Year in Review: The 10 Best Albums of 2015

This was the year that the idea of the album was reinvented. When I say that, I mean that this year included absolutely brilliant albums across all genres and themes, but somehow including something for absolutely everyone. The top albums of the year includes releases from seasoned artists changing up their musical aesthetics as well as newcomers just starting out, and have surpassed expectations to the extent that making this list was incredibly difficult, as it always is. Because of that, the order of the list below is definitely not set in stone, and can be moved around according to your own tastes. While I do admit that some of the top releases of the year have gone over my head due to sheer volume, 2015 just felt different. It was deeper, more introspective, and in a way, more meaningful than years past, and these albums reflect that tenfold.

10. Crushed Beaks – Scatter 

Scatter was one of the best pop-punk albums I’ve heard in a really long time, which doesn’t necessarily have to do with the tracks themselves, but instead with frontman Matthew Polie’s stunning vocals. His passionate performance in the sentimental track “History” as well as the more upbeat “Rising Sign” makes his vocals more of a powerful force more than anything else. The crowning glory, however, is the amazing track “Overgrown,” with its fervid, yet brilliantly balanced instrumentals and stunning vocals. With this stunning debut album, Crushed Beaks have definitely shown their noise-pop aesthetic, as well as what they are capable of in the near future.

9. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell 

Sufjan Steven’s hushed croon never comes without some sort of new inspiration with each album, no matter how deep.  With Carrie and Lowell, it’s definitely one more personal, considering each track expresses Steven’s troubled relationship with his late mother, with whom he reconnected with after she abandoned him as a child. Though it definitely can be sickly saccharine and somber at times, and with tracks like “Fourth of July,” it will definitely have you reaching for all the tissues you have in your house, it never ever sounds hollow or lonely. Instead, Steven’s fills the empty space with gorgeous falsetto and delicate folk-inspired instrumentals, and tracks like the optimistic “Should Have Known Better” and the majestic closer “Blue Bucket of Gold” show that the most prominent emotion in this album isn’t of sadness, but of love.

8. East India Youth – Culture of Volume 

I’m always impressed with an artist or musician that can take a genre like modern electronica that’s been beaten down time and time again and create something innovative, and in this case, highly intellectual. Willam Doyle’s second album as East India Youth is without a doubt a definite continuation of his excellent debut Total Strife Forever, but instead focuses more on experimentation, though here its hard not to notice the bouts of color and energy peppered throughout as well. While I missed his dark, brooding persona he took on in his debut, singles “Beaming White” and “Turn Away” reminded me of his meticulous skills in the art of synth, and further solidified his fascination with electronic synth icons Pet Shop Boys. In the end, Culture of Volume is, humorously, chock full of dance music specifically designed for people who don’t like dancing, but instead want to lose themselves to sound.

7. Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone? 

Majical Cloudz, since the release of their excellent debut album Impersonator, have been deemed the masters of minimalism. They’re a triple threat – dark, brooding, mysterious – all seeming to converge in Devon Welsh’s intense stare as he croons with a pained contentment almost too beautiful to comprehend. Are You Alone? was lighter and less confrontational in comparison, but showcased a lot of fresh techniques that definitely worked in their favor, starting with the unexpected Smiths-esque song “Silver Car Crash” going all the way to the soft, yet edgy track “Downtown.” Welsh has grown accustomed to his own personality and has grown into his unique voice, exclaiming in “Heavy” that “you got to learn to love me, cause I am what I am.” There’s a lot of self-healing and acceptance throughout, making the album’s title one that you can answer with a stark and blatant no. Majical Cloudz is there for you, perfect or not.

6. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

Psych-pop trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra embraced their more experimental side with their third album, which is really saying something considering their past repertoire was filled with such lush, unique imagery. Multi-Love and its obvious poly-amorous theme worked incredibly well with the textured, funky, jazz inspired instrumentals that basically took over every track. “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” and its fantastic bass line is the grooviest anti-technology anthem out there, while “Stage or Screen” and “Necessary Evil” show off frontman Ruben Nielson’s gauzy vocals. As if those weren’t enough to name this album UMO’s best full-length release to date, the title track is one of the band’s absolute best singles. It’s catchy and quirky, which seems to be a good summary of the album itself.

5. Title Fight – Hyperview 

Title Fight really changed their aesthetic for their third album Hyperview, switching out their overly aggressive punk sounds for ones more appealing to fans of shoegaze and dream-pop. As a result, the quartet has shown their versatility while also creating something as soothing as it is fervid. Hyperview is one of those rare albums where every single track follows each other brilliantly while also remaining brilliant individually; “Mrahc” is colorful, brooding, and balanced, “Trace Me Onto You” and it’s many layers builds continuously as the it plays on, and “Your Pain is Mine Now” houses one of the best synth-powered guitar solos I’ve ever heard. For those who want to relive the past glory days of Title Fight, “Rose of Sharon” steps up to the challenge, presenting a glorious, rage-filled track with plenty of substance, further solidifying the fact that the brooding quartet still know what they’re doing, and that they’re good at it.

4. Jamie xx – In Colour 

I’ve mentioned before that I was never really a fan of mostly instrumental albums, but Jamie xx’s second album has changed my views on the genre completely. In Colour is lush, luxurious, and edgy all at once, with some absolutely mesmerizing tracks, including “Gosh,” “Sleep Sound,” and “Loud Places,” the stunning track in collaboration with fellow xx band member Romy Madley Croft. With this album, its clear that the London producer knows where to place his instrumentals so that they do not appear frivolous or cheap, and it shines through on every track. The sheer brilliance of “Girl” is unmatched with any other pure electronic artist, and the fact that it appears on the album makes it even more worthy of this list.

3. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear 

In his second album as Father John Misty, former Fleet Foxes member Josh Tillman narrates the relationship of he and his now-wife, Emma, in a humorous, yet tender tone that evokes nothing but pure honesty and often times, cynicism of the world that seems to include everyone but them. Tillman is an brilliant lyricist, showing his intense intellect as well as his strange sense of humor. The instrumentals are gorgeous, and they never fail to swell around his vocals, which are passionately sung, whether he’s criticizing the materialistic nature of today’s society in “Bored in the USA,” or passionately imagining his future with Emma in the beautiful “I Went To The Store One Day.” In the end, you have to be honest. I Love You, Honeybear, though possessing some unique, twisted imagery, is the kind of “romantic” album you wish was written about you.

2. Ought – Sun Coming Down 

Art punk band Ought have become one of my absolute favorite bands since the release of their brilliant debut album More Than Any Other Day, and considering that it was a complete surprise, made me like it even more. It’s definitely lighter and more upbeat than their aggressive past work, but that doesn’t mean it is inferior in any way. Opener “Men For Miles,” single “Beautiful Blue Sky,” and frontman Tim Darcy’s impressive mile-a-minute vocals are suitable for fans of their particular aesthetic, consisting of more of the rapid instrumentals they are now known for. However, they do know how to mix it up a little, and fresh tracks like “Never Better” and “On The Line” feel like stepping into some strange yet engrossing performance art piece. It’s an incredible album, and shows that Ought aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

1. Tame Impala – Currents 

Currents received the highest rating on any album review that kidwithavinyl has done so far, and every time I listen to it, the more I am satisfied with that fact. Kevin Parker is one of the most hardworking musicians currently working today, and the fact that he not only writes his own brilliant lyrics but also records every instrumental track himself makes his reincarnation from a hazy guitar virtuoso to a sleek, elegant master of funk. Parker is aware of his own metamorphosis, and expresses it through tracks like “Yes I’m Changing” and “New Person, Old Mistakes.” The album, like all Tame Impala albums, touches on love and the lack thereof, presenting amazing tracks like the funky “The Less I Know The Better” and the passionate track “Eventually.” Parker knows the quality in not resisting change and going along with the ebb and flow of everyday life, and he especially knows the benefits of letting creativity come to you instead of the other way around. This is where the absolutely track “Let It Happen” and its brilliant bass line as well as the soft croon of Parker’s vocals take center stage. After this third album, its clear that basically everything Parker touches turns to gold, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.

Thank you so much for visiting kidwithavinyl for the second year in a row. Have a great rest of the holiday season, take a well deserved break, and I’ll see you back here next year!

Paria

all album covers belong to their respective owners

Year in Review: The 10 Best Tracks of 2015

This year was perhaps one of the best years for the world of music in a really long time, and because of this, making this list as well as the list for best albums of the year was incredibly difficult. I don’t even know how I narrowed down the hundreds of brilliant tracks that were released this year, but I assure you that these are all worth the hype and definitely worth the listen.

10. Panda Bear – “Boys Latin”

Noah Lennox’s fifth album as Panda Bear was one of the years best experimental electronic releases, and with good reason. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper seems to be more personal and contemplative of mortality in its lyrics, considering the somber “Tropic of Cancer,” making it worlds apart from his other releases. The album is delicate, yet expertly complex in its overall construction, which is where the stunning track “Boys Latin” comes in. It’s everything you want in an amazing Panda Bear song, and the way it morphs and lurches forward while also maintaining a sense of strength and lucidity is absolutely brilliant.

photo by Tonje Thilesen

9. Lust For Youth- “Better Looking Brother”

Swedish electro-grunge group Lust For Youth, since the release of their last album International, have become a complete musical outfit, transforming their signature synth sounds into something heavier and more substantial. The inspiration for the stunning track “Better Looking Brother” pulls from New Order, Pet Shop Boys, and Depeche Mode, all clearly noticeable from the mesmerizing introduction ridden with layers of swirling guitar and pounding drums. Hannes Norrvide’s vocals are wonderfully passionate, and beautifully evocative of something deeper than what’s on the surface.

photo courtesy of the line of best fit

8. YEEVS – “Cycle As The Deal Goes Down”

“Cycle As The Deal Goes Down” by Australian indie punk trio YEEVS was one of those songs that I didn’t expect to become so attached to, but after stumbling upon it as well as their debut EP a few months ago I’ve listened to it countless times. There’s something about the cathartic, mercurial nature of the instrumentals that mixes so incredibly well with the yelping, desperate vocals, and how it manages to span different genres is amazing. There’s nostalgia hidden deep within the confines of the track’s harsh, dissonant sense of angst, but the fact that it fluctuates from slow to insane makes it all seem just a little more relatable.

photo courtesy of artist

7. Viet Cong – “Continental Shelf”

Post-punk group Viet Cong (though, following a recent statement, the group is now in the process of renaming themselves) released an amazing debut this year, which was chock full of the band’s dissonant sound. “Continental Shelf” seems to stand apart from the rest of the album in terms of its composure, and the fact it sounds like a waltz gone wrong. However, the moment when the chorus acts as a saving grace to the verses is incredibly addictive, and creates a unique and overtly confident ambiance that wins me over every time.

photo courtesy of noisey

6. Title Fight – “Chlorine”

Title Fight completely transformed their formerly brash and unapologetic brand of punk to one more emotional and introspective on their recent album Hyperview, and the gorgeous shoegaze inspired tracks have definitely showed their versatility. While soft tracks like “Your Pain is Mine Now” and “Mrahc” were on the top of my playlists, lead single “Chlorine” and its angst filled instrumentals deserve the spot on this list. Despite the ravenous, jaunty sounds and dissonant guitars, the entire track feeds on emotion and energy, making it nostalgic and lush all the same.

photo courtesy of artist

5. Cloud Castle Lake – “Genuflect”

Ever since the release of their debut EP last year, its basically a fact that Irish trio Cloud Castle Lake can do no wrong (“Sync” is still one of my all-time favorite songs). The sprawling, dense, and intellectual track “Genuflect” is just about as art-rock and experimental as you can get, considering frontman Daniel McAuley’s impressive falsetto and the various shifts in influence within the instrumentals. Whether the track goes from modern jazz to tribal inspired beats, its absolutely genius throughout, and hints towards bigger things in the new year.

photo by Dorje De Burgh

4. Foals – “Give It All”

My love affair with Foals still hasn’t simmered down yet, and even though their recent album What Went Down wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, it’s still an incredible display of the human condition and the emotions that come along with it. “Give It All” is perhaps one of the best songs the British alternative band has ever released, all due to Yannis Philippakis’s brute, yet passionate vocals and the way the instrumentals all rush to swell around him. The band works incredibly hard to match each other’s strengths, and conversely, they constantly work on improving their weaknesses, so its no surprise they’re just as brilliant live.

photo courtesy of spin

3. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Multi-Love”

Unknown Mortal Orchestra made a hell of a comeback with their stunning album Multi-Love, as well as the equally genius title track. After a gorgeous, bright piano intro, Ruban Nielson’s vocals almost become self-aware, holding back nothing as the instrumentals burst through and turn wonderfully vivid and hazy all at once. Whether you believe its about a polyamorous relationship or something a little less controversial, its still one of the most thoughtful, albeit complex tracks the band has ever released, holding a permanent spot at the top of my playlist ever since.

photo courtesy of npr

2. Ought – “On The Line”

Ought’s shimmering, upbeat sophomore album Sun Coming Down was an amazing continuation of their jagged, intellectual debut, and still remains a masterpiece at only nine tracks. The best track off the album, along with stunners “Men for Miles” and “Passionate Turn,” include the subtle and fierce track “On The Line,” where Tim Darcy’s vocals become more like a performance art piece or poetry reading that occasionally bursts into song. And if you’re familiar with Ought’s brilliantly idiosyncratic presence, that’s the ultimate compliment.

photo by Hera Chan

1. Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”

Kevin Parker was one of the hardest working musicians of this past year, and from his excellent album Currents, it definitely shows. “Let It Happen” was the first instance in which Tame Impala broke free of the hazy psychedelic rock that engrossed their last two albums and instead embraced change and innovation, presenting more luxuriously melodic and upbeat tracks. The lengthy masterpiece contains vivid swirls of guitar, funky bass lines, and of course, Parker’s signature croon. The chorus is a clear resignation of Parker’s own insecurities and his resistance of change, and every time I listen to this song as well as to the whole of Currents, I am so grateful he did. The mere tone and feeling “Let It Happen” evokes, as well as the overall evolution of Parker as a musician definitely makes it worthy of the best song of the year.

photo by Pooneh Ghana

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Communions – “Forget It’s A Dream”

Danish punk-pop band Communions released their breakthrough track “Out of My World” a few months ago, and then released their debut self-titled EP a few months later, both representative of their revolutionary sound. The evocative track “Forget It’s A Dream” also appears on the EP, and showcases more of their unique take on the genre, addressing everything from teenage romance to the effect it has on one’s personality. An aura of bleakness surrounds the instrumentals, sounding almost reminiscent of fellow dark synth band Lust for Youth, with a twinge of the same self-loathing bands like Iceage or the Smiths pride themselves on. However, the vocals that emerge towards the chorus provide just the right amount of brightness to keep everything balanced.

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photo by Ida Dorthea

Litany – “Work This Out”

I don’t usually go for overtly upbeat, dark dance-pop tracks, but when I heard Litany’s single “Work This Out,” I had to make an exception. The entire track feels like an ode to both the eighties and the nineties simultaneously, considering the bouncy synth and lucid, apparition-like vocals. Due to this new single as well as their single “Woman” released earlier this year, all signs point to a new full-length album from the duo in the near future.

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photo courtesy of artist

Matt Corby – “Sooth Lady Wine”

Well, I’m finally done with finals week. It was excruciating to study while purposely leaving my beloved blog untouched for two full weeks, but I’m glad to say I’m back now. I’ll be taking next week and the week after to post my lists for the top ten songs as well as the top ten albums of 2015. Of course, music never stops, so until then, I’ll still post a few more new tracks. I heard this little psychedelic gem by Aussie musician Matt Corby immediately after turning in my last final, and it definitely gave me a burst of rejuvenation.  Matt Corby is no stranger to the music scene, and has focused on more alternative folk in the past. However, “Sooth Lady Wine” from his upcoming album Telluric has more of a diluted Tame Impala feel to it, with smooth, yet pulsating guitar and wonderfully hazy vocals. It’s a great change in direction, and the album, due for release next March, should be great.

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photo courtesy of artist