This year didn’t quite live up to the high expectations I had back in January. Artists like Chance the Rapper, Frank Ocean, Jai Paul, Kanye West, PJ Harvey, Radiohead, and The Wrens didn’t make good on their promise for a new full-length album in 2015. Fortunately, others were there to pick up the slack and provide us with some great albums. Below you will find this year’s edition of what I consider the top 40 albums of the year. To read the first 20 entries (40-21), CLICK HERE. On this list you’ll find albums from varying genres and possibly a few albums that are new to you. In a time where you can look up any song on a streaming service and hear it instantaneously, I hold on tightly to a love for the album as a whole, a collection of songs that work off each other, building toward one major theme or mood. As you will see in the list below, I’m a bit obsessed with new music and the art form that is the album. I take great pride in this list and hope that you find something worth checking out by the end.
(To hear my choices for the Top 10 Songs of 2015, go check out the latest Podcast HERE)
I think Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker is slowly becoming a real life version of Don Draper. The obvious connection can be seen in their shared creative brilliance – Draper in the fictional world of Mad Men with his ability to come up with advertising ideas off the cuff and Parker’s track record of releasing psychedelic pop music tailored for the 21st century. But the connection goes deeper than just their mutual ingenuity. The similarity I see is in how both struggle with change.
During the final two seasons of Mad Men, many loyal fans jumped ship due in large part to the show’s retreading of familiar tropes. Unlike most dramas, the antagonist never really showed growth. Instead, he continued his cycle of infidelity and alcoholism, followed by a fleeting realization of his mistakes before returning back again to his vices. Even the finale suggested that he hadn’t really changed during his West Coast spirit quest, finding only an idea for a Coke advertisement waiting for him on the cliffs of Big Sur. Instead of seeing Mad Men mastermind Matthew Weiner as a pessimist, I like to believe he wanted to show the struggles found in the human condition, that internal yearning for change and growth followed by the eventual return to our bad habits.
Man It Feels Like Space Again
I’m not quite sure what’s going on in Australia these days, but based off the recent influx of innovative psychedelic pop bands from Down Under (Tame Impala, John Steel Singers, Blank Realm) someone might want to check the water for traces of DMT. Often lost in this Aussie Invasion is the outlandish, psych-outfit, Pond. Many may see them as a side-project to the more widely popular Tame Impala (only one member of the band hasn’t served time with Pond), but this is an unfortunate misconception.
Pond’s latest release, Man It Feels Like Space Again is evidence that these Vegemite stoners deserve more credit for the mind-expanding mischief they’ve concocted over the course of six albums. Not that you should take their bubbly, far-out mix of melodies seriously – these songs are meant to be silly and fun. It’s this complete lack of pretension that makes their rumpus ride more deserving of accolades from psych-pop aficionados. In fact, that refusal to take themselves too seriously helped to make the Pond listening experience stand in stark contrast to their more well-known brother-band, Tame Impala. While Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker ponders the emotional struggles that come with loneliness and isolation, Pond opts to sing songs with titles like “Elvis Flaming Star” and “Heroic Shart” (yes, “shart” – that magical contraction of the words “shit” and “fart”).
A few days ago I posted the first 20 in my Top 40 Albums of 2012 (check it out here). The first half of the list is always easier to compile than the final 20. With this, the top half of the list, I find myself swapping albums from one spot to the next, trying to refine my list to the perfect order. Of course, this “perfect order” is never truly found. On one day I’d much rather listen to my number 17 than my number 5 and vice versa. I can promise you, all of these albums are fantastic. In order to come up with a definitive order, I took into account the overall significance of an album, not just which has the best collection of songs, but which is the perfect album – the themes, the order of the songs, the cultural significance. Within those parameters, I had no doubt what would be the number one album of 2012. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
There are a lot of bands out there today trying to recreate sounds from decades past. Whether it be aiming to recreate the stilted synth of the 80s, the lo-fi simplicity of the late 50s and early 60s, or the early 90s indie rock distortion. One of the most common victims of this resuscitation of rock Gods is the psychedelic rock of the late 60s with bands like Olivia Tremor Control, The Amazing, and Brightback Morning Light relying heavily upon ancient equipment scoured from pawn shops and auction houses. While bands like these have been able to recreate a sound from the past, Tame Impala have taken the psychedelic genre and flipped it on its head.
On their first album Innerspeaker it seemed like they were just another band that was into the hobby of refurbishing old sounds, but with their latest release, Lonerism, the band has found a way to cut from the same psychedelic fabric while still creating something completely original and exhilarating. Many of the instruments used on Lonerism are lifted from that same mystical pawn shop mentioned earlier, yet they manipulate these amps and instruments in ways that bands like The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane couldn’t have ever imagined.