2015 brought me some of my favorite albums of all time. The majority of these came out earlier in the year, which is great because I didn’t do much music-listening after the baby was born. Too much stress. My favorite albums don’t conveniently fit into the top ten formula, so it’s a good thing I’m not writing for Rolling Stone or Pitchfork, I guess.
Anyway, it’s naptime, so I’ll stop rambling
Carrie and Lowell– Sufjan Stevens
I expected this to be my favorite album of 2015, and I was right. I should play the lottery. This is Stevens’ most personal album to date. It addresses his largely absent mother, a woman who suffered from addiction and mental illness, and the three consecutive summers he spent with her and his stepfather. Prominent themes include regret, death, love, fear, failure, and forgiveness. You know, just a few lighthearted topics. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment (name that obscure movie reference) because I love this album. I can’t stop listening to it, and it hurts just as much (in a good way) each time.
I Love You, Honeybear– Father John Misty
I loved FJM’s first album. It was sardonic, funny, and generally entertaining. His sophomore release provided all that and more. He drops the persona somewhat, choosing to sing about love, fear, failure, marriage, and the level at which some people (including himself) suck. I’m sensing a theme here. There are some songs on this album that I related to so well it was eerie. On “The Ideal Husband,” he runs through a litany of his failures, and then asks, “Wouldn’t I make the ideal husband?” almost threatening his wife to run while she still can. He repeatedly addresses the irony of being cynical and in love, two states of being that typically do not go together. As an added bonus, it is hilarious and a perfect album to sing along to in the car.
To Pimp a Butterfly– Kendrick Lamar
I’m not even going to feign a knowledge of hip hop. I’m an emo purist through and through, and “branching out” for me looks like adding some Americana to my playlist. And yet… Kendrick Lamar’s album hit me HARD. I don’t say this as a boast, but I have never been so affected by this type of music. I get chills every time I listen to it. To Pimp a Butterfly is so important on both a personal level and as a mouthpiece for a movement. Like Father John Misty, Kendrick Lamar addresses personal and larger failures, but he also finds a way to convey hope. And the music is so varied; he calls to mind everything from funk to early 90s hip hop, arguably providing the most varied album on my list.
Coming Home– Leon Bridges
This debut album by a young Bridges (I can say that because I’m a month older than he is) straight up feels like someone dug it up out of a 1965 time machine. I wasn’t alive then, obviously, so what do I know, but it feels like authentic ’60s soul music. The songs don’t stray too far from typical soul music themes (scorned love; a reverence for God, woman, and home; a desire for self-improvement) but it feels so fresh. Coming Home is the perfect sing-a-long album, and Bridges is just SO. damn. cool. And it’s like he doesn’t even know it!
1989- Ryan Adams
Adams got some flack for covering this album. People said he was trying to show how serious he was and Taylor Swift wasn’t, but I don’t think that was the intent at all. In fact, he has said that he recorded these songs as a type of therapy, and he did not intend to release them. It wasn’t until Swift herself heard them and encouraged him did he do so (free publicity?!). Anyway, this album is beautiful. I liked 1989; it’s fun, fresh, and lyrically pretty good. But Adams’ version feels like an entirely different album. It feels sad rather than invigorated, hearkening back to perfect sad albums like Springsteen’s Nebraska and anything by the Smiths, really.
Kinstugi- Death Cab for Cutie
This isn’t my favorite Death Cab album of all time, but it’s pretty damn good. Also, it’s the breakup album we all wanted when we heard he and ol’ what’s her name divorced. It includes the best of the last album– perfect vocals– with the layered, intricate music it lacked. Also, I love a little snark. (Aaaalso, I hate the word “snark.” I feel like Gossip Girl.)
You know you love me. XOXO, Christina
(Honorable mentions include My Morning Jacket’s The Waterfall, Beach House’s Depression Cherry, and Desaparecidos Payola.)