Well, it’s that time of year again. Time for me to pick my top five favorite albums of the year and to try and not sound too pretentious doing it. Just a fair warning, this isn’t a very metal themed list. I’m not snuffing all the amazing metal that came out this year, but if I’m picking the top five, why not go with what rarely left my iPod?
Most of it might surprise you.
#5. Ghost – Meliora
Never mind what side of the fence you were on with 2013’s ‘Infestissumam’, this album is incredible. It blends the larger than life atmosphere of it’s predecessor, and the pure, raw darkness of ‘Opus Eponymous’. The lyrical themes suggest that Papa III feels confident in taking on the vocal duties after his brother was sacked (well, it’s the same guy, but, you know what I mean…). Like he’s here and he’s taking over the earth and nothing is getting in his way. It’s bad ass.
The Nameless Ghouls are always spot on with getting solid riffs together also. And as a guitarist, that’s one thing I love so much about the band. The guitars aren’t nearly as distorted as most metal bands today, and it’s just pure riffing. It just proves you only need a little to do and say a lot.
Also, I developed a small conspiracy theory after reading the lyrics to “He Is”. That some time down the road, when the band is ready to do other things, maybe in the public eye instead of concealed identities, they will reveal hidden messages in the lyrics and reveal they were one of the most successful Christian Rock bands of all time, and used the Satanist shtick as a ploy.
#4. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
Not only do Josh and co. belong on this list, but could easily be right at home on my Top 5 Best Live Shows of 2015 list. I had the pleasure of seeing them both weekends of ACL, and both times were just as euphoric. Plus I got to touch Josh’s arm when he came up to the barrier on weekend 2. So weekend 2 might just a little bit better.
Anyway, I don’t know exactly what it was about this album that drew me in so much. Overall it can be a really cynical view on love. Josh wrote the majority of it after marrying his now wife Emma, which he said he never expected to fall in love with someone so quickly.
The composition and arrangement of the songs are like some of the most well thought out pieces of architecture in history. It’s one of those albums where you listen the first or one hundredth time you just think “That is brilliant…”.
Plus Josh’s sense of writing lyrics is a true treat through out the album. The way he structures a lot of the lines is new and refreshing. Full of blunt descriptions and clever metaphors. Song writers and lyricists take note.
Going back a bit, the album can have some cynical undertones while sounding like almost a whole album written for his wife. But one of the album’s shining moments is the ending song, “I Went To The Store One Day”. Again, like Ghost, shows you only need a little to do a lot.
#3. Wildspeaker – Survey the Wreckage
Topping the list of bands I need to see live within the next year, this band from just outside of Dallas, Texas is a must have on your radar if you’re a metal fan.
Now, to do this review right, I have to do it honestly – I normally don’t listen to blackened crust. Actually, I never did before Survey came out. And the only reason I did initially is because I know the band’s bassist, Michael Munday. But what’s wrong with that? I’m glad I did!
Through Facebook and Snap Chat, myself and others got to see the progress of this album come to life. I became invested in the writing/recording. And would it surprise you if I said that a lot of it was recorded into one of the band member’s laptops, and the majority of mixing was done by them also? And it wasn’t recorded in a studio. It was done at (from what I can gather) the rather large room they rehearse and write in. Mastering was done by Garry Brents, and the final product is absolutely incredible. It’s yet another release that goes to show that if you have the passion, dedication, and the music, you don’t need a studio to make a great sounding album.
Above all, the musicianship, composition, and mix are all top notch.
And I have to give a plug to the band – they are incredibly nice people.
You can download the album for free on their BandCamp page, but I urge you to buy the album, or buy a t-shirt.
#2. Tame Impala – Currents
First, I apologize to anyone I relentlessly word-vomited this album to since the first single came out in March. And anyone that was in a 20′ perimeter of me at ACL. This album was kind of a big deal.
Ever since hearing Elephant on Austin’s 101X back in 2013, I was hooked on Tame. That song got me to check out the rest of Lonersim on Spotify, and the rest is history.
There’s just something so inviting about the music Kevin writes. It’s like Kevin’s writing music about his emotions and experiences, but takes you in his brain and takes you along for a ride. This album especially, you hear (and almost see) him tell his story about experiencing change and embracing it instead of running from it.
It couldn’t have come out at a better time either. This summer I was in such a creative/personal slump, where I just didn’t feel motivated to do anything. Partially, I was scared of all of the changes and new responsibilities in my life. But after reading a bunch of interviews surrounding the album’s release, and reading about how Kevin just decided to embrace the changes in his life, it really inspired me to do the same.
Kevin had said he wanted to just start writing really sugary pop songs, and I think he really fulfilled that dream with Currents. The album was described in a review as “the most kushed-out Beegee’s album ever”.
The layering of synthesizers, guitars used to sound not like a guitar, the vocal tricks, real drums VS. a drum machine, Kevin seems to have it all down to a science. His love and eagerness to get the music sounding the way he wants to shows through more than ever with this album. And that could be because for the first time ever, he completed every part of it himself. From writing, recording, mixing AND mastering, Kevin did all of it himself. And did it extremely well.
Plus, should radio stations ever pick up “Less I Know The Better” as a single, you can bet your happy ass that every single person will be at least bobbing their head in their car. You just can’t help but move around to some degree with that song.
And this all isn’t just because Kevin is one of my biggest musical inspirations, it really is just that solid of an album. It was kind of like his equivalent of Metallica’s Black album. It was a dividing release for the fan base. Most were either disappointed or loved it, while a small percentage were somewhere in the middle. Maybe it’s just a case of people being cynical to Tame’s success, or the “too popular = lame” mentality. Who knows. Either way, I’m already eagerly awaiting album #4, but have plenty to keep me busy until then.
#1. Israel Nash – Silver Season
In the spring of last year, I was driving home and flipping through the radio stations trying to find something new since everything was at commercial. Then I landed on Austin’s 98.9 KUTX. And they were playing this song that was just magical. It was warm, dreary, and made me think of an old cabin. I was in love immediately. But the radio in the truck wont display an artist/song ID for KUTX. So a three week search was on.
For the first time, LyricFinder.org didn’t pull up any results. Googling the lyrics didn’t give anything to go on. Nothing. Until I heard the song again on KUTX about three weeks later, and Laurie Gallardo said the well awaited words, “And that was Israel Nash with “Through The Door”, from his album Rain Plans“. I texted myself all the names, and looked Israel up when I got home later that day.
The trial and error from those three weeks weren’t for nothing. That afternoon I was listening to Rain Plans front to back and continued to for the next month.
Fast forward to this past March, I went to KUTX’s Live at the Four Seasons event when Israel and his band played what was, from memory, most of Rain Plans. Standing in the back of the room, it was just like discovering “Through The Door” all over again. Except hearing it live was like flying through the sky on a partially cloud spring day over the Texas hill country.
And today, we have Silver Season. Released on October 9th, I went down to Waterloo Records to pick it up and just like RP, didn’t get off repeat or leave my car for about a month. And it’s still in regular rotation.
The majority of the album is like listening to a big warm hug. Or biting into a fresh, warm chocolate chip cookie. Israel and his band made the impossible possible by making this album better, and different from Rain Plans. It’s an evolution.
Seeing the band again, this time at Stubb’s JR, they played the whole album in it’s entirety and then some. And just like seeing them in March, live was so much better when I thought it couldn’t be possible.
But whether live or on the album, it’s one of those albums you can physically feel come out of the speakers. Maybe it’s just the way it resonates with the listener, but it’s gorgeous music. Everyone in the band is on fire once again.
And my goodness… the mix on this album is breath taking. Everything is so clear. Israel’s vocals, the back up vocals, and Eric’s pedal steel all shimmer in pure beauty. Joey’s guitar is like thunder rolling over the hills of the landscape of the Texas hill country, and Aaron’s bass and Eric’s drums are luscious and provide a solid foundation. Not to mention Israel’s lyrics are simply touching.
All in all, this is hands down my favorite album of the year. And that’s saying a lot. Just like 2014, there was a TON of amazing music. But this one just did it for me the most. It’s pure blissful magic, recorded to tape, then transferred onto vinyl, CD, or an MP3.
Do you agree with this list? Comment below what you would have picked instead.
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Artists I’m looking forward to or hope to see a release from next year:
Melody’s Echo Chamber
… Tame Impala? (It’s a pipe dream, but you never know)