David Goldfarb: Top Albums of 2015

Philadelphia, PA

2015 was a weird year. Lot of promise, with a lot of great bands dropping albums, but none, I don’t think, I’ll be thinking about in ten years as a touchstone album (I’m almost definitely wrong about this). But so many very good to excellent albums. But smart to keep in mind that, like my poor Mets, a deep bench and bullpen can sink you. I struggled more than any year prior to fill spots 8-10, and you could drop at least a half dozen albums from the HM in their place. Special shotouts to A$AP Rocky, Deerhunter, Beach House, and Car Seat Headrest, who all spent significant time in the draft top 10. [Side note: two albums from Beach House? Honestly, I’m still not sure I even needed one more album of your sound…] A week from now, and I’m sure they’d be in.

top ten albums

10Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly

I am probably more frustrated by this album than any other on the list. For 2015’s rap albums, I liked A$AP’s more, but it’s hard to argue with To Pimp a Butterfly‘s brilliance… at times. And as much as I’m for ambitious rap concept albums, a lenthy interspersed poem directed at 2-Pac and then 10 minutes of a fake interview with him… Is this the time where I admit that I’m just too suburban whitebread eastern seaboard to care about 2-Pac? [Cue the sound of me losing all my music snob cred.] But mostly I was dissapointed by the return to ’90s jazrap. Please, let this album stand alone as masterful throwback and close that retro door. Oh yeah: much of this album was excellent.

Standout Track(s): King Kunta

09Sleater-Kinney: No Cities to Love

Reunion albums *always* suck and *never* rawk. This album didn’t suck, and sure did it rawk. Gauntlet thrown: this is my favorite Sleater-Kinney album. Time to quit your Portlandia day job, Carrie.

Standout Track(s): Surface Envy

08Floating Points: Elaenia

I honestly have no idea how this album ended up here. The fusion of electronica and jazz has never seemed like a good idea to me. But amidst all the etheral tracks, there it is: a true electronic jazz murderer of a track. “Silhouttes (I,II,III)” redeems an entire genre whose raison d’etre was to soundtrack terrible 2000’s Asian fusion lounge restaurants. That’s a mammoth lift. Postrock, house, ambient, fused jazz… all sorts of things I didn’t think I cared about until this (except #1, that is).

Standout Track(s): Silhouttes (I,II,III)

07Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think and Somtimes I Just Sit

Take two or three tracks away and this album would be a classic. “Depreston” isn’t quite “Avant Gardener” (though, hell, few songs are), but it’s probably the best song ever recorded with a bad portmanteau for a title.

Standout Track(s): Depreston

06Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell

I probably listened to this album half a dozen or so times when it first came out. Liked it. Seemed like a pleasant enough sadsack journey through family, love, and forgiveness, so I placed it bak on the shelf. Then one cold rainy December day, I gave it one last effort. Oh hey there, beauty and sadness and joy. Oh hello there, finally really listening to the lyrics of “Should Have Known Better.” Oh nice to meet you, eyes filling with a weird saline liquid thinking about the daughter 2016 will bring into my life. Damn you, Subaru.

Standout Track(s): Should Have Known Better

05Kurt Vile: b’lieve i’m goin down

The thing with expecations being sky high is that sometimes you think you don’t even really like an album very much until you go through each of the tracks one by one and realize you love almost all of them. Damn you, Kurt Vile. Also, so uncool that you wouldn’t let me buy you a beer that one time at Boot & Saddle becacuse you “needed to get home to your daughter.” Cue retroactive saline. Damn you, Kurt Vile.

Standout Track(s): Pretty Pimpin’

04Viet Cong: Viet Cong

The album I’ve been pushing on people all year. Joy Division-era post-punk that drives and drives and drives. Antiseptic drumming that somehows swings. Forceful ambling guitar and bass lines that somehow stays in stasis. This is the sound of a band marching to inanimate bleakness.

Standout Track(s): Continental Shelf

03Tame Impala: Currents

I don’t have anything clever to say about this album except that Kevin Parker is a goddamn genius even though he appeared on that Mark Ronson album.

Standout Track(s): Yes, I’m Changing

02Father John Misty: I Love You, Honeybear

Coin flip that this wasn’t #1. Frequently skirting the Jarvis Cocker line between clever and pointlessly ironic but staying with the pulp on the right side of the line. But then you have quiet barnstormers like “An Ideal Husband” that rip through everything. And the best damn love song of the year. Never have I so wanted to leave the city:

Let’s buy a plantation house and let the yard grow wild until we don’t need the signs that say, “Keep out”
I’ve got some money left and it’s cheaper in the South

Standout Track(s): I Went to the Store One Day

01Jamie xx: In Colour

I remember the day I first heard “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times).” I remember because I was so in disbelief; not even the early-2000s heyday of mashups could have imagined the combo of the whisper touch of the guy from The xx + dancehall + whatever the fuck rap world Young Thug is from. If you had “put that pussy in a stroller” appearing on a Jamie xx song in the office pool, come collect your 1:1,000,000 odds. No song should work as well as this song does. I also remember that day because I made everyone I came across that day listen to that song multiple times. And I also remember that day because I was constantly pissed that every car driving by with its windows down wasn’t blasting it.

So yeah, I kind of liked “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” a little bit. And it should be impossible to enjoy an album when a song you like this much is placed at the back. I kept expecting to be slogging through it to get to that cream. Especially when half of that album is pure British house. But I didn’t. Not once. I couldn’t love a song more than I love “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times).” An album that can trade blows with that love? That’s the album of the year in my book.

Standout Track(s): Hahahahaha. Ya’ll know.

honorable mentions

A$AP Rocky, At.Long.La$t.A$AP
Beach House, Depression Cherry
Björk, Vulnicura
Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Style
Deerhunter, Fading Frontier
Julia Holter, Have You in My Wilderness
Lower Dens, Escape From Evil
Natalie Prass, Natalie Prass
Panda Bear, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp

similarity to overall top ten: 64.5%, 8 matches

top songs

10Jamie xx, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

09Jamie xx, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

08Jamie xx, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

07Jamie xx, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

06Jamie xx, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

05Jamie xx, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

04Jamie xx, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

03Jamie xx, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

02Jamie xx, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

01Jamie xx, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

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