Can you believe we’ve made another trip around the sun? And in these 365 days, we’ve heard comeback albums from Adele and Janet Jackson, experienced Star Wars (the Wilco album; the new film isn’t out yet) and bade farewell to legends like Allen Toussaint. Here’s our review of the year that was.
FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Belle & Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want To Dance
Naysayers aside. This is the best B&S record since Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Those who turn their noses up at Stuart Murdoch’s penchant for the nervous dance floor (“The Party Line”) or miserablism (“Allie,” “The Cat with the Cream”) haven’t an open mind. Girls in Peacetime is the microcosm record of 2015. In the wake of so much tragedy, we can still muster up the courage to thrive and sing. (Lead image courtesy Matador.)
Runner-Up: Veruca Salt – Ghost Notes
FAVORITE EP OF THE YEAR: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Hell
The artful noise of a band in flux, Hell is downright heavenly. Pains’ expert cover of James’ “Laid” with Jen Goma on lead vocals speaks to the fluidity of modern sexuality. A tiny work of genius for a group who regularly swings among the stars.
Runner-Up: Tracy Bonham – Making Heads & Tails of Wax & Gold
BEST REISSUE: Kurt Cobain – Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings (Super Deluxe)
We’ve never gotten closer to peering inside the mind of the Nirvana front man. This megalithic version includes Brett Morgen’s documentary on Blu-ray and DVD, 31 musical tracks on CD and cassette, a hardcover book featuring Cobain images and interviews, and a puzzle. Fitting for the complicated artist.
Runner-Up: Jack’s Mannequin: Everything in Transit – One More Plane Ride Uber Package
FAVORITE SONG OF THE YEAR: Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian at Best”
“Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you!” shouts the low-fi Aussie goddess. We’re not trying to bury our idols, but Barnett’s full-length debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, is worthy of all the praise it’s received this year.
Runner-Up: Lord Huron – “The World Ender”
LEAST FAVORITE SONG OF THE YEAR: Tyga – “Stimulated”
Those salacious lyrics about giving it to then-17-year-old Kylie Jenner? We just threw up in our mouths a little.
Runner-Up: Weezer – “Thank God for Girls”
FAVORITE SURPRISINGLY GOOD ALBUM: Blur – The Magic Whip
Not that we expected rubbish from the Britpoppers, but with 12 years between this and previous effort Think Tank, we weren’t sure Damon Albarn and his associates had such lively, lissome music left in them.
Runner-Up: Can’t think of any. Nearly all the music this year was predictably awesome or awful.
FAVORITE UNDERGROUND ALBUM: Lord Huron – Strange Trails
Still blazing after the beautiful Lonesome Dreams, Ben Schneider takes his nomadic masterpieces to regions beyond.
Runner-Up: Spose – Why Am I So Happy?
CRITICS’ FAVORITE ALBUM TO JACK OFF TO: Adele – 25
Sure, she singlehandedly saved the music industry, beating *NSYNC’s longstanding first-week album sales record. And the album isn’t bad at all. But its untouchable status is a bit sycophantic. (Image courtesy XL Recordings/Columbia.)
Runner-Up: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
BEST REASON TO RAID YOUR PARENTS’ CD COLLECTION: Florence + the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Yes, Ms. Welch is soccer-mom music. Face it. Embrace it.
Runner-Up: Public Image Ltd. – What the World Needs Now…
BEST REASON TO RAID YOUR YOUNGER SIBLING’S MUSIC COLLECTION, THEN DESTROY IT: Miley Cyrus – Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz
At this point, we hope for his or her innocence that your younger sibling isn’t listening to the Twerkmeister anymore. This is not a very special episode of Hannah Montana but a collab with bonkers band the Flaming Lips.
Runner-Up: Justin Bieber – Purpose
FAVORITE MUSIC VIDEO: The Decemberists – “Cavalry Captain”
One might say the Decemberists fandom is a cult. Here the band confirms this.
Runner-Up: Barenaked Ladies – “Say What You Want”
FAVORITE LYRICS: “I won’t play the game/I’m an Erica Kane.” – that dog., “Mean What I Say”
The power-pop band’s first new song in 18 years has some of the pithiest lines in their catalog. We love this All My Children reference.
Runner-Up: “You want to know what Zeus said to Narcissus?/You better watch yourself.” – Marilyn Manson, “Deep Six”
FAVORITE LIVE ACT: U2
A catwalk turned into Bono’s old neighborhood; a fan turned into a Meerkat star; and the venue turned into a galaxy of love when these blokes came to town.
Runner-Up: Smashing Pumpkins
FAVORITE EMERGING BAND/ARTIST: Hop Along
Frances Quinlan has one of the most unique, raspy voices in rock. Couple that with her band’s thrumming tunes, and you’ve got one rad movement.
FAVORITE COMEBACK: Veruca Salt
Nina Gordon and Louise Post are the most bodacious guitar babes around. All hail the queens!
Runner-Up: Missy Elliott
LEAST-WELCOMED COMEBACK: the Jonas Brothers
The band isn’t technically back together, but the paps are all over Joe’s and Nick’s horny pursuits. Yuck.
Runner-Up: the Biebs
MUSICIAN MAN CRUSH: Dave Navarro. A giving guy who never seems to age.
MUSICIAN WOMAN CRUSH: Brittany Howard. The Alabama Shakes heroine is fierce as fuck.
MUSIC-RELATED AWESOMENESS I'M LOOKING FORWARD TO IN 2016: New David Bowie album, the ultimate demise of sewer-y post-new-wave that currently rules rock radio, Bruno Mars’ Super Bowl performance
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