Each December I put out a list of my favorite albums that were released that year. It’s primarily a way for me to share music with my friends in a more palatable way than just sending single tracks to people and saying “Hey, listen to this!” … Admittedly, I still do that, but this is a way for me to cut down on the frequency of that — also, it makes the tracks that do get sent out singularly all that more important.
If you follow me on Spotify, you can see that all of my songs are organized into playlists by release year. I guess it’s just something for me to be pretentious about. Here’s the playlist of every track I’ve liked from 2015.
I don’t quite know how to write about music, so this list won’t be as eloquent as a Pitchfork review, but here it is! Each album image is a Spotify link, each “favorite track” link is a live performance of the song.
1. Toro Y Moi – What For?
When this album hit I knew it was a contender for album of the year on this list. I’ve heard Empty Nesters on I ♥ Radio, but honestly I feel it’s the weakest track of the album.
If this album were a video game: it would be Sonic the Hedgehog because it’s upbeat, engaging, and simple fun. A polished experience where the experience itself is central to the overall design.
Favorite Track: The Flight
2. Joywave – How Do You Feel Now?
I had never heard or heard of Joywave before this album (but that’s true for half this list). I have a feeling that these tracks will age well where most electronic music fails to.
If this album were a video game: Vector Man. A vibrant world of darkness, where the reigns of skeuomorphism have been relaxed — digital constructs aren’t reigned in to behave as their analog counterparts.
Favorite Track: Destruction
The previous two albums on this list gleam like polished rocks, this one feels more like the rock tumbler. Hopefully this rawness continues to stay fun and relevant in future albums.
If this album were a video game: Goonies II. An adventure that’s both dingy and expansive — whether the next hallway takes you to an attic, sewer, or cave; you’re going to be enjoying this album without wondering if the “[American Wrestlers]’R Good Enough.”
Favorite Track: This Ain’t
At the beginning of the year, Beach House released Depression Cherry which was a lackluster album. After Teen Dream and Bloom, they put out an album that epitomizes the reasons people give for not listening to them. Thank Your Lucky Stars (which I do), is the follow-up that Bloom deserved.
If this album were a video game: Super Mario Bros. 3. Sure, the previous album said it was a Beach House album, but that was just something else Beach-Housed-Up. And, much liked the forced side-scrolling levels, there are tracks that put you in a lull of expectations then expand and reinvent in fun ways.
Favorite Track: One Thing
Listening to this album was a succession of me thinking, “oh, that was nice,” followed by, “oh, that was nice,” and so on. I wasn’t outwardly impressed with the album until I realized how catchy the tunes ended up being. When you enjoy singing along, you know it’s good.
If this album were a video game: Wave Race 64. Because I didn’t think I would like that game, but it is highly replay-able. Also because it’s the perfect music for skimming across the ocean at sunrise.
Favorite Track: Kid Dreams
Every time I listen to this album I find something new and it climbs up my list. I’m sure if I gave it another month this album would climb another spot or two. Plus, the name is fun to say.
If this album were a video game: Strider. Relentless and addictive… strident. A sorrowful edge to the aggression. Almost cinematic.
Favorite Track: Standing In The Cold
Instead of saying “Band X is like Band Y meets Band Z,” I’m going to say that if you plotted a line from Beach House to Sufjan Stevens, C. Duncan would be in the middle. They pretty much meant the same thing, but the former analogy always make me think that the band is going to sound like a super-group.
If this album were a video game: Final Fantasy. Strip these tracks of their vocals and they’re eerily close to setting and event music for an RPG.
Favorite Track: Architect
8. Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
This was a recommendation from my friend Daniel (you can read his album list for 2015 here). I don’t like as much punk music as I used to; it’s starting to sound all the same again. However, bands like Beach Slang are great examples of what good punk can be and proof that it can still be made.
If this album were a video game: Ducktales. You can play the tracks in any order you want and it’s just as solid. Also because these video game analogies are getting harder to write/construe.
Favorite Track: Noisy Heaven
9. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
I know I’ve said it before, but Courtney Barnett is this generation’s Holden Caulfield. Each track is a stream-of-consciousness journey that ends up making the ordinary seem pretty profound.
If this album were a video game: The Adventures of Willy Beamish. Again, what should be ordinary is made extraordinary by someone with an incredible ingenuity and imagination.
Favorite Track: Pedestrian at Best
10. The Vaccines – English Graffiti
This album kept what I like about pop, and dismissed what I don’t. Some real catchy tunes in here that can stand on their own two feet as singles. I wouldn’t be surprised if this album was milked for six radio singles before they move on.
If this album were a video game: Earthworm Jim. Packs quite a punch for being so silly and buffoonish. Just as much variety in the album as there are in the levels of this game.
Favorite Track: Minimal Affection