2015 was the year that Josh Tillman finally stopped being known as the drummer from Fleet Foxes and the world fully embraced his charismatic solo-performing alter-ego Father John Misty. He did that via both a set of apparently mesmeric live shows, and largely by releasing an absolutely stunning collection of lyrical and music gems, in the shape of second album I Love You Honeybear.
Like label mate John Grant, 2015 was the year that Father John Misty, from his vantage point of a settled and for the most part happy relationship, looked back over his previous relationships and “romantic” encounters. We say romantic in the most tongue in cheek way because his tales were more seedy motels than starcrossed lovers. What lifted this record from simple character assassinations and self-deprecation, was the manner in which he interspersed these tales, with some touching, and highly realistic love songs to his current honeybear. These weren’t soppy cliché-ridden tales though, they were embracing the reality of love, in all its flawed brilliance. Humorous and ambitious in equal measures, this was a record worthy of the near ubiquitous praise it received, and then some.
Read our full review of I Love You Honeybear – HERE
Philadelphia based duo Girlpool’s debut album was the year’s most poignant snapshot of growing up, made all the more brilliant by the fact that they weren’t looking backwards, they were teenagers living through it. The title track was a love-letter to a youth, not long gone but in the process of escaping their grasp, “I just miss how it felt standing next to you wearing matching dresses before the world was big” the pair sang in perfectly balanced harmony.
Musically it was a stripped back, beautifully simplistic sound, there was little more to it than a guitar, a bass, and two voices that seem to exist almost as a singular entity. Their sound is part anti-folk, part acoustic punk, the influence of acts like Kimya Dawson and Waxahatchee was present, but largely the tracks just sounded fresh and uniquely Girlpool. Perfect snapshots of a very particular point that everyone goes through in their life, it’s quite hard to imagine what Girlpool could do to make this any better, or where they’ll go next, but in this moment in time they’re absolutely thrilling.
Read our article on Girlpool – HERE
What should have been a triumphant year for BC Camplight may have been slightly derailed by the British governments immigration laws curtailing his post album-launch touring plans, but ultimately 2015 should be seen as a triumphant year for Brian Christinzio. Fearing he’d either die or end up in prison, Brian upped and left Philadelphia and relocated to Manchester and it was there that he was inspired to write How To Die In The North, apparently writing half of it in just two weeks.
Whether or not it was the album that saved his life, it was certainly the album that put Brian’s music back on track, and back in the public eye; thankfully Bella Union saw the potential in the record and decided to release it. How To Die In The North was a rich and varied collection of tracks, taking influence from 1960’s surf-pop, broadway-like piano ballads and nearly everything else in between. Brian’s musical knowledge, and dry lyrical wit managed to somehow bring these seemingly disparate ideas together into something both cohesive and accessible. Thankfully his visa issues seem to be resolving themselves and maybe 2016 will be the year BC Camplight finally get to reap the rewards he so richly deserves.
Read our article on BC Camplight – HERE
Ivy Tripp, Katie Crutchfield’s third solo album under the guise of Waxahatchee, was in many ways the big sister to label-mates Girlpool’s musing on growing up. Whilst Girlpool viewed the world with the wide-eyed optimism of youth, Ivy Tripp was Katie’s post-youth album. This was an album filled with the very real problems of being in your mid-twenties; of finding your place in the world and realising that it’s not stable and secure lifestyle you’d always assumed would come your way. This is an album for the children of the baby-boomers, a generation plagued by directionless progress, unstable finances and a very real feeling that the world wasn’t meant to be like this.
If lyrically it shifted Waxahatchee away from the romantic-angst of previous output and onto a more introspective music, musically it was also a huge change in direction. Whilst the earlier output had been largely based around acoustic-driven indie-folk, here the musical pallet was expanded, an effortless sounding shift into a new creative phase. Katie embraced drum-machines and swirling 1980’s synthesisers on La Loose, atmospheric low-end organs on Breathless, the gloomy bass-heavy sound of Joy Division on closing track Bonfires; and somehow managed to tie it together via her ever improving vocals and consistent world-outlook. When Katie did return to her roots; as on the garage-rock number Under A Rock or the minimalist ballad Half Moon; she injected them with enough fresh-ideas to lift them far above her previous output. On the superb Stale By Noon, Katie concluded, “I get lost looking up”, but on the grounds of Ivy Tripp she had no reason to look up at anyone, this was an album that marked Waxahatchee out at the very top of the musical landscape, a shining star in her own right.
Read our full review of Ivy Tripp – HERE
Courtney Barnett is probably, along with Jeffrey Lewis, the greatest lyricist of her generation. There’s the way she writes about characters with the detail and insight of Ray Davies or Ian Dury, take Elevator Operator’s Oliver Paul, the titular elevator operator who is, “not suicidal just idling insignificantly” as he watches the world rush past from the top of a sky scraper. There’s her self-absorbed internal monologues, whether she’s house hunting on Depreston, or trying to impress girls with failed athleticism and bungled tumbled turns at the swimming-pool on Aqua Profunda. There’s the way she taps into the public conciousness, whether she’s debating the merits of organic vegetables on Dead Fox, or debating the merits of staying-in versus going-out on Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party. Whatever writing style Courtney puts her hand to she seems to manage to infuse her songs with humour, insight and crucially honesty; few musicians are able to get across quite so much of their character using simply their words.
This is music though after all, not poetry, and thankfully Courtney is just as good at that. Take first single, Pedestrian At Best, garage-rock that seems to fizz with energy, the guitar riffing razor-sharp, the words a tumble of ideas just adding to the intense mood the music creates, it still has the same thrilling affect it did when we first heard it way back at the start of the year. Elsewhere there’s the smoky-blues of Small Poppies, the brit-pop stomp of Aqua-Profunda, the jaunty Talking Heads-like Debbie Downer.
It’s hard to think back to where Courtney was at the start of the year and not be amazed at where she is now. Hard to not look at the huge success, and omnipresent radio-play and still hear this album with fresh ears. It was undeniably the alternative break-through record of the year, and it was thoroughly deserving of the acclaim, no other record in 2015 was as lyrically ambitious, musically fascinating or ultimately as great as this one.
Read our review of Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit – HERE
Some reflections on 2015
Thus concludes our run down of 2015’s greatest albums, and in some ways our coverage of this year. Sure years are just a social-construct, nothing really changes, we still wake up with a Conservative Government and Donald Trump, but it’s an opportunity to reflect, take stock and be thankful for all the good things in the world.
I’ve said it before but this site was set up purely to rekindle a love of music, and the fact anyone reads what we have to say is the most wonderful surprise of all. Music is one of the major factors that makes life worth living and it’s utterly priceless, although we must remember that if we aren’t paying artists for it, we are ultimately only limiting the music and ambition that these talented people are able to share with us. Embrace music, embrace new music, it’s easy to lose touch, but it’s also never too late to discover your new favourite band, sometimes you just need to open your ears.
My thanks as ever go out to the bands, record labels, PR people, promoters, and my fellow music writers, all of whom make discovering something spectacular possible and to all my friends and family for their support and putting up with me banging on about bands and shaping my over excited musings into something legible. Most of all thanks to you for reading our words, I’m eternally grateful for every reader and it really would be the epitome of futile if nobody was looking at this.
We’ll be back before the years out with some things to look forward to in 2016, possibly something festive, and hopefully some exciting new developments.
Thanks for letting this slightly odd dream become a reality,
Sam/For The Rabbits