As you can tell by looking at this site, I had another subpar year when it came to blogging about music. I had a handful of posts in the first half of the year then dropped off the grid at nearly the exact same time as 2014.
Alas, music just isn’t as big a part of my life as it once was. But that’s not gonna stop me from sharing my thoughts on the year that was in music.
During my heyday, I would generally download albums, listen on my iPod, and rank the songs on iTunes’ five-star basis. Nowadays, I use Google Play almost exclusively to listen to music, so the most I can give to songs is a thumbs up or down. Also, the bulk of my listening is via playlists that are curated by a third party rather than full albums.
I found myself playing catch-up the past couple of weeks, trying to expose myself to as many of the “best” albums I could. But there’s still plenty that I either couldn’t get to or that simply fell through the cracks. Nevertheless, here is Infinite Shuffle’s take on music circa 2015.
STUFF I LIKED A LOT
- CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye … None of these lists is in any particular order. However, if I was going to rank albums, this Scottish group would probably be at the top. … Thumbs up: “Never Ending Circles”, “Leave a Trace”, “Empty Threat”, “Make Them Gold” and “Keep You On My Side”
- Beach House – Depression Cherry … This group can do no wrong. … Thumbs up: “Sparks” and “Bluebird”
- Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit … I was worried this Aussie wouldn’t be able to continue her strong start from several EPs on this debut full-length, but my fears were quickly abated. … Thumbs up: “Pedestrian At Best”, “Depreston” and “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party”
- Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home … This is a group that I wanted to write about all year but never found the motivation. Hearing it first via NPR’s SXSW primer then throughout the year on the Music Choice Indie channel, this all-female shoegazing quartet stuck with me throughout the year. … Thumbs up: “Joke” and “Time to Go Home”
- Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color … I wasn’t exactly enamored with their debut album, so I was leery about this one. But they won me over with a more experimental sound. … Thumbs up: “Don’t Wanna Fight”, “Shoegaze” and “Sound and Color”
- Modest Mouse – Strangers To Ourselves … This one was probably my biggest surprise of the year. I’ve never been a big fan of this group and have only liked a handful of its songs. But they knocked it out of the park on their first studio album in eight years. … Thumbs up: “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box” and “Lampshades on Fire”
- Title Fight – Hyperview … This was one of my favorite discoveries this year. And it’s probably a good thing I didn’t find out about them sooner, since it wasn’t until this disc when things finally clicked. … Thumbs up: “Liar’s Love”, “Your Pain Is Mine Now”, “Mrahc” and “Rose of Sharon”
- Turnover – Peripheral Vision … Another great find that shares several traits with Title Fight. … Thumbs up: “Humming”, “Cutting My Fingers Off”, “New Scream”, “Diazepam” and “Take My Head”
- The Decemberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World … I doubt this group will ever make an album that doesn’t make my best-of-the-year list. … Thumbs up: “Make You Better”, “The Singer Addresses His Audience”, “Philomena” and “A Beginning Song”
- Hop Along – Painted Shut … This was another group I’ve been wanting to blog about all year. In fact, I started a post in July, but never finished it. This is probably one of the most underrated albums of the year. … Thumbs up: “Waitress”
- Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material … This felt a little too much like a continuation of her debut album. But, considering how great the precursor was, she can be forgiven for going back to the well. … Thumbs up: “Biscuits”, “Dime Store Cowgirl”, “Pageant Material”, “Family Is Family” and “Cup of Tea”
- Kurt Vile – believe i’m going down … Just more of what you’d expect from one of the best solo artists in indie-rock today. … Thumbs up: “Pretty Pimpin”
- Best Coast – California Nights … When this group first hit the indie scene five or six years ago — depending upon how hip you were back then — it garnered a great deal of much-deserved hype. Three albums later, and these Cali kids are consistently putting out a top-notch mixture of surf-pop and shoegaze. … Thumbs up: “Feeling OK”
- Chris Stapleton – Traveller … Each year, there’s usually one country album that piques my interest. I hadn’t even heard of this troubadour until I was forced to watch the CMA Awards and he was up for just about every big honor. This is the kind of anti-bro country music that could actually get me interested in the genre. … Thumbs up: “Traveller”, “Tennessee Whiskey”, “Parachute” and “Fire Away”
- DMA’s – self-titled EP … These lads from Down Under sound like the second coming of Oasis, Blur and all the best Brit Pop had to offer — just 10-times better. … Thumbs up: “Laced”, “Feels Like 37” and “So We Know”
- Foals – What Went Down … There weren’t necessarily any standout tracks, just a few notable ones. But the album as a whole was a solid listen throughout. So much so, that it’s one you can listen to at any time and enjoy. … Thumbs up: “Mountain at My Gates”, “Night Swimmers”, “Lonely Hunter” and “A Knife in the Ocean”.
- Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool … “Bros” and “Moaning Lisa Smile” are probably two of the best songs of the year. “Your Loves Whore” is also solid.
- Josh Ritter – Sermon on the Rocks … I’d never paid any attention to Josh Ritter until I heard “Gettin’ Ready To Get Down” a few months ago, and it might be my favorite song of the year. This album is a fun listen — not necessarily elite, just fun. Other notable tracks include “Young Moses” and “Homecoming”.
STUFF THAT WAS DECENT BUT NOT AMAZING
- Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi … Long considered my favorite band, these guys have definitely fallen off from their prime. That being said, they’re still putting out solid music, just not elite-level stuff. … Thumbs up: “Black Sun” was the first single, but I think “Little Wanderer” and “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” are even better.
- Florence and the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful … This album was definitely a good listen — and “Ship To Wreck” should be considered among the top songs of the year — but it isn’t one of the year’s best. … Thumbs up: “Third Eye” and “Make Up Your Mind”
- Deerhunter – Fading Frontier … I think it may finally be time for me to give Bradford Cox’s crew the respect it deserves. I’ve been avoiding this group for years, since being forced to watch it at Bonnaroo and having Halcyon Digest shoved down my throat in 2010. My contempt began to dissolve a bit in 2013 with the release of Monomania, but I wasn’t convinced until now. There aren’t any real standouts here — although “Breaker” is probably my favorite — just a lot of solid tunes.
- Grimes – Art Angels … I have a feeling I’ll never love an entire Grimes album. But, man, she knows how to churn out some catchy singles. … Thumbs up: “Flesh Without Blood” and “Realiti”
- Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love … I wish I could get into this band, but I’ve just never been able to. I respect it greatly — particularly Carrie Brownstein — but, other than the occasional single, I just can’t buy in. That being said, this album was certainly tolerable, and I did enjoy “Bury Our Friends” and “A New Wave”.
- Destroyer – Poison Season … It sounds like pretty much any other Destroyer album, which is an acquired taste. … Thumbs up: “Dream Lover”
- The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily … As you would expect, it’s very reminiscent of The Black Keys, but there seems to be a more laid-back vibe than in Dan Auerbach’s main gig. … Thumbs up: “Put a Flower in Your Pocket”
- Gwenno – Y Dyfdd Olaf … I definitely had heard nothing of this artist until a week ago. Turns out she puts out some decent music.
- Miguel – Wildheart … If I was much of an R&B fan, I’m sure I’d love this. I can tell that he has a lot of talent, and, one day, he may create an album that I fall in love with. But I’d certainly rather listen to this than stuff in the next category.
STUFF CRITICS LOVED BUT I DIDN’T MUCH CARE FOR
- Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly … This was pretty much a given; so much so that I wasn’t even going to give it a spin. But, considering how universally lauded it was, I figured I should at least show it some respect. That said, it’s just not my cup of tea.
- The Weekend – Beauty Behind the Madness … As much hype as this artist and album received throughout the year, it didn’t show up on nearly as many “best of” lists as I would’ve expected. Perhaps that’s because of the reprehensible lyrics found throughout. This disc had so many things going for it, but the lyrics overshadowed everything else. And it’s the reason why something comparable such as Miguel’s album is earning more accolades this time of year. … Thumbs up: “Can’t Feel My Face” and “In the Night”
- Tame Impala – Currents … I wrote off this band from the moment it came on the scene several years ago. But I occasionally second-guess myself after liking a random song. Then I listen to the album, and it turns out there are only a few songs worth my time. … Thumbs up: “Cause I’m a Man,” “Eventually” and “Let It Happen”
- Carly Rae Jepsen – E-MO-TION … Everyone was so happy to see this Canuck finally break free from her “Call Me Maybe” curse. That’s all well and good, but she still produces music that is way too mainstream and derivative. She sounds like a poor man’s version of Taylor Swift, and I only have room for one pop queen on my playlist.
- Jamie xx – In Colour … I’m a big fan of The xx, but their fans need to be warned that Jamie Smith’s solo project is almost nothing like his main work. Other than “Loud Places”, this album is unlistenable.
- Girl Band – Holding Hands with Jamie … I nearly bought this album a few months ago, while in a local record store, based solely on its location in an “employees’ picks” section. Thankfully, I had a chance to sample it beforehand, because there isn’t a single bit of redeemable music on this disc.
- Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon … The kid sounds like a hybrid of all the various Beatles’ solo work. He’s got potential, but I’ll pass for now.
- Halsey – Badlands … “New Americana” channels the wordplay and apathetic rapping of Lorde’s “Royals”. Other than that, meh.
- Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy
- Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect
STUFF I’M SURE I’D LIKE IF I ACTUALLY LISTENED TO IT
- Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
- Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
- Torres – Sprinter
- Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
- Wilco – Star Wars
- Sun Kil Moon – Universal Themes
- EL VY – Return to the Moon
- Dawes – All Your Favorite Bands
- Mac DeMarco – Another One
- Desparecidos – Payola
- The Lone Bellow – Then Came the Morning
- The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ
- Adele – 25
- Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars
STUFF I STILL NEED TO LISTEN TO THAT OTHERS HAVE LIKED
- Natalie Prass – self-titled
- The Districts – A Flourish and a Spoil
- Twerps – Range Anxiety
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
- Marina and the Diamonds – Froot
- Ezra Furman – Perpetual Motion People
- Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness
- Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style
- Jenny Hval – Apocalypse, girl
- Alex G – Beach Music
- Grill – Before the World Was Big
- Joan Shelley – Over and Even
- Bully – Feels Like
- Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again
- Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
- Hound mouth – Little Neon Limelight
- Seaford Mods – Key Markets