Total Pageviews

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2015 (20-11)

20. Caracal---Disclosure
        So what if I like this album way more than anyone else? It's perfectly sunny out here on Caracal island, just in case you were wondering. Disclosure's follow-up to their 2013 smash Settle was forgotten almost as soon as it met the world, and I'm still not sure I understand why. Despising anything resembling fuzz or clutter, the Lawrence's brothers' latest is far and away the cleanest album of 2015, each and every sound exactingly selected and immaculately mixed. One of the only artists working today capable of putting on a legitimate variety show, these House music luminaries cross paths with the likes of Lorde, Miguel, Nao, and, of course, Sam Smith, but what makes it all so riveting is their ability to perfectly tailor a track to its respective singer. There's still space for you out here on Caracal island, and let me tell you, the dance floor's water's fine.

19. Escape From Evil---Lower Dens
        We're now at least a solid decade into the music industry's fascination with emulating and updating the sounds of the 80's, yet there's still something about Escape From Evil that feels markedly different. Hailing from Baltimore, the four musicians who make up Lower Dens craft songs that seems to locate a place of rosy, reverberating beauty, and stay there for longer than most outfits would have the courage. Tunes like Sucker's Shangri-La and Your Heart Still Beating find a riff or rhythm that cradles the ears, wherein each strum bounces endlessly off of studio walls, and are as happy to stay put as we are. The soaring breakthrough moments of To Die in L.A. and Company certainly rebut this notion, but they too owe their power not only to the LP's masterful sound mixing, but also Jana Hunter's soaring voice, one of the most unique to enter indie music in quite some time. Escape might not leap out of your car speakers at first, but it's one of the year's only albums that I've liked more each and every time I've heard it.

18. Individ---The Dodos
        Early press releases for The Dodos latest likened the album's sound and feel to that of their break-through 2008 LP, Visiter, which immediately proved to be little more than an olive branch reached out to fans. Individ is a compact 38 minutes compared to Visiter's sprawling hour, and features Meric Long finally switching over to electric guitar as his primary six-string. Perhaps the comparison was simply short-hand for 'really damn good,' because the San Francisco two-piece's latest is certainly that, nine straight tracks that bounce off one another without ever losing momentum. The knotty, rapid-fire guitar-and-drums interplay that formerly defined these guys' sound is frequently sidelined in favor of pure, basic songwriting, putting Long's intuition for melody on full display. It's yet another step into the future by one of our most consistent bands, but if you really need to look back on the past a bit, they've got Competition waiting right there for you.

17. Dumb Flesh---Blanck Mass
        In the very same fashion in which Martin Courtney's Many Moons served as an excellent stop-gap until the next Real Estate album comes out, Dumb Flesh is one hell of a way to pass the time until the next Fuck Buttons record. Benjamin John Power, one half of the aforementioned psychotic electronic music project, goes solo as Blanck Mass, and his songs remain just as distinct even without his partner in crime. Dumb Flesh might employ the general rhetoric of dance music, but the album uses it to bully your ears into submission, every sound and shift heightened to near-terrifying levels of intensity. If Power is actually this dude's given name, the universe is truly onto something, because the music he makes is almost tyrannical, so strange, full-bodied, and imposing as to become awe-inspiring.

15. *tie* Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars
        Beach House usually takes about three years between the release of their albums, but they shortened the cycle in 2015... to one month. Depression Cherry, which had been promised and promoted for months, was released on August 28th, and while the disc is as lovely and etherial as we've come to expect from these Dream Pop pioneers, the effort felt like a second consecutive drop in greatness (Following on the heels of Bloom, which itself couldn't quite live up to Teen Dream). Then news came of yet another full-length, Thank Your Lucky Stars, set to arrive at the start of October. I for one was immediately more taken with the surprise LP than the foretold one, but time and distance have allowed my brain to accept that anticipation might have had a liiiiiiittle bit to do with that initial reading.

        What drew me to Stars initially was its relative mean-streak; this is certainly still the very same Beach House you've always known, but She's So Lovely and Rough Song allow a darkness in that feels fresh, not the mention that squealing organ note that redefines closer Somewhere Tonight wholesale. Cherry is comparatively billowy, and while I still believe Stars to be the more consistent of the two, their first release of the year can boast of higher high points. Sparks employs that jaggedly-distorted guitar for which Alex Scally has a new fondness to marvelous effect, and the way Victoria Legrand guides us on Levitation's other-worldly ascent is as sumptuous as it is captivating. Deciding on the superior disc has has become increasingly difficult, but there's good news: you can have both!

14. MCIII---Mikal Cronin
        As aggrandizing as this might sound for a guy still toiling in relative anonymity, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better American songwriter that Mikal Cronin. Don't mistake this for the sort of prodigy/game-changer tag applied to artists like Radiohead or Animal Collective; Cronin's gift is in finding unnervingly immediate melodies and undeniable guitar riffs within established boundaries, not outside of them. MCIII can hardly contain the beauty of his craftsmanship, sumptuous strings and lovely keys pouring out of opener Turn Around from the moment you hit play, slipping into the background to support I've Been Loved's comely acoustic lament. He even manages to step on the gas from time-to-time, Say launching off the blocks into distortion-covered, horn blowing triumph, Ready serving as its pounding, urgent late-album counterpart. The songs Cronin pens and plays pull off that most elusive of musical magic tricks; even on first spin, you feel like you've been listening to these cuts for as long as you can remember.
13. No Cities to Love---Sleater-Kinney
        And suddenly, they re-emerged. In the ten years that have passed since these indie punk titans last released an album, vocalist Carrie Brownstein became more famous as 'the woman on Portlandia' than as a genuine musical pioneer, a travesty that is made that much clearer by the greatness of No Cities to Love. Though the trio can still rock just as hard as ever, as witnessed on the bookends of Price Tag and Fade, 2015 found Sleater-Kinney at their most melodic, the screwy A New Wave driving straight into one of the catchiest choruses in recent memory, while the buoyant Hay Darling is the kind of rack that turns off purists while delighting new fans. It's a pop-punk album to be sure, but it's most often only one or the other at a time, creating a sonic sampler platter that just about anyone with ears can agree on.

12. New Bermuda---Deafheaven
        Every once in a while, a band comes along from a largely esoteric genre that manages to attract listeners who would usually run for the hills. Like Bob Dylan or Eminem before them, Deafheaven has officially pulled off just such a trick, their caustic, booming metal music drawing in a decidedly more vast audience than usually acknowledges these pummeling drums and screaming vocals. It's easy enough to point to the intermittent post-rock passages as the reason for their crossover appeal, and while the ravishing nature of these movements certainly helps, it's the way they bounce off of the gloom-and-doom thunder storm of everything else that really makes their aesthetic uniquely alluring. Add to this the vocals of George Clarke, which are just as raspy and indecipherable as any Cookie Monster growler out there, but hit noticeably higher pitches, furthering distancing Deafheaven from the sound of their peers. Whatever it is, New Bermuda is an experience, at one moment looking to the stars with a sense of wonder, and then mercilessly leveling an entire city in the next.

11. Ego Death---The Internet
        Before encountering Ego Death, all I knew about The Internet was that they (or was it he? She?) were a part of the Odd Future collective. And while this may be true, finding a more misleading context for their music would be a tall task. Led by vocalist Syd tha Kyd, The Internet craft sultry R&B that's lightyears removed from the wanton aggression of OF's most famous output, Ego Death consisting of one smooth, pleasure-positive winner after another. The group enlists fellow 'alternative R&B' star Janelle Monae for breezy highlight Gabby, but requires no assistance on Just Sayin'/I Tried, one of the album's only moments of true aggression, wherein Syd scolds a former lover with a calm the belies fire. It's a rare moment of tension in an album deeply defined by its sexy saunter and mellowed-out worldview, so much so that when Tyler, the Creator shows up on two-part closer Palace/Curse, he not only sings instead of raps, but acts as a jovial MC to an imaginary dance party. If Ego Death can get that guy to calm down and have a good time, imagine what it can do for you.

Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2015

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2015

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2015 (25-11)

25. Omen---Discloure feat. Sam Smith
        For the life of me, I still can't understand why this song didn't take off with the same velocity as this pair's 2013 smash Latch. It's certainly not the fault of Smith's incomparable croon, seemingly capable of reaching out and grabbing any single note at any given time. It's also not Disclosure's unfathomably crisp, immediately kinetic backdrop, all swooping synths in the verses, and funky bass upon the choruses. Omen is my favorite radio hit of 2015... and it wasn't even really a hit, so what do I know? Sonically robust and structurally forward-thinking, it's a track that should have entered the party playlist canon the second it reached the radio, but at least I'll have it in mine.

24. Come to Your Senses---Panda Bear
        Through all the esoteric art that Noah Lennox has cooked up over the years, be it going solo as Panda Bear, or with his parent band Animal Collective, there's been an almost omnipresent warmth and lushness. Come to Your Senses only has makes time for that type of non-sense in its closing minute, dedicating the other six to dredging you through Lennox's throbbing swamp of synthesizers. It's a sludgy, bass-driven banger from a guy who's hardly ever been associated with anything of the sort, a repetitious sound world that proves leering and alluring at the same time.

22. *tie* Peasantry or 'Light! Inside of Light!' and Piss Crowns Are Trembled---Godspeed You! Black Emperor
        Is it cheating to have two songs from an album that literally only has four tracks slated among my best of the year despite neglecting to include their parent LP from my top 50 list? Perhaps... ok, fine, probably, but hear me out. The two other tunes included on Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress are bordering on obnoxious with their melody-hating, incessant drone, while the disc's opener and closer are far too massive to be ignored. Peasantry, which serves as the record's first act, hangs its entire ten-and-a-half minute frame work on a single foreboding riff that seems bent on world domination. Trembled, by contrast, is much more varied in scope, a show-stopping finale with distinct movements and seemingly endless possibilities, a monument of a song that occupies just under 14 minutes without ever loosening its grip. Each forgoes the emotive, unforeseeable samples that have steered some of the band's past triumphs, focusing on the sonic strength of their towering instrumentals. Over two decades into their career, and still no one does 'big' quite as well as Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

21. To Die in L.A.---Lower Dens
        Look, sometimes all you really need is an amazing chorus. Not that To Die in L.A. isn't a great song otherwise; the boucey guitar-and-keyboard interplay makes for a zippy introduction, and Jana Hunter is already out there hitting those searing high notes more or less from the word go. But that moment, right after the minute-and-a-half mark, marks one of 2015's most eye-popping musical moments, and proves in the process that even a tidal wave can sneak up on you. Those whining violins and kaleidoscopic harmonies strike with such sudden force, lending a sense of desperate yearning to a song that was previously close to the chest. It's like riding a roller coaster, where the slow ascension creates fun out of anticipation, but doesn't hold a candle to the drop.

20. Grief---Earl Sweatshirt
        Earl Sweatshirt's sophomore studio album, I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside, marked a drastic change of directions for the young MC, largely tabling his famously knotted lyrics in favor of dreary tales of self-hate, and producing all but one track by himself. Grief represents his greatest accomplishment as a beat-maker so far, a depraved, lurching instrumental that sounds as if the rapper broke all of his equipment on purpose before hitting record. The rhymesmith's bars walk that tight rope between piercing honesty and over-earnestness, the aggression in his voice lending heft and urgency to the pain and helplessness that stick out like a neon sign in the song's vast darkness.

19. Chateau Lobby 4 (in C for Two Virgins)---Father John Misty
        Is that pure, unaltered bliss exuding from the mouth of Father John Misty? What had previously seemed impossible has now come to be, a Josh Tillman solo effort that plays like a celebration for every moment that it's on, that wonky, summertime strum guiding us to an autumnal horn section that feels straight out of the Beirut playbook. This isn't the love-song joy you'll find other singer/songwriters muse upon in their every waking moment; Tillman celebrates hating all the same things as his new lover, even singling her out as one of the only non-boring people in his whole entire world. Like much of I Love You, Honeybear, the lyrics here are ingeniously-crafted punchlines that actually hit at deeply-rooted feelings and tensions of everyday life, but while in the embrace of this film school cheater, Tillman appears to have finally found comfort, and he's over the moon about it.

18. Untouchable---Pusha T
        With the likes of Drake, Future, and Young Thug sitting atop the hip hop game from a popularity standpoint, rap continues to move away from the cold, hard bars that defined it in the early-to-mid 90's, but thank god we have King Push to show us that the old ways are still alive and well. Powered by a warped, ominous beat and a somehow-not-blasphemous Biggie Smalls sample, the track is a masterclass in stream-of-consciousness flow, Terrence Thornton hitting on any number of subjects from Donald Trump to the San Antonio Spurs... and selling dope, because this is a Pusha T song. These three glorious, fleeting minutes serve as a testament against anyone who would argue that rapping well is rapping fast, the track's intricate web of word play and reference easily running laps around your brain despite their mid-tempo delivery.

17. New Person, Same Old Mistakes---Tame Impala
        Tame Impala used 2015 to wipe the slate clean on what has already been an overwhelmingly successful career, throwing out the sound that made Lonerism one of 2012's most beloved albums in favor of an immaculate 80's sheen that allows frontman Kevin Parker to fully move to the forefront. The Aussie's misty falsetto wafts all over the album, as do his stunning bass lines, none more so than the one that takes center stage on closer New Person, Same Old Mistakes. Experienced in headphones, the track has innumerable fills and frills that pop up and disappear, constantly changing the color of their surroundings, but that burly, rolling 4-string remains a constant, driving force.

16. Norf Norf---Vince Staples
        You never quite know where Vince Staples is coming from, and something tells me he likes it that way. The Long Beach MC's lyrics glorify violence and street life at almost every turn, but somewhere between the production, his delivery, and fleeting moments of clear-eyed rumination, Staples clearly has more on his mind than embodying crime and corruption. A storyteller if ever there was one, the rapper flies through his bars here as though his mouth can't quite keep up with his mind, rejecting both wordplay and euphemisms almost whole-sale in favor of just telling it like it is. The beat, as cooked up by Clams Casino, is about as subtle as you'll ever hear played below tales gun fire and hand cuffs, a masterwork of calibration that requires attention to be appreciated in full, much like the work of Staples at large.

15. Blue Bucket of Gold---Sufjan Stevens
        Perhaps not the most specifically personal track on Sufjan Stevens' unfathomably intimate 2015 LP, Carrie and LowellBucket finds its way straight into your heart through its relative broadness. There are a million different ways to lyrically pine for one's affections, but there's something powerful about just how nakedly Stevens pleads "tell you want me in your life." His sincerity is not to be doubted, and neither are the instrumentals, comprised of a slow, lavish piano line, etherial, angelic background vocals, and a lo-fi fuzz that hangs over everything like a grey fog in the early morning. Sufjan might have made his name on the enormity of both his sound and vision, but Bucket argues that he might be most effecting when he's nearly all alone.

13. *tie* Baby Blue and Brought to the Water---Deafheaven
        Incase you missed the rest of this list, I'm not exactly a metal guy, but neither are an enormous portion of Deafheaven's dedicated fans. The five-piece out of San Francisco employs the very same machine gun drums and indecipherable screams that tend to turn wusses like me away, but their music also visits some genuinely beautiful places, like a hybrid between Lamb of God and Explosions in the Sky. These two styles don't succeed in spite of each other, but rather perform beautifully in concert, as witnessed on Baby Blue, a 10+ minute epic whose lovely opening passage gives way to speaker-destroying madness in a manner that's downright cathartic. New Bermuda is an album defined by pent-up tension, and its eventual release, opener Brought to the Water absolutely pummeling your ears into submission before finally allowing a soaring guitar progression to burst through the frontline at the 3:30 mark. These are two mammoth efforts on an album that allows for nothing less, each vacillating between the jagged darkness and the comely light on their long, breath-taking journeys.

12. Competition---The Dodos
        The best Dodos songs are sort of like wind-up toys where the turning of the crank has all been done before you've ever pressed play. Try as I might to love their more down-tempo offerings, the music of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber is at its best while traveling at light-speed, Competition proving this fact all over again. Kroeber's drums seem incapable of stopping, their frantic sprint opening the track all on their lonesome, and refusing to ever leave or let up. Long matches him every step of the way, layering one guitar on top of another, blitzing through his riffs without a thought of looking back. There's also a nearly unplaceable emotional element, the tune's unuttered sense of mourning most obvious as Long intones the song's title twice in the closing moments, his subtle change of delivery alluding to feelings that otherwise go unexpressed.

11. I Went to the Store One Day---Father John Misty
        Father John Misty has an incredible knack for being bleeding-heart authentic and smart-ass sarcastic at the very same moment, but that doesn't mean that he can't play completely to one side every once in a while. Store is an elegant ballad constructed of a single acoustic guitar and an occasional smattering of violins, and the words that Josh Tillman utters here read as completely honest. A weary but impossibly deep-felt ode to the woman he loves, the song is aware of both the cruelty of the world and its author's own futility, but is able to ultimately find comfort by embracing that life raft that is love. If the closing notes don't make you feel something deep in your chest, I'm not sure what will.

Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2015

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2015

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2015 (30-21)

30. Levon Vincent---Levon Vincent###
        Listening to any single track from Levon Vincent's debut LP would serve as an entrancing handful of minutes, but there's nothing quite like experiencing the disc as a whole. Stretching out over 72+ minutes without ever becoming exhausting, this is House music for those who would prefer to sit rather than stand, far more likely to hypnotize than energize. Though the tunes themselves are devoid of vocals, song titles like Launch Ramp To The Sky and Junkies On Hermann Street add a depth of meaning to their respective tracks that would make most lyricists jealous.

29. Goon---Tobias Jesso Jr.
        Quite literally the easiest album to describe in all of 2015, Goon is a Paul McCartney record by a different author, imbued with the legend's exact brand of earnest songwriting, and knack for melodic simplicity. This is anti-wheel reinvention music, a celebration of all the things that have worked in the past, and will invariably continue to please for all of eternity. One down-tempo, piano-led ballad after another, Goon sounds just like the embrace of an old friend feels; comforting, familiar, and worth running back to time and time again.

28. Natalie Prass---Natalie Prass
        Another blast from the past with a clear, specific artist-to-artist through-line, Prass' self-titled debut is the Dolly Pardon album that no one knew they still wanted. Languid in pace and elaborate in instrumentation, Natalie Prass consists of one sparkling, sonically full-bodied number after another, and even takes time to match Pardon's Jolene with a Christy all its own. It would all read as schmaltz if Prass's voice weren't so lovely and genuinely evocative, and the production around her so consistently ravishing.

27. Another One---Mac DeMarco
        I mean... is it even possible to have a more appropriate album title than this one? Most commonly armed with only a guitar and a percussion line you could learn on your first day of high school band, DeMarco's every album feels like returning home, that same woozy wah pedal six-string, that same approachable, invitingly mellow croon. Another One doubles-down on the message of last year's Salad Days; DeMarco's days of recording wily, immature tales of nighttime excess are in the rearview mirror, with only mature, breezy contentment visible on the road ahead.

26. Return to the Moon---EL VY
        Here's hoping this surprise collaboration between The National's Matt Berninger and former Menomena figurehead Brent Knopf isn't simply a one-off, because these two have truly unlocked something in one another. The continued brilliance of The National's discography has prevented anyone from deeply missing the delightful non-sense of Berninger's early lyrics, but Return to the Moon rewinds the clock to a blissful age wherein no one was better able to prompt welcome bafflement with his every word. Knopf, on the other hand, is allowed a muscular musical minimalism that his former band could never have abided, combining to craft one of the year's funniest, brawniest triumphs.

25. No No No---Beirut
        Speaking of stripping down a sound whose former claim to fame was intricacy, Zach Condon and company's first album in four years was largely disregarded when it arrived in the middle of 2015, but those turned off by its simplicity are missing out. Rather than stuff every cockle of every track with a myriad of orchestral pronouncements, No No No chooses to utilize only a small handful of instruments at any given moment, allowing for an unprecedented level of specificity. It also clears space for Condon's voice, a sound far too dazzlingly resplendent to be situated anywhere but the forefront.

24. Surf---Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment###
        "I don't wanna be cool/I just wanna be me," claims an exuberant Chance the Rapper, and Surf leaves no doubt that he's telling the absolute truth. A collaborative effort in the truest sense, Donnie and his literal trumpet might be the headliners, but this hour-long jazz and hip-hop talent show features the likes of Busta Rhymes, Big Sean, the aforementioned Chance, and any number of upcoming rappers and singers. Nerdy and uncompromisingly positive in its every move, this is an album that joyously allows its freak flag to fly, having entirely too much rapturous fun to give a damn about what you think.

23. Vulnicura---Björk
        The legend of Björk, and the surface-level oddity that has accompanied her every move, combine to make the Icelandic icon seem unknowable, almost alien in nature. Vulnicura refutes this myth on every level, but I've got a funny feeling that popular narrative course-correction wasn't on the singer's mind while she was writing these elongated hymns to romantic devastation. Like Lykke Li's 2014 effort, I Never Learn, this is a break-up record whose utilization of rhetoric does nothing to blunt its towering impact, an hour of pure loneliness and heartbreak delivered in an otherworldly fashion that only Björk could accomplish.

22. 1000 Palms---Surfer Blood
        Surfer Blood blew up the internet and college radio stations when they arrived in 2010, representing a perfect replacement for the Weezer we'd seemingly lost in a fire, but 1000 Palms confirms that they were always meant to be The Smiths. John Paul Pitts' voice seems to grow laterally rather than vertically, a golden shade that transforms his band's would-be cheesy aesthetic into something warm and open-hearted. Nothing here is fussy or fraught; melody and lightness of touch rule the day, 37 minutes of lavish soft rock goodness to massage the ears.

21. V---Wavves 
        Good luck getting any single track on unstuck from your brain, because after one listen, they'll be entrenched in there for good. Nathan Williams single-handedly elevates the art of whiney pop-punk songwriting, his every chorus proving to be the exact type of indelible ear worm that represents the genre at its best. His lyrics reek of sadness, addiction, and listlessness, but it's frankly hard to believe a word of it when every single chord is so jubilantly catchy, and in such a fun-loving rush to show you what has up its sleeve next.

###Unavailable on Spotify

Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2015

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2015

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2015 (45-26)

45. Talking to My Diary---Dr. Dre***###
        A swan song and final encore for one of the most important people in the history of hip hop, Diary serves as the album closer on the final LP that world will ever receive from Dr. Dre. Andre Young uses the occasion to reflect on his storied career, retracing his path to fortune from humble beginnings , and remembering those who helped him along the way. It’s an earnest and plain-spoken self-reflection on the rapper’s legacy, further buoyed by one of the year’s most badass beats.

44. Baby Blue---Action Bronson feat. Chance the Rapper
        Bronson isn’t one to let his guard down often, but while the Queens-born MC’s Baby Blue is far from purely straight-faced, it’s clear that the former lover to whom the song’s directed has done some real damage. His humorous words are filled with more than a little bile, the scorn finally counter-balanced by Chance the Rapper’s miniature gem of a closing verse. It’s a track about falling out of love and learning to live through it, the narrative’s ultimate relief expressed in the form of a breezy brass outtro.

43. Turn Around---Mikal Cronin***
        Mikal Cronin possesses an ear for melody that few modern American singer/songwriters can match, and his 2015 LP MCIII wastes no time in showing it off. Opening the record with a wall of guitar, violin, piano, and drums, Turn Around seems to have beauty spilling out of its every pore, proving both intimate and enormous at the very same time. Cronin’s croon is modest and welcoming, but it's his instruments and their sumptuous arrangement that lend the song its considerable emotional heft.

42. Sunday Candy---Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment***###
        Surf, the debut disc of Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment, is essentially an hour-long celebration; of love, self, individuality, and life at large. It makes sense then that the album’s penultimate cut would finally drop all the confetti and streamers from the rafters, a joyous ode to the bliss that can be found in interpersonal connection that’s tricked out with all manner of jubilant, ecstatic noise.

41. Just to Put Me Down---Mac DeMarco
        From exultant, grandstanding euphoria to kicking it with the modern lord of laziness, Just to Put Me Down finds everyone’s favorite six-string slacker in fine form. The song pairs the simple groove of his last pair of albums with intricate guitar lines that defined his earlier work, this time in the form of a slippery solo that ends the track at its highest point.

40. My Baby Don’t Understand Me---Natalie Prass***
        Rarely has heartbreak been presented in such pristine, manicured musical stylings as on this opener to Natalie Prass’ self-titled debut. A lovelorn ballad that's so immediately familiar, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a standard, Prass’ high-pitched whisper is encased in boisterous saxophones, rousing trumpets, complimentary clarinets, and contented trombones.

39. Obvs---Jamie XX
        Clearly no one told Jamie XX how you’re supposed to use steel drums. Forever inverting what we’ve come to expect from House music, the dance floor deviant employs an sound most commonly associated with caribbean bliss to create both tension and distress. As cheery as In Colour remains from almost start to finish, the LP is better for this fraught, wordless stunner.

38. All Day---Kanye West feat. Theophilus London and Alan Kingdom***
        In a world where West’s public image has now fully eclipsed his musical accomplishments in the eyes of the masses, All Day is about as Kanye as it gets. Snarlingly abrasive in its chorus, skittering and minimal in its verses, and completely bat-shit crazy upon its conclusion, the backing track represents yet another left field winner from a guy with no shortage. The rapid-fire wordplay and razor sharp delivery of Yeezy’s bars doesn’t hurt either.

37. Don’t Wanna Fight---Alabama Shakes
        Don’t Wanna Fight might feature as many instruments and minute studio modifications as any song, but for the four minutes that represent its runtime, only two sounds matter; a brawny bass line, and Brittany Howard’s irrepressible howl. That thumping four-string is capable of knocking down walls, but choses instead to prop up one of the finest vocal performances of the year, Howard’s voice as emotive as it is gigantic.

36. Them Changes---Thundercat***
        From a track that might as well just be a voice and a bass guitar to one that only truly needs the latter, Them Changes finds Thundercat stuffing your ears with more funk than you’d previously thought possible. After years of painting groovy colors on other artists canvases, these three minutes mark a coming-out party of sorts, sludgy and sublime in equal measure, a true single in a genre more commonly enjoyable in full-album form.

35. Classic Man (Remix)---Jidenna feat. Kendrick Lamar
        Guilty admission time: I still haven’t even heard the original version of Classic Man, because the moment Kendrick Lamar’s pair of verses first entered my headphones, I couldn’t bare to hear the track without them. Over a pumped-up, mid-tempo beat, the Compton MC proves that he’s just as adept at hosting a party as he is teaching a class, his tongue-twisting braggadocio prompting toothy smiles and impulsive laughter, the whole concoction sending bodies into motion.

33. *tie* Gosh and The Rest is Noise---Jamie XX
        Perhaps the most impressive thing about Jamie XX's full-length debut, In Colour, is its ability to elaborate on relatable, intricate emotions without the use of words. This pair represents the disc's all-encompassing grandeur, each seeming to muse upon the vastness of the universe and life itself without ever stating as much. Gosh, the album's opener and an early single, begins as a goofy confection with oddball vocal samples to match before wiggling its way out into the stratosphere, lofty and gorgeous until it finally mists out of existence. The Rest is Noise gets straight to the point, small synthesizer repetitions swapped out for a booming piano line and a bass line heartbeat within the first minute, exploring any number of sonic nooks and crannies thereafter.

32. Huarache Lights---Hot Chip***
        Anyone who can sit completely still throughout the entirety of this 5+ minute dance floor stomp ought to have their pulse checked right away. Hot Chip has always made their bones on dipping as far into cheese as possible without ever becoming fully submerged, and Huarache Lights offers a perfect example, stocked with out-of-nowhere vocal samples and gaudy robot voices. Through it all, that sinewy beat remains, seeping down into the marrow of your bones, and forcing limbs to move.

30. *waves and face the sun (feat. Lenny Kravitz)---Miguel
        While we're on the subject of songs that beg for dance club air time, waves is the most purely kinetic track of Miguel's young career, an R&B smash that wears its lustful heart right on its sleeve. The lo-fi production and limited aspirations of the track might hurt were it to even last three-and-a-half minutes, the tune perfectly modulated for maximum impact, leaving the listener wanting more. face the sun is almost its perfect opposite, trading out the salacious, immediate energy of the previously mentioned cut for something sensual, subdued, and genuinely romantic. Removing his lothario cap for four whole minutes, Miguel sings of immovable commitment to a lover as the sounds beneath him build and build, eventually erupting into soulful falsetto yelps and fiery guitar guitar licks.

28. *tie* Get Away and Gabby (feat. Janelle Monae)---The Internet***
        The most constant inspiration I have for these annoying ties that pop up all over my Top 100 Songs list is similarity, two tracks by one artist that are too analogous to elevate one over the other in good conscious. This pair came to be for the very opposite reason; they represent both ends of the wide spectrum that makes The Internet's Ego Death one of the year's top records. Get Away opens the album on its edgiest note, flagrant lyrics and an over-powering bass wobble refusing to waste time in announcing Syd tha Kyd as no one to mess with, sexual and intimidating all at once. Gabby's opening is also somewhat assaultive, but the veneer falls off by the 20-second mark, a warmly playful and contented sway arriving in its wake.

27. King Kunta---Kendrick Lamar
        Released a mere week before To Pimp a Butterfly met the world a week sooner than expected, King Kunta must have inspired some confusion upon first listen or two. What were these weird bubbling sounds? What's going on with that chime that quickly morphs into something out of Looney Tunes? Wasn't this guy supposed to mark the return of 'real hip-hop?' As is true of all things Kendrick Lamar, the MC proved to be forward-thinking, doubling down on the track's unconventional sound, and in turn inspiring a year's worth of lyric quoting and replay button pressing. A kiss off to anyone who ever doubted his greatness, Kunta might be mad, but it ain't stressin', and has little trouble locating the funk within you.

26. Levitation---Beach House***
        Though Beach House will never go through a truly radical stylistic change-up, 2015 saw them try on a few new articles of musical clothing, Alex Scally's guitar allowed more edge than ever, dreary, droning abstract offerings appearing on both of their albums. Levitation, however, is old school all the way, six minutes constructed of resplendent fog that would likely disappear if you tried to touch it. This is a track that exists outside of small-minded musical ideas like melody and structure, seeming to lift you up to heaven with the slowest tractor beam it could find. "There's a place I'd like to take you," Victoria Legrand purrs in the song's opening moments, and by the end of the journey, her mission is accomplished.
***Pictured Artist

###Unavailable on Spotify

Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2015

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2015 (40-31)

40. Compton---Dr. Dre###
        If there's one thing that we did not do in 2015, it was forget about Dre. Released a week in advance of his own biopic of sorts (the movie Straight Outta Compton), Compton marks only the third LP in Andre Young's storied career, and while the hip hop legend was wise to skirt expectations by not naming the record Detox, the disc's unforeseen title has other justifications. Hardly ever employing the 'G-Funk' style that he pioneered in the early 90's, Dre's latest and last is sonically all over the map, employing one disparate and delicious style after another, turning the effort into a rap variety show.

39. Wildheart---Miguel
        Wildheart is all over the Top 10 lists of critics across the nation, which masks its brazenly uneven nature. But while songs like what's normal anyway and bonus track gfg weigh the whole of the thing down, the moments that work are among the very best of the year. Miguel Pimentel's talents as a vocalist are never to be doubted, but on standouts like waves and face the sun, they're finally matched by utterly top-notch production.

38. I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside---Earl Sweatshirt
        Upon the release of Earl Sweatshirt's 2013 label debut Doris, a slew of listeners complained of the album's lack of state-of-the-art sonics; wait until they get a load of this one. Don't Like Shit is as lo-fi as any number of beloved garage rock bands' aesthetic, a fuzzy, unspecific sound world that perfectly befits the MC's depressed bars. This is emo rap that doesn't make a listener feel silly, a fully-realized style change-up, as grungy as it is helpless.

37. Policy---Will Butler
        What a relief it must have been for Will Butler to create, record, and release Policy. His parent band, Arcade Fire, has cut their teeth on life-changing, paradigm-altering stadium rock, but the younger brother of Win Butler's debut disc is scrappy and rascally as all get out. Consisting of only eight tracks, and lasting for less than a half hour, Policy sees Butler try on a plethora of different genres, each as exuberant and fun as the last.

36. Have You In My Wilderness---Julia Holter
        The only true challenger to Beach House's decade-long reign as the champion of Dream Pop, Holter's comely tunes seem to drift into and out of existence like a beautiful fog. What separates Wilderness from her previous triumphs is a greater focus on conventional songwriting, bridging the gap between her etherial loveliness, and the comfort of verse-chorus-verse. Aided by any number of orchestral amplifiers, Holter's latest is a downright ravishing listen.

35. A New Place 2 Drown---Archy Marshall
        A New Place 2 Drown finally answers a question that I'm sure we've all asked ourselves at one point or another: what if the kid behind King Krule made a Flying Lotus album? Talk of Marshall as a hip hop lover and occasional participant has existed for years now, but this still strikes the ears as a drastic change of pace. The LP is practically constructed of knotty, textured beats, but Marshall's spoken word delivery, while never afforded the spotlight in earnest, takes this effort to the next level.

34. Poison Season---Destroyer
        Is that endlessly varied instrumentation, languid pacing, and nasally vocals that I hear? It must be Destroyer! Poison Season isn't exactly a surprise, the album subsisting of the same storytelling lyrics and smooth jazz trappings that have made Dan Bejar an indie music icon, but they remain inspired. Among 2015's most exactingly recorded offerings, Destroyer's latest is yet another tour through the mind of one of our most unique troubadours.

33. The Waterfall---My Morning Jacket
        The Waterfall is the sound of a long-successful, recently disappointing artist finally making their way back onto the horse. The album is no less cheesy or gaudy than the records that have turned myself and others away from the band in recent years, but their melodies finally stick, and their enormity checks out as enormous. These are ten new songs that they can take out on the road, and hit festival crowds right where it counts.

32. Sound & Color---The Alabama Shakes
        Sure, Sound & Color might not be the album of the year, but the voice of 2015 belongs to one Brittany Howard. The Alabama Shakes' latest visits any number of genres and stylings, but Howard's booming croon powers them all, be they Punk, Pop, Soul, or anything else on god's green earth. The disc works as a sampler plater for all the different things these guys can do, but it's Howard that sits comfortably behind their every success.

31. The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us---Beach Slang
        I suppose I didn't know that people still made music in the fashion of Beach Slang, a sort of middle ground between Black Flag and Blink-182. James Alex's band doesn't sound anything like either of those two artists, but the way they split the difference is mesmerizing. Invitingly melodic yet jagged and angular in its every move, Things We Do is a rollicking near-half hour that's as ready to open its arms with the intention of embrace as it is to kick in the damn door.

###Not Available via Spotify

Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2015

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2015