Today’s music scene is in constant flux. The CD, which should effectively be dead, is still the top selling music format while Vinyl Records continue to whittle away at their market share, along with the dominant mp3 format. With streaming services, single sales and YouTube each playing prominent roles in how we consume popular music today, it only makes sense that our pop sensibilities would be as varied as ever.
We at American Craft Beer love to delve into the best music each year. If beer is our favorite pastime, indulging in music is a close second and often one of the best ways to pair the finest suds. Below you’ll find as diverse a variety of 2015’s best albums that we could muster; some of the year’s tasty tunes for all to enjoy, regardless of your persuasion. Here are our picks for 2015, listed by Artist, alphabetically.
Sound and Color – Alabama Shakes (Soul, Blues, Rock) – Quite possibly the most diverse offering of the year, Alabama Shakes bring all their favorite sounds to the table: electric blues/rock (“I Don’t Wanna Fight”), soul (“Sound & Color”), garage rock (“Shoegaze”). While the band’s previous efforts have been noteworthy, this time around their music sounds less like a band trying to prove themselves and more one wanting to teach the world what good music should sound like.
Favorite Track: “Guess Who“
Best Played When… relaxing after a night on the town.
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit – Courtney Barnett (Rock) – An imaginative Australian singer-songwriter who recalls the rough-around-the-edges garage revival of the 90’s, Courtney’s thoughtful lyricism sparkles through various thematic hues. Offering poppy folk ballads and shuffling mellow blues, interspersed between rock and punk grooves, the album is a wonderful breath of fresh air, delivered with a beautifully disaffected Aussie accent.
FavoriteTrack: “Pedestrian At Best“
Best Played When… at a Riot grrrl reunion.
Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars – Beach House (Dream Pop) – One of the only artists to release two full albums this year, this Baltimore based electronic/indie rock duo certainly left an imprint on 2015. First releasing Depression Cherry in August, possessing a sound more akin to their previous release Bloom, the masses seemed very content with the results, many deeming it their best since their groundbreaking Teen Dream. While the album has that same big, spacey, dreamy feel, with occasional minor notes of melancholy, their second release Thank Your Lucky Stars (October)feels more striped-down, with more guitar in the mix, a less-epic quality, all shown through a darker lens. Combined, the two albums feel like complementing pocket symphonies, ready to soothe at the push of a button.
Favorite Tracks: “PPP” and “Elegy to the Void,” respectively.
Best Played When… reveling in rainy afternoon daydreams.
No, No, No – Beirut (Indie Folk, Electronica, Baroque Pop) – The space that Beirut inhabits is the confluence of classical instrumentation, modern pop and world music, making them one of the most unique acts in American music today. Suffuse with rich trumpet flourishes, amongst a diverse instrumentation including piano, flugelhorn, ukulele, melodica, glockenspiel and trombone, No,No,No is a surprisingly short listen at just under a half-hour, quickly whisking the listener along to new and exciting sonic dimensions. Not to be missed when playing live.
Favorite Track: “August Holland“
Best Played When… in the great outdoors.
I Love You, Honeybear– Father John Misty (Acoustic Folk/Rock) – Helmed by Josh Tillman, who’s previously been associated with 10 other bands including Fleet Foxes, Father John Misty’s second release under this moniker is a lush acoustic symphony filled with cynical and satirical lyricism on American life today. Tillman’s rich, voluptuous croon is a delightful counterpoint to the darkness of the very lyrical content flowing from his tongue. You’re wont to find a more unique individual talent in today’s musical landscape.
Favorite Track: “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)“
Best Played When… on a moonlit drive.
Art Angels – Grimes (Pop, Electronica) – Yet another diverse character in the realm of modern popular music, Grimes (Claire Boucher, 27, from Vancouver, BC) is a young virtuoso who’s built a worldwide following via electronic media. Self-describing her sound as “ADD music,” Art Angels is a darker departure from her universally acclaimed breakthrough album Visions. Extremely danceable music, inspired by Japanese Anime/Manga and K-Pop stylings, Grimes music may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but she’s a delightful diversion, quickly redefining what pop music is and can be.
Favorite Track: “Belly of the Beat“
Best Played When… escaping the world on the dance floor.
To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar (Hip Hop, Funk) – There’s no other album released in 2015 that’s more often found atop Best of the Year lists, nor more universally acclaimed than this politically tinged collection of soulful tracks. During a year that saw the rise of “Black Lives Matter” and frustrated discontent in Black America, Lamar’s masterpiece feels like a soundtrack for a year of turmoil, no matter your race, religion or nationality. Lamar is doing what Kanye West has already attempted, yet without the shock value. Instead he takes a more soulful approach and attuned worldview.
Favorite Track: “Institutionalized“
Best Played When… summertime stoop sitting
The Waterfall – My Morning Jacket (Southern Folk/Rock) – This not-so-easily defined rock band from Kentucky used to be viewed only as a jam band with psychedelic meanderings, though with last year’s The Waterfall release, they’ve settled into more accessible terrain. Their previous two releases found lead singer-songwriter Jim James experimenting (Evil Urges) and making a concept album recorded live (Circuital). This time around James is dealing with darker times personally following a break-up, creating some of his most poignant and intriguing songs since their breakthrough album It Still Moves.
Favorite Track: “Like a River“
Best Played When… on a country drive.
Currents – Tame Impala (Psychedelic Pop/R&B) – Possibly the most divisive album amongst the indie rock faithful in 2015, singer song-writer Kevin Parker has continued to shape shift with each successive album he’s released. From acid rock, to bedroom balladry in his first two offerings, his third is a nearly flawless electronic voyage inhabiting a realm of “80’s synths… fit over a 70’s drum beat.” From the teenybopper pop of “The Moment,” to the bombastic pop-rock of “Eventually” and the soul grooves of “‘Cause I’m a Man” Parker has once again reinvented himself, while redefining how poppy a breakup album can sound.
Best Played When… when you need it turned up loud.
Star Wars – Wilco (Folk/Rock) – Before all the hullabaloo about The Force awakening, Jeff Tweedy and his merry musicians shocked the music world with an unexpected free album release. Filled with what one would expect from Wilco (Americana, folk, rock, country tinges, krautrock), the shocking part of it all is how concise and focused the tracks are, for at 33 minutes it’s the shortest LP they’ve ever released. It can also be argued that Star Wars is one of their best albums, at least in the past decade.
Best Played When… on a road trip.
10 More Can’t Miss Albums From 2015
La Di Da Di – Battles
Vulnicura – Bjork
Untethered Moon – Built To Spill
Fading Frontier – Deerhunter
In Colour – Jamie XX
After – Lady Lamb
Carrie & Lowell – Sufjan Stevens
Multi-Love – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Viet Cong – Viet Cong
b’lieve I’m goin’ down – Kurt Vile