Pre- (r)amble: I don’t talk much about myself on this site, but it can be important to know something about the person choosing these albums. After all, a 19-year old college student will likely be into an entirely different set of music than a 65-year old who grew up listening to The Beatles, Stones and Hendrix. Anyway, I’m a 38-year old guy who had his first child in 2015. The combination of age and a child means less free time to investigate new music (though I still spend a hefty amount of time on it), and less patience for new bands that don’t impress quickly. I, and many peers, are largely relying on new music from old favorites for inspiration. So, when you read this, know that your writer doesn’t really care about Kendrick Lamar, Grimes, or any of the indie-pop/rap/R&B I see on most year-end lists. If other people dig it, that’s great, but it does nothing for me. I tried. Really, I did. But if that’s what’s cool I’d rather just listen to The Pixies for the 100th time (their self-titled album is playing as I write this). That’s who I am right now, and that’s the place this list comes from.
- Mercury Rev – The Light In You (Bella Union)
It didn’t take much for Mercury Rev to get Album of the Year honors in 2015. All they had to do was simply return to the achingly beautiful music they made on Deserter’s Songs and All Is Dream. Great melodies, soaring orchestrations, and emotionally honest lyrics.
- The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Mini-Album Thingy Wingy (A Records)
Not sure if this should even count as an album, but it was a thin year for new music I loved, so here we are. MATW has seven songs covering a lot of ground including a 13th Floor Elevators cover, an instrumental, a song sung in Slovakian..etc., but the band’s aptitude for psychedelic songwriting is a constant.
- Tess Parks and Anton Newcombe – I Declare Nothing
Another album with participation from Brian Jonestown Massacre leader Anton Newcombe. This time he’s collaborating with Canadian singer Tess Parks whose half-gravelly/half-dreamy voice is mesmerizing. Early listens had me thinking the album was rushed and the songs repetitive, but further listens reveal the genius lurking beneath the surface. Hopefully this is an ongoing collaboration and not just a one-off.
- Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats – The Night Creeper (Rise Above Records)
This was my most highly anticipated release of 2015. It didn’t live up to my unrealistic expectations, but anyone who has grown to love the band’s mix of Sabbath, Crazy Horse and the dark side of the late-‘60s will be happy with The Night Creeper.
- The Twerps – Range Anxiety (Merge)
The Australian band’s second album is an increasingly rare example of indie-rock done right. A summery-sweet mix of The Velvets, The Clean and C86 sounds.
- The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Musique De Film Imagine (A Records)
The final of the three BJM-related entries in this list, MDFI wasn’t a typical album, but rather a largely instrumental soundtrack to a French film that doesn’t actually exist. As film music it’s a success, and Anton is working on more film scores, so that’s pretty cool.
- Sunder- Sunder (Tee Pee)
French band Sunder’s album was a small step down from last year’s album when they were known as The Socks, but still a highly entertaining mix of proto-metal thunder and LSD-munching late-‘60s psychedelic mind-warpage. The title of the album opening “Deadly Flower” neatly sums up the two sides of Sunder.
- Royal Headache – High (What’s Your Rupture?)
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve only heard this album once, and it was on Spotify, through crappy headphones, while I was at work. So, take this for what you will but I thought this was much better than their debut. Kinda punky stuff (in a 1970s way), but with soulful vocals that make it more engaging.
- You Am I – Porridge and Hotsauce (You Am I)
More full disclosure: I’ve only had this album for about two weeks so I haven’t been able to spend much time with it. That said, I’m parking it at number nine for now because everything You Am I has put out for the past 20+ years is good and I don’t hear this being much different. Now, can they please get an American record deal? They recorded the thing in Brooklyn (at Daptone Studios) for chrissakes!
- Cold Beat – Into The Air (Crime On The Moon)
Another album I’ve only heard on Spotify through headphones at work (they were going to send me a CD to review, but flaked). Reminds me of early Blondie (and a forgotten NY band from a decade ago called The Hong Kong) thanks to Hannah Lew’s Deborah Harry-ish vocals, but with punkier music that sounds like Wire circa-Pink Flag, despite some synthy passages.