Music in 2015

Another year has gone by and by tradition I do me end of year lists in the week between Christmas and New Year. Yesterday we celebrated 3rd Christmas Day with close friends so I’m starting a day (and a bit late).

Since I’ve not checked my blog yet for the best whiskies of the year, or I might not have reviewed it yet, I’m starting with the list of my favorite records. Regarding music (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) this year was a bit of a strange one, for multiple reasons.

First of all, a lot of great records came out in the first couple of months of the year and then it went really quiet until the last bit of the year. The spread wasn’t very good for people with my preference in tunes.

Also, while I normally have trouble restricting myself to ten records, I now have trouble filling it. I got around to seven, and after that it becomes rather arbitrary what the last three records are. The list of honorable mentions is quite impressive though.

Thirdly, I discovered a few cool records I’ve been listening to in the last couple of weeks that I think are great, but I have not yet decided whether or not they’ve got any longevity. Quite often it happens that I find a record in the last two months of then year and think it’s great, until I’ve heard it 10 times and never listen to it again. (Martha Wainwright in 2012 is the best example)

Anyway, without further meanderings, here we go.

7: Father John Misty – I love you, Honeybear

A great and quite sarcastic record with lyrics varying from the ridiculous to an almost protest song level of criticism of society. I like this style, the complexity in the song texts and just how simple Joshua Tilman makes it sound. Not very surprising since I loved his work with Fleet Foxes as well. He’s been in the music news I follow (stereogum, mostly) a lot with all kinds of covers and parodies of songs and situations. Of course, there’s a lot of flack he gets for this too. I don’t think he cares.

6: Calexico – Edge of the Sun

I doubted for quite a while where to put this. In a way, it’s not a very great Calexico record. A bit middle-of-the-road and not very innovative compared to the previous records. However, I thought, it’s just really really good. This makes for great easy listening and still, after all is said and done, a great record that I’ve played quite a lot in the car. It works wonders on road trips and holidays. What also helps is the great concert of them I went to in spring.

5: Modest Mouse – Strangers to Ourselves

I love Modest Mouse. They’re quite out there in compositions and lyrics, but I love them for the freakiness of it. The songs have some good drive to them, and each record has enough diversity to keep you hooked for a while. I doubt I’ll listen to it as much as I did ‘We were Dead before the Ship even Sank’, but this’ll pop up occasionally next year and the years after.

4: Joanna Newsom – Divers

This is probably the most freaky record on the list. Not many people in my circle of friends can deal with Joanna voice, and the way she composes her songs. That most of it is just her and a harp doesn’t really help with people who are more appreciative of regular band compositions. This came out only a little while ago and it’s not available on Spotify, which means I’ve not listened to it all that often except to and from work, in the car. It still works, contrary to her previous records which were slightly more gentle. But, in short, I fell in love with the record the moment I heard it. Not every song is as good as the average of the 18 songs of the previous record, but there are some really good ones on there. Just give it a couple of tries before writing it off…

3: Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I sit and Think, and Sometimes I just Sit

Where the previous record, and some others in this list can be abstract in subject and lyrics, Courtney Barnett picks her subjects from everyday life and writes that down more or less as it happens. No metaphors or poetic freedom, just simplicity and sometimes even banality of regular things.

I have loved this ever since her previous two EPs came out (this is the official debut album), but the songs are awesome. And, more often than not, reminiscent of the 90s. The style, the compositions are all fairly simple. The result is awesome, though.

Fun fact: Her song ‘Depreston’ is about Preston, in Melbourne. Shortly after this album came out I had to send some whisky there. Fun coincidence.

2: Torres – Sprinter

I can only compare this artist to one other, and that’s PJ Harvey. I love PJ Harvey.  This is more of Harvey’s style from a few years ago (just before White Chalk, I’d say). Anyway, it’s loud, it’s like the nineties in some ways, and it has a great ‘drone’ to it. I wish I had gone to see her show in Amsterdam this summer.

Somehow, I wouldn’t expect this kind of songwriting from a 24 year old. I just hope there’s a lot more to come from Mackenzie Scott in the coming decades.

1: Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

A hugely personal record from Stevens about his upbringing with an alcohol mother who couldn’t really care for him, and his stepfather who took over. It’s very touching, and moving how he’s written songs about how his mom left him at a video store, and how he can see how that was the best thing at the time.

I’ve read some interviews (and hope I remember everything correctly) with Sufjan and he seems like a guy who’s been through a lot and really vents through his music. It also helps that the songs are gorgeous. The video below is also my favorite song of 2015. By a mile or so.

Do yourself a favor and sit this one out. Then do the same with the entire record.


Playlist Link!

Obviously, we then get to the honorable mentions that I couldn’t decide between for the rest of the top ten. Some of these records have been around since the early in the year (Decemberists, Bjork) and some of them I found only recently (Melody Gardot, Daniel Nordgren) but I like them all to some extent. Just not in comparison to the above list.

Faith no More Sol Invictus
Active Child Mercy
The Waifs Beautiful You
FKA Twigs M3LL155X
Daniel Nordgren Alabursy
Patty Griffin Servant of Love
Pokey LaFarge Something in the Water
Melody Gardot Currency of Man
Lindi Ortega Faded Gloryville
Brandi Carlile The Firewatcher’s Daughter
Bjork Vulnicura
The Arcs Yours, Dreamily
Julia Holter Have you in my Wilderness
Laura Marling Short Movie
Alabama Shakes Sound & Color
The Decemberists What a Terrible World, What a Wonderful World

(In bold the ones that would have been highest. The rest is really just an honorable mention)


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
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4 Responses to Music in 2015

  1. Gal Granov says:

    I know none of those (except Calexico). will give it a go 😉

  2. Robert Williams says:

    Please listen to Nadine Shah’s 2 albums
    Very PJ but also very much her own
    In my top 3 of the year
    Thanks for all the reviews

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