The Best New Albums and Reissues Of 2015
Nah, not really. Here’s why…
Boy, I’ll tell you what, these “Top Albums Of 2016” lists going around sure are making me feel ancient. Up to last week I was feeling pretty good about things. I mean, I bought a ton of new music this year, but the sad truth is the majority of my purchases were from older artists, or reissues of classic albums in Deluxe format. What’s sad to me is that bands like My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Hot Chip are considered “old hat”. It’s the same for electronic pioneers Underworld (who reissued their groundbreaking Second Toughest In The Infants this year).
I can understand Paul Weller, Joe Jackson and Graham Parker (all who released, in my opinion, fantastic efforts in 2016) being considered passé. If I think about it all three of those artists arguably peaked in either the late ‘70’s or early ‘80’s (in Weller’s case maybe the late ‘70’s AND the early ‘90’s), so 30 to 40 years ago, which would be like some amateur music critic back then bemoaning the fact there “aren’t any quality artists like George Fornby or Hoagy Carmichael” anymore.
So I’m old. I haven’t heard and do not intend to listen to 90% of the “best albums of 2015”. I’m OK with it, believe me. I’m only 48, after all (almost), and every year I pick up on at least a few newish bands that stick with me. But truth be told I am having a far better time discovering what I have missed from the past, both distant and not so distant. Genres be damned, too, I don’t really care about labels anymore, haven’t for a very long time now. So Frank Sinatra can sit next to Spock’s Beard and Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Johnny Cash and Beethoven can enjoy a drink with The Angry Samoans and Here We Go Magic. It’s like the perfect middle-aged recovering music snob radio station. Just a bunch of anarchistic hippie punk rock beatnik DJ’s playing whatever the hell they want, when they want.
But anyhew, here’s what I listened to and enjoyed most in 2015, in my opinion a great year for all things audible:
Hot Chip, Why Make Sense?: One of the best electronic/dance albums of the year. With brains. ‘Nuff said?
Here We Go Magic, Be Small: The best one-man band no one knows about releases a fantastic follow up to the mighty A Different Ship.
P.I.L, What The World Needs Now: John Lydon’s snotty/funny/angry self, that’s what. It’s about 70% terrific, which is about what you’d expect.
Joe Jackson, Fast Forward: Out of the three Angry Young Men (Costello, Parker and Joe) I enjoy Joe Jackson’s music the best. I always have, and this is a terrific album that showcases Jackson’s ear for a melody. He’s baaaaaaaack!
Ozric Tentacles, Technicians Of The Sacred: The best prog/techno/instrumental double album released in 2015!
Pugwash, Play This Intimately As If Among Friends: Crafted like an LP of yesteryear with some very Beatles and ELO-like tunes aboard for the ride. This album should convert a few here Stateside to their camp.
Gavin Harrison, Cheating The Polygraph: Big band “arrangements” of classic Porcupine Tree songs? Sure, why not. It works, too, although most are rearranged beyond recognition. And Harrison, Porcupine Tree’s extraordinary drummer, is superb here.
Mercury Rev, The Light In You: Worth the seven year wait? For me it was, as I believe it’s a much better and more coherent album than anything released since All Is Dream back in 2001.
My Morning Jacket, The Waterfall: Overlooked, but why? It’s really, really great! Better than Circuital, better than Evil urges…not quite up to the high standards of the amazing “Z”, but not too far off, either.
New Order, Music Complete: A disappointment upon the first few listens, I have come around. Still not up to par with their ’80’s stuff, but I really don’t miss the cantankerous bass player, either!
Spock’s Beard, The Oblivion Particle: Every year I pick up a few neo prog albums to whet my wistle, and Spock’s Beard fulfills that urge quite nicely. Overblown, retro, fussy arrangements, lyrically a tad pretentious? You bet, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Steven Wilson, Hand.Cannot.Erase: If I was ranking this list I guarantee this would be in the top 3. Wilson continues to astound me with virtually everything he releases/produces/collaborates on.
Tame Impala, Currents: Better than the last one, not as good as the first one.
Wilco, Star Wars: A groovy little record from one of my favorite bands of the last 20 years. Nothing earth-shattering, but good.
Squeeze, From The Cradle To The Grave: Glad these guys are back. Some of their best songs in decades. Reminds me a bit of Madness and their comeback, The Liberty Of Norton Folgate, a few years back.
Destroyer, Poison Season: I came aboard with Kaputt, Destroyer’s Avalon aping masterstroke. This one’s not as immediate, but give it time.
Graham Parker And The Rumour, Mystery Glue: The most understated album of the year with some terrific tunes.
Blur, The Magic Whip: Really, really good, much better than I expected. But then again, my expectations were set quite low.
Paul Weller, Saturn’s Pattern: This one, like every new release since 22 Dreams, has been ignored. Too bad for those that ignored it, ’cause it’s in my top 3 for this year. A rambling, jammy-kind of an album made by a master craftsman.
REISSUES, Deluxe Editions, BOX SETS, ETC
Alice Cooper, The Studio Albums (1969-1983):
Underworld, Second Toughest In The Infants
Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti, Presence, In Through The Out Door, Coda
Fuzztones, Psychorama: A special note on this one. Comes in a sturdy and striking 7″ glossy box and containing an oversized booklet chock full of photos and notes, a 7″ heavy duty vinyl replica of their live EP with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, a live DVD and 5 great sounding remastered albums, including their debut and masterpiece Lysergic Emanations. Set of the year for me.
Alan Parsons Project, The Turn Of A Friendly Card
Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers
Specials, Specials and More Specials
Spoon, Gimme Fiction
Supertramp, Live in Paris
Allman Brothers, Idlewild South
Art Of Noise, At The End Of The Century
Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 The Cutting Edge (1965-1966)
The Jam, Setting Sons
Queen, A Night At The Odeon
OMD, Junk Culture
Supergrass, I Should Coco
Jellyfish, Bellybutton and Spilt Milk
Primal Scream, Screamadelica (4CD box set)
I hope you all had a terrific 2015, everyone. Here’s looking forward to a year filled with great music, family outings and everyone winning the lottery.
Thanks for stopping by this year, by the way. I really appreciate the back-and-forth from all you music obsessives!
I’ll catch you on the flip.