Our favorite albums of 2015 — the top two

For the last two weeks, I’ve been counting down my favorite albums of 2015. It was a banner year for new releases, and I even had to include a list of 25 honorable mentions before I started counting down.

The honorable mentions are here
And the countdown from 50 down to 3 went like this:

50)Lower Dens — Escape From Evil
49)Girl Band — Holding Hands With Jamie
48)Creepoid — Cemetery Highrise Slum
47)Thayer Sarrano — Shaky
46)Rachel Grimes — The Clearing
45)Stolen Jars — Kept
44)Hey Anna — Run Koko
43)Speedy Ortiz — Foil Deer
42)Marriages — Salome
41)Haiku Salut — Etch and Etch Deep
40)The Harrow — Silhouettes
39)Casket Girls — The Piano Album
38)Spectres — Dying
37)Eternal Summers — Gold and Stone
36)Esmerine — Lost Voices
35)Diverting Duo — Desire
34)Viet Cong — Viet Cong
33)astrobrite — Deluxer
32)Noveller — Fantastic Planet
31)Godspeed You! Black Emperor — Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress
30)Long Beard — Sleepwalker
29)Hamsas XIII — Encompass
28)Westkust — Last Forever
27)Hop Along — Painted Shut
26)Lanterns On The Lake — Beings
25)Violent Mae — Kid
24)The Black Ryder — The Door Behind The Door
23)Moon King — Secret Life
22)The Soft Moon — Deeper
21)Trementina — Almost Reach the Sun
20)Beach House — Thank Your Lucky Stars
19)No Joy — More Faithful
18)Torres — Sprinter
17)Mount Eerie — Sauna
16)Shana Falana — Set Your Lightning Fire Free
15)Eskimeaux — O.K.
14)Ringo Deathstarr — Pure Mood
13)Pinkshinyultrablast — Everything Else Matters
12)SOAK — Before We Forgot How To Dream
11)Thrushes — Exposing Seas
10)A Place to Bury Strangers — Transfixiation
9)Briana Marela — All Around Us
8)Beach House — Depression Cherry
7)Bully — Feels Like
6)93MillionMilesFromTheSun — Fall Into Nothing
5)Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
4)Wildhoney — Sleep Through It
3)Waxahatchee — Ivy Tripp

We’re finally down to the top two. One is a total surprise, and the other won’t be a surprise at all. Click on the album art to go to where you can buy the album.

Grawl!x — Good Grief

2)Grawl!x — Good Grief
This is the debut record by the ambient dream folk/dream pop one-man recording project. Grawl!x is James Machin, who is from Derby, England. He used to be in a shoegaze band called My Psychoanalyst, and he worked on the stuff for this album over a span of a couple of years. On Valentine’s Day, the album was released via the tiny label Time Travel Opps. Before the album’s release, I got a review copy in the mail bag promising that it was reminiscent of Julianna Barwick and Bon Iver. I totally understand those comparisons, and as soon as I listened to the album once, I knew that it was going to be in my year-end top five. And for about a month, it was just about the only thing I could listen to.
The piano and the guitar and the loops and effects — those are all excellent, but Machin’s vocals really shine, and the biggest star of the show is the structure. There’s a lot of space in this album. It’s almost overwhelming how much space there is. Listening to this album on headphones, I feel like I’m the only person in a fifty mile radius. I get the same feeling that I’ve gotten driving across Wyoming. At one point, I pulled over to the side of the interstate to admire the vastness of it all. It had been half an hour since I passed the last town, and that town had an advertised population of 2. There weren’t even very many other cars on the road. It was really awe-inspiring. It’s that same breathtaking vastness that I feel when listening to Good Grief.

Low — Ones and Sixes

1)Low — Ones And Sixes
This is the eleventh album by the slowcore trio from Duluth, Minnesota. The core of the band is the married couple of Alan Sparhawk (guitar/vocals) and Mimi Parker (drums/vocals), who have been making Low records since 1993. The songs are almost always slow and sad and minimal. That’s part of what Low is. Really, though, it’s about the harmonies. Although there are some songs that Mimi does all of the vocals, most songs feature some amazing vocal harmonies. Although the style of music isn’t similar at all, a lot of people say that Sparhawk and Parker’s harmonies are like those of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris.

Every album by Low ends up at the top of my year-end list, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that the new one is my favorite record of the year. Their album C’Mon was my fifth favorite non-Canadian album of 2011, and their album The Invisible Way came in at #9 on my 2013 year-end list. No matter what, they just keep making better records every time I think they can’t do it again.
There’s something a little bit different about this one. The low-end stuff is really low on this album, and some of those low lows are deliberately fuzzy and distorted. If you listen on cruddy speakers, it’s going to sound messy, or even bad. Through good speakers, or especially through good headphones, that stuff sounds amazing. And as always, it’s really about the harmonies. And Mimi’s intoxicating tremolo on her vocals.
Low came to Hopscotch back in 2013, and their set was my second favorite of the whole festival. You can read a bit about that here. That was my first time seeing them, and it came at just the right time. I’ll be seeing them in February when they come through on the big tour, and I can’t wait.

That’s it. Tomorrow, I’ll post a complete list that might or might not come with statistics and fun trivia.

Here’s to hoping that 2016 is as good for new releases as 2015 was.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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