Tag Archives: best music of 2015

Best of 2015!

Marisa
Gripes

Marisa

There are contrarians, there are iconoclasts, and then there is SportsAlcohol.com co-founder Marisa. A contraiclast? Her favorite Springsteen album came out this century, so she is basically a controversy machine.

Also, she is totally not a dude!
Marisa
Gripes

It was the blurst of years, and SportsAlcohol.com was there for every second of it. If you missed any of our end-of-2015 coverage, here’s what we’ll keep with us going forward.

Movies

List: Best Movies of 2015

Podcast: Best Movies of 2015

Plus: Special consideration is given to MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, our almost-consensus pick for best movie of the year (because Jesse is a jerk).

Music

List: Best Albums of 2015

Podcast: Best Music of 2015

Playlist: Best Music of 2015 on Spotify

Plus: We (meaning Sara) appreciates some of the best songs of the year, including “Downtown” by Majical Cloudz, “Bored in the USA” by Father John Misty, and “Sapokanikan” by Joanna Newsom.

Television

List: The Best TV Shows of 2015

Plus: Sara discusses two of the best anti-heroes in this years’ prestige series, and Marisa argues for more stand-alone episodes, because nobody wants to watch 13-hour movies as much as showrunners want to create them.

Theater

Rob wrote about Hamilton, the best musical to hit Broadway in 2015 and probably many years hence.

See you at the end of 2016, suckers!

TRACK MARKS: Best of 2015 – “Downtown” by Majical Cloudz

Sara

Sara

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.
Sara

Our Track Marks feature spotlights individual songs that SportsAlcohol.com contributors love. Looking back at the year, we’ve selected some of our favorite songs from albums that don’t appear on our Best Albums of 2015 list.

Adolescent yearning can be unbearable in real life but in art it’s often transcendent. Case in point is the music of Majical Cloudz, which has the intimate nakedness of an aural striptease. At times it’s like listening in on something you’re not meant to hear. As sad as it is romantic, “Downtown” from their sophomore album Are You Alone? (a title whose similarity to a late-night text can’t be accidental) is like a love song for a ghost, an impression bolstered by the starkness of the music video, which alternates between a black and white close-up of singer Devon Welsh, his gaze directed straight at the camera, and counterpart Matthew Otto spinning in what looks like the remnants of a bombed-out city. This ain’t the place Petulia Clark sang about.

Welsh’s voice has the same chameleonic qualities as Ian Curtis, timid one moment and adamant the next, and he puts it to good use here. The song opens with a shimmery electronic instrumental backed by a beat reminiscent of windshield wipers fighting a steady rain, a foggy, hypnotic melody that might float away if not for Welsh’s insistence on remaining in the moment, grasping for something that’s less a place than a state of mind. “Nothing you say will ever be wrong/Cause it feels good just being in your arms,” goes a typical sentiment. Yet the lyrics also look forward to a time when the intensity of these feelings will just be another memory. “If suddenly I die,” Welsh sings with a forthrightness that even those well beyond their teenage years will admire, “I hope they will say/That he was obsessed and it was okay.” Some things will naturally be outgrown and left behind but it only takes the right song at the right time to bring it all back again.

The SportsAlcohol.com Podcast: Best Music of 2015

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Another year of music has gone by, with all of the ups and downs that entails. In conjunction with our recent list of the best albums of 2015, SportsAlcohol.com rock and rollers Rob, Sara, Marisa, and Jesse got together to talk about the best music of 2015 — not just the best albums, but our favorite songs, each other’s idiosyncratic tastes, thoughts on Top 40 pop, and some gripes about the worst the music industry has to offer. Listen to our best music of 2015 podcast to find out:

–How we felt about this year’s high-profile band reunions
–Why we all like Belle & Sebastian so damn much
–Who among us is the biggest Carly Rae Jepsen fan
–Why Rob is glad he didn’t have social media as a kid
–What songs or albums we’d strike from the 2015 record, if we could
–What our moms think

It’s one of our widest-ranging discussions, and you don’t need to be some kind of music snob to enjoy it! So go enjoy it!

How To Listen

We are now up to SIX (6) different ways to listen to a SportsAlcohol podcast:

You can also listen to some of the music we talk about in this Spotify playlist.

The Top Six Best Albums of 2015

Jesse

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Last year, we kept it concise to bring you the top five records of 2014. Not 50, not 25, not even 10. Top 5, just like High Fidelity. Well, it’s been a productive year here at SportsAlcohol.com, so our music-voting core of Marisa, Sara, Rob, and Jesse decided we’d earned an extra spot. Maybe we can work our way up to a Top 10 over the next bunch of years, and achieve full Rolling Stone bloat by the time we’re, appropriately enough, in our seventies. In the meantime, here are the six records from 2015 that we most agreed on, full of brilliant women and unexpectedly wonderful reunions. We’ll discuss all of this and more on our podcast later this week; in the meantime, enjoy our top six.
Continue reading The Top Six Best Albums of 2015

TRACK MARKS: Best of 2015 – “Bored in the USA” by Father John Misty

Sara

Sara

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.
Sara

Our Track Marks feature spotlights individual songs that SportsAlcohol.com contributors love. Looking back at the year, we’ve selected some of our favorite songs from albums that don’t appear on our Best Albums of 2015 list.

Artists have been looking back for as long as there have been others before them but few blur the line between past and present with as much flair (and controversy) as Father John Misty, the stage persona of ex-Fleet Fox-er Josh Tillman, which is equal parts Mick Jagger swagger and Harry Nilsson self-loathing. Like any good persona it’s a pliable one, noxiously hostile on one track and swooningly romantic on the next; the best songs on his second record I Love You, Honeybear often sound like a battle between the two, a hardened cynic trying on a pair of rose-colored glasses.

Tillman, you see, got married while he was working on Honeybear and the album is rife with the anxieties that come with making big life choices and devoting oneself to someone else’s happiness. “Bored in the U.S.A.” at first seems like an outlier, a Springsteen-referencing goof in the midst of tormented love songs that turns its gaze within rather than toward another. There’s more than a little of Randy Newman’s D.N.A. in its composition, from the deceptive simplicity of its piano line to the winking irony of the lyrics. (“Save me white Jesus,” he cries at one point.) But it’s of a piece with Tillman’s larger aim, which is to kick up enough dust that you won’t notice the real tears in his eyes.

Like “Born in the U.S.A.” it’s the sort of openhearted satire that invites misconstruing. Lazy listeners of that classic (several of them presidential candidates) heard only the patriotic fervor in Springsteen’s lyrics, ignoring the harder truths they underscored. Here too Tillman seems to be sarcastically calling out the lie of the American dream with such lines as “They gave me a useless education/And a subprime loan/on a Craftsman home.” But as the studio audience laughter begins trickling into the audio the hollow core of his cleverness sinks in. It’s not the U.S.A. that’s the problem but the privileged men who proclaim to be bored with it and believe that alone makes them interesting. It seems a bit counterintuitive for an artistic persona to shill for the rewards of being real. But in the year of the so-called “affluenza teen” it may be too bitter a pill to be swallowed straight.

TRACK MARKS: Best of 2015 – “Sapokanikan” by Joanna Newsom

Sara

Sara

Sara is big into reading and writing fiction like it's her job, because it is. That doesn't mean she isn't real as it gets. She loves real stuff like polka dots, indie rock, and underground fight clubs. I may have made some of that up. I don't know her that well. You can tell she didn't just write this in the third person because if she had written it there would have been less suspect sentence construction.
Sara

Our Track Marks feature spotlights individual songs that SportsAlcohol.com contributors love. Looking back at the year, we’ve selected some of our favorite songs from albums that don’t appear on our Best Albums of 2015 list.

By this point it would be fruitless to come to a Joanna Newsom record with any expectations; she’s made a career of defying them. It can make her difficult for new listeners to approach but it’s also why she’s one of our most thrilling artists. There are constants throughout her four LPs thus far: the distinctive (some would say unbearable) voice, the ornate instrumentation, the GRE-vocab-level lyrics. Tagged as an elfin maid after her debut The Milk-Eyed Mender, Newsom zigged away from her freak-folk persona by putting out the sort of five-song suite that wouldn’t be out of place in the Renaissance, and her 2015 album sees her forging down another unforeseen path. Borne from the opposite inspiration of her previous record, 2010’s Have One on Me which was a three-disc eulogy for a dying relationship, Divers finds Newsom tackling another kind of darkness: the abstract, contradictory fear of loss that comes with being deeply happy.

This thematic through-line is perhaps least immediately evident in lead single “Sapokanikan” which both begins and ends with references to Shelley’s immortal poem of power’s futility “Ozymandias.” History, as the Trump-ian saying goes, is written by the winners, though Newsom’s not interested in known quantities but what lies underneath; the title is taken from a Native American settlement that, prior to the Dutch colonization of Manhattan, was located approximately in the area known nowadays as Greenwich Village (which is also where, in the Paul Thomas Anderson-directed video, Newsom cheekily frolics.) Unfolding over a vast, unpredictable arrangement that recalls ragtime with a regimental beat, the lyrics weave a tale of empires conquered and chastened, lands recorded and erased, Newsom taking on various personas whose fate was molded and cast aside by greater unseen hands. “Will you tell the one that I loved to remember, and hold me?” she pleads at one point, but there is no answer for her as there isn’t for any of us.

If Newsom is interested in darkness here she’s also consumed by cycles, particularly those imposed by time, which marched on for those before us and will do so again. “The city is gone,” she sings at the song’s end, “look and despair.” But Divers is ultimately a tribute to love manifested as an echo, the final song “Time as a Symptom” cutting off in the middle of the word “transcend.” It’s startling at first but it’s also an invitation to turn the record on again, which begins with the word “sending,” thus closing the loop opened at the end. It’s an artist reaching out her hand to bring you back into her world, and ignore the advance of time a little longer.