I haven’t done an album of the year post in a couple of years. In fact, I’ve mostly given up blogging for the last couple of years. However, a recent road trip to Germany compelled me to compile a list this year. The fact is, it was an exceptionally good year for music. Lots of my favorite bands and artists turned out some great albums.
It’s also worth noting that I’ve got most, if not all, of these on vinyl. Yes, my record collecting fetish is alive and well. It’s returned the fun to my music listening habits. After a long day at the office, there’s simply no better way to unwind after putting the kids to be than setting down with a tumbler of something and a record on the headphones. Bliss.
I’ll likely do this in three sections. Here’s the bottom set of the list. Good but just not as good as the great ones. I’ve also thrown in some honorable mentions that have just come out on vinyl this year so they made the cut.
James McMurtry – Complicated Game
“Honey, don’t you be yelling at me when I’m cleaning my gun
I’ll wash the blood off the tailgate when deer season’s done”
Pretty classic McMurtry lyrics open the album on “Copper Canteen”. The same pattern flows through most all of the record making this a personal addition to his discography. For me it’s kind of a return to form after a bitter, curmudgeon streak during the Bush/Cheney years. This one seems warmer, more reflective and is full of sharp lyrical twists and turns. Complicated Game also is home to “How’m I Gonna Find You Now?” The song was apparently written on the rhythm of a car motor rattle and traces the thoughts of a meth addict as he goes around town looking for someone or something. Nobody writes about meth heads like McMurtry. This one is no exception.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday
I’ve struggled to write this review. A buddy of mine is such a huge Noel Gallagher/Oasis that he refers to the aforementioned singer just as “Noel”. Funny thing is, I think I got him into that whole Oasis thing and he’s turned into a huge fan. I like Oasis but I don’t love Oasis most of the time. But I’ll be danged if this isn’t one of the best post Morning Glory efforts by anyone that was ever in that band.
“Ballad of the Mighty I” in and of itself justifies this album being on this year end list. Gallagher turns out pretty convincing grooves from top to bottom on this album, in fact. Some of his balladry leaves the album flagging but they’re not fatal blows. A solid effort that keeps me coming back.
Beirut – No, No, No
This is supposed to be a post-divorce album. I don’t hear that. What I do hear is something akin to a hipsterish travel blog with a whole lot of instagram-type photos. In those photos are people in exotic places with well-trimmed beards wearing those ironic straw summer hats. The thing is, these people don’t come off as smug. You don’t want to punch them. The pictures are pretty nicely framed after all and why should you fault a bunch of people for capturing moments that are so evocative?
There, a review of No, No, No in the form of a blog critique. Damning with faint praise? [Insert album title here.]
Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?
I have a love/hate relationship with this album. It’s so dancey and disco-biscuitish that I sometimes have to turn it off before it’s over. It’s synth mania. On the other hand, I put it on last weekend while driving home from Germany in dense fog at night and it sound-tracked the crap out of the drive. So I feel like I owe it a debt of gratitude. That and the beginning of “Huarache Lights” is a lot of fun.
The Replacements – The Twin Tone Years
This is a box set, reissue, of the ‘Mats first 4 albums and the “Stink” EP. I already have original presses of each of those albums and a 2nd run of the “Stink” EP but this is just so obvious. Of course I bought it. In fact, I bought two of these. Sort of by mistake. I bought one (supposedly they’re limited) and then saw it at another place online for cheaper so I did that, too. I tried to cancel the order on the first one but it had already shipped. So, I now have two sealed box sets of the Replacements in my collection along with all of the originals on vinyl and CD. That is so stupid but so right all at the same time.
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
I bought this on vinyl a couple years ago and was really disappointed with the sound. This reissue really brings the album up to the level it deserves. It’s also pressed on yellow wax which is always cool. Great, classic record by a band that paved the way for Blur and Oasis.
Matthew Ryan – Boxers
This technically came out last year but the vinyl didn’t get released until early in 2015. It’s classic Matthew Ryan in his more rocking persona. There’s all the heartbreak and longing in his voice and the crunch of a solid backing band to add some heft and conviction to the proceedings. I also bought this on vinyl and I’m absolutely stunned at the quality of this pressing. With this, a set of headphones and a cold beer in your hand, you’re front row at this match.