Thursday, December 24, 2015

It's a Year End Thing...2015 as it Sounds to Us

Another year, another list, and quite frankly, we feel guilty for not posting more often.  There is so much going on in the world of music and so much to talk about, yet most of the time at Electric Avenue is spent running the store.  We should have known this would happen when we became store owners, so it's not really surprising, but we must offer heartfelt apologies to all of you (and there may not be many) who are waiting with bated breath from week to week with any kind of sage wisdom regarding the state of the current musical landscape.

With that being said, it has been a super year for music.  Not a great year for the music business, but a great year for music.  It was just last month that I mused aloud about how less than two decades ago the general public were so upset that artists from the 50's and 60's were generally robbed blind by their managers, labels, and producers.  Here we are in 2015 in a "civilized" world, and the majority of the general public takes music from the artists without even batting an eyelid.  Times changed, belief systems were turned over, and it is impossible now to make it as an albums-artist without the benefit of touring, and yet, some music is not conducive to the live arena.  Older artists may not be able to make a living in the future as they age and depend on streaming revenue for their additional income.  In effect, the art world is back at square one thanks to this system that's in place to take from the creators.  On the eve of Beatles going to the world of streaming, it's sort of surprising they are caving to the streaming culture.  After all, they have made over a billion dollars and do not need that sort of weak income stream at this point.  It's because they can afford to accept the loss in order to stay hip with a young generation who expect it.

The media keep droning on about the bright spot being the return of vinyl.  While this is obviously good for stores like ours, it's also a bit frustrating as big record companies begin to pounce on a moneymaking opportunity, taking pressing plant time away from independent labels and controlling the flow of who gets their exclusive pressings (Urban Outfitters and Barnes & Noble being the big offenders).  What's to keep these big companies from farming out more exclusive vinyl the way they were doing with CDs, which was usually giving other mass market chains extra tracks on their discs and now will be earlier releases or colored vinyl, to the FYE's and Best Buys of the world?  Today they announced the return of Columbia House, and the strain on the vinyl manufacturers can only increase from here.  The dark side of silver linings then...

No more digression from Scrooge here, but suffice it to say that if you love music, support it by actually supporting the artists and paying for their art.  We love music at Electric Avenue, so without further ado, here are our top picks for 2015:   

Music Complete

1) NEW ORDER--Music: Complete
Our favorite record of 2015 is one that had us alternately laughing and crying at the same time, it was that damn good.  This statement may be an oversell for some of you, but for those who lived through the era when New Order was the most important band in the world, you will know what we are talking about.  New Order in the 80's was all about moving on from the depressed-post-suicide of their Joy Division leader, the late, great Ian Curtis, and embracing doing whatever the hell they wanted, whether it be guitar indie, New York electro, hip hop, pop, house music...they did it ALL (and even made fun of hair metal in their video for "Touched By the Hand of God").  Like their historic past, this album has it ALL, a true blend of the best sides of the band, from mid-life crisis single "Restless", to the JD-referencing "Singularity" (complete with goth-y introduction), electro-blazing "Plastic" (including shady putdowns to an unnamed recipient), to dance-pop "Tutti Frutti", to funky-house "People on the High Line"...there's even a big Iggy Pop spoken-word contribution to "Stray Dog", and that's just in the first half of this album!  The band thought so well of their efforts too, they even went to the lengths of expanding the length of these already somewhat lengthy tracks for a colored-vinyl deluxe edition featuring one extended song per side.  The second half of the album delivers some great guitar-driven songs, as well as some forays into techno, and the final sparkling track, "Superheated", which sounds like Yazoo fronted by the Killers' Brandon Flowers (he actually guests on the track).  With lead singer Bernard Sumner turning 60 in January and a disgruntled bass-playing Peter Hook leaving the band, who knows how many more New Order albums there will be.  For now, sorry you missed this one's their best in over 20 years.

The Magic Whip
2) BLUR--Magic Whip
We've already said a lot of positive things about this album (our favorite at mid-year) but let's leave this with the statement that if Blur never make another record, at least they ended on a high note this time.  We can only hope Gorillaz 2016 return (with David Bowie supposedly) won't take so much time away from how happy we were to have Blur back in 2015, and how much we valued and missed them.

Carrie & Lowell

3) SUFJAN STEVENS--Carrie & Lowell
The most uncomfortably intimate record of 2015 is right here.  Stevens has definitely moved on from his dissecting the history of our nation's states (stopping after just two), and his abstract electro-musings on 2010's Age of Adz.  Like listening to Stevens' diaries, Carrie & Lowell is the sound of the artist telling you very specific and sometimes uncomfortable personal stories that might just rip your heart out.  Gorgeous stuff.

Hairless Toys

4) ROISIN MURPHY--Hairless Toys
The least known artist in the top 5 makes her first appearance on this list in eight years (Not exactly--her 2007 album, Overpowered, topped our personal blog album list long before the store blog began, while "Let Me Know" topped our singles the same year).  Murphy may be best known for her time as the frontwoman in the alternative electronic duo Moloko, and this is her third solo album since leaving that project, following an extended sabbatical to take some time off and have two(!) babies.  It's also a departure from the catchy funk-pop of it's predecessor, leaning more toward internal head music of a cerebral nature.  Murphy dabbles in house, funk, pop, even country(!), but it's all channeled through her somewhat cool and restrained delivery that could easily belt it all out (I'm looking at you, Adele).  The title of the record is an in-joke of misunderstood lyrics, but each song here has a purpose and a unique heart of its own.  In an alternate world, she should be as big as Annie Lennox.  

Poison Season

5) DESTROYER--Poison Season
Our top ten is peppered with quirky personalities, with Canadian Dan Bejar as a real standout.  A member of big alternative band New Pornographers, Bejar even manages to stand out in that group of musical mavericks.  The last Destroyer album, Kaputt (2011), traded on 80's sounding synths and lots of atmospheric trumpets, while Poison Season brings in string sections and Springsteen's E-Street chug to create his most accessible album yet.  There's a certain thread running through the lyrics, especially on "Times Square", which is repeated in three different iterations here, and while there is a concept somewhat involving the Broadway life, this remains rather vague in typical Bejar fashion.  What isn't vague is his ability to write great tunes, which are all over this album.  He may be the most literate, erudite person in the world of rock music.  

I Love You, Honeybear

6) FATHER JOHN MISTY--I Love You, Honeybear
Brilliant second album from Josh (J) Tillman as Father John Misty.  This could quite possibly be the most cynical love letter ever written to a significant other, but the actual heart is still beating strong and true.  An early album that stayed strong all year upon repeated listens, it would've made Harry Nilsson proud.


The most inspired collaboration of the year did work when Franz Ferdinand and Sparks got together and made an entire 16-song album together.  Bringing together the wit and melodies of vintage Sparks (a band that has been around for over 40 years, y'all) with the rock and rhythmic drive of Franz, FFS (which might mean something else in Google) gave both bands an album that counts as one of their best.  Maybe FFS stands for Fun Fun Supreme!


8) BJORK--Vulnicura
Certainly the saddest album of the year came from the Icelandic powerhouse that is Bjork, and on Vulnicura she returns to the strings of Homogenic days, but adds synthetic sauce from producers like Arca and The Haxan Cloak.  The album plays out chronologically detailing the end of her relationship with husband Matthew Barney, with a persistent sense of pain and loss.  At it's core, this is Bjork's recent life story as told in music, and it's a compelling one.

Ten Love Songs

9) SUSANNE SUNDFOR--Ten Love Songs
A star in her native Norway, Sundfor is probably most known in the US for her collaborations with artists like M83 and Royksopp.  Ten Love Songs are actually more like Ten Break-up Songs, and this is certainly not the work of any novice, as this is Susanne's fifth album.  There is a certain dark beauty to Sundfor's voice that seems to be in Scandinavian water...the ladies from ABBA have it, and Nina Persson of the Cardigans has it too.  It's a piercing melancholy, both happy and sad, and no matter what style of music is being presented, the vocals are always front and center with diamond-like clarity.  Not only does this album become darker and more tense as it progresses, but it also features a perfect balance of art and commerce, with the ten minute M83 collaboration "Memorial" as its centerpiece, incorporating a full piano concerto excursion.  Sublime.

Honeymoon [Explicit]

10) LANA DEL REY--Honeymoon
Del Rey's third effort in as many years (not including the Paradise EP) is her strongest conceptual effort yet.  Continuing with the faded Hollywood glamour vibe, Honeymoon features many glacial but affecting tracks painting a bleak portrait of the seedy side of life as a lonely starlet.  Disappointment is the name of the game in songs like "God Knows I Tried" and "The Blackest Day", while "High on the Beach" and "Freak" operate closer to the character invented on her classic debut Born to Die.  Less rock than the previous album and less pop than it's predecessor, Honeymoon operates in a space where time is relative and David Lynch is the director.  The sadder female Chris Isaak on quaaludes then, and completely enthralling.

11) TAME IMPALA--Currents
Tame Impala continue to evolve and enthrall with this album, their latest and greatest.

12) BELLE & SEBASTIAN--Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
Some saw this as B&S go electronic, when really it was just another gleaming chapter in the evolution of one of the greatest indie bands of all time.

13) COURTNEY BARNETT--Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
The level of ingenuity and excitement raised by relative newcomer Barnett is something that makes you want to just sit up and take notice.

14) HOT CHIP--Why Make Sense?
The most lovable dudes from indie-tronica return with another loose and engaging collection of tunes from their bottomless well.

15) LOWER DENS--Escape From Evil
Baltimore produces another great band with another charismatic frontwoman, Jana Hunter, echoing legendary singers like Siouxsie Sioux.

16) NEON INDIAN--Vega Intl. Night School
Alan Palomo breaks through after a four year absence with an album put together on cruise ships (supposedly), synthesizing indie with 80's Prince-ly funk.  

17) LIBERTINES--Anthems for Doomed Youth
From the category of "never thought you'd hear from this band again" comes the great new Libertines reunion record, Pete Doherty and all...

18) KURT VILE--B'lieve I'm Goin' Down
Philadelphia's own fantastic singer-songwriter puts out yet another great album in 2015, mural optional.

19) JOHN GRANT--Grey Tickles, Black Pressure
Grant continues to confound and delight with his latest masterpiece, part of a growing catalog of indispensable art.

20) CHVRCHES--Every Open Eye
Brilliant followup to brilliant debut proves if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Unexpected turn from indie to funky done with aplomb from a band who continue to do whatever they want to.

22) WOLF ALICE--My Love is Cool
Excellent debut from excellent band who fearlessly try several outfits on during the course of their first album with stunning results.

23) ASH--Kablammo!
The new Ash record proves they were some of the best songwriters of post-Britpop and bridge the melodic gap between Oasis and Weezer.  It should have been heard by many more people.

24) JAMIE XX--In Colour
While waiting for the new XX album, we get a taste of what we wish it will sound like.  The year's best mixtape.

25) LAURA MARLING--Short Movie
Gorgeously rocking album finds Marling recharged after a couple more dreamy acoustic albums, still channeling Joni gloriously.

26) MERCURY REV--Light in You
One of the finest produced albums of the year, Rev return after years away with a beautiful album about walks in the park and rainy day records...what could be better?

27) LOW--Ones & Sixes
After several great Low albums, they suddenly turn in one of the best in their entire decades-long career.  If you ever liked this band, don't let this one slip's a keeper.

28) JOE JACKSON--Fast Forward
That guy returns with one of his best records in years, echoing the greatness of his 80's classic, Night & Day.

29) GRIMES--Art Angels
Grimes makes huge strides with Art Angels, bridging the gap between art & commerce and doing it all on her own terms.

30) GUY GARVEY--Courting the Squall
That burly guy from Elbow breaks out and makes a solo record which takes some stylistic chances that are a welcome change from the normal Elbow box.

31) VACCINES--English Graffiti
Their bid for a big American hit gets closer every time as the Vaccines produce their most accessible pop album yet.

32) ALGIERS--Algiers
The sound of modern gospel blues on the railroad, Algiers is one intense ride.

33) APARTMENTS--No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal
Haunting elegy to a lost child, the first Apartments record in years is worth your time.

34) MARC ALMOND--The Velvet Trail
Almond returns with a gorgeous album of original pop songs, his first in years, showing how much wonderful material is still in his heart and mind after 35 years.

35) JULIA HOLTER--Have You in My Wilderness
Holter's latest riveting album operates on a higher musical plane than most, and there is also more warmth and emotion on parade here than ever before.

36) RYAN ADAMS--1989
Nearly as good as the Taylor Swift version, and it seems VERY sincere.

37) CHEMICAL BROTHERS--Born Into the Echoes
Return of one of the best DJ duos in the UK, featuring contributions from St. Vincent, Q-Tip, and Beck.

38) DUTCH UNCLES--O Shudder
Angular rock of a very particular nature, Dutch Uncles continue to grow while living within their own structural framework.

39) PAUL WELLER--Saturn's Return
Continuing his run of great recent albums is one of Weller's boldest and brightest yet, released in the same year as a Jam documentary and vinyl reissues.

40) YOUNG GALAXY--Falsework
Third great album in a row featuring these Quebec mavericks with Norwegian electronic producer Dan Lissvik, who now seems to be a fully integrated member of the band.

41) SWIM DEEP--Mothers
Tame Impala wasn't the only band who evolved between their last two albums this year.  Take a listen to Swim Deep's two records and you might not know they were the same band, trading Britpop for euphoric psychedelia.

42) BLACK RIVERS--Black Rivers
The other two from the Doves that are not Jimi Goodwin make Black Rivers, and a great side project it is, flying under many radars but a strong album in it's own right.

43) PUBLIC IMAGE LTD.--What the World Needs Now
Who says John Lydon isn't still angry?  There's plenty of bile plus a little more sunshine than usual on this latest epic in the PIL cannon.

La Havas turns up the heat and brings a little more rock and soul with her sophomore effort, recorded mostly in Jamaica with Matt Hales of Aqualung.

45) MODEST MOUSE--Strangers to Ourselves
Mousers, you have been missed.  Several years have passed since your last (relatively tame) effort, and though Johnny Marr may be gone, this band presses on--in mostly good ways--mostly.

Lovely solo effort from Saint Etienne lead vocalist, doing her best to channel peak period Petula Clark and Cilla Black, featuring a guest vocal from Manic Street Preachers' Nicky Wire.

47) SQUEEZE--Cradle to the Grave
Nobody expected Difford and Tilbrook to get back together again, but that's just what happened after 17 years for this generally great album...too bad Jools Holland was too busy to join the party.

48) EL VY--Return to the Moon
2015 seemed like the year of side projects, and El Vy (plural for Elvis) was one of the best, mixing the National's quirkier tendencies with Menomena's poppier side.  Charmingly effective.

49) SLEATER-KINNEY--No Cities to Love
2015 also seemed to be the year of the reunion, with so many bands we haven't heard from in a long time getting back together.  Sleater-Kinney was one of those bands, once Carrie Brownstein could clear a couple months in her busy calendar.

50) BUILT TO SPILL--Untethered Moon
The return of another great (and highly underrated) indie band, Built to Spill helped shake up the earlier part of the year.

Marina is one of the best pop artists on the planet.  Her first three albums have all been excellent, with Froot taking a small step back into more conventional instrumentation after the superpop of Electra Heart.

52) JANET JACKSON--Unbreakable
Miss Jackson made her return in 2015 after a long silence, still reeling from the years of the Superbowl and Nipplegate.  While Miley Cyrus parades her crotch in publications, the lashing Jackson received in the press seems quaint and comical now by comparison.  Unbreakable is somewhat restrained and covered-up (she is married again), but the demure attitude plays well off her more reflective side in this Jam & Lewis production, not only reminiscent of her best work, but her best album since Velvet Rope nearly 20 years ago.  If you ever liked her before, you should give it a try.

53) IAMX--Metanoia
Another great album from ex-Sneaker Pimp Chris Corner as he continues to plumb the darker depths of electro-Weimar cabaret.  If you like the sleazier side of Depeche Mode this was built for you, and even better, there are five earlier albums of the have some catching up to do...

54) OH LAND--Earth Sick
While her last album (2013's Wishbone) featured production from heavy hitters like Dave Sitek and Pharrell Williams, Earth Sick is largely an ego-free production, featuring Nanna Fabricius' friends and children of friends, as well as her own opera-singing mother on background vocals.  It is a very charming and unassuming pop album that deserved more attention than it got.  

55) MEW--+/-
Norwegian band Mew continue to confound and enthrall with their big pop-rock opus +/-, reaching for bigger audiences with their anthemic yet somehow still quirky tunes.  The spinning quality of these songs show attention to a deeper sound than most bands of the post-modern Radiohead school, but contain the brightness of Coldplay's melodies, a tricky tightrope they walk with confidence.

56) THE CHURCH--Further Deeper
They may have lost guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper with this album, but somehow (like New Order), the Church sound more like the Church than they've sounded in years.  Dark and brooding melodies are what's on offer, including some of the best songs they've written in years.

57) WIRE--Wire
Plowing a similar path to erstwhile post-punkers the Church, Wire also lost an integral member here with Bruce Gilbert, yet Colin Newman manages to give us some of their best arrangements and material since some of their 80's albums, and that's saying something since their past couple records have also been quite good.  A welcome effort.

58) FLORENCE & THE MACHINE--How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
The return of the Machine in 2015 was very good, and loses only a little point for being sort of labored over.  Florence delivers some of her best vocals yet here, with more nuance and emotion than the usual bluster, and songs like "St. Jude" have a very special, personal quality. She also ditches a little of her fairy dust for a more down-to-earth effort, leaving the door wide for future possibilities.

59) DJANGO DJANGO--Born Under Saturn
Art rockers sophomore album showcases amazing arrangements and vocal harmonies, polished to a perfect shine.

60) BRANDON FLOWERS--The Desired Effect
Killers frontman Flowers one-ups his band's recent efforts with a second solo record that should have been huge in an alternate universe.  Catchy tunes, great production, and music Brandon really sells as he sounds like he really believes in it.  Why it didn't get more attention remains a mystery.

61) SHAMIR--Ratchet
Excellent but flawed debut from Shamir Bailey, who pens odes to his hometown Las Vegas, and tries on some mid-tempo balladry for his lofty falsetto.  Where he really shines is on the fun and catchy numbers like "Call it Off" or "On the Regular"...more please...

62) SWERVEDRIVER--I Wasn't Born to Lose You
Sometimes reunions aren't all they're cracked up to be.  That is certainly NOT the case with the return of Swervedriver, finding them reinvigorated and inspired.  Some call it shoegaze, but there are enough tight melodies here to keep their feet on the ground.

One of the best breakouts of the year was this catchy album from a relative unknown in the US, Jack Ladder.  Channeling like a young Nick Cave fronting Erasure, there are enough dark moments on Playmates to counter the sweetness in the arrangements, and Sharon van Etten's guest vocals on a couple tracks also add levity.  A pleasant surprise!

64) MUSE--Drones
Working with hitmaker Robert "Mutt" Lange (Def Leppard, Shania Twain) for the first time gave Muse a sonic kick into heavier territory, and while the material doesn't always rest at the top of the critical foodchain, they play with commitment and gusto throughout, and fans were far from disappointed.

65) JOSE GONZALEZ--Vestiges & Claws
A beautifully textured folk record from Gonzalez who leaves his post as frontman for his band Junip after a couple albums with them.  This is a much more stripped down and haunted affair, calling artists like Nick Drake back from the grave.

66) LITTLE BOOTS--Working Girl
The third album from Little Boots was released over the summer, and was one of a few bright spots in EDM and dance music that showed some originality.  "Better in the Morning" in particular was a breezy number incorporating rhythmic elements of Tom Tom Club classic, "Genius of Love".

67) ALBERT HAMMOND, JR--Momentary Masters
Super underrated album from Strokes' guitarist and one of the best guitar pop records of the year.  Also the best thing a member of the band has done outside the band (sorry Julian Casablancas)...It bodes well for the Strokes return.

68) DURAN DURAN--Paper Gods
This very catchy record from Duran pushed them out of their comfort zone, and while there were some incredibly catchy songs like "Pressure Off", this album was just a little too slick compared to the last, and probably needed a little more Mark Ronson (who was too busy making "Uptown Funk" with Bruno Mars--he did a little work here), and a little less Mr. Hudson.  Don't forsake the human aspect...

69) A-HA--Cast in Steel
Return effort from the supposedly defunct Norwegian trio who just can't stay away from each other.  It's OK if their albums are this good.

70) RICHARD HAWLEY--Hollow Meadows
One of the best living crooners from the UK is back with an album that brings out the best of all the sides of Hawley.  While he keeps giving us quality albums, we will keep accepting them.

71) MELODY GARDOT--Currency of Man
Gardot took a left turn from her last album of Brazilian beach music with this great album featuring a fair amount of bluesy and jazzy tunes.  There's also understated orchestral pop noir to be found, and while the album has some great songs, it varies wildly as to whether you get the official album or the director's cut, which is yet to come.

72) SHRIEKBACK--Without Real String or Fish
Infuriatingly difficult for Americans to get, this classic British band continue their streak of great albums with one of their strongest in 30 years, featuring the return of founding member, Carl Marsh.  Seek this one out if you like's worth the trouble.

73) PRINCE--Hitandrun Vol. 1 & 2
Prince released two volumes of the Hitandrun albums this year (surprise, after all), and while both featured varying degrees of regal tunes, they also had some really great standouts, with the first volume being more electronic and the second more acoustic (and the horns!)...It's another positive step in the rehabilitation of a recording career that has suffered in the past couple decades.

74) NICOLAS GODIN--Contrepoint
Fantastic side-project from Air man featuring his take on works made famous by JS Bach.  Who knew Bach could be varied in so many interesting ways?

75) ADELE--25
By no means a weak album, Adele released just one of many very fine albums in 2015, yet it is worth mentioning it is also the biggest selling album on this list.  The fact that it appears at number 75 will have no effect on Adele, I'm sure.

76) ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA--Alone in the Universe
Jeff Lynne trudges on decades after ELO began (over 40 years ago!), and here's another great album full of cracking tunes, heartfelt lyrics, and arrangements that would make a Wilbury proud.  Our only wish was that it wasn't so short, yet there is absolutely not one single wasted moment.

77) CHUNGKING--Defender
It's been quite a while since the last Chungking effort, and while Richard X is not involved this time, they have overhauled and ramped up their sound a bit, making for an atmospheric pop record that sounds unique in a musical landscape of soundalikes.

78) BIRD & THE BEE--Recreational Love
Beautiful return for the daughter of Lowell George (Little Feat) and former Geggy Tah member and uber-producer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Kylie Minogue).  This band and album are total labors of love, and it's an enjoyable effort from beginning to end.

79) EDITORS--In Dream
While Tom Smith's vocals are, at times, extuhreemuhlee deep, Editors keep making records that are rather enjoyable, mainly due to the way the band creates the music to surround the important lyrics with.  If you sort of like Interpol but want something catchier, start here.

80) JASON ISBELL--Something More Than Free
Former Drive-By Trucker continues his ascent since leaving said band and getting clean and sober (as well as becoming a father).  This record was a little more laid-back and settled than his masterpiece from a couple years back, Southeastern, but it's a slow burn that pays off over and over.

81) THE WEEKND--Beauty Behind the Madness
The summer of 2015 belonged to this Canadian artist and his Michael Jackson-worthy hit, "Can't Feel My Face".  This album has the same problem many of the Weeknd's albums do, in that there are large stretches featuring depressing or disturbing lyrics with slow music, yet something happens around the mid-point of this album, and everything else feels like Abel has begun a new chapter of looser, more pop material, including duets with Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey.  A step toward world domination then.

82) BEACH HOUSE--Depression Cherry
The first of two Beach House records, it strips away a lot of the reverb that made Bloom a big sounding record, offering a more direct approach, with the same haunting songwriting, and a choir-fuelled closing track...

83) BEACH HOUSE--Thank Your Lucky Stars
...And because they had so much success with Depression Cherry, Beach House released a second album mere weeks after the first one.  Lucky Stars has a looser feel than Cherry, and more variety in the tunes and arrangements as well.  This can be either a good or bad thing depending on what you're looking for from them, but for fans, the more the better.

84) KATE BOY--One
If you're missing the poppier side of The Knife, Sweden's own Kate Boy released a strong album in 2015 that has yet to elicit a physical release.  Worrisome as this encourages forgetfulness and throwaway records...give us something we can hold Kate Boy!

PBC follow their last super-ethereal album with something a little more down to earth and electronic.  Cocteau Twins seemed to provide the prior template, and bringing it down to earth brought down our impression of the band a little too.  Still, there are good moments here, so it's worth exploring.

86) BEST COAST--California Nights
Another good record from this California band, as they continue to build a strong legacy of good California records.  Bethany Cosentino's vocals really make this band something special.

87) PUGWASH--Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends)
Pugwash is an Irish band formerly signed to Andy Partridge of XTC's record label, Ape House.  Now signed to the great Omnivore label, Pugwash finally released this US debut in 2015 featuring guest appearances from Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy, Ray Davies of the Kinks, Andy Partridge, and ELO's Jeff Lynne!

88) !!!--As If
I'll admit !!! is a band I've been trying to love for years, but something always stops me short.  I think they finally hit on something special with As If, especially by the time they get to the third track, "Every Little Bit Counts".  It should have been one of the biggest hits of 2015, and the album around it is their best yet.  Keep on keeping on...

89) YEARS & YEARS--Communion
Years & Years were the biggest new pop band in England in 2015, and American still doesn't know who they are.  "King" and "Gold" were all over UK radio, and maybe it just takes a few minutes for things to cross the pond.

90) FRATELLIS--Eyes Wide Tongues Tied
The latest Fratellis record features many of their tried and true sounds but adds some pop and some melancholy where the needs to expand their sound a bit more.  A good album that might shock old fans of the band.

New Jersey band Real Estate espouse a easy-breezy lush style of stripped down guitar playing, unobtrusive yet charmingly compelling.  Martin is their "lead" singer, and here he strikes out on a solo record with similar lovely results.

92) ALABAMA SHAKES--Sound & Color
The sophomore effort from Alabama Shakes may not have gone in all the directions their fans expected them to go, but it made for a widely varied and enjoyable record that proves they can do just about anything successfully.

93) MIGUEL--Wildheart
While Prince released some decent but relatively tame records in the past 18 months, Miguel brings a little of the nasty-sexy back but also keeps the edges a little rough and interesting.  He continues to ascend.

94) DEERHUNTER--Fading Frontier
This album is probably better than this number implies, and once again Deerhunter make a shift in sound to a more FM based idea, albeit with lots of little detours.  A grower of an album and one to return to more in 2016.

95) KENDRICK LAMAR--To Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick deserves to be the biggest artist in hip hop right now...

96) VERUCA SALT--Ghost Notes
Big return for the reunited Veruca Salt who are here to make right what fell apart at the end of the 90's.  Girl group grunge is all the rage again!

97) HOP ALONG--Painted Shut
Philly's own Hop Along made some major inroads this year with a sprightly and loose record featuring the effervescent vocals of Frances Quinlan front and center.

98) BILL RYDER-JONES--West Kirby Country Primary
Ex-Coral lead guitarist Ryder-Jones ploughs his own path with this superb folk-rock album after 5 albums with his previous band.  One to watch for sure. 

99) SEAL--7
Seal reunites with producer extraordinaire Trevor Horn with this lush and reflective album, his best in over a decade.  While there is some softer material here, there are also songs like "Padded Cell" that recall his own classics like "Crazy".

100) COLDPLAY--Head Full of Dreams
I may feel differently about this album in a few months.  It's a very good album (definitely a step up from the previous Ghost Stories), but there is a heavy dose of pop here, and while we love pop (see much of this list), there's also a certain sense that we want Coldplay to deliver something a bit deeper and darker.  At times it's difficult to tell whether or not the rest of the band played along, sounding more like a Maroon 5 effort.  Catchy as heck, they'll surely get more radio play than Radiohead with this one.  Hello Superbowl 2016! 

If you didn't see your favorite album on this list, it's probably just an oversight.  Like we said...SO MANY great records this year.  Music is becoming like TV...more and more choices and hard to keep up with everything.  Huzzah!