Top Albums and Songs of 2015 (Sam List)

Inspired by Todd and a really great year for music, I’m coming out of hibernation with my tops of 2015…

Top Albums

Jamie xx In Colour (Young Turks)
I figured this collection of dancefloor etudes wouldn’t hold up to repeat listens but here I am, on the last day of the year, still unable to shake the hooks from my head.

Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment Surf (self-released)
A remarkably eclectic and powerful album. The fact you don’t see any of the guest stars credited in song titles tells you everything you need to know about how this “experiment” fared.

Protomartyr The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
Riveting post-punk from Detroit; kinda like Interpol without the pretense.

Young Guv Ripe 4 Luv (Slumberland)
Ben Cook set out to satirize bands like Cheap Trick, Big Star, Marshall Crenshaw, etc. only to end up creating a completely epic power pop album of his own.

Jose Gonzalez Vestiges and Claws (Mute)
I respect Jose’s absolute commitment to the whispery folk formula that made him famous, especially when it produces a gorgeous album like this one.

Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)
Like Jose, Sufjan keeps doing his thing and it keeps getting better.

Thundercat The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam (Brainfeeder)
Yearning, confident, proggy, funky – like nothing else out there.

Colleen Captain of None (Thrill Jockey)
An art album that plays like a pop record.

Kamasi Washington The Epic (Brainfeeder)
I may be the only so-called music snob who thought Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was just okay (or is that just me being extra snobby?) – but if the Kendrick Lamar phenomenon means former studio musicians like Kamasi see more sunshine, I’m all about it.

Beirut No No No (4AD)
Even a B+ record from Beirut will make my top 10.

Top Songs

Young Fathers “Shame” (Big Dada)
Nosaj Thing feat Chance the Rapper “Cold Stares” (Innovative Leisure/Timetable)
Baio “Sister of Pearl” (Glassnote)
The Arcs “Stay In My Corner” (Nonesuch)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” (Jajaguwar)
Lonelady “Groove It Out” (Warp)
Bicep “Just” (K7)
Swervedriver “Last Rites” (Cobraside)
Spectres “Where Flies Sleep” (Sonic Cathedral)
Beliefs “Tidal Wave” (Hand Drawn Dracula)
Low “What Part of Me” (Sub Pop)
Helen “Motorcycle” (kranky)
Four Tet “Morning Side” (Text)
William Alexander “Strangest Things” (Yellow K)
Open Mike Eagle feat MC Paul Barman & Milo “Trickeration” (Mello Music)

Mark Lanegan Band

I love Screaming Trees. One of my favorite concerts was seeing them with Poster Children back in 1993. They are one of those bands that I can go back to and never be disappointed.

Mark Lanegan, the former singer of Screaming Trees has always been busy releasing solid solo albums, even during his time with the Trees. Along with his solo work, he has released albums with former Belle & Sebastian member Isobel Campbell, and The Twilight Singers’ Greg Dulli under the name The Gutter Twins.  His latest release, Blues Funeral, on 4AD is another notch on the “solid solo release” belt. The music is dark and powerful, and his voice is as smokey and gravely as ever. Have a listen to “The Grave Digger’s Song” below. Whether you were a fan of the Screaming Trees before or just hearing of Mark now, you will enjoy this song.

Mark Lanegan Band – The Grave Diggers Song from Blues Funeral (2012)

 Mark Lanegan




Two days ago I had no knowledge of Tune-Yards. I stumbled upon them while searching through the webs looking for something new. I came across a description on of their music, calling it a mixture of folk, R&B, funk, Afro-pop, and rock. That combination of genre’s peaked my musical curiosity. I had to check them out.

Tune-Yards newest album, W H O K I L L, is even cooler than I imagined, and the song, “Bizness” is a great example of the album as a whole. The song is full of layers, like a musical trifle if you will. Layers of saxaphone, drums, background vocals, and what I think is a keyboard, but can’t tell for sure. All those components are held together by a driving bass line, from new member, Nate Brenner, that really moves the song along. Singer (and sole member before the addition of Brenner) Merrill Garbus seems to strain as she sings/yells/almost raps at times the lyrics. This is a great song to put on repeat while in the car and blast it for all the passers-by to enjoy with you.


Tune-Yards – Bizness


It’d be safe to say we’re all mad fans of Stereolab. A quick search of our archives reveals nine references to Stereolab as we introduced you to new artists by appealing to your taste in international, space-age pop. There are many more bands that aspire to Stereolab’s neu-lounge sound, but few can keep up with the quality and quantity of output. Never wandering far from their signature sound or formula, Stereolab astonishingly remains relevant and refreshing. For this, their 11th, album the band once again used Sean O’Hagan as producer and arranger. According to Tim Gane, the album began as seventy tiny drum loops on top of improvised piano and vibraphone chords. They sped up some tracks, slowed down others and worked their way to “a collection of purposefully short, dense, fast pop songs.” The track here is definitely one of my favorites from the album, a groovin’ romp where horns and organ build to bursting point, threatening to release contagiously good vibrations. All the while Ms. Sadier keeps her perennial cool, which always melts my butter.

FYI: While supplies last, pre-order the album (street date: August 19th) and receive a limited edition 7-inch. The band tours North America in September and October.

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Blonde Redhead

For the past 10+ years Blonde Redhead has delivered some of the finest textured music from the indie world. Each release brings their old-world pop sounds, complete with orchestral flourishes and whispery vocals, into crisper focus. Fortunately for us, we’re at the tail end of down time between records. It’s been over two years since their last album, and it sounds like the band is in the process of recording a new record that’ll be available early next year. Too long of a drought in my opinion. But I ain’t gonna complain. Not when they’re the kind of band that enlists David Sylvian for vocal duties (for an alternate version of their song “Messenger”). I’m including the video to my favorite song from the band, “Equus,” below. For some reason the song’s buried at the end of the album Misery is a Butterfly and it’s easy to miss. Don’t miss it.

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I have a lot to be thankful for, including two incredible live music experiences in one week: The wonderful Arcade Fire last Thursday at the Magic Stick, and a reunited, rejuvenated Pixies at the lovely State Theater in downtown Detroit. A bit of backstory, the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa/Come on Pilgrim is one of the first compact discs I bought in The Great Format Switch of 1988 and has had more front-to-back spins than any other CD I own. Yet, for a number of reasons, I never had the chance to see the Pixies play live until the other night. Let’s just say, they bought me a soda, they bought me a soda and tried to molest me in the parking lot…yep, yep yep! They were so tight (Dave Lovering was playing drums like it was his last chance on earth), no one was holding back, and they played for two solid hours and hit every single song on my wish list. Joe and I tried hard afterwards to think of anything else we would have had them play and all we could come up with were B-sides and agreed that was way too greedy of us. So that backstory now has a happy ending. Merry Thanksgiving everyone!

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