From D’Angelo to Deerhunter to a Broadway show: Culture Shock’s best albums of 2015

I’m trying something new this year. Instead of my traditional list of my favorite albums of the year, each accompanied by a 100 word description of why I love it, I’m just going to let the music speak for itself by making a Spotify playlist. This was the year I fully embraced Spotify, after all, finally hanging up the hat on my decades-long collection of mp3s and beginning the slow process of moving everything to the cloud. All while beefing up our already hefty record collection, mind you. I think they cancel each other out.

After all, this was a year that was simultaneously full of glistening, electronic-influenced pop music (Carly Rae, Miguel, Jamie xx, Marina, The Weeknd) and progressive-yet-nostalgic, at times revolutionary hip hop and r&b (Kendrick, D’Angelo, Drake, Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is included here because “Hamilton” is incredible and you’re crazy if you love hip hop and haven’t listened to it yet just because it’s a Broadway show). It was also a year of bands and artists that were at the top of their game 10 to 15 years ago, but roared back to life this year with new albums (Sleater-Kinney, D’Angelo, again), and of triumphant rock songwriters (Courtney Barnett, Father John Misty, Kurt Vile).

In short: it wasn’t unlike other pop-timistic years in recent memory – except that it was just really, really good. There were albums in 2015 that I loved more than any others I can remember in the past decade or so. I think I played Father John Misty’s “I Love You, Honeybear” probably 40 times this year. That never happens.

It’s interesting that this year, the same five or six albums make it into nearly everybody’s top ten: Kendrick, D’Angelo, Courtney, Sufjan Stevens, Vince Staples, Grimes. There seems to be an overwhelming critical consensus about What Was Great In 2015 (and with good reason; “To Pimp a Butterfly” is a masterpiece). I present here a handful of albums and artists that didn’t make it onto my lists: stuff from Hop Along, Torres, FFS (the Franz Ferdinand and Sparks collaboration) and Deradoorian, all of which are excellent, in my opinion, and should not be overlooked. There’s bands like the Downtown Boys, which are based out of Providence, Rhode Island and which are a punk rock band, because I like punk rock bands. Conversely, there’s Marina and the Diamonds, which is basically like Madonna and Tori Amos’ crazy, electric neon baby, and which is the best dance floor banger that nobody listened to.

And then there’s Joanna Newsom, who is a genius and has nothing on Spotify, including her stunning new album, “Divers.” She does, however, have the album on vinyl, which is how I’ll be listening to it once it goes back in stock and gets into my greedy paws. You can’t win everything, Spotify.

Joanna Newsom and a bird. She's lovely. Photo by Annabel Mehran.

Joanna Newsom and a bird. She’s lovely. Photo by Annabel Mehran.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, UMaine graduate, proud Bangorian and a writer and editor for Bangor Metro Magazine, the Weekly and the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food to all the cool things going on in the Greater Bangor area. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra. She's interested in everything that happens in Maine. Albums for review are accepted digitally only; please no CDs.