2015 was an incredible year for music, full of surprises and second comings, weird new genres and unbelievable evolutions of existing sounds. Of course, every year is great for music as long as you’re open to new sounds. That’s how this whole thing works.
Every year, I enjoy writing down my favorites as I go along, adding them to a simple text file on my laptop. Sometimes I add stars to the albums when I realize I’m completely mad for them. For some albums, this means I find myself listening day after day, racking up dozens of plays. For others, this means that I’m struck so deeply on an emotional, intellectual, or even physical level that I can’t bring myself to listen again for a few days. Both experiences bring lasting rewards, especially when considered in the long view. This is why I love looking back and appreciating the permanent impact from these powerful pieces of music.
As it turned out, this year’s list included over twenty starred albums. I left a handful for my Best of 2015 Honorable Mention list, but the rest were simply indispensable. My list would not be complete without all of these albums.
So please, read on and enjoy. These are the 17 best albums of 2015.
“Where the fuck did Monday go?”
David Bowie is actually dead. It feels strange to say this. More than any other artist on the planet, Bowie always seemed to move beyond mere mortals. To the world, he was larger than life. His work was timeless, always a step ahead and off to the side from everyone else. Even his most popular songs felt beamed in from another place, with a unique sensibility that could come from no one else. He is universally beloved by entire generations, despite remaining as weird as a man can be.
Infinitely more important to me, however, is the space he occupied in my life. David Bowie is the one and only artist to have been there all along. I mean this in the most literal sense.
He starred in one of the first films I can remember watching, Jim Henson’s dark fantasia Labyrinth. Despite playing the villain, he was a magnetic attraction. Enigmatic, beautiful, always a touch removed from the teenage heroine and the viewer alike, he was the spectral vehicle and its destination in one. As the Goblin King, he invited my young mind on a journey with the promise of adventure, tinged with a little fear and weighted by potential loss. There were high stakes for reaching out to take his hand, but the rewards unfolded past the horizon. I was smitten before I knew it.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s, past the peak of his commercial popularity, I swam in the echoes of David Bowie’s legacy. He was so far ahead of the game that I never quite caught up. My earliest radio memories were filled with older icons like Roy Orbison, The Beach Boys, and of course, Bowie. I would bicycle around my forested neighborhood singing Pretty Woman, I get Around, and The Man Who Sold The World. I had no grasp on time, never differentiating between oldies and current hits. The music simply was what it was, the soundtrack to my childhood, the intangible spirit in the air.
I feel awful that I neglected to write about this before leaving, but I’m currently out of the US and staying in a place where internet connections are scarce. With the ubiquity of high speed wireless in my city, it’s both surprising and refreshing to lack updates on my phone, along with the ability to google anything I come across. I feel free and untethered, a bit lost, and very alive.
This is a lighthouse I really liked climbing.
I just got my ears on the new David Bowie album, which is incredible sounding so far. I’ve got to thank spotify’s offline mode for this warm pleasure. If you haven’t tried it yet, I can’t recommend enough that you do so.
In non-music news, I’ve been reading an excellent biography on David Lynch, titled The Man From Another Place. It’s inspiring a new wave of energy and enthusiasm for artistic growth in me, and it feels like it arrived at just the perfect moment. I’m letting go of habits and tics, and I’m more willing than I have been in years to embrace the dark weird corners of my interior. Stepping into my own oblivion is a strangely uplifting experience.
I’ll do something new with this site in the coming months.
In the meantime, I’ve also been crafting my Best Of 2015 list and will get it published as soon as I return. I’m so excited to share some of the gems that have enriched my life, especially the ones I haven’t seen on other lists. I know the year has passed, but at least one of my favorites didn’t appear until a couple weeks ago. It’ll be worth the wait.
My time is limited, so I’ll stop here. I’ll be writing a lot more very soon. Until then, I send my warmest greetings from Mexico!