Best Albums of 2015

One thing I noticed as I reviewed my Best-of list for 2014 was that several of the albums were notably brief. My #1 album from last year (Sleepy Kitty’s Projection Room) clocked in at a tight 37 minutes. This year – not so much. My top 3 albums this year are all over an hour, and my favorite album of 2015 is, well, a bit longer than that. Long winded? Not when what you have to say is so compelling.   Honorable Mention: Jon Benjamin, Well, I Should Have…* – As in, “Well, I should have learned how to play piano.” Comedian and voice-over artist extraordinaire recorded a jazz album featuring himself on piano. No, he does not play piano. Instead, he created an absurd, Andy Kaufman-esque experiment with some legit studio guys lending support. It seems like the shtick would wear thin over a full album, but somehow it remains hilarious.   Essential Listening: “I Can’t Play Piano, Pt. 3”, “It Had to Be You”     17) Wilco, Star Wars – Though not as expansive or experimental as some of their recent output, Wilco returned this year with a surprise (and free!) album featuring A.M.-esque roots-rock. Contributions from more »

Best Albums of 2013

In many ways, 2013 proved to be a challenging and difficult year.  The economy continues to struggle, Congress doesn’t work, acts of extreme violence dominate the news, and the NSA is right behind you right now.  Music’s response?  Screw it; let’s dance.  The amount of quality music that also happened to be catchy as hell that came out in 2013 was staggering, and many bands reinvented their sounds in ways that blended old styles with something a bit more upbeat. As always, this list can hardly claim to be comprehensive, but these are 12 great albums that came out in 2013 that pushed the boundaries of what it means to make music with great curiosity and ambition: 12) Franz Ferdinand, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action – More unapologetically upbeat than their most recent work, Action follows 2013’s mantra of dancing your troubles away.  It also finds the band returning to the winning balance of hooks, substance, and pub-crawl wit that made their first two albums so great. Essential Listening: “Right Action”, “Goodbye Lovers and Friends” 11) Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks – After an extended hiatus that saw its leader win a friggin’ Oscar, NIN returned in 2013 with more »