Radiohead dropped a song out of nowhere last Tuesday. It was good enough to fill me with hope for the first time in over a decade. Then they did the seemingly impossible: released a second pre-album single, three days later, that was better than the first.
As if fans wouldn’t have gone crazy enough with a simple, “we’ve got a new album” tweet, the band went for a full-blown now you have my attention moment:
Qluster is the current incarnation of one of the longest-running acts on the planet, continually vibrant and productive from 1971 onward. In this possibly final form, the band once known as Cluster has mellowed some of the rough edges and grown subtly complex, losing none of that original alien magic they’ve conjured for 45 years running.
Swapping a C for a Q seems relatively minor, but the twist it signifies has been significant. Since 2011, the band has been incredibly prolific, dropping more than one album per year. The latest, Echtzeit, is the most vibrant yet.
Arcology is a huge leap for the sound artist, real name Ryan McRyhew, after 2014’s hypnotic but oppressively dark Death After Life, which made my best of the year list. Instead of scaling up even larger, he’s taken his process apart and rebuilt it with more nuanced, texturally rich pieces. What once felt like dizzying vertigo is now a sprawling maze.
Have you ever heard of Fishmans? If not, that’s okay, because you’re here. I’m sharing their most incredible album. Uchu Nippon Setagaya is pure dub nirvana from Japan.
As a true believer in dub in all its permutations, I wholeheartedly consider this one of the best examples of the genre. Fishmans lit a constellation spanning the night sky from Kingston and Tokyo, mixing lush electronics, deep, wobbly bass lines, and the utterly distinct, androgynous vocals of lead singer Shinji Sato. Their final album may be the purest expression of this unmistakable sound.
11 years ago, this song became one of my favorite things ever, for an entire summer and a little bit longer. Part of LCD Soundsystem‘s self titled debut, it ended the bonus disc collecting their massive dance singles. Yr City’s A Sucker is absolutely unfuckwithable.
Any one of the lengthy tunes on that disc could be held up as the vanguard of 00’s disco punk, from hipster lament Losing My Edge to ecstatic rave-up Yeah. Every single one is a club stomping classic, packed with more funky swing than entire albums’ worth of dance music. This one, though. Yr City’s A Sucker always stayed ringing in my head longest.
It wasn’t just the fact that it was the final track; it’s the point where the record’s sarcastic hedonism curdles into a nihilistic snarl. But a sense of humor creeps in, the whole endeavor played for laughs. It’s the band laughing at its own shtick while still kicking in high gear.
I hear a lot of great music almost every day, and it really adds up. I might not be rich or famous, but my life is wealthy with incredible music. I want to make everyone else as wealthy, too. Every single year, there are so many great albums that I’d recommend anyone, far more than I’d feel comfortable putting on a top ten list.
So here we are, my “honorable mention” list of 2015 albums. Every one of these albums are worth your time. Unlike my top list, they appear in the order that I heard them.
I haven’t listened to footwork this bracing since the first time I heard DJ Rashad.
That thought ran through my head mere minutes into this incredible set by DJ Paypal, the brief but incredibly energetic Sold Out. If you’re familiar with the Rashad and the wider genre at all, you’ll know how bold of a statement this is.