Happy PostConsuming!: The Best Music of 2015—Part 2
2015 was a boring year for new music with me.
I am coming to the realization I am an old dad now in my mid-30's and it is a struggle to keep up with new sounds and new releases. On top of that I am continually discovering old music that I find more compelling and worthy of me purchasing (more on that in a bit).
So, in many ways 2015 was a failure as far as listening to what was released. Nonetheless, I continued to seek out "new" music, even if it was decades or perhaps centuries old.
Therefore, my best of 2015 list contains only a few new releases, and instead is more a chronicle of my listening tastes over the past year.
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR (RELEASED IN 2015)
Let's start with what I think are the greatest works released this past year that I spent a significant amount of time listening to. (You can read a more comprehensive end of year list here: Part 1 of the Best Music of 2015, written by Aubrey England here.)
Here are my basic criteria for what makes an album worthy of greatness:
An album's music has to be beautiful and compelling but the songs have to mean something to me. I cannot just like the music. Meaning and narrative have to be attached.
In other words, for an album in the singer-songwriter/pop/folk/rock/hip hop/soul vein to be considered "great", there has to be a perfect wedding of music and lyrics.
With this in mind my greatest albums of the year are:
Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
This was an obvious choice, wasn't it? If you want to hear my thoughts on this album I suggest you read some of the digital ink I spilt on it's behalf this year: article 1 article 2 article 3 article 4 article 5
Psalms by Sandra McCracken
My second favorite album of the year is Psalms by Sandra McCracken. I still feel like I am only catching up to this work. Its songs have not permeated me enough yet. An album based off the Psalms (or any Scripture) is deceptive in its straightforwardness. "Yeah, yeah, it's the Bible set to music. I know what this is all about." But there is something plaintive and gut-wrenching about McCracken's wearied-yet-joyful settings of the "songs of the Bible". Her voice is heavy. It drips with sorrow and hope. It is worth a listen to any follower of Christ and worship leader, even if you do not end up singing any of these songs in church (but I would recommend "We Will Fest in the House of Zion" if you do)
Waterdeep by Waterdeep
At the very end of last year Waterdeep released a masterful album, which is why I am including it as part of 2015. You can read my review of it here.
Every Open Eye by Chvrches
Chvrches are one of my favorite bands. Chrvches make great pop music. I hardly ever know what they are singing about but who cares because SYNTHS!
Kanye West's sporadic new songs: "All Day", "FourFiveSeconds", and "Only One"
Kanye teased us with a new album this year. I liked the new songs he released (although "Only One" was a bit sloppy in its production. We are all still waiting for the actual album to come out but just remember this: Kanye doesn't want to be bothered until it's done AND he doesn't owe us anything anyway.
Art Angels by Grimes
A lot publications are lauding Grimes' new album Art Angels. I bought it for Christmas but have not listened to it enough yet. It seems promising. I am always intrigued by the merging of pop sensibilities with experimentation.
Matt Redman's Unbroken Praise
I gave a snarky review of Matt Redman's 2015 release Unbroken Praise. Honestly, I think my review reveals my present general disposition toward modern worship music. I'm a bit cynical at the moment, so maybe I shouldn't write reviews in such a state. Unbroken Praise isn't a great album, but there are some decent songs. Looking it over again, I am willing to give it some more listens and will even consider singing some of the songs on Sundays. Still, Matt, if you're reading, please read this over before you make another album.
To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
It pains me to say I just could not get into Kendrick Lamar. I know To Pimp a Butterfly is supposed to be a masterpiece, but I found Lamar's work difficult and not all that appealing. I struggled to listen to his rapping voice—it struck me as odd. Consider this a failure on my part. There have been many albums I hated at first listen that eventually became my favorites.
Songs of Innocence by U2 (released in 2014, but still)
A sunglass covered, beanie topped turd of an album if you tell me.
OLD ALBUMS THAT ARE NEW (TO ME)
Bach: Greatest Hits
I will be spending the rest of my life listening to and trying to understand Bach. This year I bought a book of Bach pieces arranged for guitar, so hopefully I will be doing more actual playing of Bach.
Yo Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone and Ennio Morricone: The Very Best Of
Ennio Morricone can write either epically beautiful or epically cheesy music. Nonetheless, I enjoyed both of these albums a ton this year (my sons did too).
The Phantom Menace movie soundtrack by John Williams
Say what you want about The Phantom Menace as a film but John Williams' score is a masterwork.
And here is a list of older albums I bought this year and hope to really immerse myself in:
Still Bill and Just as I Am by Bill Withers, Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus and Jazz Impressions of a Boy Name Charlie Brown by Vince Guaraldi, What's Goin' On by Marvin Gaye, Music in My Mind, Talking Book, and Innvervisions by Stevie Wonder, Prodigal Son by Keith Green, A Day at the Races by Queen, Tusk by Fleetwood Mac, Chariots of Fire soundtrack by Vangelis, and Discovery by ELO.
These are albums I have had for some time and have been favorites in the past and decided to put on again for whatever reason. To me, they are still great.
Steve Reich's Music For 18 Musicians (you can read my thoughts on it here)
PFR's Them and Great Lengths
Plankeye's The Spark (you can read my article on this album on the Chrindie 95 website)
John Reuben's Hindsight
The Best Music of 2015 by Aubrey England
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