The Best Albums of 2015…So Far

Hey, every other blog is posting one of these, so I may as well join in the fun, amirite?

The year in music so far has actually been quite enjoyable, as many of the bands that had come out with great albums in or around 2012 are now releasing new titles that are equally as great, if not better.

In order of release date:

The Decemberists, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World (20 January)
Colin Meloy and Co have come up with another wonderful record of alternafolk the way I like it – full, strong vocals, original (and often quirky) song subjects, and wonderful performances. It’s hard not to like this band.

Dutch Uncles, O Shudder (24 February)
My wife came up with the phrase “in a totally different film” to describe a character or person (or in this case, a band) who doesn’t seem to fit anywhere within the context of everything else surrounding them, and yet somehow they fit in just nicely despite that. Dutch Uncles is like that for me–a band who seems to willingly bypass trying to fit into the indie scene by way of odd time signatures, intelligent (and sometimes purposely awkward) lyrics, and a complete lack of irony. This album is about childbirth, for instance.

Public Service Broadcasting, The Race for Space (24 February)
Another band from out of nowhere (and a band that consists of two people playing multiple instruments…that seems that’s a thing now) that popped up on my radar…um, how? I think YouTube suggested I check them out at one point. They kind of remind me of Emergency Broadcast Network from the 90s (remember them?), who melded media soundbites with danceable pop. PSB, on the other hand, mix public domain newsreels with instrumental rock and funk, and the end result is pretty damn fine.  This latest release of theirs is, you guessed it, based on the Russian/US race for space in the 50s and 60s.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Chasing Yesterday (3 March)
I’d mentioned earlier that I felt Noel’s first HFB album was kind of hit or miss, and that this second album is miles stronger musically. The more I listen to it, it kind of reminds me of Oasis’ early 2000s work (Heathen Chemistry in particular), dialing back the Britpoppiness and the overt Beatle nods and really showing off his excellent songwriting skills.

Steven Wilson, Hand. Cannot. Erase. (3 March)
Wilson returns for a third solo album, this time a song cycle based on a harrowing story about a missing person who was found dead in her own apartment, having passed away there three years earlier. A haunting subject, but a beautiful album.

Swervedriver, I Wasn’t Born to Lose You (3 March)
Really, why had I not owned any Swervedriver before this? I loved “Rave Down” even when it came out back in the early 90s, but I never got around to buying any of their albums. That changed with their excellent comeback album, in which they haven’t missed a beat. Swirly and crunchy guitars and fantastic writing. Think a more melodic, rocking and understandable MBV.

Big Data, 2.0 (24 March)
I’m sure most of you have heard “Dangerous” at some point (that song that kinda sorta steals the slappy bass line from Nine Inch Nails’ “Only”). The rest of this album is a lot of fun, combining both analog guitar melody and bloopy synth work in such a unique way it works perfectly. Bonus points for using overmodulation as a legit sound level on “The Business of Emotion”. More bonus points for getting away with using a broken image icon for an album cover!

Joywave, How Do You Feel Now? (21 April)
I’m convinced Big Data and Joywave are the same band, as they seem to be all over each other’s records. I heard these guys on Radio BDC near the end of last year via the track “Tongues”. It’s one of those songs that’s kinda doofy and not that good, but it gets under your skin to the point that you start to believe that it’s actually better than you thought. Their other single “Somebody New” shows their other side, a stronger rock track that hints at what they actually do sound like.

Wire, Wire (21 April)
WOO YAY NEW WIRE! Always happy to see a release from one of my favorite bands! While their Mark III era (from the Read & Burn EPs forward) has been louder and crunchier, they’ve begun infusing their music with less experimentation and more melody as they go on…in essence, combining the post-punk of the 70s Wire and the melody of 80s Wire to come up with something both hard and soft at the same time.  With new a new guitarist in the mix (Bruce Gilbert having left a few years ago), they’ve got a fuller sound and seem much more confident this time out.

Blur, The Magic Whip (28 April)
I’ve admitted to being a shameless Blur fan, and that’s because I’ve always been a big Britpop fan for years. It’s great to see a new platter from this foursome (now a foursome again!), especially after that excellent single “Under the Westway” from a few years ago. They haven’t lost a bit of their quirkiness or their knack for being able to write an extremely fun song. Definitely a welcome return.

Best Coast, California Nights (4 May)
Okay, hands down, the title track from Best Coast’s new platter is totally my summer jam. I never thought I’d say that, but there we are. And the rest of the album is absolutely gorgeous. Possibly my top favorite of the year so far. Here, have a listen:

Dog Party, Vol 4 (16 June)
I was introduced to this band via Santa Clara University’s college station. These two sisters from Sacramento (one of which just graduated high school, I should add) are my favorite local band at the moment. Cute and punky in a style that reminds me of We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It!! (specifically their Bostin Steve Austin album), the album is perfect punk: chunky riffs, fun melodies, goofy lyrics, and totally jamming econo.

Failure, The Heart Is a Monster (30 June)
WOO YAY NEW FAILURE! Another one of my big favorite bands (Fantastic Planet still gets a shit ton of play here in Spare Oom and at the gym) put this one out via PledgeMusic, so how could I say no? A great band that makes excellent use of unexpected directions in melody, drop tuning and tasty, chunky riffs. Ken, Greg and Kellii came back with one hell of a great album.

So…what does the next half of 2015 have in store for us?  A very brief look at my shopping list says new albums by Civil Twilight, Chemical Brothers, MS MR, Oberhofer, P.O.D., Duran Duran, Low, New Order, Veruca Salt, Frank Turner, Beach House, Foals, Ben Folds, Stereophonics, Metric, Robert DeLong…and maybe a new Editors (which I am pumped about, if their new single “No Harm” is any indication of what it’ll sound like).

All in all, an excellent year for music, I’m happy to report!

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