Before jumping head first into year-end list-making season – a process contributing to the decline of music creation, criticism and listening with each passing piglet calendar – I thought it might be nice to revisit my top album choices from 2015 and see what holds up, what was a product of the moment and what was a total and complete whiff.

Because this is less a “blog” and more an “abandoned carnival grave yard,” I never actually published a best album list for 2015 (only the 75 best songs, which seems too granular to revisit outside of the top 5 or so songs). We will have to trust that this list I found in my Google docs is the real deal. Also, I’ll only touch on the records that bear revisiting. Suffice to say, if I can’t come up with some opinion or reflection of an album a year after the fact, it probably shouldn’t have been so high on the list.

Onward, to the past.


25) Autre Ne Veut – Age of Transparency
I maintain that this is a triumph of experimental RnB, was not treated with respect at the time of its release and remains underrated. Age of Transparency takes something weird (2013’s Anxiety) and makes it weirder without diluting the overall appeal (which is “soundtrack to rebel sex in the Blade Runner universe”). I bought a vinyl copy of this record with the Amazon gift card my boss gave me last year and I applaud my past self for shrewd purchasing. Verdict – Properly Rated

24) Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone?
Holy moly, was I ever horny for this album when it came out. I remember going apeshit when I first heard it, which is something because “going apeshit” is not my usual response to sad keyboard music. I remember this record being deeply felt without dipping into melodrama; emotional, but measured. That said, I have not thought or listened to it since. It’s due for a re-listen as it gets colder, but that lack of staying power is telling. Verdict – Potentially Over-ranked

23) Sleater Kinney – No Cities to Love
It was nice to hear this band come back as strongly as it did. “No Cities to Love” and “A New Wave” remain jams. As far as returning legacy acts go, this is about as much as is reasonable to hope for. Verdict – Properly Rated

22) Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool?
It’s not fair to judge this record against 2016’s Worry which – spoiler alert – I’m going to talk about at some length soon enough. Suffice to say, this record is not as good as Rosenstock’s latest effort, but that’s a credit to an artist who has gotten better and sharper on each of his solo releases. There was a time that this dude’s every word was my gospel. He speaks to me less now, but he’s still speaking well, to someone who needs him. Verdict – Over-ranked

21) Laura Marling – Short Movie
20) Sidekicks – Runners in the Nerved World
Lumping these together because they are both worthy submissions, placed correctly in order on this list. Laura Marling’s no-nonsense approach to folk storytelling is beyond refreshing. The Sidekicks are destined to be the 10’s emo also-rans that future generations discover and worship (the shape of The Replacements to come, I guess). I still think about these albums in 2016.
Marling Verdict – Properly Rated
Sidekicks Verdict – Slightly Under-ranked

19) Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
Look, this is a beautiful record full of gripping songs that grapple with death and suffering as well as anything, but my eternal issue with Sufjan is that he cannot overcome his Sufjan-ness. He’s been making this album, in one way or another, for his whole career. I have what I need from him. Verdict – Over-ranked

18) Screaming Females – Rose Mountain
Verdict – Slightly Over-ranked

17) Torche – Restarter
If I am honest with myself, I don’t love this album as much as I love the album’s title track, but goddamn do I ever love “Restarter.” I play that song roughly once a month. Sometimes album are novels, sometimes they are statements, and sometimes they are delivery services for more kick-ass sludge metal songs. If Restarter gave me “Restarter” (and “Loose Men” and “Minions”), it belongs somewhere. Verdict – RESTARTER

16) toyGuitar – In This Mess
This was me trying to make “fetch” happen. Verdict – Deeply Over-ranked

15) Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer
Verdict – Perfectly ranked

14) Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
Irony has not aged well. I remember the late night performance more than any one specific song. Verdict – Over-ranked

13) Dogs on Acid – Dogs on Acid
Blinded by Algernon Cadwallader / Snowing, I guess. Verdict – Over-ranked

12) Beach Slang – The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us
The fact that I had to look up the album’s title tells me all I need to know about how well this has aged. Looking at the rest of the list and seeing how little joyful, brash, stupid rock music made the cut, its position is understandable. From the comfy position I occupy in 2016, a year with some truly excellent rock music in it, this feels like a reach. Verdict – Potentially Over-ranked

11) Deafheaven – New Bermuda
Feel about this album the same way I feel about Age of Transparency. This band is well and truly on one, improving on its previous breakthrough in almost every regard, treated to a yawn rather than hero’s welcome. People don’t deserve music. Verdict – Correctly Ranked

10 Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett is polite, optimistic Isaac Brock and I LOVE Issac Brock. Verdict – Correctly Ranked

9) Open Mike Eagle – A Special Episode Of
8) War on Women – War on Women
To think, there was once a time when I thought albums like A Special Episode Of and War on Women represented a shift in how people felt about women, about black people, about identity, about equality. 2016 has been a bullshit year. Anyway, these are two important records that benefit from also being singularly awesome in their genres (panic-rap and hardcore, respectively). These two have taken on new lives given how the last 12 months have unfolded.
Eagle Verdict – Under-ranked
Women Verdict – Under-ranked

7) Future – DS2
In my heart, then and now, 56 Nights was the Future project that made it move in 2015. Verdict – DRESS IT UP AND MAKE IT REAL FOR ME

6) Ought – Sun Coming Down
May Ought’s reign last 1,000 years. Verdict – Under-ranked

5) Fetty Wap – Fetty Wap
Verdict – Properly Ranked

4) Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy
The middle section of this record is better than anything else this band has ever done, The Monitor included. Verdict – Properly Ranked

3) Vattnet Viskar – Settler
I will forever remember my cousin Jared’s outrage at this New England metal band’s high placement on my list. He might have a point, since I haven’t listened to a ton of Vattnet Viskar this year. That said, the world needs more New England metal. Verdict – Perfectly, Correctly Ranked

2) Viet Cong – Viet Cong
LOL. Verdict – Deeply Over-ranked

1) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Verdict – Correctly Ranked


 

Top 25 albums of 2015, Re-ranked:
25) Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone?
24) Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool?
23) Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect
22) Autre Ne Veut – Age of Transparency
21) Beach Slang – The Things We Do
20) Sleater Kinney – No Cities to Love
19) Mike Pace & The Child Actors – Best Boy
18) Screaming Females – Rose Mountain
17) Turnover – Peripheral Vision
16) Torche – Restarter
15) Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer
14) Ceremony – The L-Shaped Man
13) Baroness – Purple
12) Laura Marling – Short Movie
11) The Sidekicks – Runners in the Nerved World
10) Deafheaven – New Bermuda
9) Future – 56 Nights
8) Vattnet Viskar – Settler
7) Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
6) Open Mike Eagle – A Special Episode Of
5) War on Women – War on Women
4) Fetty Wap – Fetty Wap
3) Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy
2) Ought – Sun Coming Down
1) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

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