2015 has been the year of vinyl. It's funny to watch this transition happen, especially as a person who has jumped on the bandwagon. There is something fulfilling about listening to an entire album, like you would with a record.
A monthly Spotify Premium membership is about as expensive as buying a singular record a month, so why do we do it? Well, my friend, it seems that aesthetic trumps efficiency and frugality. I love listening to an album all the way through, to hear the tracks as the artist wanted them to be heard, as pretentious as that sounds. Sure, I can do that with my computer, but where's the fun in that? Why not spend money on something I could hypothetically get for free? Oh, to be a millennial with the world at my fingertips.
There is something very personal about hearing an album all the way through. So, just so you don't have to waste your money on the unworthy, I've compiled a list of the albums I've enjoyed most this year. I wish you many wonderful record store bargain bin finds in the New Year.
Natalie Prass / Natalie Prass
Natalie Prass' voice is the literal incarnation of the phrase "everything was beautiful and nothing hurt". I happened to stumble into her show at the Mohawk in Austin during South by Southwest (after Juce and before Alvvays!), and truly cried during her set. She is the most ethereal being to happen to this country since Jackie O. I am obsessed with her Cinderella vocals and sincerity in her lyrics. I totally believe that 2016 will be the Year of Natalie Prass, as it should be. She is wildly talented and her album deserves as much buzz as it's gotten.
Best Track: "It Is You"
Another One / Mac Demarco
Okay, I know this is a little bit of a cop out because everybody loves Mac so much it's almost disgusting. But, Another One is truly so good. He popped out this one shortly after the flawless Salad Days came out, making it even more admirable. With this record, Mac continues to create the ideal vibe that he both wants to act cool and alternative, but also listen to you talk about your issues with your mother too. This LP ends with him literally giving his real address out to the world with an invitation to come over for a cup of coffee, and I know a guy who did this actually. Mac invited him in and they sat around and drank coffee at his house for hours. It just proves forever more that this album is created from a person who has a whole lot of love for the world. Never have a heard a more accurate representation of his music than Pitchfork's: His music isn't for situations that are laid back in and of themselves. They're for the unguarded moments you might share with another person where the both of you are comfortable without reservation." There is a reason everybody loves Mac, and it's proved yet again with Another One.
Best Track: "The Way You'd Love Her"
To Pimp a Butterfly / Kendrick Lamar
There are few albums that I have listened to more than Kendrick's 2012 good kid, m.A.A.d city. It played the role as the soundtrack that my upper middle class friends bumped to in somebody's car on Saturday nights, so there is a special place in my little white kid heart for Kendrick. I had high standards for his new album, and it hit every one of my expectations and more. It's obvious that Kendrick has grown up in the past few years, as he rolled out a slightly more mature album. "Momma" is ultimately one of the best depictions of a mother / son relationship since Tupac's "Hey Mama", which is a substantial feat. Kendrick has proved his voice is deserved in the rap scene with this new record.
Best Track: "Momma"
Before the World Was Big / Girlpool
I want Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad of Girlpool to tuck me in every single night and sing me to sleep. I had a close to religious experience with this album walking through Chinatown while listening to their track "Chinatown". These girls are wildly talented, leading the march of the edgy girl music I love so dearly. There is something distinctly "manic pixie dream girl" about Before the World Was Big, but these girls are still serious musicians with a quiet bravado. They are shameless with lyrics like "yes, I am picking cherries-- I have a hard time staying clean". I am yet again impressed with their ability to pack a musical punch without any fancy or brash instrumentation.
Best Track: "Chinatown"
Foil Deer / Speedy Ortiz
Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis is my new favorite person in music. Her distinctly girl power lyrics and cool disposition have me sold. After talking to the band and listening to their set at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, I drank the Kool-Aid and bought the merchandise. I've told everybody about their angsty cool record and how the whole band is made up of the type of people that you wished to be in high school. The track that has received the most attention, "Raising the Skate", deserves to be played at every single thirteen year old girl's (and literally anybody else's) birthday party because it is the greatest anthem for ladies (or otherwise) I've heard in a long time. Their sound is layered without being messy, and edgy without feeling like it's trying too hard. They will be one of the most talked about bands of 2016, so I suggest getting on the fan train now.
Best Track: "Raising the Skate"
Depression Cherry / Beach House
Beach House is everybody's favorite. Nobody doesn't love them, and for good reason. There are few bands that are on par with the dreaminess of this synth-y troupe, and I am hooked. Depression Cherry should be listened to in its entirety for the first time on your bed, in the dark, in my opinion. I loved this album, then bought it on vinyl and realized that it came in a cherry red velvet sleeve and fell even deeper in love. Beach House brings their all with these tunes, so much so that it feels kind of like the whole album is just you floating on a cloud, or like you're in somebody's beach house and the sun is coming up and all is well (punny).
Best Track: "PPP"
Sometimes I Sit and Think / Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett is the crazy breakout star of 2015. She is a musical cousin to Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino and Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis (both of whom show up on this list), but has found her own niche in the music scene as a little bit nineties, a whole lot of modern. Her whole album is, in the best way possible, a song of anxiety. Without feeling too urgent or fearful, Barnett has crafted an on the nose combination of unfussy stream of consciousness and punk-like songs about wondering if it's worth going out tonight. I was blown away the first time that I heard the crown jewel of the album, "Depreston". I have heard few tracks this year that match the honesty and tell a better story than this one. It shines among a record of fantastic songs and truly depicts the range of Barnett's work and what is to come for her.
Best Track: "Depreston"
Goon / Tobias Jesso Jr.
In the key of total confession, I practically cried the first time I heard "Just a Dream" off this album. And then I sent the track to my dad who shared the sentiment. This year has been big for Jesso: releasing his first full length album, getting picked up to assist Adele in writing her new smash record, 25, and becoming one of the most talked about musicians of the year. All of the praise for Jesso is rightfully deserved as he is one of the most talented musicians alive right now. Not only is the music beautiful, but his lyrics are extraordinary. "Hollywood" is the track that everybody talks about, but the way that Jesso sequences his songs tells a larger than life story. His talent for words is on par with the wholly admired Ben Folds, and I see Jesso going in the same direction. My greatest suggestion for you in the New Year is to take a long drive and listen to this album in its entirety. You will not regret it.
Best Track: "Just a Dream"
Ivy Tripp / Waxahatchee
Katie Crutchfield is so extraordinarily talented that it's almost gross. I was obsessed with her 2012 album American Weekend (note: go listen to "Bathtub"), but she really brought it with Ivy Tripp. She is fearlessly ethereal in her music, making her a good go to for your car ride home. Her last album brought the assertion that love is essentially a series of pitfalls, but this record has brought a new sense of uncertainty to love and romance and all of its facets. She has yet again proved herself to be deservant of her spot as an up and coming artist with this release. She has expanded her sound beyond her last record to be more mature and refined, and I'm pumped to see what is next for her.
Best Track: "Summer of Love"
I Love You, Honeybear / Father John Misty
I swear this is the most listened to album by all of the people I follow on Spotify. J. Tillman has evolved since his Fleet Foxes days, as seen in this album. It feels like this record is a new form of honesty that Tillman had not reached before this. He has used this sort of kitschy persona to produce one of the most honest records that I've heard all year. It frequents references to Christian guilt throughout, woven in ever so masterfully and avoiding the common trap of being too angry or resentful. I suggest listening to "I Went to The Store One Day" as it is one of the greatest song of fear and love I have heard in a long time.
Best Track: "I Went to The Store One Day"
Coming Home / Leon Bridges
This time two years ago, Leon Bridges was a dishwasher in a Chili's, and now his record is one of the most talked about of the year. His breakout record is a feel good, dance around the living room, Sunday morning driving type-of listen. I took my dad to go see him, and the entire crowd, young and old, danced the whole time. There is something nostalgic about his music, but in a perfectly non-hokey way. He's not trying to copy the work of his predecessors, but instead use it as jumping off point to create his own sound. I have a feeling that this guy is here to stay, and I'm totally okay with it. Bridges is making music for all ages without sacrificing his artistic abilities and has asserted himself as one of the biggest musicians of 2015.
Best Track: "Better Man"
Ratchet / Shamir
I saw Shamir open up for Marina and the Diamonds, and then again at Fun Fun Fun Fest and truly have never wanted to be somebody's best friend more. He hangs out after his shows to smoke and talk about his set, shamelessly. He is ratchet in the best way possible, and there is no turning back after you listen to his new release, Ratchet. This record is tight: svelte and fun and shrill, without ever sounding too produced. The 21-year old singer cleverly mixes synth and heavy bass for one of the best hype albums I've heard in a long time. If you get the chance, do yourself a favor and see Shamir Bailey in the new year.
Best Track: "On The Reglar"
No Cities to Love / Sleater-Kinney
After seeing randomly seeing a killer set from Sleater-Kinney the same night I first heard about them, I was hooked. In the wake of not producing an album for an entire decade, the leading ladies brought it with No Cities to Love. One of the best parts of listening to this record was that I read Carrie Brownstein's killer memoir concurrently. I fell even deeper in love with Sleater-Kinney's sound, but also with Brownstein's prose. These girls never fail to blow me away, from their last record's "Modern Girl" to the new "Hey Darling", No Cities to Love is strong and distinctly female in the best way possible. The Sleater-Kinney you've always loved is back and badder than ever.
Best Track: "Hey Darling"
Currents / Tame Impala
Currents makes me wish I had sketchy, stoner boyfriend who my parents hated so we could listen to this album together. Every time I've seen Tame Impala everybody around me has been tripping balls, and I've still felt right at home stone cold sober. Tame Impala is stoner music that you can also enjoy when you're not high, a feat accomplished by few. This album mixes drums and bass so smashingly that you'll want to just sit around and admire their distinct sound when you start listening. As Beach House's hyped up cousin, I have been a distinct Tame Impala fan for a long time. This is debatably their best record to date, lacking a weak track. Come for "Let it Happen", stay for "'Cause I'm a Man".
Best Track: "Let it Happen"
Star Wars / Wilco
I am a freaky Wilco fan. A ridiculous and somewhat creepy Tweedy lover. But, my first pass over Star Wars, I wasn't completely in love. I shared this with my dad, the first person who turned me onto Wilco and an even bigger superfan than I am, and he agreed. Nonetheless, the aux cord in my car broke one day and I realized the only music I had was the radio or this album on a CD. I gave it another try and ended up looping around my neighborhood for the entirety of the thirty three minutes that encompasses this record. I continued to see Wilco at all three of their Austin shows this year, one at which I took the two biggest Wilco fans I know, and proceeded to cry at the beauty. Star Wars still has the same dissonance that is classic for all Wilco tracks, but with an added "we're famous and can do anything we want" element. With this new release, they produced a much louder sound than usual Wilco, but it is ultimately very likable and baffling that a band can produce a whole set of music with an evolving sound.
Best Track: "Magnetized"
The Phage / Together Pangea
Together Pangea is entirely made up of the type of boys who you wanted to date in high school because they were entirely cooler than your dumb boyfriend or friends. The Phage brings the same type of urgency that their last album, Badillac, did, but with a slightly more refined sound and disposition. The boys are still putting out their signature loud, garage rock music that gets both punks and suburban housewives going. With tunes like "She's a Queen", Together Pangea has put their own spin on their "Meet Virginia" / "Drops of Jupiter"-type admiration love song. I've loved these guys forever, but they really have demonstrated that they've grown up a lot with this new LP.
Best Track: "She's a Queen"
California Nights / Best Coast
Very true story: I bonded (read: spoke excitedly to) Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino at the mac and cheese bar of Whole Foods in Austin. After staying out a touch too late the night before, I dragged my tired self over to the grocery store, forgetting Brooklyn and Portland-based hipsters had taken over my neighborhood for South By Southwest, and ran into her. It was magical. The magic truly did come from her badass California pop album, California Nights. Best Coast was one of the first "cool" bands that I listened to, and they continue to prove why they keep popping up in my music library, album after album. Best Coast is a little bit more manicured in this album, a little bit less house show and a little bit more professional tour. This album is very distinctly Best Coast, beachy and driving with the windows down type of music. The band's simplicity is sometimes debated as overrated, but something about knowing your best sound and sticking to it really appeals to me, and Best Coast does it well.
Best Track: "Heaven Sent"
Momentary Lapse of Happiness / Adult Mom
I will defend this album until the end of time. As you can see from the rest of the list, I'm a big fan of the musicians that every time they play, you have to say "no, this is not Cat Power". Adult Mom is definitely one of those bands. My favorite song off the record, "Survival", starts out with a man speaking and saying "sorry I made you cry", and after hearing that for the first time, I was sold. The song continues with lines like "I set up walls but made sure to include windows", a beautiful idea within itself. The album feels like it's a little bit "come for the edgy girl music, stay for the anxiously real and lovable lyrics". Adult Mom is the musical version of Twitter's So Sad Today, a very no bullshit depiction of being anxious and poking fun at it all.
Best Track: "Survival"
Over Easy / Diet Cig
So this is not technically an entire record, but nonetheless, I am obsessed. "Harvard" off this album has been the first song I've played when I get in my car for this entire month. Over Easy is very much so an album of teen angst and the wild and hilarious insecurity of it. Even if the band is not comprised of teenagers, lyrics about shitty dads and exes dating college girls feels very distinctly like it's perfect for driving around aimlessly with your friends or doing whatever the teens are doing these days. Diet Cig, along with having the greatest name ever, is clever and fun and my new favorite.
Best Track: "Harvard"