – “In the Water” (Universal Coolers)
17. Two Gallants – “Incidental” (We Are Undone)
18. The Maccabees – “Spit It Out” (Marks to Prove It)
19. QUARTERBACKS – “LAST BOY” (QUARTERBACKS)
20. Young Jesus – “Blood and Guts” (Grow/Decompose)
21. Sorority Noise – “Art School Wannabe” (Joy, Departed)
22. Krill – “Torturer” (A Distant Fist Unclenching)
23. Pile – “Touched by Comfort” (You’re Better Than This)
24. Cloakroom – “Deep Sea Station“^ (Further Out)
Blizzard (The Best “Slow” Tracks of 2015):
1. Waxahatchee – “Under a Rock” (Ivy Tripp)
2. Born Ruffians – “When Things Get Pointless I Roll Away” (Ruff)
3. The Districts – “Hounds” (A Flourish and a Spoil)
4. Pile – “Mr. Fish” (You’re Better Than This)
5. Sweet John Bloom – “Tell Me” (Weird Prayer)
6. All Dogs – “How Long” (Kicking Every Day)
7. Dilly Dally – “Next Gold” (Sore)
8. Chastity Belt – “IDC” (Time to Go Home)
9. Mourn – “Your Brain Is Made of Candy“* (Mourn)
10. Fraternal Twin – “Lose My Balance” (Skin Gets Hot)
11. Tica Douglas – “Joey“* (Joey)
12. Eskimeaux – “The Thunder Answered Back” (O.K.)
13. Palehound – “Easy” (Dry Food)
14. Sorority Noise – “Nolsey” (Joy, Departed)
15. QUARTERBACKS – “NOT IN LUV” (QUARTERBACKS)
16. The Mountain Goats – “Foreign Object” (Beat the Champ)
17. Salad Boys – “Here’s No Use“* (Metalmania)
18. Adult Mom – “Meg Ryan” (Momentary Lapse of Happily)
19. You Blew It! – “Lanai“* (Pioneer of Nothing)
20. Hop Along – “Horseshoe Crabs” (Painted Shut)
21. Lithuania – “Hardcore Friends“^ (Hardcore Friends)
22. Built to Spill – “So” (Untethered Moon)
23. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – “Peasantry or ‘Light! Inside of Light’“* (Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress)
Well, that’ll do it for 2015. With that, I now ask that you do the following four things:
- In the comments section, let me know your picks for the best songs, records, and anything else music of 2015. What did I miss? What do you violently disagree with? What are you wholeheartedly in agreement with? What the hell else?
- Should you choose to (or if you have already) put together a Best of 2015 disc of your own, by all means send me a copy of the disc, or at the very least a track listing. I’ll do my best to post them on my blog.
- If you’re feeling nostalgic, go back and check out my Best of… mixes from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, etc.
- You’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and a thousand other social media outlets at your disposal. Share this with the world, even if you only have two Twitter followers (and one of them is me).
Until the Best of 2016, have at it, you vultures!