Sunday, January 17, 2016

Best of 2015

The music I listened to the most in 2015, in no particular order. This list appeared in the CHIRP Best of 2015 blog:


Rob Ellis, producer of PJ Harvey, gives the songs on Sprinter the sonic punch to match the angst of Mackenzie Scott's lyrics.  Scott, who grew up in a strict Baptist family, re-examines the source of her spirituality and her growing estrangement from a community that once provided comfort. 

Yo La Tengo/Stuff Like that There

Yo La Tengo’s 1990 release, Fakebook, remains one of my favorite albums. My daughters grew up singing lyrics from “Yellow Sarong” (The man in the moon taps at the window/How will we know your silhouette?/How will we reach you?)-- a special family lullaby.  Stuff Like that There follows the same game plan: loving covers of songs that deserve a wider audience, alternate takes of some of their own material and a few new songs.  A low-key masterwork. 

Deerhunter/Fading Frontier

Song for song, one of Deerhunter’s best efforts, with a brighter, airier sound palette than previous releases. 

Jamie XX/In Colour

A lot of electronic/ambient music runs out of ideas long before the song is over. All of the songs on In Colour clock in at less than five minutes and all have a musical inventiveness that makes you eager to hear more. Jamie XX creates a soundtrack for dreams from which you don’t want to wake.  

Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment/Surf

Surf is the musical antidote to all of the bad news that came out of Chicago this year. Donnie Trumpet (Nico Segal) and a slew of musical guests that include Chance the Rapper, Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, and Jamila Woods whip up an exhilarating blend of hip hop, gospel, New Orleans jazz and other genres.  The messages are strong and positive, celebrating self-reliance, family and community.  

Kendrick Lamar/To Pimp a Butterfly

Pimp is ambitious but preachy, sprawling but containing concise lines that pierce the heart, exhilarating but maddening in turns. All said, when the smoke clears, it remains the most essential record released in 2015. 


After a pummeling work week, my wife and I dragged ourselves to see Shamir at Lincoln Hall. His electric performance completely revitalized us. Since then Ratchet became our go-to album when we needed a sonic boost. 

Low/Ones and Sixes

“All you innocents, make a run for it,” sings Low’s Mimi Parker. These are lullabies of dread and angst, spare in their arrangements but always with just the right strummed chord, percussive element, two-note progression, or other musical element to bring the song home. 

Low Cut Connie/Hi Honey

Sometimes you want foie gras; sometimes a double cheeseburger and fries is just the way to go.  Hook-filled pub rock with attitude to spare.

Chastity Belt/Time to Go Home

Chastity Belt’s 2013 No Regerts was a raunchy, rollicking lark. Time to Go Home has a party’s-over vibe. Melancholy and nuance replace the hijinks and the musicianship has picked up a step. The guitar work at the close of “Joke” has only one flaw. It ends.