And here's the last of my "Best Of 2015" lists for the year.
Not a bad twelve months for music I like, actually!
THE TWELVE BEST...
#1 Arcadia by Mackintosh Braun
Often times, I determine my favorite album of the year by factoring how many plays it registers on iTunes adjusted for the number of months its been released then further adjusted to reflect how new music gets a ton of listens the month after release. It's a scientific approach for something that's not at all scientific. This year, Duran Duran came out on top. Which makes sense, I love their latest album and listen to it constantly. But, in the end, my heart was telling me that Mackintosh Braun was my top pick. They took their EP from last year (my #2 album) and built on it in beautiful ways. The EP track In Reverse is still my favorite song off the album, but Holding Pattern comes a very close second. Everything they touch is melodic and magical and my infatuation with their sound hasn't diminished one bit. If you are a child of 80's pop like I am, they are well worth checking out.
#2 Paper Gods by Duran Duran
After the misstep that was Red Carpet Massacre, I feared that one of my all-time favorite bands was slipping off my radar. But then they hit back hard with All You Need Is Now, which I liked quite a lot. Was it a fluke? Apparently not. Paper Gods is one of their best albums in years, and the fact that they're brave enough to partner up with other artists (like Nile Rodgers, Mr. Hudson, Kiesza, and Jonas Bjerre) has reinvigorated the band and made them more relevant for modern audiences and old fans alike. The perfect example is Pressure Off, which has Simon teaming up with Janelle Monáe for pop brilliance that cannot be denied. And then the band goes into a different direction entirely with the most beautiful song of the year, What Are the Chances. With practically no missteps on this album, my faith in Duran Duran has been fully restored. If you had given up on the band, Paper Gods is essential listening.
#3 Music Complete by New Order
My love of New Order is firmly planted in their formative years. The band was such a massive part of my musical education that their early hits define "New Order" to me. And yet... their later stuff never fails to impress. Republic, Get Ready, and Waiting for the Siren's Call were all excellent releases and maintained my love of everything they do. Now they've blessed us with Music Complete which has only served to cement their genius status in music history. It's an eclectic blend of pop, rock, dance, and electronica that couldn't come from anybody else. Tracks like Plastic, Tutti Frutti, and Superheated are everything I could ask for from the band.
#4 New Glow by Matt & Kim
The fact that so many commercials have opted to use Matt & Kim's sound to pitch their wares has done nothing to diminish the indie spirit that permeates every track the band releases. That they're not afraid to experiment in new directions keeps their music fresh, even if it doesn't always pan out for older fans who are firmly entrenched in the Grand era. With New Glow, everybody's favorite musical duo took a welcome step back on a few tracks while continuing to push forward with others. This has resulted in an album that's a little uneven, but no less fun than what I've come to expect. Not surprisingly, Matt & Kim continue to push the envelope with their music videos, often coming up with genius visuals that rely on imagination instead of budget to wow their fans.
#5 Dark Sky Island by Enya
While I've been a huge fan of Enya since her debut, Ive grown a little Enya-indifferent over the years. I buy everything she comes out with, but don't remember falling in love with an album since The Memory of Trees back in 1995. Fortunately, for whatever reason, I'm really digging Dark Sky Island. It's got that hallmark Enya melodic construction that defines her beautiful music, but it also feels more... more... this time around. It's like she's gone from reaching for the stars to reaching past the stars for what heaven must sound like. But it's not just the way she sounds, Enya has something to say.
#6 Art Angels by Grimes
Claire Boucher, AKA Grimes, is one of those artists that has been a little difficult for me to love through her first three albums. It's not that I couldn't appreciate the experimentation she was going through to find her sound, it's that it went in directions I just couldn't follow. So when Art Angels dropped, I didn't make an effort to take a listen. But then all this critical acclaim started being heaped upon the album and I couldn't stay away. Yes, it's weird in parts... but in wonderful ways. If you're not a Grimes fan... or have yet to experience Boucher's music... this is probably the way to get introduced.
#7 Recreational Love by The Bird and the Bee
While I've been a fan of the band for a while, The Bird and the Bee never really got to the point where I was anticipating what comes next. Then came their Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates album (with Shirley Manson on backing vocals for Maneater!) and everything changed. Now comes Recreational Love, and it did not disappoint. I can honestly say that this album has made me a fand of the band and I am most definitely looking forward to what comes next. Playful, fun, brilliant pop stylings that's earned a space in my musical rotation.
#8 Froot by Marina and the Diamonds
This album came out of nowhere when Howard mentioned it as we were headed to the Duran Duran concert at Red Rocks. The only thing I knew about the band is that I think I once passed by them at some kind of record signing. Interested to know what had Howard so excited about a band, I gave Froot a listen. And was captivated. It's beautifully constructed and every song feels fully refined but oddly raw at the same time. Good, good stuff.
#9 Dopamine by BØRNS
After releasing Seeing Stars on the EP Candy, I became an instant fan of BØRNS for his melodic pop sensibilities and fun lyrics. I also became anxious to get my hands on his debut album, which dropped back in October. Turns out it was worth the wait... though didn't quite live up to the hype I had built around it. Still, a lot of really good songs that get a lot of iTunes play.
#10 A Head Full of Dreams by Coldplay
Coldplay is pretty much the law of diminishing returns in music form. Yes, I like the band. Yes, I think they can make good music. Yes, they're latest album is worth listening to. But the band just isn't evolving. They released Ghost Stories last year (which I liked quite a lot) and this is just more of the same. Which would normally be a good thing, but I'm starting to get tired of Coldplay. In ten years will I even be able to remember which song was on which album? Probably not. Step it up, guys.
#11 Introducing Darlene Love by Darlene Love
It's frickin' Darlene Love. With her first non-Christmas album in 27 years. What more do you need to know?
#12 Before This World by James Taylor
It's frickin' James Taylor. With his first album of original material in 13 years. What more do you need to know?
And, that's a wrap. Really looking forward to new music in 2016!