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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Good luck getting any single track on V 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 V has up its sleeve next.
###Unavailable on Spotify