Thursday, December 31, 2015

No Hiearchy for Old Men

My only criteria: these are albums I listened to repeatedly and all the way through without skipping tracks. I'm not claiming these are necessarily the best pop albums of 2015, but they are the albums of 2015 that I remember so well that I only had to doublecheck the labels that released 'em.

Will Johnson - Swan City Vampires   Undertow, i.e., Self-Released sometime in October 2015.
Chews up and spits out the on-again-off-again tedium of a lot of Centr-O-Matic and his previous solo work for a set of Americana-folk-rock songs that are accessible, memorable, singalongable and produced without the sort of sonic clutter that typically masks a dearth of honest feeling. Some nice stabby 'lectric gitar work, too. A sweet album written and performed by a puss-emitting anus who never replied to my email about it.

The Decemberists - What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World.    Capitol.  Released 1/20/15
Reviewers who really ought to know better crapped all over this album for being too long (because obviously concepts like art and value-for-dollars-spent cannot share a point in timespace) and "underambitious" (because no real fan ever wants his favorite band to actually sound like his favorite band). Still and all, and despite Colin Meloy's liberal arts grad student vocabulary, What a Terrible World is genuinely likeable and byandlarge enjoyable start to finish. And just so you'll know, I wouldn't hit a dog in the keister with most Decemberist albums, so there's that, too.

Low - Ones & Sixes.   SubPop. Released  9/11/15
Contrary to popular opinion, Jeff Tweedy really didn't do Low any favors on 2013's Invisible Way, but happily he also didn't turn them into the Wilco cover band of his dreams. (Not that there would be anything wrong with a Wilco cover band, but one really is enough, and Parker and Sparhawk's voices, together or apart, are simply too good for that sort of treatment.) I became an instant Low fan at the first sound of their harmonized "And I can hear 'em" on I Could Live in Hope [1994]. 20some years later and those voices are as lush and affecting as ever. And Low, at its best, has to be about those two voices, not extra instrumentation or whateverinhell "emotional generosity" is supposed to be.

Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear SubPop.  Released  2/10/15
Considering the lyrical content of a number of the tracks on this album, I'm guessing that Josh Tillman has piercings that I want to know nothing about. I also can't shake the feeling that—assuming Tillman is as snobby, meanspirited, and self-involved as the persona constructed by his lyrics—I'd push the li'l pischa in front of a speeding tractor trailer if I actually knew him. Nevertheless, the songs on Honeybear are simple but nicely crafted, the production slick & grand but not Billboard-hokey, and the lyrics consistently interesting if not witty or downright funny. And, yeah, people are kinda boring, if I'm honest. It's just the cute ones make up for that, is all.

I also remember liking ... Beirut - No No No (even tho' it didn't sound like Beirut), Deerhunter - Fading Frontier (altho' the best track, "Snakeskin," doesn't really fit), Kurt Vile - Believe I'm Goin' Down... , Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell (just not something I can take a steady diet of), Wilco - Star Wars, Beach House  - Depression Cherry, Destroyer - Poison Season, Waxahatchee  - Ivy Tripp (or so I'm told), Jennylee - Right On!, Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Style, Schlomo - Deep Red, El Vy - El Vy (even if it does sound like a National parody), and Swervedriver - I Wasn't Born to Lose You (despite the evident age-related drop in testosterone). Been there...

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