The Top 100 Albums Of 2015
Gone are the days when I would painstakingly – and sometimes painfully – describe each and every record included on my annual Top 100 list. One year when I was housesitting for Quiggs and Sebastian I spent 14 hours straight on their couch hunched over my laptop. Meanwhile their two dogs sat at my feet begging me to take them on a hike. Instead I let them roam the back yards for a few minutes. I was too enveloped in the process.
For the past two years I’ve elected to pontificate only the records I think warrant further explanation. I hope you appreciate the effort. I could be out on the town getting loaded and having a great time right now — it’s New Year’s Eve — but instead I’m sitting on my couch trying to make this post as enjoyable as possible for the four people who still check this website daily in the hopes that I’ll have posted something new and exciting.
Much like last year, several labels appear multiple times on this list:
Thrill Jockey – 5
Kranky – 5
Sacred Bones – 6
The Flenser – 5
Good job, record labels. You put out lots of albums I liked this year. Feel free to send me a bunch of free ones in 2015.
As for the rest of you, here’s the list. Some sound samples are included, and most are not. You can seek these records out and buy them, you can download them from iTunes or Amazon, you can do whatever the fuck you do to consume music. Just make sure you respect the artists enough to pay for their work. Hell, I feel weird just posting single MP3s from less than 1/4 of these albums, but if I didn’t do that you’d have no idea how awesome these records are. And they are all awesome.
And don’t even thinking about pointing out any typos. I don’t want to hear it.
You’ll find no soundtracks on this list because that’ll be a separate post I’ll write sometime next week. Yes, the soundtrack for It Follows was pretty awesome, wasn’t it?
The Top 100 Albums Of 2015
100. Lightning Bolt – Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey)
99. Jeff Bridges – Sleeping Tapes (Self-Released)
98. Glen Hansard – It Was Triumph We Once Proposed…Songs Of Jason Molina (Overcoat Recordings) – Although technically just an EP, I had to include this on my list because it’s such a beautiful and moving tribute to Jason Molina. I didn’t know Glen had recorded this until I saw him perform “Being In Love” on Letterman. [Listen to “Being In Love”]
97. Boris – Warpath (Fangs Anal Satan) – The other two albums they released this year, Asia and Urban Dance are slightly less interesting but still required listening for fans of Boris.
96. Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down (Matador)
95. Tamaryn – Cranekiss (Mexican Summer) – I’d stopped paying attention to Mexican Summer for a while before I heard they were releasing a new Jefre Cantu-Ledesma record. From there it was just a short hop skip and a jump to discover Tamaryn. Now they’re firmly back on my radar. Ordinarily I’d say Taramyn…um…isn’t really for me, but there’s just enough weirdness going on to make it worthwhile. [Listen to “Cranekiss”]
94. Our Love Will Destroy The World – Carnivorous Rainbows (Ba Da Bing)
93. Sightings – Amusers And Puzzlers (Dais Records)
92. Zu – Cortar Todo (Ipecac)
91. Bitchin’ Bajas – Transporteur (Hands In The Dark)
90. Laddio Bolocko – Live & Unreleased (No Quarter) – Yes this is all older recordings (the most recent dating from 2000) but for me it was never-heard Bolocko recordings so it warrants entry here.
89. Dhampyr – Oceanclots (Acephale Winter Productions)
88. Ah Cama-Sotz – State Of Mind (Hands Productions)
87. Flying Saucer Attack – Instrumentals 2015 (Drag City) – Um, new Flying Saucer Attack!? New rural psychedelia? Yes please. [Listen to “Instrumental 4”]
86. Andrew Chalk – A Light At The End Of The World (Faraway Press)
85. Eartheater – RIP Chrysalis (Hausu Mountain)
84. Jim O’Rourke – Simple Songs (Drag City)
83. King Midas Sound / Fennesz – Edition 1 (Ninja Tune)
82. Destruction Unit – Negative Feedback Resistor (Sacred Bones)
81. Swervedriver – I Wasn’t Born To Lose You (Cobraside) – The shoegazers’ first studio album since 1997 did not disappoint. Sadly I didn’t get to see them when they passed through LA recently, but I’ve spent a lot of time enjoying I Wasn’t Born this year. [Listen to “Autodidact”]
80. Ilyas Ahmed – I Am All Your Own (Immune) – It’s been three years since the last full-length from Ahmed. When I Am All Your Own came out it made me spend a night digging back through his discography and reacquainting myself with Century Of Midnight and Between Two Skies. He’s so, so talented. [Listen to “Come On”]
79. Evan Caminiti – Meridian (Thrill Jockey)
78. Ufomammut – Ecate (Neurot) – God, it feels like FOREVER since the last Ufomammut album. And, yet, it also feels like no Evan’s Top 100 list is truly complete without the inclusion of said Ufomammut album. Are they breaking new ground here? No, not really. Are they still pummeling my ear drums with their fantastic bombast? Of course they are. [Listen to “Temple”]
77. Natural Snow Buildings – Terror’s Horns (Ba Da Bing)
76. Damo Suzuki & Mugstar – Start From Zero (Important)
75. Mark McGuire – Beyond Belief (Dead Oceans)
74. Kevin Drumm – Equinox / The Sea Wins (Self-Released) – I figure I’ll put these two together because they were both digital releases and it’s too hard to choose which one I liked more.
73. Six Organs Of Admittance – Hexadic / Hexadic II (Drag City)
72. Carlton Melton – Out To Sea (Agitated Records)
71. Bosse-De-Nage – All Fours (The Flenser) – It wouldn’t be a true top 100 list without pretty much every record The Flenser released this year. [Listen to “A Subtle Change”]
70. Hey Colossus – In Black And Gold (Rocket Recordings) – Remember Hey Colossus? I used to post their stuff all the time in the early days of Swan Fungus. Then they fell off my radar for a few years, but they put out TWO records on Rocket this year and I’m so happy to have rediscovered their space-y kraut-y awesomeness. [Listen to “Hold On”]
69. Inventions – Maze Of Woods (Temporary Residence, Ltd.)
68. Amen Dunes – Cowboy Worship (Sacred Bones) – Maybe it’s a companion piece to Love, maybe it’s a standalone EP, but all I know is the Tim Buckley cover of “Song To The Siren” is fantastic.
67. Low – Ones And Sixes (Sub Pop) – Well, at least Jeff Tweedy wasn’t involved this time. That’s a step in the right direction for any band. [Listen to “No Comprende”]
66. Mount Eerie – Sauna (P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd.)
65. Rachel Grimes – The Clearing (Temporary Residence, Ltd.)
64. Yen Pox – Between The Horizon And The Abyss (Malignant Records) – It’s been, what, 13 years since the last official studio album from Yen Pox? And, man, does this one not disappoint. If you dug Blood Magic, New Dark Age, or that collaboration with Troum, you’ll love this album. It makes me wish Michael and Steven would have recorded a Mystery Sea CDr (is that series still going, by the way?) back in the day. When they’re on, there are few artists creating dark ambient music who do it better than Yen Pox.
63. Landing – Body Diffuser (Vast Arc Hues)
62. Philip Jeck – Cardinal (Touch)
61. Mikal Cronin – MCIII (Merge Records)
60. Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls (Profound Lore)
59. Black Wing – …Is Doomed (The Flenser)
58. James Blackshaw – Summoning Suns (Important)
57. The Body / Thou – You, Whom I Have Always Hated (Thrill Jockey)
56. Guapo – Obscure Knowledge (Cuneiform Records) – I remember back when this website was finding its way, and Black Oni, Five Suns and Twisted Stems were pretty much posted in their entirety in various Sunday Mix Tapes. I lost track of Guano for a while, and was so happy and excited when I heard about Obscure Knowledge that I pretty much dropped everything I was doing to seek it out. If you like what Zombi has done in a post-Goblin prog world, you’ll love what Guapo have accomplished here. [Listen to “Part 1 (Radio Edit)”]
55. Circle – Pharaoh Overlord (Ektro Records)
54. William Basinski – Cascade (2062)
53. White Hills – Walks For Motorists (Thrill Jockey) – By White Hills standards, 2015 was a relatively quiet year. There was one full-length, a new installment in the Oddity series of limited-edition CDrs, another collaboration with White Pee and…is that it? Could that really be it? Damn. I’m used to like, 10 releases a year. Hopefully 2016 will bear more fruit for myself and all the other obsessive White Hills fans out there. [Listen to “No Will”]
52. Benoit Pioulard – Sonnet (Kranky)
51. Minsk – The Crash And The Draw (Relapse Records)
50. Pinkish Black – Bottom Of The Morning (Relapse Records) – Their best album to date. [Listen to “Brown Rainbow”]
49. Deradoorian – The Expanding Flower Planet (Anticon) – It’s good to see Angel stepping out from the shadows in Dirty Projectors to do her own thing. When she opened for Chelsea Wolfe a couple years ago I was stunned by her voice and her songs (“Moon” in particular). There’s a lot to fall in love with on this record, hopefully it’ll prove to be a stepping stone on the path to a very successful solo career.
48. Helen – Original Faces (Kranky) – Liz Harris of Grouper goes shoegaze? Say no more, I’m sold. [Listen to “Dying All The Time”]
47. Father Murphy – Croce (The Flenser)
46. Oren Ambarchi / Jim O’Rourke – Behold (Editions Mego)
45. Trapped Within Burning Machinery – The Fifth Element (Black Voodoo Records) – Yes, it’s a concept album based on the film of same name. Yes, it’s also a great combination of doom, sludge and post-rock.
44. Eternal Tapestry – Lolo Pass Drifters (Thrill Jockey)
43. Envy – Atheists Cornea (Temporary Residence, Ltd.)
42. Ken Camden – Dream Memory (Kranky)
41. Implodes – Reverser (Gilead Media)
40. Steve Hauschildt – Where All Is Fled (Kranky)
39. Nisennenmondai – N’ (Bijin Records)
38. Noveller – Fantastic Planet (Fire Records) – My God am I ever in awe of the sounds Sarah Lipstate can coax out of her guitar. It seems like with each successive record it’s becoming more and more clear how remarkable her talents truly are, and Fantastic Planet might be my favorite full-length of hers yet. [Listen to “Pulse Point”]
37. Dead To A Dying World – Litany (Alerta Antifascista)
36. Windhand – Grief’s Internal Flower (Relapse Records)
35. Laurel Halo – In Situ (Honest Jon’s)
34. Esmerine – Lost Voices (Constellation)
33. Sumac – The Deal (Sige)
32. Beware Of Safety – Mabon (Self-Released)
31. Helm – Olympic Mess (Pan)
30. Forests – Dead Species (Self-Released)
29. Yellow Eyes – Sick With Bloom (Gilead Media)
28. Hey Colossus – Radio Static High (Rocket Recordings)
27. Sunn O))) – Kannon (Southern Lord)
26. Deafheaven – New Bermuda (Anti-) – One of the biggest frustrations of 2015 for me was the fact that I pre-ordered New Bermuda way back in July and my copy of the album STILL hasn’t arrived yet due to manufacturing defects along the way. I’ve had to deal with just the digital download for the past 5 months, and the desire to throw the vinyl on my turntable and blast it has been overwhelming at times. Hopefully it won’t take much longer for Kings Road to get their shit together. [Listen to “Brought To The Water”]
25. Sannhet – Revisionist (The Flenser)
24. Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden Of Delete (Warp Records)
23. Zombi – Shape Shift (Relapse Records)
22. Loscil – For Greta (Kranky)
21. Public Service Broadcasting – The Race For Space (Test Card) – One of the best recommendations of the year came from my buddy Andy, whose “You need to get on PSB right now” didn’t truly hit home until I saw them perform at The Roxy back in April. Holy shit, if that was’t one of the most mesmerizing and immersive concert experiences I’ve had in years…I didn’t even take pictures or videos because it would have detracted from the experience. SEE THESE DUDES LIVE. NOW. [Listen to “Gargarin”]
20. Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness (Domino)
19. Cloakroom – Further Out (Run For Cover Records) – A debut album from a three-piece rock band from Indiana. I think Ian told me about this one because Matt Talbot from Hum was involved somehow, and I’ve been obsessed with that band since high school. That’s probably as good a reference point would be for Cloakroom. They share a lot in common with Hum, from the guitar sounds (electric guitars are never quite clean) to the vocalist’s wry attitude and slightly disaffected delivery. [Listen to “Paperweight”]
18. Khemmis – Absolution (20 Buck Spin) – Ian described these guys as Pallbearer with a better singer, and I don’t think he’s far off. [Listen to “The Bereaved”]
17. So Hideous – Laurestine (Prosthetic Records) – via Metal Injection: “Every aspect of the opening track “Yesteryear” is the epitome of what the group represents – chaos complimenting melodies, unapologetic black metal screams, and a ravishing orchestral backing. [Listen to “Yesteryear”]
16. Blanck Mass – Dumb Flesh (Sacred Bones)
15. Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss (Sargent House) – I’m such an unapologetic Chelsea Wolfe fanboy. When the Abyss pre-sale notification came through from Kings Road to my phone I was standing in line to board a plane. I literally held everyone up in my boarding group while I input my credit card info and ensured myself limited edition baby blue vinyl copies.
14. Anna Von Hausswolff – The Miraculous (City Slang) – When this album was streaming online around the time of its release it was on repeat in my car for days. It was the only music I heard for at least a week. Especially captivating and terrifying while driving across the city in the wee hours of the morning. [Listen to “Evocation”]
13. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – A Year With 13 Moons (Mexican Summer) – This has been my go-to album when I’m writing since its release. To me, it’s as good as anything Jefre’s recorded since Love Is A Stream five years ago. Haunting, beautiful, blissed-out, gauzy…new wave? I mean, once the percussive elements kick in what else can you really call it? Usually I like to use the catchall “experimental” to describe music like this, but that might be to sell Jefre short. Whatever you call this, I love it an I keep returning to it.
12. Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon (Polydor) – Don’t you fucking laugh at me. A friend of mine is writing a screenplay about a blacker-than-black, bloodied, fucked up relationship and I told him to listen to this on repeat while he writes. I, in turn, ended up listening to it a lot, maybe while basking in the warm glowing warming glow of too much Vicodin. [Listen to “Freak”]
11. Caspian – Dust And Disquiet (Triple Crown Records)
10. Godspeed – Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress (Constellation) – The last time I saw Godspeed perform they were working on a new piece that was simply called “Behemoth” at the time. That epic piece was fashioned into four parts for this album, and its near-40 minutes of build-up are just as impressive – the climax just as cathartic – as that monstrous jam I remember hearing a few years ago. This is one you have to hear from start to finish. Trust me, it’s worth it.
09. Folkazoid – III (Sacred Bones) – For this one I’m going to use the “official” product description because it describes the album far better than I could: “For III, the band wanted to expand their sound while building an atmosphere with mainly monochords and reiteration. After recording and mixing the album on their own at their studio at BYM Records, they partnered with German electronic maestro Atom TM to flesh out the album’s synth parts. Most of the sounds he provided were atonal electronic sounds, aiming for concrete frequencies and sampled organic glitches. (The Korg synthesizer Atom TM plays on this record was used by Kraftwerk on tour in the ’80s). III is a four-part minimal sound voyage in which you can hear Föllakzoid’s musical language developing into something more upbeat, obscure, and sharp, yet even simpler in terms of elements.”
08. Jenny Hval – Apocalypse Girl (Sacred Bones) – Sacred Bones has been killing it for the past few years, and the record label has already released a few stellar albums to start 2015. First there’s Jenny Hval, whose third (or fourth, depending on if you count Meshes Of Voices) studio album Apocalypse Girl thrust her onto my musical radar. This is one of the more visceral records I’ve heard of late, moving between heroics and vulnerability sometimes between two words. [Listen to “Kingsize”]
07. Vatnett Viskar – Settler (Century Media) – The perfect follow-up to Sky Swallower, with the blackness of the metal toned down to a more palatable level (for most listeners, I could give a shit whether they play black metal or just metal). Songs like “Colony” and “Impact” are absolutely punishing, but there are passages during “Coldwar” and “Settler” where fans might think they’re listening to a completely different band. I imagine it will improve with each successive listen.
06. Bell Witch – Four Phantoms (Profound Lore)
05. John Carpenter – Lost Themes (Sacred Bones) – It’s hard to believe that a composer who has been working since the ’70s just put out his debut album this year, but I guess that’s just how it goes. Of course the man responsible for some of the greatest 20th century movie music (Halloween, Assault On Precinct 13, so many others) could put together a collection of stunning compositions that are unrelated to specific films but still manage to capture the unease and disturbing qualities of some of those films. If you haven’t heard Lost Themes yet and you’re a fan of either Carpenter’s movies or his soundtracks of those eras, you need this in your life.
04. Boduf Songs – Stench Of Exist (The Flenser) – Between this, the new Sannhet and a couple other records, The Flenser is one again proving that in 2015 they are one of the most relevant labels in the country. This one’s full-on heartbreaking, druggy, abstract and dark in equal measure. Mat Sweet’s vulnerable voice floating above minimal electronics makes for perfect late night come-down music. Dig it. [Listen to “My Continuing Battle With Material Reality”]
03. Panopticon – Autumn Eternal (Nordvis Produktion)
02. Zelienople – Show Us The Fire (Immune) – The first thought that passed through my head when I sat down to listen to this for the first time was how much louder the band sounded. I’m sure that sounds weird, but to me this is the most assertive Zelienople has ever sounded. Their cryptic, druggy, hazy drones have a bit more polish to them now, at times recalling Slowdive’s creepier compositions (see: pretty much anything on Pygmalion). Every Zelienople record since Stone Academy has been considered for album of the year, which makes them one of the most successful bands in the past decade (at least in my eyes). I ranked Stone Academy #6 of 2006, His/Hers #20 in 2007, Give It Up #2 in 2009, The World Is A House On Fire #2 in 2012, and now if it weren’t for the #1 pick this year Show Us The Fire would be tops in 2015. [Listen to “Doubt The Reasons”]
01. Kowloon Walled City – Grievances (Gilead Media) – I refused to listen to this one before it was released, because I wanted my first take come as I was being pummeled by my stereo (and not through some lame-ass headphones running to my laptop). Self described (I think?) “Smart music for dumb people,” the four-piece from SF combine punishing noise with quite gripping, introspective lyrics. I think it was Aquarius who described this record as “Metal-Low” meaning slow, downer-rock. It’s something that has really latched itself onto me because, honestly, 2015 was not the best year of my life for many, many reasons (none of which I’ve shared, for obvious reasons). Grievances resonated. Scott Evans’ voice rising above the muck of de-tuned distorted guitars and somewhat-meditative, minimal drums traversed hopefulness and hopelessness. “Yeah, we’ve had better years.” Here’s looking forward to 2016. [Listen To “Your Best Years”]
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