Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Best Most Listened-To Albums of 2015

Like an emotionless robot, I am driven by data. Music is served to me via algorithms that analyze my past habits, causing further evolution of said habits, which are tracked by various entities that compete to turn information into profit. Unlike most robots (so far), I can access my habits, reflect on them, and try to squeeze some semblance of meaning out of them.

Welcome to the annual compilation of my most listened-to albums of the year, as tracked by Last.fm. The italicized ones are the albums I would choose as my favourite, if 2015 allowed me to be capable of conscious thought.



Runners Up:

Madonna - Rebel Heart - I gave this one a few chances, because it's Madonna. But: no. I get that it's a self-aware album, acknowledging how hard it is to be a pop star for so damn long. I just wish it explored that potentially-interesting territory with better music.

Gin Wigmore - Blood to Bone - She's never really hit the mainstream in America, and parts of this album sound like a calculated attempt to do so, but it's still fantastic.

MS MR - How Does It Feel

Foals - What Went Down - I listened to Apple Music's radio station, Beats One, for a brief period. It suffered from the same problems as regular radio, such as annoying DJs and playing the same songs over and over. That worked in Foals' favour, though, as I'd never heard them before, and when Beats played What Went Down (the title track from this album) repeatedly, I grew to love it.

Until the Ribbon Breaks - A Lesson Unlearnt - Is "unlearnt" really a word? Hmm, no red line under it. Guess it is.

Ellie Goulding - Delirium - I loved the lead single, On My Mind. The rest of the album doesn't live up to it, but is still worth a listen or two.

Neon Indian - VEGA INTL. NIGHT SCHOOL

Wolf Alice - My Love Is Cool

Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love - I admit, I'd never heard of them before, and only paid attention to this album because Carrie Brownstein from Portlandia is in the band. Whatever. I still enjoyed it.

Sleater-Kinney I think?
Ruelle - Up In Flames - Likely to be in movie trailers for years to come.

Blur - The Magic Whip - Honestly, I like them as people, but I didn't like this album much. Surprised it made the list.

Mark Ronson - Uptown Special - At first I thought it was saying "don't believe me just once" and I was like ... how do you believe someone more than once? What does that even mean?

CHVRCHES - Every Open Eye - I can't get enough of Chuhverches. They sound fresh, but also tug at me with nostalgia and a rare sincerity.

Joel Placket - The Park Avenue Sobriety Test

Brandon Flowers - The Desired Effect - I haven't been a fan of the last few Killers albums, but Flowers' solo effort was an improvement.

The Darkness - Last of Our Kind - One of my favourite bands in the "are they doing this over-the-top cheese ironically or not?" genre.

Big Data - 2.0 - It's hard to love a band whose name is techno-business-jargon that I have to be exposed to every day at work. But I did anyway.

Demi Lovato - Confident - I never paid much attention to her before, but Cool For the Summer is a great pop song that manages to be sexy even with the lyric "kiss one another," which sounds like a command from a robot scientist trying to understand human mating.

The whole "Poot" thing was also pretty funny / terrible.


The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness - This is such a relief after the mess that was Kiss Land. I always said that he would be the next big thing, but then he crashed and burned, putting my entire career as a once-a-year music critic at risk. Luckily, this comeback finally proved me right.

X Ambassadors - VHS - And I said hey, hey hey hey, hey hey hey hey hey hey hey.

Grimes - Art Angels - It's heartening to see an actual artist gradually gaining fans by doing her own unique thing. These songs are catchy not because they sound like other catchy songs, but because they're something different, and novelty sticks in one's head much better than sameness. I love this album more every time I listen to it, and it would probably be higher on this list if it had come out earlier in the year.

Giorgio Moroder - Deja Vu - Like most other casual music fans, I only heard about Moroder through Daft Punk's weird spoken-word track on Random Access Memories. This album is an obvious cash-in on that new wave of recognition. It is objectively terrible, yet the sound of an old man (he's 74) calculatedly collecting guest singers to sprinkle on top of generic EDM somehow worked for me. I even dug the disaster of Britney Spears covering Tom's Diner, with confused old-man Moroder wandering in for an incoherent interlude ("Sit yourself down, The funnies never end, Love is the drug, That makes you want to drink, Till the morning after" ... what?).

The Decemberists - What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World - Kinda like a more literary version of American Beauty / American Psycho (see below), I guess.

Miami Horror - All Possible Futures

Metric - Pagans in Vegas - One of those rare bands where each song gets better with every listen, and each album is better than the one before.

Madeon - Adventure

Elle King - Love Stuff - Holy shit, she's Rob Schneider's daughter? Fuck Rob Schneider; not for his shitty, occasionally-racist but occasionally-funny movies, but for being part of the Hollywood anti-vaccination club that is literally killing children. At least one of his own children managed to live, though, and now makes solid music.



Charlie Winston - Curio City - This is the yearly "I must have been drunk when I listened to it because I couldn't even name a single song from it even though it almost made the top 10" entry.



The Top Ten

10. Marilyn Manson - The Pale Emperor - Still my go-to answer when you ask me who my favourite band is. The Pale Emperor sees a more mature sound, though still relies on the "think of a funny twist on words then say it over and over" school of songwriting ("Cupid carries a gun?" Oh my, how edgy!). The band sounds better than ever, which sometimes makes me wish Manson (as in the singer) would just shut up and let the rest of the band have a turn. Grunting and growling through every minute of every song makes otherwise fantastic songs sound crowded. Still, great album.

9. Halsey - BADLANDS - Nice to have an all-new pop artist on here. New Americana is an instant  ephemeral classic, capturing the zeitgeist of young people today without being whiny.

8. Two Steps From Hell - Battlecry - These guys mostly do movie trailer music, but this album of epic new music is perfect for listening in the background at work or at a Dungeons and Dragons session.

7. Grace Potter - Midnight - This is a candidate for my favourite (vs. most listened-to) album of the year. I mildly enjoyed Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, but this diverse rock/pop/funk solo outing really hit me. The songs are musically rich, and Potter's voice is emotionally convincing even when the lyrics aren't. I haven't heard much of her on the radio, but I'm fine with having this as my personal little album of the year.

6. The Prodigy - The Day is My Enemy - Not much to say here; more of the same from the guys who have been doing the same very well since the 90s.



5. Modest Mouse - Strangers to Ourselves - It's hard to be bored by a Modest Mouse album. Even though it's been 8 years since the last album, this continues the weirdness that I've always enjoyed from them.

4. Fall Out Boy - American Beauty / American Psycho - What's with sticking "American" in front of everything? American Horror Story, American Dad, American Apparel, American Pie, etc., and this. Do any other countries do this? All I can think of for Canada is Canadian bacon, and if you're going to go all nationalist, it might as well be for bacon. Anyway, Fallout Boy still exists.

3. Everything Everything - Get to Heaven - This is one of those albums I randomly listened to on Rdio (RIP) because the cover looked weird (see below). The album itself is equally odd. It's political and full of messages, but that can be forgiven due to the wildly original music. It's hard to describe, so just listen to it.



2. Years and Years - Communion - I love this dude's voice. This dancy love song cheese is made remarkable primarily by how he sings it.

1. Carly Rae Jepsen - E*MO*TION - Apparently this, the best pop album of 2015, didn't sell many copies, proving that musical taste is dead. Carly Rae Jepsen performs the impossible task of taking novelty songs like I Really Like You, and weaving an entire album of equally catchy songs around them. In a way, she is the perfect evolution of pop, deserving of the crown that Madonna is fumbling, if only the public would acknowledge her genius.





See also: The Best Most Listen-To Albums of 2015

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