Monday, December 28, 2015

top 10 albums of the year: #1


Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly

Blistering creativity.

“It’s really about me trying to balance these worlds – where I used to be and where I am today – from all different angles... This album was therapy for me. I was looking at myself in the mirror and trying to figure out who I really am.” -Lamar

Sunday, December 27, 2015

top 10 albums of the year: #2


Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

An elegy for his mother, Stevens' strong songwriting and pretty, fragile vocals creates an immersive, haunting listen.

“With this record, I needed to extract myself out of this environment of make-believe... It's something that was necessary for me to do in the wake of my mother's death—to pursue a sense of peace and serenity in spite of suffering. It's not really trying to say anything new, or prove anything, or innovate. It feels artless, which is a good thing. This is not my art project; this is my life.” -Stevens

Saturday, December 26, 2015

top 10 albums of the year: #3


Kamasi Washington - The Epic

This past summer, I was listening to Kamasi Washington's ambitious, glorious, scrumptious years-in-the-making jazz tapestry and was stopped cold by a particular track: "The Rhythm Changes." It's cheesy to say, but the song changed everything--simply life-affirming.

“I was always getting put in these situations where all this stuff I learned in jazz didn't really apply. Jazz is like a telescope, and a lot of other music is like a microscope.” -Kamasi Washington

top 10 albums of the year: #4


Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit 

"Elevator Operator," a jaunty, conflicted, slightly sardonic and sad rock tune is the perfect opener for this striking album from Melbourne-bred Courtney Barnett. "Depreston" is another highlight with its haunting details of gentrified renovation that manages to be both gloomy and hopeful.

"I don't write my songs with the idea of connecting to other people, but I'm glad that's happened."
-Courtney Barnett

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

top 10 albums of the year: #5


Amason - Sky City

This atmospheric debut from Swedish front Amason is full of catchy art pop hooks and a plaintive breeziness.

"Everything beyond getting together felt like a bonus and made everyone feel really relaxed. It's not like people don't scrutinize their own decisions or those of others, of course, but that's both good and bad. The feel of this band is, "Whatever happens, happens." There's not too much brain activity engaged. It's just like, meet up in the studio, jam, and if we like what comes out we'll release it, and if not, we won't. It's not very thought out at all, which is nice. I have other projects and I've made music in other situations where it was rather the opposite. You have to be so clever about things all the time and that fits sometimes but it doesn't necessarily make the music better." -Petter Winnberg

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

top 10 albums of the year: #6


The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness

The Weeknd has been around for a while but broke out in the mainstream with three golden singles: "Earned It" from Fifty Shades of Grey, "The Hills" and the ubiquitous MJ-inspired "Can't Feel My Face" (co-written with pop mega-helmer Max Martin) which ruled summer house parties and airwaves. The full-length LP is a masterpiece of slick production and smoky bedroom tracks and Tesfaye's splendid vocals.

“Alternative R&B is in my soul. It’s not going anywhere. When I put out songs from House of Balloons in 2010 people said I made R&B cool again. I’m assuming that’s when the label was created. I feel honored that a good part of today’s music is inspired by it, consciously or subconsciously. The only way I could have done that was to be ambitious and grand. That’s what I want to do with Beauty Behind The Madness. I want to make pop cool again, and the only way I can do that is by being ambitious and grand.” -The Weeknd

Monday, December 21, 2015

top 10 albums of the year: #7


Anderson & Roe - The Art of Bach

Gracefully and keenly presented and arranged, the skilled piano duo gives Bach's music an intimate and immediate feel.

"We have the arsenal of the knowledge and the history of music and we're always paying homage to that but we also want to stay completely relevant with our time." -Elizabeth Joy Roe

Sunday, December 20, 2015

top 10 albums of the year: #8


Julia Holter - Have You In My Wilderness

An absolutely outstanding group of haunting, melodic, baroque pop tunes from singer / songwriter Julia Holter. Standout track is the opener "Feel You" which features Holter's staccato phrasing juxtaposed over a cushy bed of layered vocals, harpsichords and strings.

"For me it’s easier to come up with this single story that ties everything together, so it was harder to do this record: to do something where I have to make up stories for every song. In a way, I think I’m always kind of telling a story, so I have to come up with some kind of framework that makes sense for that. These songs were not hard to make initially, because the songs would just come out of me a certain way … but then I had to develop them, and that was really the hard part, because it’s hard to see something raw, in its raw form, and then try to develop it and build it up into something that still maintains the same raw energy. It took a really long time. We had to record many times. It was frustrating. The last one was so easy to make, in a way, and this record was this troubled child. It was so hard." -Julia Holter

Saturday, December 19, 2015

top 10 albums of the year: #9


Ghost Culture - Ghost Culture

Dark wave vibes guide this chic album of bubbly electronica and smooth acid-house. All the tracks are wheezy, subtle earworms courtesy of debut artist James Greenwood.

“It’s not all 4x4 dance music…. There are way more classically-structured tracks on it. I don’t want to make a club album – it’s more of a soft, headphones thing... I’ve been to too many gigs where it’s just people behind a screen, and it’s really disheartening – they could be on Facebook! That was always in my mind with my arrangements – that Ghost Culture was meant to be performed.” -James Greenwood

Friday, December 18, 2015

top 10 albums of the year: #10

Time for year-end lists! Here begins my Top 10 Albums of 2015.

A look back at 2014.


Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color

From the title track's gorgeous rollick to the shredded blues-rock of "Don't Wanna Fight" to the oasis that is "The Greatest"--Sound & Color is definitely no sophomore slump and highlights this jovial band's originality and spunk and Brittany Howard's towering vocals.

“The first album we just went in and recorded because they were songs we had already been playing for two or three years,” says Howard. “But with the second, we had time to sit in the studio so we could make the record we actually wanted to make. It was frustrating at times because we were challenging ourselves, but that is what I want from this entire endeavour, to be challenged.” -Brittany Howard

Thursday, December 17, 2015

libby hostetler's top albums of 2015!

My top 3 (in no certain order!):

Kendrick Lamar - How To Pimp a Butterfly

Not only the most appropriately timed album possible but the blend of jazz and rap makes for a deservedly-Grammy nominated album.

Tame Impala - Currents

Who hurt Kevin Parker?  He's clearly recovering from a breakup and reevaluating his life and we all know how breakups make for great albums (ahem, Adele).

Jamie xx - In Colour

Not the dance album you were expecting but something much deeper.  The minute I hear "Gosh" start up I'm like, go for it!

The rest of the best:

Leon Bridges - Coming Home

I swear, this guy is straight out of 1964.  His clothes, his band, his dancing, his way of referring to his friends as "cats" - it all makes for a smooth album.

Adele - 25

No shit, the queen returns to form.

Kelela - Hallucinogen

I can't wait for a full album from this girl.  Weird and abstract beats with a gorgeous voice.  Which brings me to...

FKA twigs - M3LL155X

Tahiyah Barnett continues to amaze me with her alter ego, FKA twigs.

Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

The distinct sound of Courtney talking/singing through songs just kills me - such a way with words

Blur - The Magic Whip

I know, I know, I adore British artists.  It was such a pleasant surprise to see these guys not only reunite but put out a fantastic album!

Wolf Alice - Our Love is Cool

These rockers manage to take me back to all the early 90s grunge sounds.  So impressive.

Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell - Sing Into My Mouth

An unlikely pairing between friends with extensive albums of their own, this covers album was such a breath of fresh air this summer.

Beach House - Thank Your Lucky Stars

I was a little concerned when Depression Cherry was released - what the hell was that?  Then this album was released and I was immediately relieved.  Blissful, dreamy perfection.

-Libby Hostetler