My favourite albums of 201528 Dec 2015
I always used to write about music, but I stopped (reasons: complicated). I’m going to write a bit here about what I liked this year, though. I’m not pretending to be comprehensive. Or even that knowledgeable. But I know what I’ve enjoyed.
Grimes - Art Angels
Grimes has taken her quirky brand of experimental pop and made it mainstream. I literally cannot stop listening to it. It’s catchy, it’s quirky, it’s danceable - pop at its very best. The kind of album I find myself dancing to, late at night, drunk. There are so many great songs on here, it’s hard to know where to start. Butterfly and Realiti are my picks, but I could listen to any song. It’s great. So great.
Joanna Gruesome - Peanut Butter
I once very drunkenly talked with one of Joanna Gruesome at Field Day a few years ago. I was probably a douche (I am a douche ordinarily, so alcohol probably didn’t help). I also hadn’t listened to them at all by that point, which is a shame for me, because they’re fantastic. Weird Sister was a wonderful album, and this is just as good.
I still can’t remember who it was I bonded with that day, to my eternal shame.
Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit.
I went to Australia this year for the wedding of two of my favourite people. This is an album that got mentioned a lot by the two of them. I was assured that Courtney was a big thing there - and now, I see why. Exactly the kind of lyrical texture and down to earth themes that I like from Allo Darlin’, except with a bitter, deadpan twist. There’s incredible wit in those lyrics.
(as a side note, almost nobody there has heard of The Lucksmiths, so get your listening habits in order, Australia.)
New Order - Music Complete
I grew up with New Order, so you’d think I was biased, and you’re right. I thought this was going to be awful. Peter Hook (their star bassist) has left, their last couple of efforts have been very variable, so it was a massive surprise to me how good this album turned out. Gillian Gilbert - who has been absent since their reform in 2001 - is a silent credit here, and they’re far better at doing electronic pop music than the guitary indie that Hook was driving the band towards. Tutti Frutti sounds cheesy at first, but has an amazingly catchy chorus, and Restless is every bit as endearing as Regret, at least to my ears.
Haiku Salut - Etch and Etch Deep
If there was ever such a thing as twee post rock, this would be it. If anything though, that label is selling them short. This is a wonderful, touching album. My only regret is that I didn’t get into them sooner and saw more of their live stuff.
Kurt Vile - B’lieve I’m Goin Down
This is a good album. Okay, so it’s not as good as Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze. Few things are. It’s still a good album, if a little inconsistent. I don’t think the dreamy hazy stuff works as well, but Pretty Pimpin’ is one of the best pop songs I’ve heard from Kurt.
Cheatahs - Mythologies
Who? What? I like Cheatahs a lot, they’re not especially well known though. Shoegaze-y instrumental bollocks. Consistently great. If I was better at writing about music, I’d be able to write more, but y’know, deal with it.
Belle & Sebastian - Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
Poor old Belle & Sebastian, forever living in the shadow of the fact they’ve written some of the best pop albums of all time. They still crank out great stuff though (if again, they’re inconsistent). Nobody’s Empire deserves to be recognised as one of their all time greats - tender, well paced, catchy, yet defiantly lacking a chorus.
The Mountain Goats - Beat the Champ
I feel like I’m compensating for not knowing enough about The Mountain Goats. They’re a fun band but I never put the effort in. Beat The Champ has a belter right near the start: The Legend of Chavo Guerrero, a tale about his favourite Mexican wrestler when growing up. I feel like the album never quite lives up to the high this sets, but it’s still a great listen.
Jeffery Lewis & Los Bolts - Manhattan
For too long, an artist I refused to get. I even saw half his set (with the Junkyard) at Indietracks and just didn’t understand it. Something I find frustrating, as I try to abide by the philosophy that if I don’t ‘get’ something subjective, it’s my fault. Still, this album is pretty great. Funny and incisive at times (Support Tours is basically a far more detailed and bitter Silver Dollars), totally absurd at others (why is The Pigeon so stereotypically Jewish?).