Friday, March 4, 2016

Top 10 Albums of 2015

This list has been ready for at least a week and a half, but this is the first chance I've had to post it.

Here are the rules for what is eligible: It has to be a full-length album of at least 7 songs (unless you've got one or more epic-length songs). No EPs. It also has to be all by one artist -- no compilations. And although I know one of these days I'll have to change this, I'm still old school, so I have to have a physical copy of the album on CD. I won't count it if I can only get a digital version.

In 2015, I listened to 70+ albums to put together this list. I tried to include a variety of genres, but my tastes are what they are -- I like classical, but no classical albums were included. I don't much like pure hip-hop or jazz, so none of those albums were included. I didn't include any straight country, although some of the artists produced country-tinged rock. And of course, it's all based on my taste. It's all about what I liked, and what I thought was good.

So from 10th through first, here's my list:

Top 10 Albums of 2015:

10. Coldplay -- A Head Full of Dreams

This was the last album I reviewed for the year, but it made my Top 10. Actually, after being disappointed by Mylo Xyloto in 2011, I've liked their last two albums a lot. For me, these guys carry on the banner of Pink Floyd (although they're obviously much less psychedelic), so it's no wonder they're one the most successful bands in the world today. For me, the standout cut is the slow ballad "Everglow" which features some lovely piano that reminds me of Bruce Hornsby.

9. Meg Myers -- Sorry

This is the first full-length album for this West Coast artist who was born in Tennessee. The genre is rock-pop with some bite to it. Her first single, "Desire", is also my favorite song on the album.  There's a kind of an animal longing to it, and also a fair amount of pissed-offishness, as she almost spits out "How do you want me/How do you want me?" I'd never heard of her before, and I don't even remember what made me try out the album, but I'm really glad I did.

8. Zedd -- True Colors

One of the top electro artists out today, I first became aware of him when he collaborated with Paramore's Hayley Williams on "Stay the Night". That song isn't on this album, but a whole bunch of other collaborations are, most of whom I either hadn't heard of or never thought I'd like (Selena Gomez sings one of the songs on this album, and it's actually pretty good). Some of the critics thought it wasn't as good as his first album, Clarity, but screw 'em. My favorite song is the first one on the album, "Addicted to a Memory", which features a strong vocal from an all-female Manhattan Beach band called Bahari. The song also has all kind of weird, swirling electronic things going on that I really liked.

7. The Mowglis -- Kids in Love

The Mowglis are a Southern California alt-pop band that just reek of wholesomeness and fun. Normally this makes me run for the hills, but it works for them. The music is a lot more modern and full, but for some reason something about them makes me think of The Cowsills. The band has both male and female vocalists, and there's a very upbeat vibe throughout the CD. The title track is my favorite, and it's about exactly what you'd think -- "Kids in Love." It has an infectious upbeat groove to it.

6. Passion Pit -- Kindred

Passion Pit is described by Wikipedia as an "indietronica band", although to my ears they're more "indie" than "tronica", and they're not so much a band as they are the musical project of one man, the falsetto-voiced Michael Angelakos. I've liked all three of Passion Pit's albums to date, and while there's nothing on this one quite as weird and out there (in a good way) as the song "Sleepyhead" from the first album Manners (which sounded like it was sung by Oz's Munchkins on acid), this new album is full of good stuff. "Where the Sky Hangs" is the one I like best. It's a dreamy little number that has a video featuring a strangely beautiful but disturbing-looking boy and girl lying side by side in the grass, holding hands and blinking a lot. Go figure.

5. Elle King -- Love Stuff

Elle King is one of a ridiculous number of talented artists living in Brooklyn these days. Her music mixes rock, country and maybe a little blues. Love Stuff is her debut album, and it's a strong one. A lot of the songs on this CD feature her playing the bad girl -- drinking, breaking guys' hearts, tempting Satan, etc. "Ex's and Oh's" is the one everyone knows, if not from the rock charts or the alternative charts, then surely from one of several television commercials that make use of the song. My personal favorite is "America's Sweetheart", where she gets to do the bad girl thing to the hilt -- "Well they say I'm too loud for this town/So I lit a match and burned it down."

4. Matt and Kim -- New Glow

Yet another great band (duo, actually) that lives in Brooklyn, these guys make music that's just kind of goofy and fun. When I first heard them, it seemed to me as if Beavis and Butthead had formed their own band. Then I found out that Kim was a girl, and I felt kind of bad about thinking that. Anyway, what is it with me and happy, fun bands these days? Usually I gravitate towards much darker stuff. (Well, wait until we reach my Top 20 Singles of 2015 list). As a New Yorker, I particularly love "Can You Blame Me" which has some great lyrics like "Climbing the Manhattan Bridge/Give the finger to our city with a kiss". These guys get it.

3. Three Days Grace -- Human

Three Days Grace is a Toronto-based band that I was originally turned on to by my son.  Even though they're more heavy rock than punk, especially on this album, something about them reminds me of Bad Religion. The band has a new lead vocalist for this album, Barry Wolst, and although it didn't chart as well as some of their previous stuff, I think he's better than their previous singer. He's got a powerful but pleasing voice. The standout song for me is "I Am Machine" which sort of feels to me like it's being sung by the character of Murphy from Robocop.

2. Priory -- Need to Know

I'm kind of cheating with this album, because I'm pretty sure the digital download was available late in 2014. But I couldn't get an actual CD until sometime in 2015, so it counts. (Maybe it was only the single that was available digitally?) I saw them about a year and a half ago opening for The Kooks at the Paramount in Huntington, and I was on the hunt for the album ever since. I actually thought these guys were from somewhere in the UK, maybe Scotland or Wales, but it turns out they're from Portland, OR. Wikipedia describes them as electropop. OK. I'd just go with alternative. Anyway, it's a strong album, front to back, and the single "Weekend" is particularly tasty.

1. Tang -- Blood & Sand

Holy Guacamole! A local Long Island band takes the #1 slot for 2015! They describe themselves as a "dual female fronted alternative metal power trio". They've done some good stuff in the past, but this by far the best complete album they've ever put together. They're a way heavier band than I usually go for, but this was my number one album this year from the moment I first heard it, and nothing was able to dethrone it for the rest of the year. The whole album is first-rate, but the apocalyptic "The 11th Hour" is the standout. (So for all the happy, upbeat albums in the first part of the list, the darkness wins out after all. Yay darkness!)

So that wraps up my Top 10 Albums of 2015. I hope maybe some of you get turned on to someone great you never heard before. All I can tell you is the list was lovingly, yet painstakingly, put together.

Next Post: The Top 10 Local Albums of 2015.