Tag Archives: year-end list

The Top Albums of 2015: Nos. 15 to 7

The Music of 2015

2015 has been a wonderful year for new music, one of the best years in recent memory.  Almost all the new releases I checked out were worthwhile, even the ones that eventually didn’t make the cut. What’s more, most of the albums I found that had come out in previous years were also exceptional.  It is quite the opposite of last year when I had real trouble coming up with ten albums to talk about; this year the difficulty is deciding what to leave out.  That is why I have gone with a Top 15 of 2015.  Too much is just too good.

Some clear themes have emerged: this year’s music of preference seems to be either hard and heavy post-metal, post-punk, or sludge/doom metal; or beautifully sweeping songs, lush and melodic…there are few exceptions.  But pretty much all of it features lots of great powerful riffage, and real honouring of the song. Instrumental music makes up a significant portion of the albums I chose.  Established artists surprised by the shift in their direction, and new artists absolutely stomped into prominence.

This was also the year that the 1980s dominated: the influences from that decade are all over the damned place. Two bands active in the 80s that I hadn’t paid any attention to for years (or ever) blasted out of the past with monster releases. At least three other bands heavily reference 80s sounds (although technically one will not release their album until next year; at this point a single is available). Several decent live albums were released but only one snuck into the list. Live albums are generally not regarded as legitimate candidates for year-end lists, and the one that made it into mine was actually released in 2014, but fuck it, this is my list and I’ll include what I want.

So: onto the list, starting at Number 15 and working upward.

 

  1. Ghost: Meliora

Ghost are a band with a clever, well-formulated gimmick, and they are not unskilled, and Meliora is an album of nice poppy metal, nothing too straining, pleasant to listen to, but I do not understand why everyone seems to think this is a great album.  No, it is not “great”, it is well done but not exceptional by any means,  and there could be other contenders for the bottom spot that didn’t quite make it.  This is the kind of album I play when I do not want to pay too much attention to what I am listening to: it has to have some merits in terms of good song structure and decent melodies, but not too demanding of one’s attention.  Meliora fits.

 

  1. The Fierce and the Dead: Magnet

I do admire Matt Stevens; he is a dedicated guitarist and untiring in his self-promotion, which one must be in this day of DIY musicianship.  However I tend to prefer his band project, The Fierce and the Dead, over his solo efforts. Magnet is a brief EP that came out this year showcasing their eclectic style, hard-rocking somewhat freeform math/post-rock.

 

  1. Steven Wilson: Hand Cannot Erase

I write this as I am listening to Insurgentes, Wilson’s first solo album.  The differences between these two albums, the first, and his fourth, could not be more stark. Insurgentes is superb; but I find that listening to H.C.E is an exercise in sheer determination to get through it; it must be done though because it is, you know, Steven Wilson and he is god (or something).  Naturally, the album is superbly executed with exceptional performances by the musicians, beautiful melodies, and is at times almost poppy (a welcome shift away from the jazz influences of the last two albums) — and while it is clearly meant to grab at the heartstrings I find it so obviously manipulative that it just leaves me cold.  But you can read my (rather generous) review here.

Continue reading The Top Albums of 2015: Nos. 15 to 7

The Top 25 Songs of 2015: Part III

7. “The Serpent” by Sisters of…: Album The Serpent, the Angel, and the Adversary

We have reached the part of the list  where the order of the top tracks almost doesn’t matter; at this point they are *all* monster, heavy-rotation superstars. So it is apropos to begin with a beast of a track from an insanely heavy album;  it also illustrates the kind of stuff I have lately found to be what greases my wheels most — blistering full-on prog/black/metal/post-metal…man when that is done right, it just doesn’t get much better. And these guys do it right.

 

 

6. “YANA” by Dead Letter Circus: Album Aesthesis

The album is a bit inconsistent, for some reason Dead Letter Circus have trouble living up to their enormous potential.  But this  soaring alt/post-punk track never fails to give me chills. Just one of those songs I inexplicably love.

 

 

5. “Oko” by Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster: Album Wires/Dream\Wires

An absolutely epic track from a long-anticipated album; these guys can pull off some of the best, heaviest, most thoughtful instrumental post-metal out there, and this is just a taste of what they can do.

 

4. “Planck Length” by Au4: Album And Down Comes the Sky… (2013 release)

The album this song is from came out in 2013, but I only discovered it this year. And it is an absolute *killer* of an album, it is by far the best thing I heard this year and then some, it really is my album of the year, except I can’t make it official.
It is hard to pull a favourite track from it, I could have listed four or five, but this one snuck up on me.  Industrial trip-hop about physics — and really, any song that can use “One point six times ten to the negative thirty-five” as a lyric, and make it work  — well, that’s some awesome songwriting right there.

 

 

3. “Annabelle” by Sisters of…: Album The Serpent, The Angel, and the Adversary

Another track from one of the best most intense albums I have heard this year. “The Serpent” was face-melting in intensity…and somehow “Annabelle” manages to take it up a couple of skull-cracking notches from there. This is the kind of stuff that eviction notices are made of.

 

2. “Everyone is Everyone (and Everything is Everything)” by Au4: Album And Down Comes the Sky… (2013 release)

Yes, this album is so extraordinary it supplied two songs in the top 5 of 25. Believe me, if there were songs from 2015 as good, I’d stick ’em here. But there aren’t…or at any rate, since the album can’t qualify for Album of the Year I’m going to promote it this way. You can find my review of the album here:

I cannot get enough of this track.

 

 

1.  “Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire” by Riverside: Album Love, Fear and the Time Machine

The album might not be their best, but this song…!! I really cannot stop listening to it; there are days when I think it just might be the greatest song Riverside ever created. Everything comes together in this track for me: the great martial rhythm compliments of Piotr Kozieradski’s drumming; Piotr Grudziński’s beautiful and nuanced guitar themes, the organ, the bass lines, the words, the singing…man it just hits every sweet spot, it digs deep into my soul where transcendence lies. It goes beyond mere words.

The Top 25 Songs of 2015: Part II

14. “Saturate Me” by Riverside: Album Love, Fear and the Time Machine

The most purely prog track on the new Riverside album, just effortlessly done without ever sounding derivative or neo- or like anyone else in prog today, and probably the heaviest track on the album. And besides — this track just kicks *epic* ass live.

 

13.  “Discovery One” by Eschar:  Album Nova

A mighty track from the first album by Eschar, post-metal that is imaginative and heavy and melodic all at once, and performed with confident aplomb. Unfortunately it seems as if the videos of the Nova tracks have been removed.  For a taster, here is a live version of “Monolith” from the same album.

 

12. “The Drifter” by Klone: Album Here Comes the Sun

This is a beautiful album, rich and atmospheric, and I could have chosen a number of tracks from it. The video is worth watching for the drum playthrough.  All the members are great musicians.

Continue reading The Top 25 Songs of 2015: Part II

The Top 25 Songs of 2015: Part I

This is the first year I have decided to compile a Songs of the Year list, but then 2015 has been a rather good year for music.   It was hard to restrict the list to just 25 tracks; there could have been many more.  Not only could most of the year’s best albums have contributed more than one, there are several songs from earlier years that I have included in the list, because I only discovered them this year, and they are too great to leave off.   Most of the tracks do have associated videos, but not all of them do.  I will note that when relevant.

So: starting at No. 25 and working my way up:

25. “He Is” by Ghost: Album Meliora

A great sing-along track from an album that is definitely fun and listenable but not truly “great” (at least in any real meaning of the word).

 

24.   “Beyond Metropolis” by Shriekback: Album Without Real String or Fish

The 80s are back…in a big way this year, and 80s alternative icons Shriekback do it the best.  The cleverly post-apocalyptic track “Beyond Metropolis” is the one that grabs me most from this album, but there is no video for it alone.  Start at 17:33 in the link below, or listen to the whole album.

 

23.   “Happy Returns” by Steven Wilson: Album Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Wilson does pop.  Or something like that.  This track does have its poignant moments, but I simply cannot muster up the interest to place it higher.

Continue reading The Top 25 Songs of 2015: Part I