REVENGE OF THE WRITERS: Blurt’s Best and Worst of 2015

Courtney Barnett

REVENGE OF THE WRITERS: Blurt’s Best and Worst of 2015

 What stood out in the music world for 2015? The folks who work in the trenches here are gonna tell ya. Guarantee: all dialogue reported verbatim. Pictured above: the hands-down Artist Of the Year, Australia’s Courtney Barnett.

BY THE BLURT CRÜE

It’s like déjà vu all over again: For our 2015 year-end wrap-up we summarily yield the podium to the staffers and contributors who detail their personal picks for the year that just ended. The first section has the lists for the staff, while the second section has those submitted by some of the regular contributors. Note that if you want to contact any member of our staff, their contact emails can be found at our “Contact” page, and if you wish to reach out to any of the other contributors, send us an email at BlurtEditor(at)Gmail(dot)com and we will be happy to forward it along.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the site we have our annual “Farewell” covering some of the notable music world deaths of 2015, among them Native-American poet/activist John Trudell, Motorhead founder Lemmy, actor Leonard Nimoy, singer/songwriter Brianna Lea Pruett, jazz icon Allen Toussaint. Oh yeah, don’t forget Yogi Berra.

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Also check out our 2012, 2013 and 2014 coverage:

2014 In Review: Blurt’s Top 100 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2014

Farewell: Music World Passings 2014

2013 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2013

Farewell: Music World Passings 2013

 2012 In Review: Blurt’s Top 75 Albums

Revenge of the Writers: Best and Worst of 2012

Farewell: Music World Passings of 2012

 

Below: Reissues/Archival Artist of the Year Scott Fagan (both then, and now)

Scott Fagan then now

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BARBI MARTINEZ, Assistant Editor (Raleigh, NC)

2015 Albums

Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop

Waxahatchee — Ivy Tripp (Merge)

Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)

Joanna Newsom – Divers (Drag City)

Meg Baird — Don’t Weigh Down the Light (Drag City)

Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg)

Tame Impala — Currents (Interscope)

Tim Foljahn — Fucking Love Songs (Kiam)

Protomartyr — Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier (4AD)

Reissues/Archival

Bob Dylan – The Cutting Edge 1965 – 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 (Legacy)

Led Zeppelin – Coda (Atlantic)

Scott Fagan – South Atlantic Blues (Saint Cecilia Knows/Lil’ Fish Records)

Jawbox – Jawbox (DeSoto/Dischord)

The Clash – The Clash (RSD Black Friday Edition) (Epic/Legacy)

2015 Tracks/Singles

Motobunny – “Let’s Go Out”

Ryan Adams – “Bad Blood”

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 sly

LEE ZIMMERMAN, Senior Editor/Twang Editor (Maryville, TN)

2015 Albums

  1. Don Henley — Cass County
  2. Dave Rawlings Machine — Nashville Obsolete
  3. The Lone Below — Then Came Morning
  4. Robert Forster — Songs to Play
  5. Corb Lund — Things That Can’t  Be Undone
  6. Salim Nourallah — Skeleton Closet
  7. Adam Levy — Naubinway
  8. Jeffrey Foulcault — Sermon on the Rocks
  9. Joe Ely — Panhandle Rambler
  10. Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell — The Traveling Kind

Archival/Reissues

  1. Frank Sinatra — A Voice on AIr
  2. Bob Dylan — 1965-1966: The Cutting Edge
  3. Them — Complete Them
  4. Rolling Stones — Sticky Fingers
  5. Sly and the Family Stone — Live at the Fillmore East
  6. Grateful Dead — Fare Thee Well
  7. Go Betweens — G Stands for Decibels
  8. Led Zeppelin — Coda
  9. Robin Gibb — Saved by the Bell
  10. Van Morrison — His Band and Street Choir

 Concerts

  1. The Who
  2. Ben Rector
  3. Stevie Wonder
  4. Avett Brothers
  5. John McEuen 70th Birthday Celebration

DVDs/Blu Rays

  1. Glen Campbell — I’ll Be Me
  2. The Jam — About the Young Idea
  3. The Who — Live at Shea Stadium/Live in Hyde Park
  4. The Rolling Stones — Live in Tokyo
  5. Taste — What’s Going On: Live at the Isle of Wight

Top 5 Music Books

  1. Ray Wylie Hubbard — A Life… Well, Lived
  2. John Fogerty — Fortunate Son
  3. Dave Morrell — 1974: The Promotion Man in New York City
  4. Ronnie Wood — How Can It Be A Rock & Roll Diary
  5. Ringo Starr — Photograph

 Films

  1. The Martian
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  3. Ant-Man
  4. Jurassic World
  5. Spectre
  6. Love and Mercy

Best Record Label: Bloodshot… The little insurgent that could!

In Memoriam – Most Lamented Death: B.B. King… Long live the King!

Best New Artist: Dawn & Hawkes… simple, sublime and unassuming folk po

Worst New Artist: Don’t know. Won’t listen.

Dumbest Band Name: “The Weeknd” — really? Rappers have never been known for their clever handle, but this has to be the dumbest by far.

Sex Object of the Year: Lady GaGa singing the standards. That’s one classy Lady.

Asshole of the Year: The Donald perhaps?  Sadly, in a pitiful pack of presidential contenders from both parties, he’s also the most provocative. Sad, sad, sad.

Best Hair or Facial Hair: It was the Avett Brothers, until they shed their long locks. Todd Rungren’s bleach streaks still impress however and Avery’scool locks on Nashville also inspire.

2016 release I am most anticipating: David Bowie’s * – I won’t even try to decipher the title [It’s “Blackstar” –Discog. Ed.], but suffice it to say, anything new from rock’s most adventurous chameleon is always worth looking forward to. David – don’t disappoint! And let’s not forget the next studio set from the Avett Brothers… the disappointment factor there is generally nil.

Coolest trend or whatever: Vinyl? Maybe… and once I would have agreed. However I must confess that I’m totally tuned to CDs – less space, more compact and still the easiest to collect in terms of affordability and access. That despite the fact that the industry is doing its best to banish them entirely (see below). Methinks the exorbitant price of LPs may doom that trend to little more than a momentary fad.

Most Fucked Up or Annoying Trend of Whatever: Since I still feel the same way about this subject, I’m simply going to repeat what I said last year (and the years before that). — I sound like a broken record — pardon the pun — but once again I find myself railing against the continuing takeover of downloads and streams. Folks, I don’t care who you are… if you don’t cherish music in a physical form, then you are not benefitting from the entire experience. Music in amorphous form deprives us of the opportunity to hold it, marvel at it, linger on it as a piece of art, complete with all the visual manifestations of a well-done cover, the intricate liner notes about who did what and the sheer joy of being able to add it to the collection overall. Downloads and streams make music disposable, and beyond the momentary listening experience, makes it transient as well. Wake up people! Don’t let this art form fade away.

Wildcard: 50 Words From or About Me: At the age where a younger me might now refer to the current me as an old man, I feel both reborn and revitalized, free to express myself whatever way I please, without regard for whether my irreverence or wackiness might appear politically incorrect or sadly misconstrued. Living in Eastern Tennessee, a haven of great music (move overt Nashville, there’s plenty to relish on this side of the state!) the tunes still inspire me through times both good and bad, rekindling memories and making new ones along the way. Age is still just a number, as my ridiculously retro hairstyle will attest. Rock on, Mick, Keith, Pete, Roger, Bob and Sir Paul — you’re an inspiration to us all! Thanks for paving the way into the new age reality!

Favorite Blurt article I wrote: The black watch piece Creative Creativity where I finally had an opportunity to give this fantastic band the kudos they deserve. [Amen! –Literary Ed.]

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Protomartyr

JENNIFER KELLY, Senior Editor (Walpole, NH)

2015 Albums

  1. Meg Baird — Don’t Weigh Down the Light (Drag City)
  2. Protomartyr [pictured above] — The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
  3. Jessica Pratt — On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)
  4. Richard Bishop — Tangier Sessions (Drag City)
  5. Zachary Cale — Duskland (Important)
  6. Frog Eyes — Pickpocket’s Locket (Paper Bag)
  7. Lightning Bolt — Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey)
  8. Ryley Walker — Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)
  9. Weather Station — Loyalty (Paradise of Bachelors)
  10. Destroyer — Poison Season (Merge)

Honorable Mention: Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop) / Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop) / Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg) / The Fall — Sub-Lingual Tablet (Cherry Red) / Jon Spencer Blues Explosion — Freedom Tower (Mom + Pop) / The Cairo Gang — Goes Missing (Drag City) / Kelley Stoltz — Triangle Time (Castle Face) / Monk Parker — How the Spark Loves the Tinder (Bronze Rat) / The Mountain Goats — Beat the Champ (Merge) / Radioactivity — Silent Kill (Dirtnap) / Joanna Newsom — Divers (Drag City) / Richard Osbourn — Freehand (Self) / The Lloyd Pack — A Tribute (Amish) / Glenn Mercer — Incidental Hum (Bar/None)

Reissues/Archival

Various Artists — Ork Records: New York — NY (Numero)

JPS Experience — I Like Rain: The Story of the John Paul Sartre Experience (Fire)

Pere Ubu — Elitism for the People 1975-1978 (Fire)

John Renbourn — The Attic Tapes (World Music Network)

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brotherdege-498

FRED MILLS, Editor (Asheville, NC)

Top ??? 2015 Albums (aka a list in progress…. Hey, I’m the goddam editor!)

Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)

Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)

Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg/Interscope)

Peter Case — HWY 62 (Omnivore)

Grupo Fantasma — Problemas (Blue Corn Music)

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion — Freedom Tower (Mom + Pop)

Datura4 — Demon Blues (Alive Naturalsound)

Moon Duo — Shadow of the Sun (Sacred Bones)

Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free (Southeastern)

Michael Rank & Stag — Horsehair (Louds Hymn)

American Aquarium — Wolves (Last Chance)

Billy Sedlymayr — Charmed Life (Fell City)

6 String Drag — Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll (Royal Potato Family)

Phil Cook — Southland Mission (Thirty Tigers/Middle West)

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats — Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (Stax)

Joanna Newsom — Divers (Drag City)

Don Howland — Life is a Nightmare (12XU)

Giant Sand — Heartbreak Pass (New West)

Daniel Martin Moore — Golden Age (OK Recordings/SofaBurn)

Wilco — StarWars (dBpm)

The Waterboys — Modern Blues (Kobalt)

The Good Graces — Close to the Sun (Fort Lowell)

Tommy Keene — Laugh in the Dark (Second Motion Records)

Gabriel Sullivan JVPITER (Fell City)

Jesse Malin — Outsiders (One Little Indian)

Des Ark — Everything Dies (Graveface)

Fuzz — II (In The Red)

Pokey LaFarge — Something In The Water (Rounder)

Mandolin Orange — Such Jubilee (Yep Roc)

Alabama Shakes — Sound & Color (ATO)

Oneohtrix Point Never — Garden of Delete (Warp)

Natalie Prass — Natalie Prass (Spacebomb)

Panda Bear — Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (Domino)

Obnox — Boogalou Reed (12XU)

Moyamoya — moyamoya (Fort Lowell)

Nox Boys — Nox Boys (Get Hip)

Promised Land Sound — Promised Land Sound (Paradise of Bachelors)

Beaumonts — Get Ready For (Saustex)

Barrence Whitfield & the Savages – Under the Savage Sky (Bloodshot)

Donovan’s Brain — Heirloom Varieties (Career)

Earle, Steve — Terraplane (New West)

McMurtry, James — Complicated Game (self-released)

Minus 5 — Dungeon Golds (Yep Roc)

Pow Wows — Broken Curses (Get Hip)

Sonny Vincent — Bizarro Hymns (Get Hip)

 

Top ???? 2015 Reissues/Archival (ditto! –Ed.)

Bruce Springsteen – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection (Columbia)

Brother Dege [pictured above] — Scorched Earth Policy (Deluxe Edition) (Psyouthern Media)

Various Artists — Ork Records: New York, NY (Numero)

The Dictators – Go Girl Crazy (Real Gone/Epic)

Donny Hathaway — Live at the Bitter End 1971 LP (Atco/Rhino)

Scott Fagan, South Atlantic Blues (Saint Cecilia Knows/Lil’ Fish Records)

Neil Young – Bluenote Café (Warner Bros.)

Game Theory — Real Nighttime (Omnivore)

Sly and the Family Stone — Live at the Fillmore East (Legacy)

Faces – 1970-1975: You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything… (Rhino/Warner Bros.)

Shoes — Primal Vinyl (BOMP!/Alive Records)

The Dream Syndicate — The Days of Wine and Roses (Omnivore)

Alan Vega/Ben Vaughn/Alex Chilton — Cubist Blues (Light In The Attic)

Lizzy Mercier Descloux — Press Color (Light In The Attic)

Segal, Ty — Ty Rex (In The Red)

Harmonia — Complete Works (Groenland)

 

Worst Albums of 2015 (aka “the low hanging fruit”)

Adele — 25 (Columbia)

Coldplay — A Head Full of Dreams (Atlantic/Parlophone)

Carly Rae Jepsen — E*MO*TION (604/Schoolboy/Interscope)

Blur — The Magic Whip (Warner Bros.)

Action Bronson — Mr. Wonderful (Vice/Atlantic)

 

Top 15 2015 Music Books

Warren Zanes — Petty: The Biography (Henry Holt)

Wyndham Wallace — Lee, Myself & I (Jawbone Press)

Stephen Witt — How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century and the Patient Zero of Piracy (Viking Books)

Todd Mouton —Way Down In Louisiana: Clifton Chenier, Cajun, Zydeco and Swamp Pop Musi (University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press)

Harvey Kubernik — Neil Young: Heart of Gold (Backbeat)

Michael Goldberg — True Love Scars (Neumu)

Bruce Pavitt – Sub Pop USA: The Subterranean Pop Music Anthology, 1980-1988 (Bazillion Points)

Carrie Brownstein – Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl (Riverhead Books)

Kim Gordon – Girl In A Band (Day Street Books)

Kent Crowley — Long Promised Road: Carl Wilson, Soul of the Beach Boys – The Biography (Jawbone Press)

David Stubbs — Future Days: Krautrock and the Birth of a Revolutionary New Music (Melville House)

Mark StenAll Ages: The Rise and Fall of Portland Punk Rock 1977-1981 (Reptilicus Press)

Richard Dudanski — Squat City Rocks (self-published)

Alli Marshall — How to Talk to Rockstars (Logosophia)

Pamela Windo — Him Through Me: Making Love and Music in the Sixties & Seventies (self-published)

Ben Snakepit — Snakepit Gets Old: Daily Diary Comics 2010-2012 (Microcosm Publishing)

 

2015 Tracks/Singles

Joanna Newsom — “Divers” (Drag City)

The Go! Team — “The Scene Between” (Memphis Industries)

Best New Artist

Courtney Barnett

Most Wildly Overrated Artists
Julia Holter

Father John Misty

FKA Twigs

Best Live Show I Saw in 2015: The Who at PNC Arena, Raleigh NC, April 21, 2015

Top 4 Music DVDS of 2015

The Decline of Western Civilization Collection — Penelope Speeris, dir. (Shout! Factory)

The Jam: About The Young Idea —Bob Smeaton, dir. (Eagle Vision)

Scarred But Smarter: LifeN Times of Drivin N Cryin — Eric Von Haessler, dir. (Shanzing Films)

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me — James Keach, dir. (Virgil Films)

Favorite Films: Spotlight; Love and Mercy; Sicario; Me, Earl and the Dying Girl;

Best Record Label: (tie) Light In The Attic / Omnivore

Best Music Website: (tie) The Quietus / Perfect Sound Forever

In Memoriam: Most Lamented Death: John Trudell

Best Album Sleeve Art or Packaging: The Sonics —50 box set (Etiquette)

Best Colored Vinyl Release: The Modern Lovers —The Modern Lovers (reissue – split black and blue vinyl; Newbury Comics)

Hero of the Year: Stephen Curry

Asshole of the Year: ISIS

Fave Internet Meme of 2015: Steve Harvey Miss Universe

Best Hair or Facial Hair: Billy Gibbons (as always)

Sweetest Buns: the two women in Motobunny

Nicest Package: BJ Barham, American Aquarium

Coolest Trend or Whatever: Vinyl continues to be on an upswing (with turntables being one of the number one sellers during Christmas at Amazon as well)

Most Fucked-up or Annoying Trend: (tie) the major labels doing their best to kill vinyl by flooding the market with ridiculously high-priced releases even as they keep raising the list prices on prior releases; Bob Lefsetz continuing to go on and on and on about there not being an actual vinyl revival and folks claiming as such are clueless and helplessly mired in the past.

Wildcard: 50 Words (or less) From or About Me That You Won’t Read on LinkedIn: I edit BLURT for no financial compensation (my day job is editing a non-music magazine) but still love doing it because, hey, it’s rock and roll! Meanwhile, along with my teenage son I am absolutely nuts about major league baseball and college basketball; ironically it took having a son to rekindle those mutual loves from my own teenage days when I played both sports.

Favorite story or review I wrote for Blurt: “A Big Footprint: The Flamin’ Groovies”

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2015 Records I Wish Blurt Could Have Covered ( we didn’t receive review copies) That We Still Consider to be Part of our Top 100 This Year: Calexico — Edge of the Sun (Anti-); Jenny Hval — Apocalypse, girl (Sacred Bones); Torres — Sprinter (Partisan); The Velvet Underground — Live At The Matrix (UMe); Kurt Vile — b’lieve i’m goin down… (Matador); Sufjan Stevens — Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty); Grimes — Art Angels (4AD); Dam-Funk — Invite The Light (Stones Throw); Deerhunter — Fading Frontier (4AD); Neon Indian — VEGA INTL. Night School (Transgressive/Mom & Pop)

Top 10 Indie Videos We Premiered in 2015 at BLURT

The Black Watch — “Sugar Plum Fairy

Emitt Rhodes — “Making Of If I Knew Then

Gabriel Sullivan — “Hollow Hunter

Grannies — “The Corner of Fuck and You

Stephaniesĭd —“Love Is the New Black

Jack The Radio — “Moonlight

Michael Rank & Stag — “Trails

Seth Glier — “Love Is A Language

Bette Stuy — “Black Dog Blues”

Bruce Sudano — “Bad Girls

 

Top 10 Tracks We Premiered in 2015 at BLURT

6 String Drag — “I Miss the Drive In

A.J. Croce — “If You Want Me To Stay” (Sly Stone cover)

Johnette Napolitano — “Jazz On Vinyl

Game Theory — “One More for Saint Michael

Tommy Keene — “Last of the Twilight Girls”

The Old Ceremony —“Magic Hour

Stephen Kellogg — “Almost Woke You Up

Bloodhounds — “La Coauhuila

Holly Golightly — “Seven Wonders

Drivin’ N Cryin’ — “Hot Wheels

 

 

Ghost

MICHAEL TOLAND, Senior Editor/Blogger (Austin, TX)

2015 Albums

  1. The Church – Further Deeper (Unorthodox)
  2. Ghost – Meloria (Rise Above/Loma Vista)
  3. Ryley Walker – Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)
  4. Baroness – Purple (Abraxan Hymns)
  5. Tribulation – Children of the Night (Century Media)
  6. The Happen-Ins – Glamour Shots (Fuzz Recordings)
  7. Gary Clark Jr. – The Story of Sonny Boy Slim (Warner Bros.)
  8. Blind Idiot God – Before Ever After (Indivisible)
  9. Failure – The Heart is a Monster (self-released)
  10. Julia Hülsmann Quartet w/ Theo Bleckmann – A Clear Midnight: Kurt Weill in America (ECM)

Reissues/Archival

  1. Jellyfish – Bellybutton, Spilt Milk (Omnivore)
  2. Little Richard – Directly From My Heart: The Best of the Specialty & Vee-Jay Years (Specialty)
  3. Dave Kusworth – Princess Thousand Beauty (Troubadour/Easy Action)
  4. Jawbox – s/t (DeSoto/Dischord)
  5. Epic Soundtracks – Rise Above (Troubadour/Easy Action)
  6. Game Theory – Real Nighttime (Omnivore)
  7. Rag Dolls – Such a Crime (Seventeen/Troubadour/Easy Action)
  8. Five Eight – Weirdo (Chicken Ranch)
  9. Nikki Sudden – Red Brocade (Troubadour/Rookwood/Easy Action)
  10. The Dream Syndicate – The Days of Wine and Roses (Omnivore)

2015 Concerts

  1. Tanya Tagaq, SXSW, Flamingo Cantina, Austin, TX, 3/19/15
  2. The ZZZ’s, Levitation, Austin, TX, 5/10/15
  3. Angelique Kidjo, Austin City Limits taping, Austin, TX, 10/17/15
  4. Tribulation, Mohawk, Austin, TX, 11/14/15
  5. The Happen-Ins, CD release show, Mohawk, Austin, TX, 3/6/15
  6. The Last Bandoleros, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, TX, 10/3/15
  7. Cassandra Wilson, Austin City Limits taping, Austin, TX, 4/28/15
  8. Baroness, Mohawk, Austin, TX, 12/6/15
  9. Ryley Walker, SXSW, Mohawk, Austin, TX, 3/17/15
  10. Strand of Oaks, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, TX, 10/4/15

 

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ryleywalker

STEVEN ROSEN, Contributing Editor (Cincinnati, OH)

 2015 Albums

  1. Kamasi Washington — The Epic (Brainfeeder)
  1. Joan Shelley — Over and Even (No Quarter)
  1. Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop Music)
  1. Dale Watson — Call Me Insane (Red House)
  1. Ryley Walker [pictured above] — Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)
  1. Daniel Martin Moore — Golden Age (OK Recordings/SofaBurn)
  1. William Basinki — Cascade (2062)
  1. Bob Dylan — Shadows in the Night (Columbia)
  1. Julia Holter — Have You in My Wilderness (Domino Recording Co.)
  1. Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free (Southeastern Records)

 Best Reissue: Scott Fagan, South Atlantic Blues (Saint Cecilia Knows/Lil’ Fish Records)

 Best Live Show: Watching Jens Lekman, shortly after the Paris Massacre — which many people have said they felt was an attack on live music and the happiness and sense of community it can provide — give a joyously hopeful and kind performance at Cincinnati’s Woodward Theater. Coming from Sweden and well-traveled in Europe, Paris may well have been on his mind though he never said anything. He had come to town partly to participate in an art project sponsored by Contemporary Arts Center in which people submitted short stories about their personal experiences to him to turn into songs. He did that and performed the results while they were in the audience. He also performed his own songs with a local youth orchestra called MYCincinnati, which probably had never experienced a rock crowd before — and both those aspiring musicians and Lekman were delighted. I think everyone left happy — experiences like this are one reason people go to concerts in the first place. Good to know they still exist.

Best Live Show — Runner-Up: Watching Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, working with an avant-garde jazz duo, channel both Yoko Ono and Exorcist-era Linda Blair as her “throat voice” and “lung voice” battled in a Screaming With the Stars showdown while her body sometimes flopped and dropped, crawled and rolled around the stage. A live concert should also be like this, dangerous — but dangerous because the music is so challenging you don’t know how to respond, not because concert halls are killing floors.

Hardest Song to Hear: I still haven’t heard the already mythic “16 Angels Dancing ‘Cross the Moon” by Chip Taylor and John Prine because the 10-inch vinyl it was released on sold out so fast on Black Friday and now it’s frightfully expensive.

Best Music Movie: Love and Mercy has its flaws, but Paul Dano sure channeled the Brian Wilson of the Pet Sounds/Smile era.

Best Music Exhibit in a Museum: Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats at Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville.

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Moon Duo

JONATHAN LEVITT, Contributing Editor (Beijing China)

2015 Albums

  1. Jamie XX — In Colour (Young Turks)
  2. The White Birch — The Weight of Spring (Glitterhouse)
  3. Tame Impala — Currents (Interscope)
  4. Number Three Combo — Retrofitting (Slowburn Records)
  5. Moon Duo [pictured above]— Shadow of the Sun (Sacred Bones)
  6. White Manna — Pan (Cardinal Fuzz)
  7. Death and Vanilla — To Where The Wild Things Are (Fire Records)
  8. Side Effects Box Set — (Fruits De Mer Records)
  9. Sundarata — Language of the Stars (Slowburn Records)
  10. Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I just Sit (Mom & Pop)

Reissues/Archival Title of 2015: Amara Toure — 1973-1980 (Analog Africa)

Worst Album of 2015: Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe — I Declare Nothing (A Recordings)

Best Concert of 2015: Moon Duo @Yugong Yishan Beijing

Top Label of 2015: (tie) Fruits De Mer Records / Slowburn Records Tucson

Most Important topic I spouted endlessly about in 2015: BEIJING POLLUTION

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Mac

JOHN SCHACHT, Contributing Editor (Charlotte, NC)

2015 Albums (aka twenty-five new releases that did lovely — filthy — rhythmic — noisy — gentle — sexy things to John Schacht’s willing ears in 2015)

  1. It Hugs Back — Dreamwave (Safe & Sound)
  2. The Cairo Gang — The Cairo Gang Goes Missing (God?)
  3. Ought — Sun Coming Down (Constellation)
  4. Mac McCaughan — Non-Believers (Merge)
  5. Protomartyr — Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)
  6. Cian Nugent — Night Fiction (Woodsist)
  7. Tim Foljahn — Fucking Love Songs (Kiam)
  8. Monk Parker — How the Spark Loves the Tinder (Bronze Rat)
  9. JKutchma & the Five-Fifths — Blue Highways (Last Chance)
  10. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment — Surf (self-released)
  11. Parquet Courts — Monastic Living (Rough Trade)
  12. Dorthia Cottrell — Dorthia Cottrell (Forcefield)
  13. Dave Segeddy — Shrodego (Joyful Noise)
  14. La Luz — Weirdo Shrine (Hardly Art)
  15. Nap Eyes — Whine of the Mystic (Paradise of Bachelors)
  16. Waxahatchee — Ivy Tripp (Merge)
  17. Sleater-Kinney — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)
  18. Shannon & the Clams — Gone by Dawn (Hardly Art)
  19. Torres — Sprinter (Partisan)
  20. Wilco — StarWars (dBpm)
  21. Eden Sela — Purgatory (Thin Wrist)
  22. Haiku Salut — Etch and Etch Deep (How Does It Feel to Be Loved?)
  23. Yo La Tengo — Stuff Like That There (Matador)
  24. The Waterboys — Modern Blues (Kobalt)
  25. Low — Ones & Sixes (Sub Pop)

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R Headache

TIM HINELY, Contributing Editor/Blogger (Denver, CO)

 2015 Albums

royal headache- high  (what’s your rupture)

the chills- silver bullets (fire records)
expert alterations- you can’t always be liked (kanine)

jason isbell- something more than  free (ato)
salad boys- metalmania (trouble in mind)

linden- rest and be thankful (slumberland)

sweet talk- double perfect- (12xu)
sarah cracknell- red kite (cherry red)

club 8- pleasure (labrador)

the spook school- try to be hopeful (fortuna pop)
knife pleats- hat bark beach (jigsaw/ lost sound tapes)

la luz- weirdo shrine (hardly art)
the fireworks- switch me on  (shelflife)

primitive parts- parts primitive (trouble in mind)

twerps- range anxiety (merge)

car seat headrest- teens of style (matador)

eztv- calling out (captured tracks)

helen- the origjnal faces (kranky)
don howland- life is a nightmare (12xu)

the monochrome set- expert alterations (tapete)

Honorable Mentions: I also liked records by: the apartments, deaf wish , belle and sebastian, rocket from the tombs, co-pilgrim, wreckless eric, dick diver, pugwash, hierophants, sports, static daydream, obnox, best coast, postal blue, strawberry whiplash, fred thomas, joanna, gruesome, julia holter, the mantles, gospelbeach, the legends, robert forster, hugelarge, the school, bunnygrunt, ultimate painting, roman a clef, xetas, uniform, nots, the rightovers, seapony,  giant sand, the jet age,  sufjan stevens, the sonics, jason james, dot dash, the zoltars, the blind shake, orange peels, the orchids, coastal, and probably several others that I’m forgetting about.

 

Reissues/Archival
g stands for go-betweens: volume 1 (domino)

leatherface- razorblades and aspirin 1990-1993 (fire records)
half japanese- volume three- 1990-1995 (fire records)

the dictators- go girl crazy (real gone music)

velvet underground- loaded
denny lile- hear the bang
robin gibb- save by the bell (reprise)

sun city girls- torch of the mystics (abduction)

v/a- all about the girls (Croydon/cherry red )
dusty springfield- come for a dream  (real gone music)
the muffs- s/t (omnivore)
dusty springfield- faithful (real gone music)

del shannon- the further adventures of charles westover (trouble in mind)

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americanaquarium01-540x340

DANIEL MATTI, Contributing Editor/Beer Ed. (Raleigh, NC)

2015 Films

  1. Mad Max Fury Road
  2. Spotlight
  3. The End of the Tour
  4. Love and Mercy
  5. Amy
  6. Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens
    1. Sicario
    2. Ex Machina
    3. Love
    4. While We’re Young
    5. Bone Tomahawk
    6. Youth
    7. Me Earl and the Dying Girl
    8. Ant Man
    9. The Wrecking Crew

Top 15 Albums of 2015

  1. The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Harmelessness
  2. Glen Hansard – Didn’t He Ramble
  3. Wildhoney – Sleep Through It
  4. Kamasi Washington – The Epic
  5. Future – DS2
  6. Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls
  7. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style
  8. Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter Three : River Run Thee
  9. Faith No More – Sol Invictus
  10. Cloudrat – Qliphoth
  11. Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
  12. Gucci Mane – 1017 Mafia: Incarcerated
  13. Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden of Delete
  14. Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt
  15. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Top 15 Local Albums of 2015

1.Sarah Shook and The Disarmers – Sidelong
2. The Second Wife – Tourist
3. Escher – The Ground is Missing
4. Chateau – Amissus
5. Mipso – Old Time Reverie
6. Octopus Jones – El Guapo Sessions
7.American Aquarium [pictured above] – Wolves
8. Etiolated – Grey Limbs, Grey Skies
9. Anthony Neff and The Nearly Distants- Blood Beneath the Sun
10. See Gulls – You Can’t See Me

  1. Dragmatic – At Least We’re Not Dead Yet
  2. Bedowyn – Blood of the Fall

13.Boulevards – Boulevards EP

  1. Phil Cook – Southland Mission
  2. Des Ark – Everything Dies

Top 5 Concerts of 2015

  1. Death Grips @ Orange Peel – Asheville
  2. Faith No More @ Red Hat – Raleigh
  3. Glen Hansard @ DPAC – Durham
  4. The Legend of Zelda Symphony @ DPAC – Durham
  5. Primus @ Lincoln Theatre – Raleigh

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SleaterKinney

JASON GROSS, Staff Writer (New York, NY)

2015 Albums

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)

Miguel – Wildheart (Bystorm/RCA)

Pops Staples – Don’t Lose This (Anti-)

Lightning Bolt – Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey)

Lyrics Born – Real People (Mobile Home Recordings)

Bjork – Tri Angle Records Birthday DJ Set (soundcloud)

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)

The Go! Team – The Scene Between (Memphis Industries)

Alchemist and Oh No – Alchemist and Oh No Present Welcome to Los Santos (Mass Appeal)

Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too (Big Dada)

Archival/Reissues

Johnny Winter/James Cotton/Muddy Waters – Boston Music Hall 1977 (Echoes)

Various Artists – 60 Songs From The Cramps’ Crazy Collection: The Incredibly Strange Music Box (Righteous)

The Velvet Underground – The Complete Matrix Tapes (UME)

Lefty Frizzell – The Complete Columbia Recording Sessions, Vol. 1 – 1950-1951 (Columbia/Legacy)

Various Artists – The Rough Guide To Psychedelic Salsa (World Music Network)

2015 Tracks/Singles

Beat Spacek — “I Wanna Know” (Ninja Tune)

The Go! Team — “The Scene Between” (Memphis Industries)

Kendrick Lamar — “The Blacker The Berry” (Aftermath)

Estelle — “Something Good/Devotion (Passion Interlude)” (BMG)

Iain Woods — “Fiend” (Soundcloud)

Elle King — “Ex’s and Oh’s” (RCA)

Georgia — “Move Systems” (Domino)

VDP — “Caffeine ft Safe Posse, Joshua McGregor and Abby Martinez” (bandcamp)

Janelle Monae And Wondaland — “Hell You Talmbout”

Robyn and La Bagatelle Magique — “Love Is Free (featuring Maluca)” (Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope)

2015 Concerts

Zombies- NY Society of Ethical Culture- Oct 9, 2015

Kid Koala- Brooklyn Academy of Music- Sept 17, 2015

Lightning Bolt- The Wick, May 15, 2015

Squarepusher – Webster Hall- April 19, 2015

D’Angelo – Apollo Theater- Feb 7, 2015

2015 Books

Carrie Brownstein – Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl

Banning Eyre – Lion Songs: Thomas Mapfumo and the Music That Made Zimbabwe

Kim Gordon – Girl In A Band

Jessica Hopper- The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic

Preston Lauterbach – Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis

 Film/DVD

Amy

Janis Joplin – Little Girl Blue

Love and Mercy

Syl Johnson- Any Way the Wind Blows

Wrecking Crew

Videos

Squarepusher “Stor Eiglass”

Kendrick Lamar “Alright”

Dave Grohl and the Animal “Drum Battle- The Muppets”

Run the Jewels “Close your Eyes”

Lightning Bolt “The Metal East”

Best Record Label: Tie- Sahelsounds and Glitterbeat

Best New Artist: Courtney Barnett

Best Album Packaging: Egyptian Lover “Egypt, Egpyt”

Hero of the Year: The FBI Agent(s) who repossesses Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon A Time in Shaolin album from Martin Shkreli

Worst Trend: Donald Trump

2015 Album I’m Anticipating: PJ Harvey

In Memoriam: Allen Toussaint, Ornette Coleman, B.B. King, Ben E. King, Percy Sledge, Leslie Gore, Errol Brown (Hot Chocolate) and Oliver Sacks

Favorite Blurt Article I Wrote: My 2015 holiday music roundup

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JasonIsbell

HAL BIENSTOCK, Contributing Writer (New York, NY)

2015 Albums

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop)

Royal Headache – High (What’s Your Rupture)

Tame Impala – Currents (Interscope)

Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (Southeastern)

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color (ATO)

Laura Marling – Short Movie (Ribbon/Virgin EMI)

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier (4AD)

Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down… (Matador)

Honorable mention: Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art) / Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar) / Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style (Matador) / Sam Outlaw – Angeleno (Six Shooter) / Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (Merge) / Kamasi Washington – The Epic (Brainfeeder) / Torres – Sprinter (Partisan)

Reissues/Archival

Bob Dylan – The Cutting Edge 1965 – 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 (Legacy)

Bruce Springsteen – The Ties That Bind: The River Collection (Columbia)

Neil Young – Bluenote Café (Warner Bros.)

Velvet Underground – The Complete Matrix Tapes (Universal/Polydor)

Various Artists – Ork Records: New York, New York (The Numero Group)

2015 Concerts

Sleater-Kinney – 12/15, Brooklyn, NY

Jason Isbell – 7/24, Brooklyn, NY

Spoon – 3/18, Austin, TX

Sturgill Simpson – 2/12, Brooklyn, NY

The Thompson Family – 1/29, NY, NY

Mekons – 7/21, NY, NY

Palma Violets – 3/20, Austin, TX

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Zombies 

DAVE STEINFELD, Staff Writer (New York, NY)

2015 Albums

  1. RICKIE LEE JONES — The Other Side of Desire (TOSOD Music) Rickie Lee’s latest album is her best since 2007’s The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard. From the swaggering “J’ai Connais Pas” to “Christmas in New Orleans,” the prettiest postcard from Hell that you’ll ever hear, the music is informed by The Crescent City (where she now makes her home). The Other Side of Desire is proof that 35 years on, this artist is still growing.
  2. THE ZOMBIES – Still Got That Hunger (The End Records) While most of their British Invasion peers have either hung it up or are just going through the motions, The Zombies are making some of the best music of their career. On Still Got That Hunger, singer Colin Blunstone proves he still has the pipes of a guy half his age. And Rod Argent has come up with his best batch of tunes in ages — from the rocking opener “Moving On” to the top-notch torch song “Edge of the Rainbow.”
  3. THE WAINWRIGHT SISTERS — Songs in the Dark (PIAS) In their first outing as The Wainwright Sisters, Martha Wainwright and Lucy Wainwright Roche (who share the same father, singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III) deliver a disc of lullabies. They didn’t write any of the songs here but that hardly matters. On covers by everyone from Paul Simon to Townes Van Zandt to various family members, the Wainwrights’ voices blend beautifully enough to evoke a dark night in rural Canada, where this album was recorded.
  4. FREEDY JOHNSTON – Neon Repairman (Singing Magnet Records) The kid from Kansas is back with his best album since This Perfect World, some 20 years ago. Highlights range from the achingly pretty title track to catchier fare like “Sentimental Heart” and “Baby, Baby Come Home.”
  5. COURTNEY BARNETT – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Milk!) This Aussie It Girl proves she has the goods to back up the hype on her latest disc. Barnett sets the mood right out of the box with “Elevator Operator”: story-songs that combine infectious melodies with offbeat lyrics.
  6. SOAK — Before We Forgot How to Dream (Rough Trade) SOAK is actually Bridie Monds-Watson, an androgynous singer from Northern Ireland. Before We Forgot How to Dream, her full-length debut, is utterly haunting — and even more impressive since she was only 19 when she recorded it.
  7. SHAWN AMOS — The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You (Put Together) Renaissance man Amos continues to defy expectations on his latest effort. Where his last album was called Harlem, his new one, The Reverend Shawn Amos Loves You, was recorded in Louisiana and finds him tackling the blues (and sounding like he’s having a damn good time doing it!). Most of these songs are originals but there’s also a cover of Jimmy Reed’s “Bright Lights Big City” included for good measure.
  8. THE TURNBACK — Are We There Yet? (self-released) The Turnback is a trio from the NYC area who play good, old-fashioned power pop with the emphasis on “power.” Their sophomore set, Are We There Yet, includes fine originals like “First Song of Summer” and “Faketown,” as well as a cover of The Beatles’ classic “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
  9. NATALIE WALKER — Strange Bird (Dorado Music) Natalie Walker’s fourth solo album finds her collaborating with producer Malina on a series of enchanting electronic tracks about everything from love to the afterlife. The autobiographical title track is my favorite.
  10. AUSTIN PLAINE — Austin Plaine (Razor & Tie) The promising debut from this Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter is highlighted by “Hard Days,” which offers a fresh take on a timeless sentiment.

Honorable Mention: DAWES — All Your Favorite Bands (HUB Records) / COLIN HAY — Next Year People (Compass Records) / THE SELECTER — Subculture (DMF Records) / SARAH PIERCE — Barbed Wire (Little Bear Records) / TOMMY KEENE — Laugh in the Dark (Second Motion Records)

Reissues/Archival

  1. VARIOUS ARTISTS — Ork Records: New York, New York (Numero Group)
  2. VAN MORRISON — The Essential Van Morrison (Sony/Legacy)
  3. EVA CASSIDY — Nightbird (Blix Street Records)
  4. SHOES — Primal Vinyl (BOMP!/Alive Records)
  5. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN — The Essential Bruce Springsteen (Sony/Legacy)

Music Book of the Year: Punk Rock Blitzkrieg by Marky Ramone and Richard Herschlag (Simon & Schuster)

In Memoriam: Too many to mention in 2015, unfortunately. I have to include both Kings (Ben E. and B.B.), Scott Weiland, Ornette Coleman, Phil Woods, Lesley Gore, Errol Brown, John Bradbury, Allen Toussaint, Cynthia Lennon and Lemmy. And I’m sure I’m missing a few…

Comeback of the Year: The Zombies

Asshole of the Year: Madonna… What can you say about a woman who is pushing 60 but is still so desperate to remain relevant that she’ll do everything from flash the audience to leak her own music?

Best Label: Numero Group, for the Ork Records box alone. Incredible music, indelibly packaged.

Best New Artist: SOAK

Best DVD: The Jam: About the Young Idea (Eagle Rock Entertainment)

Best Concert: This one is a toss-up: Joan Armatrading at City Winery and The Zombies at the Society for Ethical Culture. Both shows were in New York City, both took place in October and in both cases I felt like I was witnessing history.

Worst Trend: Outlets that have a lot of money but refuse to pay their writers. I’m looking at you, Huffington Post.

2016 Release I’m Most Anticipating: The new Cheap Trick album, of course!

Favorite Piece for Blurt: “Ben Watt — Moving Target”

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Dangelo

STEVE KLINGE — Staff Writer (Wilmington, DE)

 2015 Albums

D’Angelo — Black Messiah (RCA)

Destroyer — Poison Season (Merge)

Hop Along — Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)

Jamie XX — In Colour (XL)

Rickie Lee Jones — The Other Side of Desire (The Other Side of Desire Records / Thirty Tigers)

Mbongwana Star — From Kinsasha to the Moon (World Circuit)

Jessica Pratt — On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)

Royal Headache — High (What’s Your Rupture)

Sleater-Kinney — No Cities To Love (Sub Pop)

Yo La Tengo — Stuff Like That There (Matador)

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builttospill

DANNY R. PHILLIPS, Staff Writer (Union Star, MO)

2015 Albums

Clear Plastic Masks — Being There

Built to Spill — Untethered Moon

Failure — The Heart of a Monster

Vietcong — Vietcong

Death Cab for Cutie — Kintsugi

Beat Happening — Look Around (an anthology)

Murder by Death — Big Dark Love

Screaming Females — Rose Mountain

Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free

Foo Fighters — Saint Cecilia

 Honorable Mentions: Sleater-Kinney No Cities to Love, Baroness Purple, Cage the Elephant Tell Me I’m Pretty, Wilco Star Wars

 Films

Star Wars Ep. 7: The Force Awakens

The Best of Enemies

Mad Max: Fury Road

Television

F is For Family

Gotham

Elementary

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Dictators

MICHAEL BERICK, Staff Writer

2015 Albums

  1. Josh Ritter: Sermon on the Rocks
  2. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
  3. Lucero — All A Man Should Do
  4. Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free
  5. Rhiannon Giddens — Tomorrow Is My Turn
  6. JD McPherson – Let the Good Times Roll
  7. The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ
  8. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
  9. Bottle Rockets – South Broadway Athletic Club
  10. Torres – Sprinter

Reissues/Archival

Continental Drifters — Drifted-In The Beginning

The Dictators – Go Girl Crazy

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks & His Band And the Street Choir

Leadbelly – Smithsonian Collection

Alan Lomax Archives – Root Hog Or Die

Carl Hall – You Don’t Know Nothing About Love

Dream Syndicate – Days Of Wine And Roses

Extra Thoughts

The Best John Prine Song Not Written By John Prine: Clark Paterson’s “Sweet Baby” from his quite fine The Final Tradition album.

The Best New Album After A 40 Year Hiatus: Emitt Rhodes’ Rainbow End, which also brings to mind Warren Zevon, which is never a bad thing.

The Best “Jason Isbell Is Too Upbeat For Me” album: Brent Best’s harrowing Your Dog, Champ.

The Best “It’s Weird But Wonderful, I Think” Reissue: Jeremy Spencer’s 1970 self-titled debut after leaving Fleetwood Mac

The Best “I Just Want To Rock Like It’s 1979” Reissue:  Bad Company – Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy

 The “Dwight Yoakam” Award For Best New L.A. Honky Tonker: Sam Outlaw. A great name and a great debut album, Angeleno.

The “It’s Not Too Late To Get Me A Birthday Present” Award: Bob Dylan, The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12

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KhairaArby_BF2

MARK JENKINS, Staff Writer (Washington DC)

2015 Albums (alphabetical by performer)

Khaira Arby [pictured above] — Gossip (Clermont)
Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)
Beauty Pill — Beauty Pill Describes Things as They Are (Butterscotch)
The Chills — Silver Bullets (Fire)
Daby Toure — Amonafi (Cumbancha)
Evans the Death — Expect Delays (Slumberland)
Gwenno — Y Dydd Olaf (Heavenly/PIAS)
Mbongwana Star — From Kinshasa (World Circuit)
Scenario Art — Happy Umbrella (Ki/oon—Sony Japan)
Terakaft — Alone (Out Here)

Honorable Mention: Robert Forster — Songs to Play (Tapete Germany) / Jenny Hval — Apocalypse, Girl (Sacred Bones) / Cheikh Lo — Balbalou (Chapter Two) / Monoeyes — A Mirage in the Sun (EMI Japan) / Shopping — Why Choose (Fatcat) / The Very Best — Makes a King (PIAS America) / Soccer Team — Real Lessons in Cynicism (Dischord) / Songhoy Blues — Music in Exile (Transgressive) / The Vaselines — V for Vaselines (Rosary)

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JD McPherson

STEVE WILSON, Staff Writer

 2015 Albums (aka 11 albums I’ll listen to 10 years from now)

 Libertines – Anthems for Doomed YouthThe greatest English band no one in America cares about.

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just SitIntelligent, funny, distinctive, rocking. That all matters, right?

Jesse Malin – New York Before the War / Outsiders # – A man has to get some cred for putting out two really good records in the same year.

JD McPherson [pictured above] – Let the Good Times Roll – At once brilliantly, passionately retro (the songs), and smartly, sonically po-mo (the production).

D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah – The great black music of the last half-century, personalized and made revolutionary anew.

Mourn – s/tTeen angst, adult focus.

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier – Band approaching greatness hits “cruise,” and gets better yet.

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material – Yeah, she is Dolly and John Prine. She’s also Elliott Smith and Aimee Mann. It’s the combination that makes her interesting.

Leon Bridges – Coming HomeIt’s soul music. Personal and archetypal. Sounds good to me.

John Zorn – Pellucidar: A Dreamer’s Fantabula – I dreamt of lyrical jazz-fusion, ace tunes and incredible musicianship. Fusion that didn’t suck.

Beach Slang – The Things We do to Find People Who Feel Like Us – Geez, (emo)tional, earnest pop-punk slam. Makes me want to hear Billy Bragg front the ‘Mats.

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Sonics

BILL HOLMES, Staff Writer (Fairport, NY)
2014 Albums
1 The Sonics – Here Are The Sonics  (Re:Vox)
2 Low Cut Connie – Hi Honey (Contender)
3 Michael Carpenter – The Big Radio ( Big Radio)
4 Kurt Baker – Play It Cool (Rum Bar)
5 Jesse Malin – Outsiders (One Little Indian)
6 Ryan Hamilton – Hell of a Day (Fanny Pack)
7 The New Trocaderos – Thrills and Chills (Uncle Mike’s R&R)
8 Michael Monroe – Blackout States (Spinefarm)
9 The Connection – Labor of Love (Rum Bar)
10 Dan Baird and Homemade Sin – Get Loud (Jerkin’ Crocus)

2015 Tracks/Singles
1 Wifee and the Huzz Band – She Won’t Go (self-released)
2 The Sonics – Sugaree (Re:Vox)
3 Motobunny – Let’s Go Out (Atomic A Go-Go)
4 Cotton Mather – The Book of Too Late Changes (self-released)
5 Wyldlife – Rock Candy (self-released)
6 Ryan Adams – Bad Blood (Blue Note)
7 Steve Deaton Three – Peroxide Blonde in a Hopped Up Model Ford (Plow Handle)
8 The Connection – Don’t Come Back (Rum Bar)
9 The Dictators NYC – Supply and Demand (self-released)
1 The Detroit Cobras – Feel Good (self-released)

2015 Concerts
1 Todd Snider 6/21/15 (Syracuse NY)
2 The Bottle Rockets w/Marshall Crenshaw 1/22/15 (Rochester NY)
3 The Grip Weeds w/ Ray Paul 1/24/15 (Rochester NY)
4 The Works 3/6/15 (Syracuse NY)
5 Barrance Whitfield and the Savages 8/25/15 (Rochester NY)

In Memoriam – Most Lamented Death: December 214’s back-to-back losses of Bobby Keyes and Ian McLagan haunt me more personally than anyone who left this mortal coil in 215. Keyes was a hilarious raconteur whose fact/fiction tales never ceased to entertain, and Mac was a genuine, warm soul whose character as a person exceeded even his stellar music legacy.

Best Label: Rum Bar Records, home to Kurt Baker, The Connection, Los Breakdowns and others. Like Stiff Records or Motown in their heyday, their label imprint is enough to warrant a purchase.

Best Rock Documentary Film: A tough challenge thanks to The Wrecking Crew, but the documentary about The Jam, About The Young Idea, was the one that put the biggest smile on my face.


Best Rock Concert Film:
Frank Zappa and the Mothers Roxy The Movie, finally released after years of delays. Perfectly captures the genius, the humor and the camaraderie of Zappa’s 1973 band featuring the unbelievable Ruth Underwood.

Thank You Santa Award: If it weren’t for Little Steven’s Underground Garage, and Michael Des Barres in particular, radio would be dead to me. Thank you for continuing to hold the match aloft in the wind tunnel.

We Can Now Officially Ice Skate In Hell Award:
December 18th, 2015 – Ray Davies finally appears on stage with Dave and sings “You Really Got Me”. (Although he still referred to his brother as “Dave Death of a Clown Davies”, which no doubt made Dave want to kill him all over again). WATCH THE VIDEO
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Nile-Encore-11151

Eric Thom – Contributing Writer (Toronto, ON)

2015 Albums

1. Darlingside – Birds Say (Thirty Tigers)

2. Rob Nance – Signal Fires (Self-Released)

3. The Mike Henderson Band – If You Think It’s Hot Here (EllerSoul Records)

4. Glen MacNeil – Where The Heart Remains (Self-Released)

5. Denis Parker and the Modern Saints – Denis Parker and the Modern Saints (Self-Released)

6. Eugene Hideaway Bridges – Hold On (Armadillo)

7. Eddie Martin’s Big Red Radio – Live in Tuscany (Bluebloodrecords)

8. The Honeycutters – Me Oh My (Self-Released)

9. David Celia – Double Mind (Self-Released)

10. John Campbelljohn – Chin Up (Nood Records)

Best Concert of 2015: Willie Nile – Horseshoe Tavern, November 15th, 2015

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phil cook

JORDAN LAWRENCE, Staff Writer (Columbia, SC)

 2015 Albums

 LOCRIAN — Infinite Dissolution (Relapse) The digital age is terrifying. Real-time maps of nonstop attempted cyber attacks, horror stories of rampant identity theft, doomsday tales about terrorists knocking out the national power grid—all of these and more await you with a quick look around the Internet. But technology is also exhilarating. We’re replacing people’s lost arms with functional robotic ones. IBM’s Watson computer comes as close to to decoding Bob Dylan’s lyrics as most critics. You can even buy a miniature BB-8 that you can control with your smartphone. Locrian excels in the grey area between these extremes. Infinite Dissolution is a technocratic odyssey, a swirling mass of black metal storm clouds and digitized soundscapes. It’s an album amazed by the possibilities presented by new innovations, but it also digs deep into the sense of dread and paranoia that comes along with them. Cascades of pristine synthesizers get swept away by clobbering rhythms and torrential distortion. Ferocious shrieks emerge from corrosive static. The crescendos, huge and awe-inspiring, indulge both wonder and horror. Big things are happening here, but you’ll never know if the outcome is bad or good. Our future could be Terminator. Or we might end up with the casually advanced society of Her. Infinite Dissolution conjures the intoxicating anxiety of staring at the horizon, not knowing what is ahead.

  1. KENDRICK LAMAR — To Pimp a Butterfly (Interscope/Aftermath/Top Dawg) Modern critics have a troubling tendency to elevate rap records they feel are more than just great rap records. So let me start by noting that To Pimp a Butterfly is a mammoth testament to one of today’s greatest, most versatile emcees: Lamar can grunt and growl like a more rhythmically regimented James Brown. He can slink and strut like the second coming of vintage Snoop Dogg. At one point, he plays the role of an estranged friend, slurring and stuttering, ranting at himself in a drunken rage. As a rapper, there’s little Kendrick can’t do. But To Pimp a Butterfly is definitely more than just a great rap record. Its musical landscape unites a wide swath of black traditions, bridging hallucinatory funk and jagged bop, laidback boom-bap and aggressive gangsta rap. Its themes are equally challenging: Lamar confronts sexualized hip-hop stereotypes and institutional racism with hard realities of “ghetto” life. He struggles to reconcile his newfound life as a hip-hop superstar and the debt he owes to his impoverished home of Compton. He supports these heavy topics with top-notch wordplay: “I’m a good field nigga/ I made a flower for you outta cotton just to chill with you,” he purrs on “Complexion (A Zulu Love)”; “I’m black as the heart of a fuckin’ Aryan,” he barks on “The Blacker the Berry.” No matter what you call it, To Pimp a Butterfly is great, a ferocious indictment of modern race relations that landed at a time when that’s exactly what many of us needed.
  1. SLEATER-KINNEY — No Cities to Love (Sub Pop) A full decade separates No Cities to Love from Sleater-Kinney’s previous effort. And yet, the tenacious indie rock trio has never been sharper or more vital. The guitar lines bend and constrict with endless energy, and Corin Tucker howls out a set of songs that tear at the underbelly of our modern complacency: The herky-jerk momentum of “Price Tag” takes a gatling gun to the debtor economy; the title track decries the waning sense of place in towns that increasingly look the same; and “No Anthems” cleverly upends its own premise, wrapping the album’s most soaring chorus around the notion that all of rock’s true anthems have already been sung. No rust here.
  1. SUNN O))) — Kannon (Southern Lord) Sunn O)))’s live show is a tremendous experience. When I saw them three years ago in a large theater in North Carolina, the hooded figures with huge cabinets shook the room to its foundations. They conjured distortion so thick and loud that it seemed to literally shove me down into my seat. Attila Csihar squeezed out his gnarled groans, lending haunting malevolence to the overpowering display. For me, Kannon is the Sunn O))) album that best approximates the group’s live powers. Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson summon huge columns of noise that undulate in a way that is utterly hypnotic, holding you in their sway despite the sound’s intimidating nature. Csihar’s demonic murmurs are equally intoxicating. Showcasing both power and subtlety, Kannon represents Sunn O))) at their very best.
  1. TITUS ANDRONICUS — The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge) The Most Lamentable Tragedy tells a five-act story across its 29-track, 93-minute duration. But as with many of the greatest rock operas—The Who’s Quadrophenia, for instance—Titus Andronicus’ fourth outing succeeds by ripping its narrative to shreds. Like that Who classic, Tragedy portrays a mind coming apart, an allegory for singer Patrick Stickles’ own struggles with manic depression. As you’d expect from a story told from the perspective of someone going through various mental breaks, it’s restless and scattershot—and therein lies its strength. Stickles’ chaotic moods are mirrored by music that plays grab-bag with some of narrative rock’s greatest champions, cleverly filtering each idea through the band’s signature brand of nihilistic punk. “No Future Part IV” plays like “Baba O’Riley” dosed on amphetamines and steroids, erupting with ragged enormity as Stickles rants with charismatic fervor. “Stranded (On My Own)” is lean and mean like the best cuts on Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life. The triumphant swell of “Fired Up” draws equally from Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire, splitting the difference between past and present. The album doesn’t end quite as convincingly as it begins, but the highs are exhilarating, exploring an important theme and having a ball in the process.
  1. BELL WITCH — Four Phantoms (Profound Lore) Doom metal is supposed to be dour. “Funeral doom,” the even more methodical and macabre sub-genre to which the Seattle duo Bell Witch loosely adhere, doubly so. Four Phantoms is an album about horrific deaths, grisly inescapable ends. But somewhere between the enormous drum concussions and the magmatic riffs, the music finds uplift, emerging from its darkest moments with monolithic riffs that scrape the skies and throaty groans and ghostly cries that intermittently soar. Four Phantoms is dark and uncompromisingly grim, but just as the dour vibes begin to overwhelm, it erupts into moments of triumphant beauty, fleeting gestures made all the more striking by the contrast.
  1. TORO Y MOI — Samantha (self-released) I live in Columbia, South Carolina, the town where Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick got his start before he moved west. And when I took to social media to posit that Samantha, the free digital collection Bundick offered up via Instagram this summer, was a better album than What For?, the proper LP he released a couple months prior, many of my followers vigorously disagreed. Samantha, they reasoned, was a loose and incoherent hodgepodge of tracks recorded across three years, it didn’t hold together like an “album” should. And yet, its moody coherence is exactly why Samantha grabs a spot on my list. It’s a paralyzing drift of undulating beats, adapting the chilly feel of Bundick’s early chillwave-defining work to the twilit brooding of Drake and The Weeknd. Shifting with superb smoothness from one track to the next, it’s damn near impossible—for me, at least—not to fall under its thrall. The highlights push from this base into delirious detours: trippy experiments like the Washed Out-featuring “Want,” which interrupts its eerie groove with an extended audio sample from The Notebook, gleaning genuine sentimentality from what should be a cheap trick; luscious hip-hop features like the Diddy-remixing “Benjaminz,” which twists its familiar sample into gilded funeral march, as Rome Fortune spits superbly charismatic verses about the dark side of greed.
  1. PHIL COOK — Southland Mission (Thirty Tigers/Middle West) No album I encountered in 2015 makes me happier than Southland Mission. A couple years back, Cook led a band through a rambunctious Ry Cooder tribute concert. This proper full-length debut, featuring many of those musicians and others, finds Cook conjuring magic to rival his hero, running with wild with various roots rock traditions, recombining them as he sees fit, and doing so with an infectious audible grin. His spin through Charlie Parr’s “1922,” the second song on the album, builds by degrees to a emphatically stomping conclusion, setting a tone that pervades this marvel of enthusiasm.
  1. CATTLE DECAPITATION — The Anthropocene Extinction (Metal Blade) The Anthropocene Extinction is an album about the end of the world. More specifically, it’s an album about how we are killing it. And Cattle Decapitation’s grueling technicality makes it all seem entirely inevitable. This is an airtight deathgrind blitzkrieg, with ferociously precise riffs and drums stoking the band’s tremendous fury, punctuated by guttural growls and valiant swells that feature a smoother, more conniving vocals—the sound of a beleaguered world happily shrugging off the dominion of men? Perhaps. And if so, Cattle Decapitation’s delivery is perfectly—disturbingly—convincing.
  1. DES ARK — Everything Dies (Graveface) Polarity has long defined Aimée Argote. As Des Ark she’s offered challengingly quiet acoustic delicacies, with the songwriter whispering stories of abuse and sexual confusion, confessing her brutal revelations at a volume that leaves the listener straining to hear. But then there’s the insistent surge of her full-band material, galloping forth with desperate intensity, an equally appropriate mood for her powerful songs. Everything Dies skews somewhat to the softer end of things, but it’s the moments where Des Ark muddies the waters that elevate this collection. “Don Taco & His Hot Sauce Toss” blossoms into a bittersweet, banjo-led rollick that’s both tender and driving. “Street Woods” sways with graceful grandiosity, elliptical washes of piano and picking cushioning Argote as she longs for a love she can hold onto “outside the coldness of my own hard truths.” The expanded sonics lend even greater weight to her unencumbered poetry.

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