Top Eleven Songs of 2015:
Listen to Best of 2015 on Spotify
Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit
"Put me on a pedestal, I'll only disappoint you / Tell me I'm exceptional and I promise to exploit you."
From the opening bar of the opening track, I knew I was going to love this album. An Indie Rock album
with a stripped-down, I'm-no-Rockstar-but-yes-I'm-a-Rockstar feel, this 28-year old from Melbourne has been compared to
John Prine and Kurt Cobain. That's a tough bill to follow, but I'll add two more: lyrically, she sounds like she could be
the lead singer of Wilco in an alternate universe.
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
"where were you when I was walkin'? / Now I run the game, I got the whole world talkin'."
I've never had as much trouble picking between two albums for the Album of the Year than I did this year.
Only time will tell whether I should have made this a tie.
Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color
"Maybe the stars aligned, or maybe I've just changed my mind."
Hailing from the OTHER Athens. No, not Georgia. Athens, Alabama. Lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard howled on the 2012 Song of the Year. In their sophomore effort, Howard's voice becomes a true lead instrument. I haven't heard pain in one's voice sound so beautiful since Tina Turner.
Beach Slang - The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us
"I can't think with all this noise" / "Turn the amps up to nine / I don't want it too loud."
In the waning days of Grantland, Steven Hyden called his shot and named this album of the year. After fronting the punk rock band Weston for sixteen years, frontman James Alex formed this quartet in 2013. After two EPs, they debuted their first full-length album in February of last year. Less than 30 minutes long, but it harkens back to an era when Emo was more punk than Dashboard Confessional.
Adele - 25
"Let me photograph you in this light / In case it is the last time that we might / Be exactly like we were before we realised / We were sad of getting old, it made us restless."
Say what you will about this list being released January 29, but at least it gave me time to process where Adele fit in to 2015. Where does one go after a Mercury Prize nomination, two chart-topping albums, and a Bond theme song? Apparently, it's a hiatus to gather, continue to mature, and collect thoughts for yet another great album.
The Decemberists - What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
"We know, we know, we belong to ya / We know you built your life around us / Would we change, we had to change some."
A long-standing perrenial to Cuckoo's Eleven, this Oregon-based quintet released their seventh album 20 days into 2015. What made this album such a long burn? For starters, how about the opening track, which is a tongue-in- cheek monologue from singer and audience, "So when your bridal processional / becomes a televised confessional / to the benefits of Axe shampoo / You know, we did it for you."
Telekinesis - Ad Inifinitum
"There's no fear of silence / We've got Mr. Bell to thank / I forget the feeling / I forget to look away."
After appearing in the 2012 playlist, I would have thought that this Seattle-based band would have truly taken off. Still flying below most people's radars. Get it together, Internet.
Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love
"I feel so much stronger now that you're here / We've got so much to do, let me make that clear."
The music world lost its collective you-know-what after hearing this band was getting back together. After a nine-year hiatus (and a great 2011 side project by Wild Flag), they sound like they never stopped.
Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
"I should have wrote a letter / and grieve what I happen to grieve."
While Stevens subtlely still contributes to his fifty-albums-for-fifty-states campaign by slipping in references to Washington and Oregon, this album really isn't about that. It's him bearing the loss of his mother twice: first when she estranged the family, and a second time when she passed away. It's an incredibly beautiful album. If all of this turns you off, just listen to "Should Have Known Better" until the Bridge at the 2:40 mark. If that doesn't get you, then something is seriously wrong with you.
Torres - Sprinter
"Word of life on savagery / I picked it up and took a swing."
Singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott speaks of her Southern Baptist upbringing. She's an artist who, while also scoring success on her 2013 debut, seems to be simmering and is destined for big things.
Tame Impala - Currents
"It's always around me, all this noise / But not nearly as loud as the voice saying / "Let it happen, let it happen (It's gonna feel so good) / Just let it happen, let it happen."
Making their third appearance on my EOY list, this Australian psychedelic rock band continues to evolve their sound.
Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp
"Ethereal, I'm in bloom / torturing the afternoon."
Indie songwriter Katie Crutchfield locked herself away on Long Island and penned a wonderfully subdued album, with just the right touch of fuzz.
Beach House - Depression Cherry
"You go to school, you follow all the rules, you live inside / Realize there's something in your eyes, you're back again / From the spine rising through the mind, you give it up."
The fifth album by this Baltimore-based dream pop duo, and their second time making the EOY list.
Mumford & Sons - Wilder Mind
"And the stakes remain too high / for this silent mind / And the shake, the lonely itch / that courses down my spine."
English Indie-Folk band plugs in! Okay, it's not a big a deal to do that. But it's clear that this band has extra gears and has created a great album.
The Mountain Goats - Beat the Champ
"March through the red mist, never get my vision clear / Learn to love this kind of atmosphere / Strike funny poses, keep my weapon hand low / Whip my head around a little, get blood on the front row / Gonna jab you in the eye with a foreign object / I will personally stab you in the eye with a foreign object."
An Indie-Folk band. From Durham, N.C. Who recorded a themed album about professional wrestling. I think the only extra thing they could have done to make the list was to preemptively thank me in the album liner notes.
Ryan Adams - 1989
"Took our broken hearts and put them in a drawer / Everybody here was someone else before."
Cuckoo's Eleven has documented well my love of Ryan Adams' music and interest in Taylor Swift. Is it really shocking that this album made the list? Nope. What's that? You thought it might be my Guilty Pleasure? No, friend. I found something much worse. Or better. You decide.
Guilty Pleasure of the Year
Silentó - Watch Me (Whip Nae/Nae)
"Boom! Watch me, watch me!"
Let's be real. I turn 40 this upcoming year. The
ability to evade the "middle-aged white guy" will become impossible. With a loving wife and three healthy, happy,
beautiful children, I am one lucky guy. I am in full-on Dad Zone. And over the course of last year, I realized that being
in Dad Zone, you can do some pretty simple things to make your kids think you are the funniest motherf***er on the planet. For instance, let's say one Fall Saturday morning you find yourself watching ESPN GameDay with your kids. They ask why do they talk about "Clemsoning" being a bad thing, and why head coach Dabo Sweeney dances so funny. Let me tell you: when I break it down in the living room, the kids think it's hysterical. Fast forward a few months, and our living room has become a dance-off: our son (6) prefers the Duff; while our oldest daughter (3) is a Stanky Leg kind-of-girl (she totally kills it, btw); our youngest (18 months) has evolved from clapping into some kind of Bop/Headbang combination. And I'm in the background, hopefully showing them that their dad may like to wax poetic about the importance of music, but it's totally fine to just want to kick a jam every now and then.