Sunday, January 17, 2016

Steph's Top 15 Albums Of 2015

Because I have to outdo Fran every chance I get, I'm giving you my Top 15 Albums Of 2015.  That's a whole five more albums than you're getting from Fran.  You're welcome.

This year's list is kind of a motley group.  It was a weird, weird year and that's all I'll say about that.

The rankings come directly from my account, where every single thing I listen to every day of the week, all year long, is methodically catalogued by people much smarter than I am.  These are my most listened to albums of 2015 whether I like it or not.

A note about my listening habits:  There are very few albums I listen to from start to finish.  If I can get four or five favorites off of one album, it's a fucking miracle so just because an album is on this list does not mean I loved the entire album.  I'll give you the album name and artist, then my summary of the album, and then as a bonus, I'll give you the video to my favorite song from that album.  I'll give you the best stuff right up front.  None of that Casey Kasem countdown shit here, y'all.

1.  1989 by Ryan Adams:  It is no secret I love this man.  I love his talent, I love his passion, I love his ability to consider and learn from all genres and types of music, shunning music snobbery.  When he produced Jenny Lewis' album "The Voyager", he made her listen to the band Creed.  Yeah, THAT Creed.

When I heard he was covering Taylor Swift's "1989" album in toto, I honestly thought he'd lost his mind.  Sure, he can cover Iron Maiden, Ratt, and Danzig and make me love those old songs even more than I ever thought I could... but Taylor Swift?  I have issues with Taylor Swift but this isn't the time or place to get into them.

I gave the album a chance because it's Ryan Fucking Adams.  I was blown away.  I listened to nothing but it for like a week.  Ryan took Taylor's sickeningly sweet bubblegum pop sounding melodies and made them into some of the most beautiful, heartbreaking music I've ever heard.  This album made me realize just how talented of a song writer Taylor Swift is.  I don't like her delivery but that's my opinion.

Taylor's lyrics with Ryan's voice and interpretation is pure gold to a lyric whore like myself.  Surprisingly deep lyrics combined with Ryan's moodiness ratcheted up to the moon.  Ryan was going through a divorce when he sang these songs and you can tell how much pain he's in.   I've cried along to the heart wrenching "I Wish You Would" too many times to count because of the beauty and the sheer pain he effortlessly injected into this song.  Anyone who can take songs I previously overlooked and disregarded as insignificant pop music and make the same songs into music I'll listen to for the rest of my life is a master at what he does.  He's the real deal, y'all.

2.  Into The Wild Life by Halestorm:  I've been very vocal about my mistrust of female singers/bands and their tendencies to rely too heavily on sexual innuendo to gain attention (in my opinion).  Fran and I had a fight over this band.  Let that sink in.  I saw the new album on Spotify New Releases one night and I gave them another shot, expecting nothing.  Turns out, I loved this album, obviously, as it's #2 on my list.  Lzzy (yes, that's how she spells her name) laid off of the song titles that make my blood boil, like "Love Bites (And So Do I)" and "I Get Off" on this latest album.  Thank you, Lzzy.  What she added was some badass lyrics, hard rocking tunes, and even a heartbreaker that every chick on the planet can identify with in "The Reckoning".  Listen to my personal theme song below and wait for the hidden a capella ending for an example of her vocal gift.

3.  American Beauty/American Psycho by Fall Out Boy:  I think Fall Out Boy are one of the most underrated bands out there today.  Sure, they have legions of fans.  I'm one of them and have tickets to see them in concert this spring.  But I don't think they get the accolades they deserve from the music business.  Pete Wentz writes some of the smartest, poetic-while-being-a-smart-ass-kind-of-way lyrics I've ever heard.  Patrick Stump takes those lyrics and adds his soulful voice to make them complete.  Dare I say they make up one of the most talented teams of our time.  

4.  Eclipse by Twin Shadow:  Another Spotify New Release find, I loved the song "Locked And Loaded" the very first time I heard it and this album is here because I didn't stop listening to it.  This is George Lewis, Jr.'s third album release and he also has producer credits once again on this one.  The album is smooth and very 80's pop reminiscent which isn't normally my thing but when a song and its lyrics hit me, they hit me completely.  

5.  Pleasure To Meet You by Dead Sara:  Emily Armstrong's gritty voice and passionate delivery made me fall in love with this album instantly.  There are several songs that hit it out of the park for me on here but "For You I Am" kept me coming back.  Disjointed, incomplete lyrics carve out a song about love so strong and life changing that words won't come, much less complete sentences.  It makes me feel her helplessness every single time I listen to it.  Check out their cover of Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" which was released this past February for greatness.


6.  Blue Light by Ryan Adams:  I'm not even sure this can be called an EP because there are only three songs on it.  "I Lost My Fucking Mind" and "On My Life" got heavy rotation on a nightly basis for me (and still does) because they're both on my Sleep Playlist.  As I mentioned above, Ryan is freshly divorced.  I can only imagine the pain that divorce causes.  I can even imagine in some cases, there's hope and optimism involved but given his choice of material this past year, I'd say he's still firmly in the mourning stage.  That truly sucks for him but gives fans like me musical heaven.  None of us can really know what went down in his divorce from Mandy Moore but lyrics like "They're gonna have to come and hold me down" deliver right to my lyric whore door.  

7.  Jekyll + Hyde by Zac Brown Band:  This album made my favorites because I think Zac Brown is changing country music even though I don't think he intentionally set out to do so.  Zac Brown is just doing his thing, which happens to be innovative, kick ass, country music that doesn't stray too far away from country's roots but expands it.  In a world where grown ass men are wearing jeans with ASS BLING (I'm currently writing this in my home state of Texas and was appalled this last week that the men here are wearing more bling on their asses than women.  Get your shit together, Texas!), I don't think anyone who listens to today's country music can really be trusted, much less the "artists" who crank out the stuff of Merle Haggard's nightmares.  The whole album is a trip and "Heavy Is The Head" is the centerpiece with rock god Chris Cornell singing and screaming like no-one else can.  If you really want your mind blown, check out Zac Brown Band's EP "The Grohl Sessions, Vol 1" which was produced, of course, by my personal favorite rock god Dave Grohl.  Listen to "Day For The Dead" and prepare to have your life changed.

8.  The Pale Emperor by Marilyn Manson:  I first heard my favorite song from this album "Killing Strangers" while watching one of my favorite movies of all time "John Wick".  I watched the movie in a theater, completely alone with my husband, so no-one else was around to hear me semi-scream "That's Manson!  What is this?  I've never heard that before!"  No-one else was around except my husband to see me frantically pull out my cell phone and Google that shit right there and then, seeing that a new album was on the way.  I anxiously awaited the album and was not disappointed.  This is one of the few albums released this year that I can listen to from start to finish, not skipping around.  I saw Marilyn last year in concert and although it wasn't a Manson concert of days gone by, it was still quite the event for Birmingham, AL.

9.  Afraid Of Ghosts by Butch Walker:  Butch Walker ranks right up there with Ryan Adams on my list of favorite singers ever so when I heard that Ryan Adams was producing this record, my head almost exploded.  Literally.  It was like the movie "Inception" but instead of a dream within a dream, it's your favorite singer within another favorite singer.  Butch is still mourning his father's death, which is completely understandable, but the Butch I fell in love with is the Butch who sings about love and waiting and passion.  This album is full of ghosts and not so much love and waiting and passion but "Bed On Fire" made up for that a million times over.

10.  Sol Invictus by Faith No More:  I wasn't a fan of Faith No More back in the day but when the staff here did a collective review of the album, I prepared for it like crazy.  During that process, I fell in love with Faith No More.  I mean, the total package.  Mike Patton, the lyrics, the staccato beats, the cursing.  Mike Patton.  Did I mention Mike Patton?  I predicted way back during that review that "Motherfucker" would become a permanent fixture on my Workout Playlist and it has.  Please forgive the political statement in the video below but it's the only video on youtube of this song that isn't live.

*Blogger's note:  I'm getting really brief with these last five because I've been working on this for about 3 hours.*

11.  Out Of Style by Marc Scibilia:  This one made it because of "Jericho".  One panty melting song.  That is all.

12.  Love Stuff by Elle King:  You can read my review here of this album.

13.  Run by AWOLNATION:  Lyrics that go straight to my heart.  "When my eyes sting where my heart sinks, there will be no strings, we're drinking lightning.  'Cause he wasted your time.  In a year, you'll be mine."

14.  24 Frames by Jason Isbell:  Jason Isbell's lyrics are pure poetry.

15.  Hey, Killer by Local H:  The 8th release from this band, it's poetry of a different sort.

Let me know what your favorite albums of 2015 were.  Do I suck?  Did I nail a few?  Tell me!

Here's hoping we all have tons of records to love in 2016.  Happy New Year, y'all.


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