Monday, December 14, 2015

Guest List Week: Marisa's Best of 2015

[Guest List Week 2015 kicks of with one of the most trusted names in guest list-ing, Marisa Plaice! Though I'm sad that we're going to have to fight over Kurt Vile, I'm excited to see that we have a few favorites in common.]

Usually at the end of the year I make a "Top Ten Albums of the Year" list and compile a play list with tracks from each one. But there was so much great music this year, and I found I had a hard time ranking it. So here's a list of some of my favorite tracks from my favorite albums of the year, in what I believe is the order they came out, complete with my commentary. Enjoy!

"Continental Shelf" - Viet Cong (Viet Cong)

2015 started out strong with the best song of the year (period) coming out in January. If you haven't listened to Viet Cong I highly recommend checking them out, but keep in mind they're changing their name to FKA - seems some people weren't too pleased with their choice of band name. They are definitely worth catching live as well, but seeing as they have been touring for something like 300 straight days they're hopefully taking a break for a while. Just not too long.

"Play for Today" - Belle and Sebastian (Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance)

As it turns out the OTHER best song of the year came out in January, and this one is easier to dance to. Belle and Sebastian continue to do what they do and they're wonderful.

"No Cities to Love" - Sleater-Kinney (No Cities to Love)

After an almost 10 year hiatus Sleater-Kinney came back strong. This isn't my favorite album by them, but it's a solid one, and the title track is fantastic. And I highly recommend Carrie Brownstein's autobiography if you are a Sleater-Kinney fan - it was amazing to read what went on behind the scenes during the recording of each of their albums, and it'll make you go on a Sleater-Kinney bender (not a bad thing).

"Make You Better" - The Decemberists (What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World)

Here's something that generally shocks anyone with even a passing familiarity with my music taste: I've never really gotten into the Decemberists. I've tried - and I certainly don't dislike them - I've just never really been a fan. But I LOVE this album, and it got me re-listening to a lot of their older stuff, and I think I'm coming around. 2015 was a year of change!

"Scene Sick" - Diet Cig (Over Easy)

A power punk two piece with an EP and some seven inches under their belt, this band was one of my favorite discoveries this year. I'm eager to hear more from them - and bummed I missed them at The Hemlock.

"Ansel" - Modest Mouse (Strangers to Ourselves)

Maybe I'm biased - Modest Mouse is one of my all time favorite bands - but I think these guys get a raw deal. Good News For People Who Love Bad News was such a huge hit (even though The Moon and Antarctica is by far their best album - but I digress) that I feel like people have been waiting for them to fail ever since. But in my humble opinion, I think what they've put out since that album has been great, and this song is a wonderful example of what they still do best, both musically and lyrically.

"No Room in Frame" - Death Cab for Cutie (Kintsugi)

Once upon a time, Death Cab for Cutie was one of my favorite bands (if not my very favorite). But somewhere around Plans I lost interest - it's not that I disliked what they were doing, I just wasn't feeling it the way I had during their first four albums. But this album got me interested again, and it was great - like getting reacquainted with an old friend. Despite the departure of Chris Walla (who did stay on as a producer), this was a wonderful album that put this band back on my radar.

"Fourth of July" - Sufjan Stevens (Carrie and Lowell)

Sufjan (we're on a first name basis) is a master of expansive orchestral pieces - but I think his real power lies in his more sparse, stripped down songs. Carrie and Lowell is an album of exactly that, and he did. It. Perfectly. And this track wins for saddest line of the year: "And I'm sorry I left / But it was for the best / Though it never felt right". Oof. I love you so much Sufjan.

"Grey Hair" - Waxahatchee (Ivy Tripp)

If I had to choose a favorite album of 2015 I think I'd have to go with Waxahatchee's Ivy Tripp - so effortless and deceptively simple, I probably listened to this album for two months straight when it came out. And aside from feeling REALLY OLD at her show, it was one of my favorite live performances of 2015. Not to mention Katie Crutchfield is probably my biggest crush of the year... 

"Horseshoe Crabs" - Hop Along (Painted Shut)

Another 2015 discovery, Hop Along was one of those bands where, when I first started listening to them, I didn't think I liked them. But then I wanted to hear them again. And again. And suddenly I found myself really, really liking their album. I love it when you find a band like that - you don't like them initially but something keeps bringing you back, until suddenly they are one of your favorites. A definite testament to the weird power of music.

"Made My Mind Up" - Mikal Cronin (MCIII)

You know why Mikal Cronin is great? Not just because he plays multiple instruments, is immensely talented, super funny and seems like a generally nice guy - each album he releases is better than the last. And that's saying a lot, because all of his albums are great. So even though I got mugged on my way to his show at The Independent this past spring and ended up missing it, I'm over my PTSD and can say that this is definitely one of my favorite albums of the year.

"Pieces" - Tanlines (Highlights)

Wait - what year is it? It's 2015? Not 1985? That's weird, because I'm listening to this album and I'm pretty sure it's the 80's and I'm about to have a dance party. Come join me!

"Can't Keep Checking My Phone" - Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Multi-Love)

I think Unknown Mortal Orchestra is getting weirder with each album, and it's not a bad thing. I also highly recommend their live show - if you have the opportunity, be sure to check them out.

"Birds of Films" - Sun Kil Moon (Universal Themes)

Admittedly, this EP from Mark Kozelek is not one of my favorite Sun Kil Moon releases. But this song in particular is wonderful, and a great example of what he's doing so well these days: writing songs about his every day life and family and friends and just sort of rambling but somehow making it sound like poetry, and coupling it with such beautiful guitar playing, and it effects me more than almost any other artist out there currently. Excuse me, I think I have something in my eye...

"Golden Parachutes" - Desaparecidos (Payola)

Okay, I'm going to need you to stay with me on this one: Jurassic Park is one of my all time favorite movies (like I said, stay with me). I love it, I've seen it countless times, I could probably recite it for you right now. So of course I was really excited for Jurassic World after all of these years (for the sake of this "review", lets pretend the other two movies don't exist). And I liked Jurassic World, I was into it, but the whole time I just sort of wanted to be watching Jurassic Park - the familiar one that I had loved so much for so many years. Anyway, that's sort of how I feel about the new Desaparecidos album. It's really good, and I really like it - a lot - but when I hear I just sort of want to be listening to the original that I know and love so well. But the pterodactyls were cool.

"Without Me" - Mac Demarco (Another One)

How does such a funny guy write such sad songs? Mac Demarco's lyrics really don't sync up with his hilarious Instagram account (but both are great). Fun fact: He was my favorite performance at Outside Lands this year. I love this guy and his music and he definitely wins for "best backyard bbq soundtrack".

"10:37" - Beach House (Depression Cherry)

I feel like the laws of music say that at some point, Beach House will have to put out a lemon. Yet here we are, with another flawless album of dreamy pop goodness. Beach House: 5, Haters: 0

"Shake It Off" - Ryan Adams (1989)

2015 is the year that Ryan Adams turned me into a Taylor Swift fan. It was bound to happen eventually.

"Empty Threat" - CHVRCHES (Every Open Eye)

If you don't like Chvrches, you're just dead inside. I mean come on.

"Lost My Head There" - Kurt Vile (b'lieve i'm going down)

I love Kurt Vile in a way that I would get into a fight to defend his honor. Like, if we were on the playground and you started talking smack, I would definitely punch you for him. It's all a little intense and defies reason, but there you have it. Vile is yet another artist that just keeps putting out amazing albums, and this one is - in my opinion - his best yet. And if you disagree, I'll meet you out back after 6th period. 

"All Your Yeahs" - Beach House (Thank Your Lucky Stars

What's this? Another Beach House song? Did I make a mistake? Nope, this is a track off the surprise second album they released only a few months after Depression Cherry (nbd). And guess what? THIS ONE'S EVEN BETTER. Beach House: 6, Haters: 0. 

"Something" - Julien Baker (Sprained Ankle

Another favorite discovery of 2015, 20 year old Julien Baker's debut album is raw, beautiful, and haunting beyond her years. I'm so excited to see what else she does, and can't wait for a chance to catch her live. 

"Need a Friend" - EL VY (Return to the Moon

2015 went out just as strong as it came in with EL VY's debut album, a collaborative effort between Matt Berninger (The National) and Brent Knopf (Ramona Falls, Menomena). Like The National but looking for something a little weirder and a little more fun? This album is your ticket. Matt Berninger's lyrics still often have the same emotional depth as they do on any National album, but his collaboration with Knopf makes for something a little funkier and out there (lyrically and musically). And they do a mean cover of Fine Young Cannibals live, so hey, they've got that going for them too. 

"Quiet Americans" - Shearwater (Single) 

I have to close out this list with a song that was released this past October, though the album won't be out until next year. However I am obsessed with it and can't stop listening to it (I'm driving my husband crazy) so it seemed wrong not to include it in my "Best of 2015" list. Because it truly is one of the best tracks I've heard all year. Now if frontman Jonathan Meiburg could split his time between Shearwater and his old band Okkervil River, well 2016 would definitely be the best year ever. 

**Note: Joanna Newsom would most likely be on this list, but her new album is not on Spotify or Apple Music, I'm having trouble purchasing it with my iTunes account, and I haven't picked up the vinyl yet. So shout out to her and an album I'm really eager to hear - Milk Eyed Mender will forever be a favorite of mine.

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