Top Ten Albums of 2015 [Jonathon Smith's Picks]

I’m not going to over-think my year-end list this year. I’m bound to regret several omissions as soon as I submit this, but I’m not going to overthink my choices. Nope. These are my favorites, albums to which I repeatedly return. Definitely not necessarily a self-proclaimed list of “best” albums. As if anyone could make such a definitive list.

So, in no particular order and straight from the hip…

1. Joshua Redman and The Bad Plus by Joshua Redman and The Bad Plus

Catchy and concise, as well as difficult and weird. With everyone contributing songs, it’s really feels like a collaborative effort. Just about as good as it gets, folks.

2. Rest and Be Thankful by Linden

If the guys in Linden listen to anything other than Trashcan Sinatras and Friends-era Beach Boys, then it doesn’t show. By far, one of my favorite pop albums of the year. Or of any year.

3. Trophies by Luxury

Sure, I kickstarted Trophies, but it ended up even better than imagined. Resembling both Fugazi and Morrissey (and sometimes in the same song), Luxury definitely checks off the right boxes for me.

4. The Agent Intellect by Protomartyr

Angsty, lachrymose, melodic. I feel like the guys in Protomartyr get me. I’m not usually a lyrics guy, but Joe Casey makes me make sit up and take notice with his detached, yet direct delivery.

5. To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar

What hasn’t been said about this record?

6. Songs to Play by Robert Forster

Grant McLennan passed in 2006, so we’ll never get any more new Go-Betweens albums. But it’s nice that his bandmate, Robert Forster, has continued making smart, melodic solo albums in a similar vein to his former band. His self-titled album has been in heavy rotation lately, thanks to my son’s love for the second track, “Let Me Imagine You.” (And you know that, when your child loves a song, you have to play it a zillion times. You have to.)

7. Era by Echo Lake

Sure, Echo Park plays derivative dreampop/shoegaze, but who cares. The songs on Era are beautiful, catchy, dreamy, beautiful, expansive and beautiful. Pretty much everything you need.

8. I Wasn’t Born to Lose You by Swervedriver

I think this is what they call a “good comeback album.”

9. Shell Beach by Anaphylaxis

I’ve been following Chicago noise artist Jason Coffman, who records under the name Anaphylaxis, for nearly 15 years. Shell Beach is his first, fully realized album, and it’s worth the wait. Nitpicked and nuanced, the tape feels less like a free-form noise freakout and more like a concept album.

10. beauty will save the world by Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus

Probably the band’s best album in 21 years. In fact, it’s the band’s only album in 21 years. Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus picks up where it left off with its unique mix of goth, folk, classic 4AD, samples and noise.

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