It’s been a month since I put up any new music, and I’ve discovered several albums that are worth adding to the list. Let’s start with Nick Cave’s cover of “Cosmic Dancer” by T. Rex from the upcoming all-star tribute album titled, AngelHeaded Hipster set to be released on September 4, 2020. It will be a double album with 26 tracks featuring U2, Elton John, Joan Jett, Perry Farrell, Sean Lennon, Lucinda Williams, and more!…
I don’t know why it took me so long to put together this list of The Best Albums of 2015. Just too busy I guess. But now that football season is over, I’ve not much else to do this Valentine’s Day Sunday. Right now I’m just sittin’ around listening to vinyl, drinking Batch 15 IPA and eating some chocolate. Just the right combination to get me motivated enough to list the best albums of 2015 and embed some cool videos.
Coming in at Number One on the chart is Courtney Barnett‘s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. This album also topped KEXP’s 2015 listener poll, and here’s the song they played to end the countdown.
Wilco surprised everyone by dropping Star Wars for free! Not that I would download a crappy mp3 or anything like that. I waited for the hard copy and also saw them live at Marymoor Park on a warm summer evening last August. Here they are live on Stephen Colbert’s show performing “Random Name Generator”.
Julia Holter topped MOJO Magazine’s list, so I went out and bought Have You In My Wilderness to hear what all the fuss was about. I really liked it. It’s a real album, so you have to sit and listen to start to finish a few times to appreciate it.
Melody Gardot is not on a lot of people’s radar, probably because her albums are found in the Jazz section of your local record store. Her latest album, Currency of Man, is jazz leaning towards blues and rock, and it has a sharp political edge to it. Perfect for the troubled times we live in. Here is the real standout track “Preacherman”. It’s a pretty intense video with a long introduction, so be patient. The song starts at about 2:50.
I’ve been a big fan of Johnny Dowd ever since I heard his 1999 album, Pictures from Life’s Other Side, and saw him live at The Tractor Tavern. His new album is titled That’s Your Wife on the Back of My Horse, and here’s a quirky video for “White Dolemite”.
Nadine Shah has one of the most powerful singing voices. I love what she does with it on Fast Food. Too bad she isn’t appreciated much on this side of the Atlantic, because she should be. Then maybe she would tour here and I could see her live.
I heard about Israel Nash from friends who are really into his music. I bought 2014’s Rain Plans some time in 2015 and loved it. I missed his sold out show at The Sunset Tavern, but I did see his ridiculously short 30-minute set at Bumbershoot, and then saw what was one of the best shows of the year at The Crocodile in December in support of his latest album Silver Season. Here’s “Have You Seen L.A. Lately”.
And here’s ten more favorites from 2015 listed without video support.
Low – Ones and Sixes
Laura Marling – Short Movie
Royal Headache – High (a shoutout to Troy Nelson at KEXP for turning me on to this band this summer)
Paul Weller – Saturns Patterns
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
Calexico – Edge of the Sun
Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color
Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (an album that is almost too personal)
Rhiannon Giddens – Tomorrow Is My Turn
The Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated At Last
2013 was an awesome year for music. There were many great albums put out by some of my favorite artists, and there were several outstanding albums put out by artists I’d never paid much attention to in previous years, and a few by brand new artists. That said, let’s get to the number one album of the year:
1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away. This is the album I listened to the most during the year. It is a quiet follow-up to the cacophonous noise of Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! released five years earlier. The album sounds as spacious as the brightly lit room on the cover, but sounds much darker and as beautiful as the model on the cover – his wife, Susie Bick (in the nude!). Key tracks are “Jubilee Street” and “Higgs Boson Blues“. Here’s video about the making of the album.
2. Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone. I first heard Valerie June on Greg Vandy’s show, The Roadhouse, on KEXP. I was captivated by her arresting voice and the expert blending of folk, country, blues, and country music. Her album was released in Europe early in the year, and you could watch videos and listen to it on the web, but it wasn’t released in the US until August. The album was coproduced by Kevin Augunas and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who no doubt drew some extra attention from the press, and received great reviews in many major music publications. I bought it the day it came out and have been listening to it ever since. Key tracks are the title track and “Workin’ Woman Blues”. Here’s a video about Valerie and her debut album.
3. Holly Williams – The Highway. Prior to this year I had only heard Holly Williams singing her rendition of her grandfather’s, (Hank Williams, Sr. – she has the blood of Hank in her, and it shows) “Blue is My Heart” on the excellent album project titled The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. I was hooked on her voice and her style after hearing the song, and then I read a great review of The Highway in Uncut Magazine and went looking for the album to buy. I ended up buying it from Amazon, and I have yet to see it stocked in a brick-and-mortar store. That’s because it was independently released on her own label Georgiana Records, which apparently wasn’t picked up by any distributors. That’s a shame, because this album is a real gem. Holly’s voice sits front and center of a mostly sparse and acoustic production. The songs are of the south and of her family. Key tracks are the opener, “Drinkin'” and the closer, a song about her grandmother June Bacon White, “Waitin’ on June”.
4. Kurt Vile and The Violators – Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze. If you like guitars and catchy melodies, you’ll love this album. It reminds me of some really great Neil Young albums I’d listened to very loud while driving around on a hot summer day. Go read Tulip Frenzy for a review. Key tracks are the title track and “Snowflakes are Dancing”.
5. Low – The Invisible Way. I first learned of Low when they opened for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at The Fifth Avenue Theater in Seattle way back in 1998. The house was packed with people anxious to see Nick, and Low was kind of a quiet shoegazer band at the time, but I really like what I was hearing when I was able to hear it over the very loud man talking behind me. (I asked him to be quiet or leave. He stayed, but he was quiet.) Since then I’d heard them on the radio and liked the music, but never really got into them until this year. The Invisible Way was produced by Jeff Tweedy, and he has a way about bringing out the best in people. The album opens with a very humorous song, “Plastic Cup” sung by Alan Sparhawk. Mimi Parker sings backup on this one, but she takes the lead vocal on several songs on the album, including “Just Make it Stop“, another standout track.
6. Daughter – If You Leave. Elena Tonra is the leader of this London trio. I was hooked on this band the moment I first heard “Youth” on KEXP. The sound of their debut album is sparse and hypnotic, and the lyrics take you inward to a claustrophobic space. Beautiful record that I listen to all the time. “Amsterdam” is another standout track.