I’m always on the lookout for new and uplifting music throughout the year. This year was no different than the past several years. I was inundated with a plethora of selections to choose from. It’s becoming more challenging to choose a selection of songs that didn’t quite make the full album category.
I had a lot of amazing albums and single songs to choose from so I took my time narrowing this one down. This list also had to fit the criteria of flowing together nicely to make a cohesive mix to share with everyone. So here it is. For your listening pleasure. With a little bit of commentary from me to entice you to listen and explore the depths of auditory stimulus I actively participated in this year.
Honorable Mentions 2015 .ZIP
Faith No More – Back From The Dead
I’ve been a fan of this band since I heard the song “Epic” as a child. I remember being fascinated with Mike Patton’s personality but also his vocal delivery. Over the years I’ve weaved in and out of their material and have had several of their songs personally resonate with me. They enticed frequent replays and revisits. This album Sol Invictus was pretty damn good. So good that I actually went out and bought the vinyl. When I first previewed this album I actually played the last song first and listened to most of the albums in the wrong order. “Back From The Dead” was the first song I listened to on this album and it hit me like a bomb. I was so impressed with this song and it hit a lot of soft spots for me emotionally at the time. It was exactly what I was anticipating from Faith No More. A completely different vibe from their previous work but an incredible step forward into a new soundscape. This song is completely visual, it has a wonderful lyrical content and a lot going on instrumentally. The idea of Mike Patton encouraging and congratulating a friend to return from the dead. The optimism and hope that this particular song brought to my life has been life changing. I can’t really listen to this song just once. It’s usually on repeat. I absolutely adore this song and I couldn’t have gotten through a lot of challenges I faced this year without it.
Beck – Dreams
This man keeps delivering insanely awesome music. Since it’s a single to preview his upcoming album, I was only able to include it here. I first heard this song and couldn’t be happier on how upbeat and fun this song is. Another wonderful addition to Beck’s already incredible music catalogue. The vocal layering and guitars are top notch. This song makes me happy and want to dance. The awesome keyboards throughout are also very cool to hear. I love the lyrical content and it’s very inspiring to hear and to sing along to. It’s a great song to wake up to in the morning. I’ve listened to it quite a bit this year and it still has that lasting power with me. I’m excited to hear how it reflects the upcoming album I so eagerly anticipate. Greg Kurstin produced this song so it’s got a extra special flare to it for me. You’ll see why later on in this list.
Jacob Turnbloom – Heartbreaker
Over the years I’ve become more and more fond of Jacob Turnbloom’s ability to craft some incredibly catchy songs that are in such a different spectrum than most musicians I’ve listened to over the years. I started out by becoming a huge fan of his earlier band First Wave Hello. He then surprised the hell out of me with his band Mrs. Magician who have steadily become one of my all time favorite bands. This solo output he’s done lately has been so incredible I can hardly put it into words. It’s awesome to hear a song that has this relatable story in the lyrics with drums, guitar, bass and dreamy synths in the background. It reminds me a lot of the narrative rock songs of the 80’s that you relate to and have a lot of fun dropping the needle on the 45 with repeat listenings. This song is the B-side to an incredible A- on a 7″ release by his label Thrill Me Records. Both songs really showcased Jacob’s muscianship and songwriting skills at a new level which I hope to hear more of. “Heartbreaker” resonated with me more on this particular release due to its lyrical content and how I could totally relate to his experience which he’s writing from. As I eagerly await the next Mrs. Magician album. This has truly been a pleasure to listen to to fill the gap between releases.
The Bird And The Bee – We’re Coming To You
I love how incredibly beautiful Inara George’s voice is. Greg Kurstin writes some pretty bad ass songs that really accentuate her vocal delivery. This song “We’re Coming To You” has this trippy synth vibe and heavy percussion going for it. Inara’s voice is just stunning. The entire album is filled with incredibly produced and well crafted songs that only Greg Kurstin is capable of. I totally understand why he’s working with the musicians at the level he does. This album really surprised me. I wasn’t anticipating enjoying it as much as I did. They’ve been off my radar and not so active for some time. I couldn’t be happier that they’re continuing to write and perform together given their busy lives.
Pure Bathing Culture – Palest Pearl
I spend a lot of time in record stores looking through the vinyl selections. Sometimes I’m fortunate enough to be in a record store that’s playing gems like this song “Palest Pearl” that just make that experience so much more engaging. When I hear something I really like, my curiosity is engaged, and I can’t help but find out who I’m listening to for future reference. This band totally consumed my interest. I was obsessed with finding their music and listening to it in my own personal space. After multiple listens of this album I kept returning to this song. There are multiple songs that could really have taken it’s spot on this list but the upbeat, catchy synths really put it above the rest. It has all the right elements that excite me and make me want to dance. I also love synthesizers. It had a wonderful synth sound layered throughout. Sarah Versprille has a rad voice and I really enjoyed her pleasant vocal stylings on this track.
FFS – Call Girl
I was pretty stoked to hear that Franz Ferdinand and Sparks were becoming one. It was a bad ass move on their part. They compliment each other so well. This song has these incredible synth moments in it that I was hoping they’d come up with when I first heard this record. There were so many elements to this record that made it fun to listen to and they have a sense of humor about the ridiculousness that collaborating can provoke. This is a fun, upbeat and stylish record to listen to. It makes me laugh sometimes when I listen to the lyrical content or realize how much fun they had while writing and performing these songs together. It’s quite a feat. I feel they really pulled off a classic record that will be revisited for some time. “Call Girl” is the highlight of the record for me due to the synth sounds they accomplished. Such a beautiful soundscape.
Frank Locrasto – Hotel
I’ve become more intrigued by instrumentals in this stage of my lifetime. More so due to the influence of my peers and their suggestions. My friend Michael Eades has some of the most similar tastes in music than most people I’ve ever met. When he previews tracks on his site I usually love or give his suggestions a test run before I invest my time. When he posted about Frank LoCrasto it was truly a gift and wonderful experience to hear the song “Hotel”. It’s so beautifully composed and draws so much emotion when listening. It transcends sound and takes you into a real experience where you live in the soundscape it provides and travel through time. This song was on high rotation in my travels this past year and it really comforted me in my most emotional endeavors I’ve ever been on. I reserve this sweet spot on a mix for such songs. It usually is a mark in the mix of reflection or just incredible sounding songs that give you a breath and peace of mind before you continue on this journey.
Beach House – Space Song
This song kinda just blew me away from the start. Beach House just has this dream like quality to their music. The synths, the vocals and timing in their music is just so gorgeous. Victoria Legrand’s singing has been a soft spot for me for several years since I’ve first heard them I was hooked. I was incredibly impressed with their output this year. Two insanely awesome albums. This album stood out on it’s own right and I couldn’t include both on my top ten list this year but I definitely considered it. This album had several songs that could have easily made this mix but I chose this song due to it’s Sci-Fi synth style influence and the slow build up that Beach House delivers like no other. Fading in and out of one’s consciousness like a dream.
Drab Majesty – The Heiress
Such an awesome find. This album really excited me due to it’s dark synthy 80’s vibe. The vocals are melancholy and upbeat at the same time. After multiple listenings “The Heiress” really stood out on the album for me. It has a lot of layered sounds that I find new things that I like after every listen. It’s pretty dope that Deb Demure wrote, produced and performed all of these songs. I’m a big fan of independent musicianship. It’s incredible to me that there are people in this world who are capable of crafting such brilliant soundscapes based from their own imagination and musicianship. I found out about this album later in the year so it didn’t quite make the top ten list but it continues to grow on me. I highly anticipate future releases from this artist.
Cheatahs – Freak Waves
This is another song that Michael Eades suggested on his site that a fell in love with. The album is superb and also was difficult to pinpoint its position in the list realm. I’m also a big fan of rock music so this fit my tastes quite well. Lots of guitar layers. Awesome drum fills and upbeat song progression. It really makes me want to play music again. I love inspiration of this kind. Fun music to listen to and jam out. They have such a range of styles on this album but “Freak Waves” has that total rock as fuck element that you can’t help but repeat listen to. I really enjoyed Nathan Hewitt’s vocal stylings and it really made the song resonate. From the first lyric to last you can barely understand what he’s singing but it sounds so cool like it’s another instrument in the song.
Wavves – All The Same
I kinda got obsessed with Wavves for a little bit a while back when I picked up the album “Afraid Of Heights” on vinyl during a whimsical record store adventure. When they came out with this album, I was obsessed for several weeks. The songs were just what I had hoped they would be. Kick ass, upbeat, fun and fast paced. The guitar sound they accomplished on “All The Same” really put this song high on my listening pleasures. It just sounded so cool. It’s a pretty short song. The entire album is rad and I hope people get into it as well. It’s a fun record to play in the background when you want to get inspired to create.
Ringo Deathstarr – Guilt
This band caught me off guard. I was sitting in a friends car listen to KEXP and this song “Guilt” comes on while I was waiting and it just floored me. I didn’t really try to seek out the album right away. I had already been enamored by a few other albums already and wanted to continue to listen to them. It was persistent and I crept into my subconscious right away. I kept hearing the intro synths and guitar progression in my mind so I actively pursued the album. It sounded a lot better when I listened to it a second time. In terms of an album as a whole it continues to grow on me and the vocal layering made my fondness for this album grow exponentially. Alex Gehring has some wonderful vocals and they compliment Elliot Frazier’s really well. I thoroughly enjoyed this album.
Purity Ring – Bodyache
This 2nd album is an absolute gem from this duo. I’ve seen them live multiple times and they continue to impress with their song writing abilities. Megan James has this unique presence as well as a magnificent vocal styling that is really pleasing to me. They continued to add these electronic synth progressions and timing to their sound. “Bodyache” just sounds so epic and beautiful throughout. It comes in and fades out at jus the perfect moment leaving you wanting more. She sings with such conviction that you can’t help but empathize with her throughout the song. Such a unique ability to carry the listener through the emotional experience. It’s a really impressive song in their catalogue.
BØRNS – Overnight Sensation
I really enjoy the vocals of Garrett Borns. My friend Margeaux Abeyta clued me into this album and I’m very thankful she affirmed that it was okay to like this artist. The production on this album is top notch. Great lyrical content and progressive musical stylings throughout. This song “Overnight Sensation” stood out from the rest due to the intro of the song being so sugary and smooth in the beginning. I’m a sucker for harmonies and vocal layerings so this song hit a lot of hight notes for me. The synths throughout set up a dreamy background for the song. It’s a really solid effort from an up and coming artist. I hope that he continues to progress and make more efforts to explore his musical range.
Father John Misty – Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)
I’m totally on the Father John Misty vibe to an extent. I feel others are quick to give him a lot of praise. The album is a great companion to his first release. I’m hoping he continues to progress in this way. This song “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)” is one of his finest efforts. The album wasn’t as cohesive as I had hoped it would be and it had gaps. This is one of the greater songs in his catalogue in my opinion. The use of orchestral arrangements and the vocal delivery really inspired me and I gained a lot of hope and satisfaction from listening to it’s lyrical delivery. His voice is wonderful and I enjoyed a lot of the songs on this album. I have a feeling this will also grow on me in future listens. I may have not spent enough time with it to truly appreciate it.