The weather suggests otherwise, but December has arrived. That means every music magazine, website and blog has started to unveil their year end “best of” lists. Being a man of impeccable taste in music, it would be a shame for me to not throw my name in the hat and let the world know what has perked my ears the last 12 months. So here we go. I hope you enjoy.
When Nina Gordon and Louise Post decided to bury the hatchet and reunite the original lineup of Veruca Salt and release their comeback single “It’s Holy” in 2014 I was instantly transported back to 1994. That power pop gem held up against anything on American Thighs and Eight Arms To Hold You, but would a new album be worth more than a couple listens for old times’ sake? Well, apparently you really can’t fight the seether because Ghost Notes is a triumphant return for the band. The album documents the band’s breakup and eventual reconciliation, ranging from raging bitterness to joyful, celebratory bliss. Nina and Louise are back and the world is better for it.
YQR ex-pat Northcote (or as his parents know him, Matt Goud) followed up 2013’s stunning self-titled album with the even more impressive Hope is Made of Steel. With his trademark soulful, raspy voice, Northcote writes tunes with big hooks and massive choruses that stick in your head for days. This album is the perfect pick-me-up after a shitty day. “Your Rock and Roll” is my pick for song of the year.
After laying relatively low for a couple years, Metric returned in a big way with the brilliant Pagans in Vegas. For this go around Emily Haines and the gang turned down the guitars and relied more on synths and some video game blips and bloops for a sound straight out of the ‘80s, but still contemporary. The band already has a more stripped down album in the can so we can expect to hear a lot more from Metric in the next year or so. I’m very okay with that.
I’m not sure how it happened, but I’m late to the Chvrches party. There was lots of buzz about them when their debut album The Bones of What You Believe came out in 2013 but I never got around to giving it a listen until earlier this year. Needless to say, the buzz was well deserved. Lauren Mayberry and company make electronic pop music the right way – with huge hooks and intelligent lyrics. With the release of their second album Every Open Eye this Scottish band once again brings the goods. The ‘80s are alive and well with Chvrches.
2015 was a tremendous year for country/roots veterans Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam. Coming off a divorce, Earle decided to tone down the politics and just let loose with the fun, blues album Terraplane with The Dukes. With Second Hand Heart, Yoakam amped up the rock and rockabilly aspects of his sound for a killer collection of tunes. As these two legends show, sometimes you just need to stop overthinking things and have a bit of fun. The result is two of the year’s best albums.
If there’s one thing you can say about Ryan Adams, he isn’t a slacker. His self-titled album was one of 2014’s best albums, plus he released a live album just a few months after that. And this year he decided to cover Taylor Swift’s cultural juggernaut 1989 album from start to finish, because why not? Say what you will about Swift, but she (and her team of pop mega-producers) knows how to write a catchy tune. With his reinterpretation, Adams shakes off all the gloss (see what I did there?) and reimagines the songs as performed by Bruce Springsteen, The Smiths, and U2. What should have been a “listen once out of curiosity sake and then go on with your day” album ended up being a contender for album of the year. Who knew that if you dropped the “hella good hair” and “sick beat” that “Shake It Off” was a good tune?
Regina’s own indie pop rockers Rah Rah keep amping up their game with each successive album, and now they’re playing in the big leagues with Vessels. People are taking notice because they’ve made high profile appearances on CBC’s q and The Strombo Show while also embarking on a world tour. Marshall Burns and company added more synths to the mix for a power pop extravaganza. “Chip Off the Heart” and “Be Your Man” are two of the years best singles.
If there’s one person who can give Ryan Adams a run for his money for being prolific this year it’s Jesse Malin. After keeping a low profile since the release of Love It To Life in 2010, the former D Generation frontman released two stellar albums, New York Before the War and Outsiders. New York is his big “statement” album while Outsiders is a little more loose and rough around the edges, but both are worth repeated listens. If both Joey Ramone and Bruce Springsteen have given him kudos over the years then he must be doing something right.
Roots/country singer Lindi Ortega can do no wrong. She keeps pumping out consistently fantastic albums at an impressive rate while touring like crazy. I don’t know how she does it but I don’t think she’s recorded a bad tune. With Faded Gloryville, Ortega seems to have come to terms with the fact that her old school brand of country will likely never vault her into the mainstream. But if she keeps releasing music this good, she’ll have loyal, appreciative fans buying her albums and going to her shows for years to come. In a perfect world, Lindi Ortega would rule country radio.
Well, that’s the rundown. Now, without further ado, here are my 40 favourite albums of 2015.
1. Veruca Salt – Ghost Notes
2. Northcote – Hope is Made of Steel
3. Metric – Pagans in Vegas
4. Chvrches – Every Open Eye
5. Ryan Adams – 1989
6. Steve Earle & The Dukes – Terraplane
7. Dwight Yoakam – Second Hand Heart
8. Rah Rah – Vessels
9. Jesse Malin – New York Before the War
10. Lindi Ortega – Faded Gloryville
11. Frank Turner – Positive Songs for Negative People
12. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
13. Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
14. Megan Nash – Song Harvest Volume One
15. Supersuckers – Holdin’ the Bag
16. The Mohrs – Kings of Nowhere
17. Library Voices – Lovish
18. Dear Rouge – Back To Gold
19. Jesse Malin – Outsiders
20. The Dead Weather – Dodge and Burn
21. Best Coast – California Nights
22. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
23. Joel Plaskett – The Park Avenue Sobriety Test
24. Eagles of Death Metal – Zipper Down
25. Faith No More – Sol Invictus
26. Corb Lund – Things That Can’t Be Undone
27. Kathryn Calder – Kathryn Calder
28. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
29. The Vaccines – English Graffiti
30. Dilly Dally – Sore
31. Elle King – Love Stuff
32. Bryan Adams – Get Up
33. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday
34. Yukon Blonde – On Blonde
35. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
36. The League of One – Kill
37. El Vy – Return to the Moon
38. Third Ion – 13/8 Bit
39. Zac Brown Band – JEKYLL + HYDE
40. Butch Walker – Afraid of Ghosts