The Best Music of 2015: An Introduction


Well this was an eventful year. Eventful in a feast-or-famine sort of way. I won’t go into it all, because to do so now would take hours and hours, and it’s far too mentally draining to revisit it all, but the arc of 2015 for yours truly was like no other I ever experienced. Hopeful, adventurous, very sad, giddy, insecure, worrisome, devastating. That was by April. Then complete collapse, utter darkness, the start of a slow, steady rebuild. Medication, meditation, therapy. Spontaneity, stimulation, desperation. A summer of wonderful distraction. Harsh reality in fall. Complete rock bottom. But then, the promise of very good things to come. The best birthday/Halloween of my life. A November full of hope and happiness, carrying on into December on stronger emotional footing than I’ve ever been. It’s the old saying, things had to get truly awful before they started to get better, and after some very trying times I’ve come out of it a better and happier person.

Was that vague enough for you? I’ll write about it all someday, but not now. Professionally I’m enjoying my time at PopMatters as Music Editor but know completely that the days of full-time work in music journalism are over, and the situation is untenable unless I find steady work to support the writing, which I still want to do. So I’m in the process of looking for work, and who knows where I’ll end up in my city. In the meantime, though, the music writing still takes me places. I was in Jamaica as part of the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise, I ventured to Europe yet again for Roadburn Festival, I had the best time (again) in Montreal at Osheaga, and a month later covered FME in Rouyn-Noranda in Northern Quebec, which just might be the best music fest I have ever seen. And in what truly is validation for years and years of hard work in this business, I was selected to be a voter in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For me, that’s a pinnacle, an honour. So when Deep Purple gets inducted next year, they can thank me!

As for music in 2015, things evolved as my mental state evolved. Much of the time the most important music I listened to in 2015 didn’t come out this year, so I’ve been thinking of writing a separate blog piece about “the music that shaped my 2015”, because it’s a really fascinating mix of a dozen or so records. For me my musical interests are constantly evolving, progressing and regressing at the same time. Always expanding. If there was one notable development, it’s that my interest in the more extreme side of heavy metal is waning. As a critic I know what makes good extreme metal, but the number of extreme metal releases that truly grab me as a fan is lower than it’s been in a very long time. I haven’t abandoned it – to do so would be narrow-minded – but I’m moving on to metal music that places more emphasis on melody, because for me at this moment in my life that’s the rewards are. I’ll delve more deeply into that when I post my metal albums list near the end of the month.

There’s been no shortage of great music this year across all genres, and as you’ll see it’s eclectic yet if you know me at all, a few of the usual suspects will make an appearance. For the 15th consecutive year it’s the same old format for the next 23 days: two days spent covering the best reissues/live albums of the year, followed by honourable mentions in the albums category, and then launching into the annual 20-day countdown of my favourite albums and singles of the year, culminating in my Album of the Year and Single of the Year on Christmas Eve. My metal list will go up the following week on December 30.

How big a nerd am I? This marks the 30th straight year I’ve made a year-end music list. Since 1986 I’ve done these lists for myself, and this blog has never been about the page views. But if you’re a regular reader of my writing or happened to stumble across this page, I hope you enjoy the selections. If I introduce you to one new favourite record in the next few weeks, then I’ve done my job. That’s the whole point of this all, to share great music!

My top ten albums of 2014:

  1. FKA Twigs, LP1 (Young Turks)
  2. Katy B, Little Red (Columbia)
  3. Scott Walker & Sunn O))), Soused (4AD)
  4. Lykke Li, I Never Learn (LL Recordings)
  5. Triptykon, Melana Chasmata (Century Media)
  6. Swans, To Be Kind (Mute/Young God)
  7. Judas Priest, Redeemer of Souls (Epic)
  8. Opeth, Pale Communion (Roadrunner)
  9. Esben and the Witch, A New Nature (Nostromo)
  10. Alvvays, Alvvays (Polyvinyl)

Past albums of the year (uh, please bear in mind I was sixteen when I started this):

1986: Iron Maiden – Somewhere In Time
1987: Def Leppard – Hysteria
1988: Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime
1989: Voivod – Nothingface
1990: Megadeth – Rust In PeaceLed Zeppelin Box Set (tie)
1991: Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
1992: R.E.M. – Automatic For The People
1993: Nirvana – In Utero
1994: Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
1995: Elastica – Elastica
1996: Pulp – Different Class
1997: Bob Dylan – Time Out Of Mind
1998: Monster Magnet – Powertrip
1999: Metallica – S & M
2000: Yo La Tengo – …And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
2001: Bob Dylan – Love And Theft, The Langley Schools Music Project – Innocence & Despair (tie)
2002: The Streets – Original Pirate Material
2003: Manitoba – Up in Flames
2004: Arcade Fire – Funeral
2005: Opeth – Ghost Reveries
2006: Mastodon – Blood Mountain
2007: Alcest – Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde
2008: Fucked Up – The Chemistry of Common Life
2009: Fever Ray – Fever Ray
2010: Best Coast – Crazy For You
2011: Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
2012: Rush – Clockwork Angels
2013: Paramore – Paramore
2014: fka twigs – LP1