2015 was a very detached year musically. For the first time in history I ended up rather shy on notable favourite tracks and there was little that stuck out as the ‘a-ha essential greatest song-moment’ of the year. Things seemed strange, out of sorts. Foreign confusing territory. It was kind of like getting lost on a walk through an unfamiliar park in the mild late winter; I know it’s nice to be getting outside, but I’m not sure where I am, and I want to go home.
What did indie music sound like in 2015 anyway? Much like years past, the 80’s influence is prominent, surf, punk, 60’s, low-fi, and psychedelic, and there was much less of the chilly R&B that’s dominated the past couple years. Tame Impala, Beach House, Kurt Vile, Grimes, & Jamie XX keep their steady indie-cred building with decent albums, while Kendrick Lamar stole the show on intelligent hip-hop and showed he’s creatively way ahead of his peers in the short time he’s been around.
In popular music, Bruno Mars gave us a massive wedding-friendly funk hit for our aunts to dance to while Taylor Swift churned out constant singles from last year’s “I’m pop now” 1989 album. Justin Beiber returned with a surprisingly good record that is beginning his transition into acceptable (almost cool) R&B while The Weeknd proved that he wanted complete and total pop stardom with “I Can’t Feel My Face”. In the fourth quarter Adele completely pummelled the world with “Hello” after some concern of whether people would still care about her emotionally-affected breakup songs.
They still do.
The Indie music realm is much harder to clearly define. You have your buzz bands, your critics favs, and the dime-a-dozen bottom-tier bands struggling to be heard. Wide critical praise for some groups still doesn’t equate to sold out shows or album sales. I saw about fifty concerts this year and nearly all of them were somewhat lackluster turnouts considering their online presence and catalogue. But among them were some of the best concert experiences I’ve had (favourite concert of the year for me was Destroyer in Ferndale, MI).
My picks this year are widely varied. As usual, I’ve made my choices based on songs that have affected me in a special way, the ones I keep returning to. The entire list in ranked order of my personal favourites. Notable artists include Mas Ysa, Majical Cloudz, Chelsea Wolfe, Editors, and The Velvet Teen (who returned after nearly ten years). There are a lot of indie artists scattered throughout this list that are relatively unknown but very much deserving of a listen. As usual, it is always important for me to shine a light on up and coming indie artists. Everything you’ll find below is something that stood out to me for one reason or another, some for the emotional devastation, some for the beauty, some for the lyrics, some for the dance moves, and some for the undeniable vibe. All had magic to them.
100 BEST TRACKS
12. INSOMNIA | IAMX
25. CHA CHA | DRAM
35. XANAX | ELOHIM
62. CAN’T DO DRUGS LIKE I USED TO | VOIZES
84. COFFEE | MIGUEL
89. LIONSONG | BJORK
94. GOSH | JAIME XX
103. THE FRINGE | SEGO
111. ANNIE | NEON INDIAN
115. CIRCLES | GENTS
116. PLATES2 | AERO FLYNN
BEST ALBUMS of 2015
1. EDITORS | IN DREAM
2. CHELSEA WOLFE | ABYSS
3. NEW PORNOGRAPHERS | BRILL BRUISERS
4. MAS YSA | SERAPH
5. THE VELVET TEEN | ALL IS ILLUSORY
6. IAMX | METANOIA
7. TAME IMPALA | CURRENTS
8. FATHER JOHN MISTY | I LOVE YOU, HONEYBEAR
9. NOTHING BUT THIEVES | NOTHING BUT THIEVES
10. WE ARE THE CITY | ABOVE CLUB
11. RYAN ADAMS | 1979
12. MATTHEW GOOD | CHAOTIC NEUTRAL
13. BEACH HOUSE | DEPRESSION CHERRY
14. EVERYTHING EVERYTHING | GET TO HEAVEN
15. TWIN SHADOW | ECLIPSE