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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Off Topic: My Favorite Music of 2015

My Favorite Albums of 2015

1. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly

I read somewhere that with "To Pimp a Butterfly", Kendrick wanted to make an album so complex and challenging that a college course could be taught on it. He's not only done that but made an album that's enjoyable to listen to as well. This is easily one of my all-time favorite hip hop albums and one that gets better with each listen. 

2. Thee Oh Sees - Mutilator Defeated at Last
Jon Dwyer is the mastermind behind this San Francisco psychedelic garage rock band. With over 20 different releases since the early 2000's, this is without question my favorite. After briefly breaking up in 2013, Dwyer reformed with a whole new rhythm section - the result is a more Can/krautrock influenced record and amazing for late night highway driving. Definitely not your standard garage rock!

3. Jake Xerxes Fussell
Found out about this guy through the Aquarium Drunkard music blog and have been a big fan ever since. Jake is from North Carolina and plays super old-school backwoods acoustic folk/blues music. His debut album is full of traditional songs played in a very clean, twangy and original way. Highly recommended even if you have even a slight interest in this kind of thing. 

4. Low Cut Connie - Hi Honey
I absolutely love this album! "Hi Honey" is just a fun freakin' record, Nothing too fancy schmantzy here, just a great bar-band playing some old school rock n' roll with swagger. Singer and pianist Adam Weiner is a student of the early greats (Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard) and backs a band that mixes the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street" with Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run".

5. Richard  Thompson - Still
This is a guy I started getting into way too late in life, but so glad I finally did! He's got a huge catalogue of work with Fairport Convention, his duo with Linda Thompson and too many solo albums to count. But "Still" is one of my favorites. Thompson is a modern marvel among folk songwriters and this is the sound of a guy at his peak.

6. Keith Richards - Crosseyed Heart
Nothing much out of the ordinary on "Crosseyed Heart" but that's what I love about it - it's just Keith being Keith. This one features some solo acoustic blues, some country, a reggae number, a full on blues jam, some coulda-been killer Stones rockers, and plenty of beautiful ballads that only he could do. Lots of so called "Stones fans" have dismissed this record, but it's easily my favorite of his solo work.

7. Action Bronson - Mr. Wonderful
I don't claim to be a huge hip hop listener but this record just makes me smile. Doesn't seem like he's breaking a lot of new ground here, but Action Bronson's got a sense of humor that I love. Plus the samples are drawn straight from that 70's soul I love.

8. Butch Walker - Afraid of Ghosts
This the first album I've heard from Walker and probably won't be the last. Found out about it because Ryan Adams produced and played on it. This is by far his most stripped down album, and a lot of it deals with the death of his father. Super raw, beautiful stuff. Definitely teared up listening to a few of these tunes..... but took a little while to get into.

9. Jason Isbell - Something More than Free
Didn't quite knock me out the way that "Southeastern" did in 2013 but there's no denying that Jason Isbell is one of the great songwriters of this decade! This is another stripped down acoustic country affair full of tearjerkers dealing with recovery from alcohol addiction, past demons, and embracing life again.

10. Wilco - Star Wars
Any new Wilco is good Wilco in my book but this is definitely a weird one! At just over 30 minutes long there's not a second of filler on this thing. "Star Wars" feels like their most full band sounding record, yet Jeff Tweedy seems to take more of a backseat in the mix - which is hard for me to handle as a huge fan. Still it gets better with repeated listening. Reminds me a lot of the 2 Loose Fur albums.

11. Protomartyr - The Agent Intelect
If you're into that late 70s/early 80s art-punk vibe of groups like Wire, The Fall, and Warsaw: this band is for you. One of my favorite groups of the last 5 years, this is their 3rd album and most challenging yet.

12. Jesse Malin - New York Before the War
Jesse released 2 really great records this year, but I have to say this one takes the cake for me! Malin seems to have replaced the sad bastard tunes with up beat-fist in the air Ramones-style anthems. Overall he just sounds like he was having a blast making this record! Probably my favorite Jesse Malin album since "The Heat"! 

13. Chris Stapleton - Traveler
This has been a really great year for singer-songwriters, and Chris Stapleton is another one who's making waves in country music today. This is his first studio album but before that he had written hit songs for a whole slew of country artists. "Traveler" shows off a very soulful side to his music. Can't help but think I'm listening to Jeff Bridges in the film Crazy Heart the whole time.

14. Joe Pug - Windfall
Singer-songwriter from Austin who I first heard play at a show he did with Justin Townes Earle. Pug's got a nice clean way of singing these songs. Good easy-listening twangy folk tunes.

15. Modest Mouse - Strangers to Ourselves
First new album in a while and it's a good one! Wasn't talked about nearly enough this year, but it's great to see these guys back again.

Honorable Mentions
Ryan Adams - 1989
Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
Jack Ladder and the Dreamlanders - Playmates
Ought - Sun Coming Down
Robert Pollard - Faulty Superheroes
Ricked Wicky - King Heavy Metal
Royal Headache

My Favorite EP of 2015
Parquet Courts - Monastic Living
The band's debut release on Rough Trade Records. This is experimental and repetitive noise rock best listened to as background music. I absolutely love everything this group does. Probably not the best place to start with Parquet Courts but I really enjoyed it.

My Favorite Songs of 2015

Favorite Concerts
1. The Flaming Lips @ Austin Psych Fest, Austin, TX 5/10
2. Mike Watt and the Missingmen, Gay Sportscasters, Churchwood, and Hammell on Trial  @ The Gatsby, Austin, TX (Austin Corn Lover's Fiesta) 10/2
3. Pokey Lafarge @ The Parish, Austin,  TX 12/10
4. Ride @ Fun Fun Fest, Austin, TX 11/7
5. Peaches @ Fun Fun Fest, Austin, TX 11/6
6. Jane's Addiction@ Fun Fun Fest, Austin, TX 11/7
7. The Fat White Family @ Austin Psych Fest, Austin, TX 5/10
8. Wilco w/ William Tyler @ Stubbs BBQ, Austin, TX 9/30
9. Archers of Loaf @ Fun Fun Fest, Austin, TX 11/7
10. Fucked Up @ Fun Fun Fest, Austin, TX 11/7
11. Benjamin Booker @ Fun Fun Fest, Austin, TX 11/6
12. The Who @ Frank Erwin Center, Austin, TX 4/27

Favorite New Music Discoveries (Pre-2015 Releases)
Taylor Swift - 1989 (2014)
Fat White Family - Champagne Holocaust (2013)
Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again (2012)
Various: Sticky Soul Fingers: A Rolling Stone Tribute: Their 1971 Album Regrooved (2011)
Luna - Lunafied (2006)
Ron Sexsmith - Retriever (2004)
Giant Sand - Chore of Enchantment (2000)
Alex Chilton - Electricity by Candlelight NYC 2/13/97 
Red Red Meat - Bunny Gets Paid (1995)
Richard Thompson - Rumor and Sigh (1991)
Blaze Foley and the Beaver Valley Boys - Cold, Cold World (1980)
Fleetwood Mac - Tusk (1979)
Devo - Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo (1978)
Various - Punk 45: Underground Punk in the United States Volume 1 (2013)
Can - Future Days (1973)
Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information (1973)
Todd Rundgren - Something/Anything (1972)
Badfinger: The Very Best of Badfinger (2000)
Shuggie Otis - Freedom Flight (1971)
Harry Nilsson - The RCA Albums Collection (2013)
Various - Truckers, Kickers, Cowboy Angels: The Blissed Out Birth of Country Rock (2014/2015)
13th Floor Elevators - The Psychedelic Sounds of.... (1966)
Herman's Hermits - Their Greatest Hits (1987)
Thelonious Monk - Solo Monk (1965)
Various - Rockin' Bones: 1950's Punk and Rockabilly (2006)
Slim Harpo - The Excello Singles Anthology (2003)

What I'm Looking Forward to in 2016..........A New Ryan Adams album........... Guns n' Roses Stadium Tour with Slash and Duff McKagen!......... Bernie Sanders wins the election..........New albums by The I Don't Cares (Paul Westerberg), Kanye West, Radiohead, Alejandro Escovedo, David Bowie's "Blackstar", Frank Ocean, Nine Inch Nails, Strugill Simpson, Charles Bradley, and more!


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