Posted by: markfender | December 22, 2015

Music Review 2015

2015 was a pretty good year for music…and not just because Taylor Swift won a bunch of awards.

new-years-eve-featured-final-jpg-1158x600There’s been a trend in my yearly write-ups to complain about how I didn’t get all that much new music throughout the year. I usually attribute that to being old and just not being cool anymore. But this year, I think I actually ended up getting more music than I normally do. That could just be selection bias, but I feel pretty good about the amount of interesting and cool new music I picked up this year. Or, it could be there were more standout tracks this year. Who knows?

As usual, I’m not that strict about dates here. If I added it to my iPod catalog in 2015, it counts, even if the album came out in earlier years.

Laurel

Laurel doesn’t have a full-length album out yet, making it difficult to find out what the hell is up with her (Her webpage has been broken for most of the year). Still, the To the Hills EP is pretty freaking stellar, even if her lyrics go out of their way to wax poetic. I’m pretty much declaring her full-length debut as my most anticipated album of whatever year it comes out (I mean, unless it comes out in 2016 because PJ Harvey automatically wins that award anytime she has a new album out).

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

How do you even describe a GY!BE album? I have no idea. I just like saying Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Martin Gore

I checked out of Depeche Mode somewhere in the middle of Songs of Faith and Devotion. Later Martin Gore EPs I listened to didn’t give me any great reason to return. However, his new solo album, MG, I think goes to some interesting places. It shows that Gore isn’t standing still, incorporating many of the electronic influences that have emerged since Depeche Mode’s reign over popular music ended. It has traces of darkwave and dubstep in it. There’s no lyrics and not a whole lot of instrumentation, either. It’s stripped back electronic with just enough nuance to maintain pace.

Mumford & Sons/Imagine Dragons

Why would I group these two bands together? Because they sound exactly the same (especially after Mumford abandoned their whole acoustic, folk thing). I don’t know what musical formula they’re using, but both bands produced successful, ear-worm stuff that sounds incredibly uninspired while somehow still being catchy. Are they the new Nickelback? Let’s hope not.

Halsey

Honestly, I don’t detect much of a difference between Halsey and Laurel. They’re definitely part of the same school of music Lorde emerged from. Luckily, I’m fully on board with our new feminine glitch overlords, so I’ll take all I can get (for a few years, at least, until it gets overused). Halsey’s debut is pretty great overall, but the best songs from her EP didn’t make it onto the full album, so definitely check out the meager back catalog.

Faith No More

Okay, I didn’t really like Sol Invictus. I just wanted to mention that Faith No More had a new album out. As fine purveyors of freak rock, they’ve been missed.

Two Fingers

I unabashedly love Amon Tobin. His version of electronic music always features amazing instrumentation and crazy drum breaks. I’m even on board with his game soundtrack work (the only game soundtracks I’ve ever purchased, coincidentally). With Two Fingers, Tobin removes his normal lounge-inspired instruments and goes for a more hardcore electronic sound (with drops and everything). It, as it turns out, is also amazing.

Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe wants to be PJ Harvey so bad. I like the sludge guitars on “Carrion Flowers” but didn’t really connect with anything else from this album.

Health

Speaking of bands that are better than the video games they do the soundtracks for, Health had a new album. Something about the breathy vocals doesn’t always work for me, but I’m always down for aggressive machines and the weird buzzing noises they make. It’s bombastic in all the best ways.

Lana Del Rey

So, I guess that first album was just a fluke then?

Youth Code “Consuming Guilt”

This is my favorite song from last year, even though I acknowledge that no one else will like it. While industrial music has been overtaken by German bands with the same lead singer (I swear, do all German males sound exactly the same?) and moved away from the more guitar-oriented stuff that defined my youth’s industrial, I tend to find the new stuff leaves me cold (and I really don’t get the appeal of Laibach). And, well, I don’t like anything else from Youth Code. But this song touches every part of the sonic journey I want to be taken on – angry screamy yelling, discordance, drum machines straight from the ’80s, and jangly synthesizer parts. It’s an assault on the senses in the best possible way (I mean, if your nerves aren’t shot at the end of a song, what’s the point of music?)

Nero

God, this album took forever to come out (It doesn’t help when the band’s elaborate mythology requires it to be released on a certain date – a date they didn’t hit) and wasn’t really worth it. As far as some of the more listenable dubstep bands that exists, Nero still tends to veer into odd places that don’t work as well. But, “The Thrill” is pretty much perfect. Listen to that song a lot (You can safely ignore most of the rest of the album).

Meg Myers

Of all the female-central music I’ve mentioned this year, I think Meg Myers is probably the best singer (even if I don’t quite understand her facial contortions). While “Sorry” sounds like the sort of thing you expect from someone who can belt it out, I think there’s a lot of great instrumentation in her debut album, from electronic frippery to some chugging guitar chords. She mixes the whole thing together into a unique creation that works more often than it doesn’t.

Adele

“Adele Adele Adele Adele Adele Adele Adele Adele Adele” – everyone all the time (apparently)

Seriously, if she can unseat Taylor Swift as pop’s reigning queen, I think we’ll all be better off.

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