I know that year end wrap-ups typically appear at the end of the year. I decided to wait until the year came to a complete close to discuss the music released in 2015 that I enjoyed the most.
Other Lives: Rituals
The third full-length studio release from this Stillwater, OK indie / alternative rock band is my first. All songs are good and the listening experience is consistent. The music is smooth enough for background listening, but sufficiently rich and layered for dedicated time spent with it before bed or on the couch.
The Milk: Favourite Worry
Found on Bandcamp, their debut release was chosen by BBC Music was one of the 6 recommended albums of the year. I wholeheartedly agree. This Wickford, UK band is categorized under rhythm & blues, but I also hear influences from soul, funk, and reggae. Criticism: the B side of the album slows down a little bit.
Favorite tracks: No Interruptions, Don’t Give Up The Night
Of Monsters & Men: Beneath the Skin
This indie folk-pop band from Iceland doesn’t need much said about them. With a sophomore release every bit as good as their debut My Head is an Animal, Of Monsters & Men has earned itself a cameo appearance on Season 6 of A Game of Thrones. Every song is good enough for closing credits on TV or film (Silhouette earned that on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire).
Favorite track: Wolves Without Teeth
Florence + the Machine: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
If I have any criticism of their third studio release, it is only that falls marginally short of their sophomore release, Ceremonials. Nevertheless, it is a solid effort that ended the year at the top of my play count.
Favorite track: Queen of Peace
Chvrches: Every Open Eye
Their second studio release is a bit more polished than their highly-acclaimed debut release, The Bones of What You Believe. It has been criticized as more pop and less attitude. It is a natural maturation and more than enough to keep Chvrches at the top of the synthpop world.
Favorite tracks: Leave a Trace, High Enough to Carry You Over
#2 Gloria Ann Taylor: Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing
Release late in 2015, Love is a Hurtin’ Thing is a collection of Taylor’s singles and EP’s from the 70’s. The 2015 release is collection of songs with influences from soul, psychedelic, rhythm & blues, and disco that is so delicious, it has to be heard to be believed. I think it is the psychedelic influence that pulls me in totally. Full preview is available at the above link on Bandcamp. The only criticism of this release is the low audio quality of the source recordings.
Favorite tracks: All of the above
#1 Beauty Pill: Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are
Beauty Pill went into hiatus after lead singer, Chad Clark, fell ill to a rare viral infection that required open heart surgery. His experiences are front and center in these recordings. Starting with the opening line of the lead track, Drapetomania: “I want more life, fucker, than you.”
Part art, part experiment, part live recording, the “studio” release is infused with energy, loops, catchy tunes, and brilliant lyrics that will turn your head — literally. Despite the near-miss that sets the stage for these recordings, the tone is never somber. In contrast, it is upbeat and fun in an almost sadistic way.
It is hard to explain. Just get it and experience it.
Favorite tracks: Afrikaner Barista, For Pretend
The Decemberists release of “What a Terrible World, What a Wonderful World” fell short of their award winning album, “The King is Dead”, but does contain a couple notable tracks.
Similarly, I didn’t find myself enjoying Josh Ritter’s 2015 release of “Sermon on the Rocks” as much as his 2013 release of “The Beast in Its Tracks” or the 2010 release of “So Runs the World Away”.
The reviews of the new New Order release were favorable, but I didn’t spend any time with it. Perhaps in 2016.