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.
Sometimes a song slips right between the ribs and punctures my breath, the very first time. This is one of those songs.
Cat Power (Chan Marshal) recorded this song fourteen years ago for the maybe-masterpiece album Moon Pix. Despite having heard the odd single over the years, this was my proper introduction to her work, this year. I may be a little late to the party but I have the feeling that I wouldn’t have appreciated this as much at the time. There’s a gorgeous sense of resignation and near-snuffed-out hope felt in the tightness of my throat, the way certain lines send a shiver up the sides of my neck.
I could stay here
Become someone different
I could stay here
Become someone better
The moment this hits in the song, her vocals take off in a way that melts through to me. It’s an already intimate song taken to confessional. The knockout delivery perfects a song about things I understand only too well.
Please, give it a try. I subconsciously avoided Cat Power throughout the years perhaps out of unfair lumping in with the flood of early 2000’s indie pop bands, which turned out to be a huge mistake. The album, by the way, is eleven straight great songs, if not all being equal to this heart destroyer.
Buy it directly from Matador or at a local shop like I did.
Yo La Tengo are one of the most consistently brilliant and longest-running bands in existence today, rivaled only perhaps by Sonic Youth in the longevity-with-strong-artistic-integrity department. They’ve crafted everything from ferocious punk blasts to elegiac orchestral epics, infusing every sound with their signature heartfelt energy.