Albums, Mundo, Music, The Revue, Year-End Lists — December 29, 2015 at 6:00 am

50 Favorite Albums of 2015 – Part 2

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We continue with Part 2 of 3 of our 50 Favorite Albums of 2015 (read the first fifteen over here). Yesterday’s list was notable for the large number of new and emerging artists, many of whom released their debut albums this year. Today’s list of fifteen is the opposite – it consists of some of the best singer-songwriters of the past decade. There are, of course, some new artists who made the cut and in a decade from now might also share the moniker as “one of the great singer-songwriters of her/his generation.”

50 Favorite Albums 2015 - Part 2

 

Destroyer – Poison Season

Destroyer - Poison Season

It took four years, but 2015 saw the long-awaited return of Dan Bejar delivering a new Destroyer album. Poison Season parades the Destroyer aesthetic with a refined air and throwback inspirations galore. The vibe vacillates between sax-heavy glam rock à la David Bowie mixed with Springsteen’s E-Street Band (“Times Square” and “Dream Lover”) and lushly orchestrated Bryan Ferry-esque jazzy chamber pop (“Archer on the Beach” and “Bangkok”) that begs for a nice brandy to sip while you listen. That Bejar’s music resides in the upper echelon of cool indie aloofness is indisputable. On Poison Season he invites you to join him for a midnight stroll through Times Square in the rain, and it’s a classy outing from start to finish. The entire album is beguiling and intoxicating in its refined elegance. ~~Hollie

 

The Dodos – Individ

PRC-284LP-COVERART_HIres

It’s hard to not recognize the power of an awesome duo and The Dodos fits into the category of “awesome duos”. With No Color being one of their best albums to date, we had to collectively listen to Individ and share our thoughts earlier this year, at which time we gave Individ an enthusiastic thumbs up. This album possibly captures their live set as best as it can be captured on an album. Meric Long and Logan Kroeber are perfect at playing off each other’s energy and forming such a cohesive and explosive sound throughout Individ. Standout tracks that we have spun this year are “Precipitation”, “The Tide”, “Competition”, “Retriever” and the epic “Pattern/Shadow.” ~~ Wendy

 

Eskimeaux – O.K.

Eskimeaux - O.K.From the first single on her latest album O.K., “Broken Necks” signaled the arrival of the talented Gabrielle Smith – a.k.a. Eskimeaux. Much like Courtney Barnett’s thunderous debut, Eskimeaux’s songwriting tells stories that are completely relatable. For instance, “Broken Necks” is about friendship, and “Alone At The Party” is, surprisingly, about being alone at a party.  The middle part of “The Thunder Answered Back” may also be the most cathartic part of any album on this list, where Smith repeatedly sings “You Coward, You Hummingbird!!” It’s an awesome moment on this terrific album. And while this record has the feel of bedroom songwriting, it is quite polished and features some really amazing musicianship. ~~ Rich

 

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear

Josh Tillman’s sophomore album under his moniker Father John Misty easily surpassed expectations. I Love you Honey Bear has the same wit, social commentary, and brilliant lyrics as his past album but also is a deeply personal album focusing on Tillman’s on unique bent on falling in love. Standout tracks like “Chateau Lobby #4″ and “Ideal Husband” are brilliant songs that have Tillman both romanticize love and accepting past transgressions and trying to become emotionally ready to embrace the concept. In contrast, “Bored in the USA” is bitter ballad of social commentary that picks apart life in America as Tillman sees it. This album makes you laugh, cry, cringe and then want to to do it all again. ~~ Michael

 

Foals – What Went Down

Foals - What Went Down

Foals returned this year like the unassuming high school kid who matured over the summer: What Went Down is bolder and more poised than 2013’s Holy Fire. Foals’ ever-dynamic frontman Yannis Philippakis practically roars on the explosive first track (“What Went Down”) before dialing it down on “Mountain at My Gates.” Traces of Total Life Forever ripple through “Albatross” and the brightly exuberant “Night Swimmers.” The only paradox is “London Thunder” which could have traded names with the booming first track while this one sets the landing gear in motion for a smooth end on “A Knife in the Ocean.” Foals flex their muscles on this album, a product of balanced fury and finesse. ~~ Hollie

 

Glen Hansard – Didn’t He Ramble

If Glen Hansard’s 2012 solo debut, Rhythm and Repose, was a heart-wrenching breakup album, then this year’s follow-up, Didn’t He Ramble, finds him fully recovered. After 25 years in the industry, he’s older and wiser; a sage wisdom and hopeful resolve permeate every song. Hansard is known for wearing his heart on his sleeve – the vein-bulging, crimson-cheeked plaintive wail is the Irish crooner’s signature – but those yearning ballads are conspicuously absent here. (In fact, the word love is only mentioned in two songs, a stark contrast to his previous work.) Instead, this album’s themes of mercy and optimism buoy the listener’s spirits. The mellow opener “Grace Beneath the Pines” sets a reflective tone while “Lonely Deserter” and “Winning Streak” are downright jubilant. So, too, is the horn-heavy “Her Mercy” which features some of the most rousing brass band accompaniment this side of New Orleans. Anyone who doubts that Hansard is one of today’s preeminent singer-songwriters needs only to listen to this album. It will stand the test of time as one of his – and 2015’s – very best. ~~ Hollie

 

hd hausmann – wring the moisture from the surf

hd hausmann - wring the moisture from the surf

hd hausmann has been one of our favorites since early last year when the mysterious artist randomly (or strategically) released singles on SoundCloud. No one knew who hd hausmann was or what his goal was other than posting epic and ethereal tracks. Finally, hd hausmann revealed himself – or more accurately themselves. It is both the project of an individual, Liam Palmer, and a collective of like-minded individuals. Palmer and three of his mates started off as another band, Grass House, before expanding the group to create hd hausmann, which comprises of eleven musicians based in and around London. The result is an ethereal and cinematic experience with the album release of wring the moisture from the surf. The album is filled with stunning and haunting melodies, hallowing harmonies, and imaginative storylines. Or in short, it is an enchanting escapade of music that is mythical and mystical. Key tracks include “an island without”, “old satellites”, and “i am here and i am cold in the water”. ~~ Wendy

 

Heather Woods Broderick – Glider

Heather Woods Broderick - GliderWe’ve been waiting for Heather Woods Broderick‘s Glider for almost three years, as it made two different “most anticipated albums” lists. It was well worth the wait, and it finds itself on yet another list, this time – our favorite records of the year. Glider is simply gorgeous. “Up In The Pine” is an amazing opener that mesmerizes from the first note. “Wyoming” may be one of the best tracks of the year. It starts out almost unassuming and becomes a monster at the end.  “A Call For Distance” is another stunner, beginning atmospheric before a bass line kicks in and the whole thing just kicks into a phenomenal track.  The record closes with “All For A Love”, another amazing track with some really introspectie lyrics. Broderick’s harmonies and songwriting are nothing short of extraordinary, moving the long-time collaborator and band member of Sharon Van Etten to center stage. The musicianship is amazing as well, where Broderick is accompanied by her brother Peter, and Death Cab’s Dave Depper. ~~ Rich

 

Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

Jason Isbell - Something More Than Free

Jason Isbell had a daunting task releasing a follow-up album to his masterful 2013 Southeastern. With Something More than Free, Isbell blew past expectations, releasing an album chock-full of small-town stories, beautiful tender relationships, and grounded in something raw, even primal. The title track, “Something More Than Free”, and “24 Frames” are vintage southern country stompers that have the makings to be immediate crowd pleasers. Isbell’s true genius is in his storytelling, which often evokes raw emotions. “Children of Children” is story of teenage parents and the breaking of the cycle (both Isbell and his wife had teenage mothers). Isbell has the makings to be one of great singer-songwriters of our generation, and this album only adds to Isbell’s legacy. ~~ Michael

 

John Moreland – High on Tulsa Heat

John Moreland – High on Tulsa Heat

John Moreland is arguably one of the best singer-songwriters of our time, and one of the most underrated. Back in November, we gave full praise to his album, High On Tulsa Heat, so it should be no surprise that Moreland makes our Top 50 list. The LP is about identity and finding the positives in our everyday struggles and strifes. Lyrics like “Well these angels in my eardrums, they can’t tell bad from good. I lived inside these melodies just to make sure I still could” paint a vivid imagery, and Moreland pours his heart out in every word – it gives a feeling of warmth. With Moreland’s brilliant and introspective writing, High On Tulsa Heat is nearly flawless. It’s also what one could consider a “companion record” where you sit back with your favorite beverage and listen with your heart on your sleeve. John Moreland’s music is so good that it is worth an extra effort to be heard. ~~ Zac

 

José González – Vestiges & Claws

jose gonzalezSwedish singer-songwriter José González delivered a glorious gift this year with his third solo album, Vestiges and Claws. Intimate and warm, these songs exude peace and gentility. Nature imagery woven among philosophical lyrics gives this album a Zen-like motif; one full listen releases tension better than a spa retreat. On “Let It Carry You Away”, González wants to “remind our restless souls of the beauty of being here at all” while viewing “mountains covered in snow” on “The Forest.” The standout track “Leaf Off/The Cave” offers meditative guidance over an ambling cadence: “Take a moment to reflect who we are / Let reason guide you / Let the light lead you out.” Vestiges & Claws comes eight years after González’s last solo album. He has rewarded listeners for their patience with ten soul-nurturing songs that prove good things truly do come to those who wait. ~~ Hollie

 

Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness

Julia Holter - Have You In My WildernessJulia Holter is one incredible composer and songwriter. There really isn’t any question about this, as everything she has touched is gold. Have You In My Wilderness is yet another Album of the Year candidate from the Los Angeles-based musician. Have You In My Wilderness seamlessly dances between different genres, beginning with the poppy “Feel You” opening the record. Things get truly breathtaking with “Lucette Stranded on the Island” and even a little uptempo with “Everytime Boots.” Then there’s “Betsy On The Roof,” which is a track that almost takes the listener by surprise as it builds and builds and builds and builds some more before it becomes an uncontrollable force. Holter is able to create a captivating soundscape, and truly creates the perfect atmosphere for her songs, and that makes Have You In My Wilderness one hell of an experience that transcends what an album should be. ~~ Rich

 

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material

Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material

Crossover country has had some fantastic breakouts with Sturgill Simpson and Chris Stapleton channeling the rebellious spirit of outlaw country. Kacey Musgraves, meanwhile, fills another gap, one that beckons back to the days when Dolly Parton was the queen. With her fantastic Pageant Material, Musgraves’ sophomore album is filled with classic country songs. Despite her youthful 27 years of age, her sounds are full of worldly wisdom that even older folks like us could heed to. For instance, “Biscuits” is wise and funny, advising everyone to mind their own business especially in the age of instant internet access to everyone’s affairs. In “Family is Family,” Musgraves delves into the sentiment that family relations can be a messy business, but in the end these are the relationships that endure. It is messages like these that will see Pageant Material also endures the test of time. ~~ Michael

 

Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin’ down

Kurt Vile - b'lieve i'm goin' downKurt Vile is today’s answer to Bruce Springsteen – a singer-songwriter writing about the exploits of the everyday individual. But on b’lieve i’m goin’ down, Vile takes a more introspective look at his life so far, and with it comes a more light-hearted and even humorous approach. It’s a side of Vile rarely seen, reflecting his growth as an artist and the changes that have occurred around him as a husband and father. The trifecta of the brilliant “Dust Bunnies,” the stunning folk-rocker “I’m An Outlaw,” and the sullen but quirky “That’s Life, tho (almost hate to say)” highlight the old and new Vile, and they only validate Vile’s greatness as one of this generation’s great singer-songwriters. ~~ Ben

 

Lady Lamb – After

Lady Lamb - AfterAly Spaltro may be one of the best songwriters of this generation, and her 2015 record, After, is a testament to that. Her music under her moniker Lady Lamb is captivating, it’s strange at times, and it’s relatable to almost everybody. From the rocking opener “Vena Cava” to the closer, “Atlas,” it is nothing short of breathtaking. It’s unbelievable how much emotion and variety Spaltro can pack into 12 tracks. Tracks like “Billions Of Eyes” and “Spat Out Spit” both deal with trying come to terms with existing. The latter is a feel-good track while the former is a horn-laden track that is just HUGE. “Violet Clementine” is a wild ride from the start, with some rocking banjo and horns and even a little rapping. “Sunday Shoes” is a chilling tale about a dream she had about her newborn sister being eaten by wolves, and nothing feels out of place here. After is a life-changing record, and it’s truly one of the best of the year. ~~ Rich

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