Saturday, December 26, 2015

Dr. Spin's Top Ten Albums for 2015

As much as I was looking forward to Christmas this year, I have to confess that most of my anticipation was centered on getting to see The Force Awakens. Christmas comes every year, but there are only so many times in your life that you will see a Star Wars film for the first time.

 It did not disappoint. The Force Awakens will undoubtedly push the franchise along for the foreseeable future. To make a long story short and relatively spoiler-free, there was quite a bit of amazingly framed nostalgia alongside some great new characters. Most importantly, it felt like a Star Wars movie – the kind that I remember from my youth. Much more so than the prequels, which stretched my ability to suspend disbelief to its very limits.

Although I see some revisiting of the Star Wars soundtracks coming up soon, this annual post is a look back rather than a look forward. The first half of the top 20 was posted about a month ago. I had a pretty decent lock on the top 10 even at that point, but I have struggled really hard this year with the specific order of the top 5. Each of those albums have, at one time or another, decisively held that number one position. It might be easier to consider it a five-way tie for number one, but that is most certainly cheating. Undoubtedly, though, if any reader were to wonder what albums were my favorite for 2015, I would suggest them without hesitation.

10. AnekdotenUntil All the Ghosts Have Gone: Many years ago, I became a devoted fan of From Within, but sadly never delved any further into Anekdoten’s catalog. This year, just as I was considering taking the plunge, Until All the Ghosts Have Gone was announced and, thankfully, seemed to pick up right where From Within left off.

9. Sloan Double Cross: Navy Blues burned brightly for me a couple of decades ago, but ultimately fizzled out in the long term.  Double Cross, however, became the go-to Uber record for me this year, and has the unusual distinction of succeeding at being both a cohesive album and a collection of quality standalone tracks.

8. YesTime and a Word: The passing of Chris Squire caused me to consider both Yes’ back catalog and identity quite a bit this year. Time and a Word was lurking in the dark corners of my collection and emerged as a surprise favorite just as his illness was announced, but it also represents a whole lot of Yes that went through the player, not the least of which was reconnecting with 90125, one of my all-time favorite albums.

7. Low Ones and Sixes: This was a surprise that came out of nowhere, purchased only with the coercion of a single positive review and the incorrect assumption that they were a different band. It was an immediate sell, however, and has emerged as a very strong favorite in the past few months.

6. My Brightest DiamondThis is My Hand: If we were going by total number of times played, This is My Hand would probably be number one. This was a big, big hit with not just me, but the whole family.

5. Steve Reich Music for 18 Musicians:  Although it doesn’t work well when left on repeat, Music for 18 Musicians is an extremely satisfying listen that I keep returning to. As I have stated elsewhere, it works on multiple levels, and as such has served as the soundtrack to several long family drives in which I am the only one awake.

4. Anathema – Distant SatellitesThe rules state that an album's year of release is not a stipulation, but this fantastic album was at the top of a lot of 2015 lists, so it seemed redundant to make it the album of 2015.  Even so, it has been the album to beat all year, and it was still in consideration until the very last minute.

3. Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood, and the Rajastan ExpressJunun: This was a very late entry, but in terms of its concept, musicality, and cultural relevance, Junun has every right to be album of the year. In fact, the only thing that knocked it down from consideration was its relatively late release date.

2. Steven WilsonHand. Cannot. Erase.: Steven Wilson is a long-time favorite of mine, and early on, I really wanted to put this one in the top slot. I think that in some ways, Hand. Cannot. Erase. is more distinctive than its predecessor (which was #2 in 2013), but the overall originality of the "album of the year" winner gave them a slight edge.

1. Beauty PillDescribes Things as They Are: This album has everything – quirky songs, outstanding playing, and an overall novel approach to a unique style of art rock. It’s also accessible enough to appeal to my whole family, despite a few instances of slightly off-color language that the Little One has thankfully not quite caught onto yet.

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