The 2015 Talkies: The Talkhouse Writers’ Year-End Top Tens

The 2015 Talkies: The Talkhouse Writers’ Year-End Top Tens

Welcome to the 2015 Talkies, Talkhouse Music’s year-end writers poll. We reached out to our amazing stable of contributors  all of them are, of course, musicians — and asked them to rank their ten favorite records of 2015. The results of the poll are here — and, should you need any musician-approved music suggestions going into 2016, each Talkhouse contributor’s ballot is below.

— The editors of Talkhouse Music

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Zohra Atash (Azar Swan)

It’s really great that 2015, which in many ways was so dark and chaotic, was brimming with great music. It’s strange how dark music has always been the silver lining in shit times. Whittling down all that to ten favorite records was difficult. I decided to omit Them Are Us Too and Jenny Hval, as I covered their records for the Talkhouse. Also just narrowly off the list are records by longtime heroes Danzig and John Carpenter, and all the soundscape-y ambient stuff like Mark Solotroff’s Synth Sketch WHO1.These works are also highly recommended but not applicable for this list of new music: Eric Feremans’ The Antwerp Killer soundtrack on the Finders Keepers label and Jonathan Toubin’s incredible four-volume Souvenirs of the Soul Clap. Keep up the good work, friends. XO

Publicist UK — Forgive Yourself (Relapse)
Drew McDowall — Collapse (Dais)
Prurient — Frozen Niagara Falls (Profound Lore)
Wax Idols — American Tragic (Collect)
Björk — Vulnicura (One Little Indian)
Clay Rendering — Snowthorn (Hospital Productions)
Scout Paré-Phillips — Heed the Call (Dais)
Sannhet — Revisionist (The Flenser)
King Dude — Songs of Flesh & Blood in the Key of Light (Not Just Religious Music)
Tim Kuhl — 1982 (Flying Moonlight)

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Nat Baldwin (Dirty Projectors)

Jenny Hval — Apocalypse, Girl (Sacred Bones)
Weyes Blood — Cardamom Times (Kemado/Mexican Summer)
Joanna Newsom — Divers (Drag City)
Tyondai Braxton — HIVE1 (Nonesuch)
Beach House — Depression Cherry (Sub Pop)
Holly Herndon — Platform (4AD)
Chris Weisman — The Holy Life That’s Coming (NNA Tapes)
Zs — Xe (Northern Spy Records)
Circuit des Yeux — In Plain Speech (Thrill Jockey)
Patrick Higgins — Social Death Mixtape (NNA Tapes)

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Craig Bell (Rocket from the Tombs)

Rocket from The Tombs — Black Record (Fire)
X_____X — Albert Ayler’s Ghosts Live at the Yellow Ghetto (Smog Veil)
I was told I could be biased with my selections, so I’m going all in right off the hop! This past year, I had the privilege of participating in the making of the two records that top my list. Working with legends David Thomas and John Morton — as well as sterling musicians such as Andrew Klimeyk, Matt Harris, Buddy Akita, Gary Siperko and Steve Mehlman — was not only a great honor, but a daunting challenge. I am extremely proud of the results on both counts.

Archie & the Bunkers — Archie & the Bunkers (Dirty Water)
These talented siblings have made a fine debut recording with just enough old-school strut to grab your attention and leave you wanting to see where they will take their ideas. I look forward to what the O’Connor brothers have in store for us in the coming years.

Parquet Courts — Monastic Living (Rough Trade)
Veering into a more experimental mode, Mr. A. Savage and company have released a record that reminds me of ‘70s kraut rock with a dash of Robert Fripp/Brian Eno of theNo Pussyfooting era.

The Dockers — Fury of the Mindless Ones (Real Life)
From Indianapolis comes the thundering riffs and perverted worldview of the Dockers with their second full-length offering of what has been best described as “fez-core.” It features the guitar stylings of my Down-fi bandmate, Samuel C. Murphy (aka Dr. Doomtone). Heavy stuff, this.

Nest Egg — Demonstrational Cassette Volume #3 (Eye Vybe)
From North Carolina comes Nest Egg. Their drone-drenched soundscapes are as relaxing as they are enticing.

Obnox — Boogalou Reed (12XU), Know America (Ever/Never), Wiglet (Ever/Never)
Lamont “Bim” Thomas has had a very busy year. This is a very good thing for us, the listeners, who have been treated to a trinity of releases by this one-man dynamo. During our Blowtorch tour — which starts January 8 in Louisville, Kentucky, and ends January 23 in Cincinnati, Ohio — Bim will be sitting in on drums with X_____X and Obnox will be sharing the bill. Check out our Facebook page for dates near (or far) from you!

The Ex-Bombers — Five Star Night (Cavetone)
Scott Walus and Kerri Cousins call their eight-string bass/drum combo music “spy jazz.” I call it fantastic. They’re a well-kept secret from Charleston, Illinois, that should be spilled to everybody!

Blaxxx — For No Apparent Reason (12XU)
That Bim Thomas guy again! This time, members of OBN III’s help lay down the rock. See you in Houston!

Thee Tsunamis — Saturday Night Sweetheart (Magnetic South)
This trio of ladies from Bloomington, Indiana, have combined an echo-drenched garage rock sound with the sweet harmonies of ’60s girl groups to make a delightful debut LP.

Honorable Mentions: Protomartyr — The Agent Intellect, OBN III’s — Worth A Lot Of Money, King Tut’s Tomb — Shred, Tommy’s Organism — Heartless Heathen, Miriam — Down Today, Plastic Crimewave Syndicate — Plastic Crimewave Syndicate.

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Rafiq Bhatia (Son Lux)

Alabama Shakes — Sound & Color (ATO)
Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath/Interscope)
Vince Staples — Summertime ’06 (Def Jam)
Earl Sweatshirt — I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside (Tan Cressida/Columbia)
King Push — Darkest Before Dawn (G.O.O.D. Music)
Empress Of — Me (Terrible/XL)
Shigeto — Intermission (Ghostly International)
TUTU — Anita (self-released)
Olga Bell — Incitation (One Little Indian)
GoldLink — And After That, We Didn’t Talk (Soulection)

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Clara Bizna$$ (Hand Job Academy)

Future — DS2 (Epic)
A$AP Rocky — At.Long.Last.A$AP. (Polo Grounds Music/RCA)
Lana Del Rey — Honeymoon (Interscope)
The Weeknd — Beauty Behind the Madness (Republic)
Shannon and The Clams — Gone by the Dawn (Hardly Art)
Carly Rae Jepsen — Emotion (Interscope/Schoolboy/Silent Records/Universal Music)
Heems — Eat Pray Thug (Greedhead Music/Megaforce)
Run the Jewels — Meow the Jewels (Run the Jewels)
Fetty Wap — Fetty Wap (300 Entertainment/Atlantic/Warner)
Björk — Vulnicura (One Little Indian)

Honorable Mentions: Special mention to my homies Miss Eaves — Black Valley, and Uncle Meg — Dangerfield!

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Brian Case (Disappears)

Diät — Positive Energy (Iron Lung)
Big Brave — Au De La (Southern Lord)
Valet — Nature (Kranky)
Negative Scanner — Negative Scanner (Trouble in Mind)
Viet Cong — Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar)
Lonelady — Hinterland (Warp)
Colleen — Captain of None (Thrill Jockey)
Föllakzoid — III (Sacred Bones)
Shopping — Why Choose (Fat Cat)
Tomaga — Familiar Obstacles (Hands in the Dark/Blank Editions)

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Brian Chase (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)

Beech Creeps — Beech Creeps (Monofonus Press)
Psych-punkers from Brooklyn writing crafty tunes with guitar tones crashing — surf wave?

Mary Halvorson — Meltframe (Firehouse 12)
Jazz standards reimagined freely for the poetic gems they are under Mary’s watch as composer and player — faithful innovative virtuosic.

John Zorn — James Moore Plays the Book of Heads (Tzadik)
Thirty-five études composed for guitar turn the instrument into both an orchestra and a playground. Among the many extended techniques involved require the use of balloons, bows and a talking doll. James Moore deftly brings out the excitement, energy and humor inherent in Zorn’s compositions. A beautifully filmed DVD is included with videos documenting the creation of the album.

John Zorn — True Discoveries of Witches & Demons (Tzadik)
Zorn’s thrash instrumental trio Simulacrum augmented to a quintet to make the sound super heavy. The compositions bring metal to the next level with a complexity that draws the listener closer in trying to figure out what the hell is happening. The rhythmic drive is relentless and the pieces come as close to the feeling of riding a rollercoaster as any.

Creature Automatic — Dust Clouds May Exist (Telegraph Harp)
Multi-instrumentalist and music historian Robbie Lee has played with everyone from Jozef Van Wissem to Neil Hagerty (Royal Trux) and here is his solo venture as a songwriter. The lyrics and orchestration are super clever while maintaining a heavy indie/DIY vibe.

Sway Machinery — Purity and Danger (3rd Generation)
Jeremiah Lockwood stands at the intersection of many stylistic crossroads: his grandfather was a distinguished cantor, his guitar guru was the esteemed blues guitarist Carolina Slim, he has a deep affinity for the music of North Africa (Sway has performed and recorded in Mali and collaborated with vocalist Khaira Arby), and none of this is to discount the influence of the more common “rock” or “electronic” sonic world. Sway Machinery seems to blend all of these elements with the knack for telling a story through song, mood and attitude — and Purity and Danger captures this sound.

Ryan Sawyer — One Day Your Heart Will Be Your Skin (Figure Eight)
This is Ryan’s solo recording of covers ranging from Willie Nelson to Sonic Youth — just voice and drums. Ryan is a sick drummer and has played for many greats, like in the side projects of some of the guys from TV on the Radio and with improv legends like Zeena Parkins, Thurston Moore and Nate Wooley.  I don’t know how to get this record other than by finding Ryan at Union Pool in Brooklyn (he has a really long beard) and asking for a copy.

Yarn/Wire — Currents Vol. 3 (self-released)
Yarn/Wire is a NYC-based piano and percussion quartet focusing on broadening the boundaries of contemporary classical music. The compositions that Y/W commission specifically for the group have a very fresh democratic attitude toward sound. The three works on Currents Vol. 3 reflect this and feel universally modern. David Bird’s piece is the most resonant and ambiently textural of the bunch, with hanging harmonies — some microtonal — slowly shifting across a wide terrain of sound fields. Mark Fell’s composition in five parts is based on an intentionally limited sonic palette allowing for a consistency of mood — stark in this case — and a close investigation of the variety and variations that exist within it. Sam Pluta’s electro-acoustic piece is truly dazzling, featuring a romp through bold and diverse sonic environments, some shifting quickly and others hanging. The colors and tones of each sonic environment serve to set captivating aural scenes. You can just put this album on and enjoy — there’s no heavy listening required, but if you want to go that way, then it’s available.

Chuck Bettis — Pixel Bleed (Living Myth)
Chuck Bettis is a computer/electronic musician on the NYC improv/experimental scene with roots in the DC punk scene. His music keeps getting more and more awesome and this is his most recent solo record. As he describes it: “Pixel Bleed is an exploration of decay and repetition all done live via Max/Msp with absolutely no overdubs nor sequencers. It is the product of utilizing the pop formula of A-B-A-B or the mild variant A-B-A-C and superimposing it over the cut-up techniques of musique concrète, but all done live in one-take in real-time!”

Sam Kulik — The Broadcast (Bort)
Sam, a trombonist on the NYC improv scene, gets credit here for the cleverest format for releasing music: baseball cards. He invited several musicians to collaborate with him on this project and each musician was put on his/her own baseball card. On the back of these cards is a download code. There are twenty: one each for the top and bottom of each inning, a seventh inning stretch and a post-game. The music runs the stylistic gamut as Sam narrates a Mets vs. Marlins game over it all. It’s oddly calming.

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John Colpitts (Kid Millions, Oneida, Man Forever)

Yo La Tengo — Stuff Like That There (Matador)
Krallice — Ygg Huur (Avantgarde Music)
Tigue — Peaks (New Amsterdam)
Ryan Sawyer — One Day Your Heart Will Be Your Skin (Figure Eight)
Lightning Bolt — Fantasy Empire (Thrill Jockey)
Sightings — Amusers and Puzzlers (Dais)
Guerilla Toss — Flood Dosed (DFA)
Laurie Anderson — Heart of a Dog soundtrack (Nonesuch)
John Luther Adams — The Wind in High Places (Cold Blue)
Fireworks Ensemble — American Tapestry (Viper)

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Dave Depper (Death Cab for Cutie)

Blur — The Magic Whip (Parlophone)
Sufjan Stevens — Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)
Pure Bathing Culture — Pray for Rain (Memphis Industries)
Julia Holter — Have You in My Wilderness (Domino)
Björk — Vulnicura (One Little Indian)
Chvrches — Every Open Eye (Glassnote Entertainment Group/Goodbye)
Low — Ones and Sixes (Sub Pop)
Grimes — Art Angels (4AD/Crystal Math Music/Eerie)
Empress Of — Me (Terrible/XL)
Carly Rae Jepsen — Emotion (Interscope/Schoolboy/Silent/Universal Music)

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Ahmed Gallab (Sinkane)

Alabama Shakes — Sound & Color (ATO)
Floating Points — Elaenia (Luaka Bop)
Oddisee — The Good Fight (Mello Music Group)
Kamasi Washington — The Epic (Brainfeeder)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra — Multi-Love (Jagjaguwar)
Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath/Interscope)
Chico Trópico — Relación de Riesgo (Ayo Silver!)
Maalem Mahmoud Guinia, Floating Points, James Holden — Marhaba (Border Community)
Four Tet — Morning/Evening (Text)
Toro Y Moi — What For? (Carpark)

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Merrill Garbus (Tune-Yards)

Naytronix — Mister Divine (City Slang)
Roomful of Teeth — Render (New Amsterdam)
Holly Herndon — Platform (4AD)
U.S. Girls — Half Free (4AD)
Grup Ses — (Soundcloud page)
Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath/Interscope)
Micachu and the Shapes — Good Sad Happy Bad (Rough Trade)
D’Angelo and the Vanguard — Black Messiah (RCA)
Sufjan Stevens — Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)
Joanna Newsom — Divers (Drag City)

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Jen Goma (A Sunny Day in Glasgow)

U.S. Girls — Half Free (4AD)
Panda Bear — Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (Domino)
Tyondai Braxton — HIVE1 (Nonesuch)
Mountain Goats — Beat the Champ (Merge)
Jack Ü — Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü (Atlantic/Mad Decent)

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Ben Greenberg (the Men, Hubble)

Blaxxx — For No Apparent Reason (12XU)
Latisha’s Skull Drawing — Demo (Cult Maternal)
Disappears — Irreal (Kranky)
Gun Outfit — Dream All Over (Paradise of Bachelors)
No Form — No Form (Reagent/Muscle Horse)
Drew McDowall — Collapse (Dais)
Vexx — Give and Take (Kartorga Works)
Dick Diver — Melbourne, Florida (Chapter/Trouble in Mind)
Circuit des Yeux — In Plain Speech (Thrill Jockey)
Diät — Positive Energy (Iron Lung)

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Luke Haines (the Auteurs, Black Box Recorder)

Luke Haines — British Nuclear Bunkers (Cherry Red)
This is my best solo album, and that’s official from the horse’s mouth.

New Order — Music Complete (Mute)
Barney, Stephen and Gillian totally pulled this monster out of the bag. New Order are always best when they channel 1969-period Velvet Underground with Donna Summer, and this is what is going on here. It’s their best in years.

Girl Band — Holding Hands with Jamie (Rough Trade)
I hadn’t fully realised the lineage of surrealist-modernist literature that runs through the best Irish rock until the sad death of Stump’s Mick Lynch this year. It’s all in this album: From Flann O’Brien to James Joyce, the Virgin Prunes to Cathal Coughlan. It’s a helluva racket from the bottom of the garden.

Sleaford Mods — Key Markets (Harbinger Sound)
Sleaford Mods are getting saddled more and more with the class warrior reputation, which I think is a red herring pulled out of the hat by guilty middle-class hacks. Forget that — if Jason Williamson’s voice is that of the everyman, then it is the voice of every man, woman and child’s subconscious. In full flow.

The Fall — Sub-Lingual Tablet (Cherry Red)
It perhaps misses the point of the Fall to put any Fall album in any best-of list. Mark E. Smith doesn’t even want to put the best material on the albums — witness the one-take shambles of the half-learnt and pointless cover of Iggy’s “Cock in My Pocket” on this album. Why? Is it meant as a test to the band or a test to the listener? Smith thinks in a different way from other artists, barely on the same planet. The last few Fall albums have gotten mighty strange, and this is the strangest yet.

Wolfgang Flür — Eloquence (Cleopatra)
I am enjoying this album more than I really want to. It’s corny Euro-electro-pop; pretend you’re at a fashion show whilst you listen.

Robert Forster — Songs to Play (Tapete)
This album should’ve been called Rhythm Guitar. Now that Lou Reed has left us, Robert F. is the greatest rhythm guitar player in the world. There’s a reason why Eric Clapton never recorded anything of note — he couldn’t play rhythm guitar. Robert can.

Anthony Child — Electronic Recordings from Maui Jungle, Vol.1 (Editions Mego)
This is a long, long dronathon on analogue synths. It makes Sunn 0))) sound likeSooty’s disco. As we fans of the drone say: “It’s a classic, Bob.”

FFS — FFS (Domino)
What a miserable year it’s been: Class war in the UK. (The rich waging a war against the poor.) Miserable death cults trying to drag us back to the Middle Ages via 21st-century weapons and terror. Unlike the thick rich and the illiterate jihadists, we have pop music. Franz Ferdinand and Sparks know everything about pop music, and they let us know it on this belter. For this they get my unholy blessing.

One Direction — Made in the A.M. (Columbia)
This makes my list purely because it’s a shocker. I wrote about it for the Talkhouse, but didn’t really talk about the music; that’s because the music is barely there. What is “there” is a blitzkrieg of some of the worst dog’s-dinner production of anything — it’s an insult to pop to call it pop music — I have ever heard. But the music is hardly the point. The “product” isn’t even the point. The point is the brand, and that brand is Simon Cowell, not One D. There’s an old cliché that “worthy” musicians sometimes unwittingly stumble into “We just do what we want to and if anyone else likes it then it’s a bonus.” For One Direction the cliché becomes “We just do what we’re told to and if anyone gets a solo career out of it then that’s a bonus.”

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Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers)

Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath/Interscope)
Kurt Vile — B’lieve I’m Going Down (Matador)
Deerhunter — Fading Frontier (4AD)
Father John Misty — I Love You, Honeybear (Sub Pop)
Sufjan Stevens — Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)
Will Johnson — Swan City Vampires (Will Johnson/Undertow)
Beach House — Depression Cherry (Sub Pop)
Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom+Pop Music)
Alabama Shakes — Sound & Color (ATO)
Wilco — Star Wars (dBpm)

Favorite Songs:
“The Blacker the Berry” — Kendrick Lamar
“Blue Bucket of Gold” — Sufjan Stevens
“Children of Children” — Jason Isbell
“The Watchman” — Will Johnson
“I Went to the Store One Day” — Father John Misty
“Heaven Only Wants Us Once We’re Dead” — Joey Kneiser
“Pedestrian at Best” — Courtney Barnett
“Shenorock Lane” — Jay Gonzalez
“Pretty Pimpin’” — Kurt Vile
“Errol Flynn” — Donnie Fritts

Favorite Show: D’Angelo and the Vanguard

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Jarboe (Swans, Neurosis)

Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp A Butterfly (Aftermath/Interscope)  
Laibach — Spectre (Deluxe) (Mute)
Florian Fricke & Popol Vuh — Kailash: Pilgrimage to the Throne of Gods  (Soul Jazz)
Father Murphy — Croce (The Flenser)
Amon Tobin — Dark Jovian (Ninja Tune)
Cluster — Japan Live (Bureau B)
Faust — White Gold Tear (Trevor Faust Marcom)
Various Artists — Mitra Music For Nepal (MITRA – Music For Nepal)
Danielle De Picciotto — Tacoma (Moabit Musik)
Ghost B.C. — Meliora (Loma Vista)

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Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!)

toyGuitar — In This Mess (Fat Wreck Chords)
All Dogs — Kicking Every Day (Salinas)
Worriers — Imaginary Life (Don Giovanni)
Christine and the Queens — Christine and the Queens (Atlantic/Because Music/Neon Gold/Elektra/Warner Bros.)
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats — Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats(Caroline/Universal/Stax/Fantasy)
Oh Pep! — Living (Star House Collective)
G.L.O.S.S. — Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit (Total Negativity/Nervous Nelly)
Le Butcherettes — A Raw Youth (PIAS/Ipecac)
The Mountain Goats — Beat the Champ (Merge)
Keith Richards — Crosseyed Heart (Republic)

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Zachary Lipez (Freshkills, Publicist UK)

These are basically all albums that I played the most while tending bar. I didn’t write descriptions of the records because I’m not getting paid for this, but you should buy all these records or you are a chump. The poll requires an order, but these aren’treally in an order, you know? So artists/PR agents should feel free to say I listed their record/their client as number one. I’ll back you, PR agent.

And, yes, I know honorable mentions are a cheat. I’m wild and free like the summer wind.

Algiers Algiers (Matador)
Songhoy Blues — Music in Exile (Transgressive)
Tal National — Zoy Zoy (Fat Cat)
Downtown Boys — Full Communism (Don Giovanni)
The Pre New — The Male Eunuch (3 Loop Music)
Wax Idols — American Tragedy (Collect)
Beauty Pill — Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are (Butterscotch)
Billy Woods — Today, I Wrote Nothing (Backwoodz Studioz)
Hex Dispensers — III (Alien Snatch)
PWR BTTM — Ugly Cherries (Father/Daughter)

Honorable Mentions: VHOL — Deeper Than Sky, Vaaska — Todos Contra Todos, Dawn of Humans — Slurping at the Cosmos Spine, Protomartyr — The Agent Intellect, Ibeyi — Ibeyi.

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Scott McCaughey (the Young Fresh Fellows, the Minus 5, the Baseball Project)

I thought I could barely come up with ten 2015 albums I actually listened to, but I was wrong. I had to leave off equally worthy efforts from Giant Sand, Darren Hanlon, the Domestics, Los Lobos and others I’m no doubt forgetting now. So much music, so little time.

Wilco — Star Wars (dBpm)
Full disclosure: I provided keyboards and some lyrics for one song on this record, but I don’t think Wilco should be penalized for that.

Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom+Pop Music)
This has lived in my car for an eternity. Brilliant lyrics and it rocks ass.

The Decemberists — What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World (Capitol)
The Decemberists help make it the latter.

Titus Andronicus — The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge)
This is rock opera that steamrolls you into submission. It’s ferocious, anthemic, funny and furiously sad.

Daniel Romano — If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ (New West)
This is real country out of Canada. Romano is a classicist but deceptively subversive as well.

Eugene Mirman — You’re Welcome (Sub Pop)
Oh, the audacity! This record is seven platters of misadventure and brilliant absurdity.

Rhett Miller with Black Prairie — The Traveler (ATO)
Teaming up with Black Prairie was a golden move. This is a warm and wonderful record.

Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free (Southeastern)
He just gets better and better — and people actually noticed.

Will Johnson — Swan City Vampires (Will Johnson/Undertow)
This album takes me to dark and pretty places — all of them worth visiting again and again.

The Deslondes — The Deslondes (New West)
There is all manner of roots-fueled, tube-soaked, New Orleans country-blues-billy gumbo here. Dancing encouraged.

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Holly Miranda

Ambrosia Parsley — Weeping Cherry (Barbès)
Chris Maxwell — Arkansas Summer (Max)
Sufjan Stevens — Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)
Diane Coffee — Everybody’s a Good Dog (Western Vinyl)
Modest Mouse — Strangers to Ourselves (Epic)
Tobias Jesso, Jr. — Goon (True Panther Sounds)
Alabama Shakes — Sound & Color (ATO)
Jaime xx — In Colour (XL)
Peaches — Rub (I U She Music)
A Place to Bury Strangers — Transfixiation (Dead Oceans)

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Rick Moody (the Wingdale Community Singers)

Iris DeMent — The Trackless Woods (FlariElla)
The Necks — Vertigo (ReR/Northern Spy)
D’Angelo and the Vanguard — Black Messiah (RCA)
Yo La Tengo — Stuff Like That There (Matador)
Advance Base — Nephew in the Wild (Orindal/Tomlab)
Paul de Jong — IF (Temporary Residence)
Scott Tuma — No Greener Grass (Immune)
Thunderbitch — Thunderbitch (ATO)
Bang on a Can All-Stars — Field Recordings (Cantaloupe Music)
Adele — 25 (XL)

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Qasim Naqvi (Dawn of Midi)

Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath/Interscope)
U.S. Girls — Half Free (4AD)
Yotam Haber — Torus (Roven)
Jodie Landau and Wild Up — You of All Things (Bedroom Community)
Ochion Jewell Quartet — VOLK (self-released)
Four Tet — Morning/Evening (Text)
Palm — Trading Basics (Inflated Records/Exploding In Sound)
Lydia Ainsworth — Right from Real (Arbutus)
Panda Bear — Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (Domino)
Aphex Twin — Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP (Warp)

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Rollie Pemberton (Cadence Weapon)

Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly (Aftermath/Interscope)
Future — DS2 (Epic)
Future — 56 Nights (Freebandz)
Young Thug — Barter 6 (Atlantic/300 Entertainment)
Vince Staples — Summertime ’06 (Def Jam)
Ethereal — Final Fantasy (Awful)
Erykah Badu — But You Caint Use My Phone (Motown)
Ty Dolla $ign — Free TC (Atlantic)
Jeremih — Late Nights (Def Jam)
Destroyer — Poison Season (Merge/Dead Oceans)

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Laura Pleasants (Kylesa)

Killing Joke – Pylon (Spinefarm)
It’s very impressive that these guys can still deliver awesomely unique records. I love them.

Irata – Sweet Loris (Retro Futurist)
Irata is a newer band out of North Carolina on Kylesa’s Retro Futurist label. They’re a powerhouse trio of riffs and vocals. The record is nothing new to the game per se, but it is grooving and heavy and very pleasing to my ears — and Irata does it better than 90% of the other bands doing this. Plus, they kinda sound like Perry Farrell meets Robin Proper-Sheppard (The God Machine) on vocals.

Tribulation – The Children of the Night (Century Media)
Epic and dark. Metallic and melodic. I dig this Swedish band a lot. I love that black metal groove…

Drenge – Undertow (Infectious)
I’m new to this band but I really love what they’re doing. We probably have a lot of the same records. I love the early new wave sounds, rocking guitar parts and the articulate drumming. It’s very British in the best way.

Dilly Dally – Sore (Partisan)
I was turned on to this band recently and I like it very much. It has all the elements that I like: guitar hooks, cool tones and catchy vocals by a female who means it.

Mondo Drag – Mondo Drag (Kozmik Artifactz/Riding Easy)
I love weird ’70s rock and I also dig many new bands that want to sound like they are from 1972. Hammond organ and all, this is a nice mix of rock, psychedelia and folklore for a hazy night at home.

Deafheaven – New Bermuda (Anti-)
I wasn’t impressed with their previous effort (which was loved by everyone else), but their followup offers a lot of maturity and interesting genre twists and turns that make me grin. Great heavy record with a vision.

High on Fire – Luminiferous (eOne Music)
I have a huge amount of respect and love for this band. I have most of their records, but this one is definitely their best output in recent years. I wanna drive really, really fast while listening to this.

Failure – The Heart Is a Monster (INresidence)
I can’t believe they were able to make such an awesome record after all these years, but they did! I had tickets to see them and Hum in New York City a few months ago, and, at the last minute, I couldn’t go. I was bummed.

Lucifer – Lucifer 1 (Rise Above)
Although this “sounds like Black Sabbath” genre is pretty tired, these folks do it very well. Plus, Sabbath is my all-time favorite band so I can’t hate too hard.

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Amy Ray (Indigo Girls)

It bodes well that, despite all the old dinosaurs and naysayers, music is alive and well and getting us through these troubled times. Of course, this list doesn’t even scratch the surface or make in-roads into the world of international music, of which I know nothing — except that it often comes from a higher realm that I can’t even begin to understand. But whenever I hear something from another land, especially the continent of Africa or the region of the Middle East, it gives me pause and respect.

Yelawolf — Love Story (Interscope/Shady)
Algiers — Algiers (Matador)
Screaming Females — Rose Mountain (Don Giovanni)
Soak — Before We Forgot How to Dream (Rough Trade)
Chris Stapleton — Traveller (Mercury Nashville)
Meghan Trainor — Title (Epic)
Phil Cook — Southland Mission (Middle West)
Alabama Shakes — Sound & Color (ATO)
Iris DeMent — The Trackless Woods (FlariElla)
Liz Longley — Liz Longley (Sugar Hill)

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Adam Schatz (Landlady)

Alabama Shakes — Sound & Color (ATO)
Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp A Butterfly (Aftermath/Interscope)
Shamir — Ratchet (XL)
Wilco — Star Wars (dBpm)
Empress Of — Me (Terrible/XL)
Palm — Trading Basics (Inflated Records/Exploding in Sound)
Out of Town Men & Women — Out of Town Men & Women (self-released)
Scott Clark 4tet — Bury My Heart (Clean Feed)
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment — Surf (self-released)
Sam Cohen — Cool It (Easy Sound)

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Tommy Siegel (Jukebox the Ghost, Drunken Sufis, Narc Twain) 

I’m not good at ranking records (I don’t know how to compare anything scientifically without a control group), so I’m just gonna make this a list of ten records that I listened to a lot and loved deeply in an order that vaguely resembles how much I listened to them. Also, a disclaimer: I love guitars and drums and bands that sound like bands. That’s not to say I don’t like other things, too. But this year, that’s what I wanted to hear the most.

Viet Cong — Viet Cong (Jagjaguwar)
Palm — Trading Basics (Inflated/Exploding In Sound)
Ava Luna — Infinite House (Western Vinyl)
Charlie Brand — Monsoons (Yebo Music)
Courtney Barnett — Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom+Pop Music)
Deerhoof — Fever 121614, Live in Japan (Deerhoof)
Pile — You’re Better Than This (Fierce Panda)
Zs — Xe (Northern Spy)
Hop Along — Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)
Krill — A Distant Fist Unclenching (Steak Club)

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Josh Strawn (Azar Swan, Vaura)

Consumer Electronics — Repetition Reinforcement (Diagonal)
These two songs, and especially the a-side “Murder the Masters,” affected me more emotionally and creatively than anything else this year. So this record must be included and it must take the number-one slot, despite its short running time. Singer Philip Best grabs you by the throat from the first breath, and the way his brutally restrained diatribe grows to envelop wide-ranging global environmental and political catastrophe felt real as anything: “fictitious capital, hopeless heat, rainforest depletion, North American drought, nuclear Pakistan,” he sneers. He could have easily included in the litany “Ferguson, Baltimore, homegrown fascism.” Does the song appear to be about murdering a woman, and does he say remarkably cruel things to her? Yes. That doesn’t mean this is misogyny as a rebellion against political correctness run amok — it means that outstanding music can and does fail all sorts of morality tests. That was something the world needed to be reminded of in 2015.

Prurient — Frozen Niagara Falls (Profound Lore)
This was my most anticipated release of the year and it didn’t disappoint. From the moment the song “Dragonflies To Sew You Up” premiered, I knew Dominick Fernow had delivered yet another great record. The word “masterpiece” got thrown around quite a bit in reviews, and I’m not sure that’s far off. There are a great many elements at play both sonically and thematically on the record and it never feels cluttered or unfocused or like it’s in need of editing.

Various Artists — True Detective (Music from the HBO Series) (Harvest)
This was included because it was tough to figure out how to say “I listened to those four Lera Lynn songs a million times each.” But I did. And the Leonard Cohen song is great, too. Sure, Lynn treads into Marissa Nadler and Neko Case territory, but while a lot of sparse, Americana- or country-inflected music like this certainly manages to be dark and mournful, these songs reached a level of funereal bleakness one normally gets from Swans or some of the best black metal.

Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto — The Revenant soundtrack (Milan), Johnny Jewel — Lost River soundtrack (Italians Do Better), Disasterpeace — It Follows soundtrack (Milan)
Between Johnny Jewel’s work for Ryan Gosling’s criminally panned Lost River and Disasterpiece’s completely enjoyable Carpenter pastiche, the moody synth soundtrack had a great year. But it was Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto’s minimal, wintry work for The Revenant that I’ll probably be coming back to in twenty-five years. As a longtime David Sylvian obsessive (I named my now-deceased cat after him), I’ve usually only listened to Sakamoto collaborating with Sylvian, but I’m certain after hearing this soundtrack I’ll be listening to a lot more of his work in 2016.

Wire — Wire (Pink Flag)
Maybe, for some, all the cheeky references to the internet will fall flat, and if hearing Colin Newman sing snidely about email and Google isn’t your bag, fine. It doesn’t mean that “Sleep-Walking” isn’t one of the absolute best attempts a songwriter has made at diagnosing our sociocultural disease: “We’re at a tipping point, the arguments may lead to less cohesion, a mere collection of parts.” Indeed. This is the sound of a great band still making great records.

TRTRKMMR — Avec la Souillure Nous Entrons au Règne de la Terreur (Iron Lung)
This is simply a record that has to be experienced. Almost any description would fall short. It’s a deep cut and it will abuse you.

In Gowan Ring — The Serpent and the Dove (Les Disques du 7eme Ciel)
I discovered this band this year, a gentle mixture of Dead Can Dance and The Wicker Man soundtrack. It’s romantic troubadour stuff. As hokey as that might sound, it does a pretty incredible job of never coming off hokey.

New Firmament — Living Mithridate (New Firmament)
It’s fitting that this long-form, ambient synth work by was written by the person who introduced me to Alice Coltrane’s Turiya Sings. Nick Podgurski played drums with Azar Swan on our U.S. tour this past summer, and his multiple projects from this to Feast of the Epiphany are consistently either explorative, challenging or both.

Drew McDowall — Collapse (Dais)
Another Azar Swan collaborator, Drew McDowall, has done a remix for us as well as contributed synths to a song off of our recent LP. This is his first solo LP since the dissolution of Coil, and to my ears it’s no less brilliant than the best Coil stuff. As an instrumentalist, Drew is a master of electronic texture, and as a composer he’s a master of elegance and restraint.

Pinkish Black — Bottom of the Morning (Relapse)
Now that I live in New Orleans, I get to see these guys come through town a lot more than they did when I lived in New York. I’ve been enamored of their work since Rich Loren Balling of Handmade Birds first sent me their debut EP. It sounds now the way it sounded then: like pure, malevolent creativity. But whereas their first records felt like scoring some unknown heavy post-punk EP, this sounds like a fully realized, sprawling soundtrack to an existential horror film.

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JG Thirlwell (Foetus, Steroid Maximus, Manorexia)

Anna von Hausswolff — The Miraculous (Other Music)
Liturgy — The Ark Work (Thrill Jockey)
Zs — Xe (Northern Spy Records)
Disasterpeace — It Follows soundtrack (Milan)
Helm — Olympic Mess (PAN)
Tristan Perich & Meehan/Perkins Duo — Parallels (Physical Editions)
Jimi Tenor & Umo — Mysterium Magnum (Herakles)
Oneohtrix Point Never — Garden Of Delete (Beat)
Tredici Bacci — The Thirteen Kisses (NNA Tapes)
Yarn/Wire — Currents Vol 3 (self-released)

Honorable Mentions: Dominique Leone, Björk, Ted Hearne, Anna Thorvaldsdottir and Drew MacDowall.

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Spencer Tweedy (Tweedy)

Sheer Mag — II (Katorga Works/Wilsuns RC)
Pops Staples — Don’t Lose This (dBpm/Anti-)
Wilco — Star Wars (dBpm)
Here We Go Magic — Be Small (Secretly Canadian)
Andy Shauf — Bearer of Bad News (Tender Loving Empire/Party Damage)
Jim O’Rourke — Simple Songs (Drag City)
Homme — Homme (Foxhall)
Marrow — The Gold Standard (Foxhall)
Beta Males — Joy (self-released)
Mac DeMarco — Some Other Ones (self-released)

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Dean Wareham (Galaxie 500, Luna, Dean & Britta) 

Jessica Pratt — On Your Own Love Again (Drag City)
Jonathan Bree — A Little Night Music (Lil’ Chief)
Deerhunter — Fading Frontier (4AD)
Beach House — Depression Cherry (Sub Pop)
Tame Impala — Currents (Interscope)
Lana Del Rey — Honeymoon (Interscope)
Princess Chelsea — The Great Cybernetic Depression (Flying Nun/Lil’ Chief)
Glenn Mercer — Instrumental Hum (Bar/None)
Chris Forsyth & Koen Holtkamp — The Island (Trouble in Mind)
Pale Blue — The Past We Leave Behind (2mr/Captured Tracks)

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Liam Wilson (Dillinger Escape Plan)

Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp A Butterfly (Aftermath/Interscope)
Nile — What Should Not Be Unearthed (Nuclear Blast)
Dungen — Allas Sak (Mexican Summer)
John Zorn — Simulacrum (Tzadik)
Thundercat — The Beyond/Where Giants Roam (Brainfeeder)
Kamasi Washington — The Epic (Brainfeeder)
The Internet — Ego Death (Columbia)
Hooded Menace — Darkness Drips Forth (Relapse)
Hiatus Kaiyote — Choose Your Weapon (Sony)
Bixiga 70 — III (Glitterbeat)

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Jeff Zentner

Chelsea Wolfe — Abyss (Sargent House)
Chvrches — Every Open Eye (Glassnote Entertainment Group/Goodbye)
Sufjan Stevens — Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)
Julien Baker — Sprained Ankle (6131/Universal)
Beach House — Depression Cherry (Sub Pop)
Halsey — Badlands (Astralwerks)
Grimes — Art Angels (4AD/Crystal Math Music/Eerie)
Matt Bauer — Dream’s End (Crossbill)
Rykarda Parasol — The Color of Destruction (Rykarda Parasol)
All Them Witches — Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (New West)

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The Talkhouse is where artists talk about the work of other artists. The idea is to promote creative dialogue by having smart, distinguished artists from the world of music, of all genres and generations, write about the latest releases by their peers. And the twist: the artist who’s being written about is encouraged to respond. Each week TIDAL presents one of our favorite new Talkhouse pieces.

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