Monday, April 4, 2016

My Top 100 Albums of 2015: Some Observations

Now that the calculations are complete, the posts are posted, and the tweets are being tweeted, I've had some time to sit back and reflect on my top 100 albums of 2015. Here are some random observations:

  • Female artists rule! Three of my top four were unique female artists (Julia Holter, Jenny Hval, and Joanna Newsome) from the "experimental-artsy" school, and there are a large number of solo women on the list, from the country-pop of Kacey Musgraves, to Julien Baker's delicate and pain filled "Sprained Ankle", to crooner Lana Del Ray, the always quirky Bjork, old-timey Martha Scanlan, the atonality of Circuit des Yeux, etc., etc.
  • Some of the more interesting releases in 2015 were combos consisting of DJs or electronic music artists, and African musicians: The Very Best, Fantasma and St. Germain.
  • More and more, I notice that my choices fall into distinct categories, despite my general dislike of categorization. There's a bunch of straight rock 'n' roll (bordering on retro) like Thunderbitch, the Sonics, Blitzen Trapper. There's a load of electronic, art-pop outfits like Grimes, Purity Ring, Dan Deacon, Viet Cong and Jenny Hval. Country, folk and Americana are covered in Eric Church, Josh Ritter, Barnstar, Lord Huron, Steve Earle, Ryan Culwell, and Rayland Baxter. Baroque pop is represented by San Fermin, Beirut and Nate Reuss. And singer-songwriters dominate through almost all of these categories.
  • While artists from the U.S. dominate my list with 66 of the 100 spots (which is more than in previous years), Scandivanians are overrepresented (on a per capita basis) as always with two artists from Iceland, four from Sweden, and two from Norway. And of course my Home and Native Land is second the U.S. with 12 entries.
  • I'm feeling less and less happy with my scoring system. (I give 30 points for creativity, 20 for chops (aka musical ability), 20 for melody, 10 for lyrics and 20 for feel.) It tends to bring the artsier, more experimental stuff to the top of the heap at the expense of some of the great rock or Americana offerings that may lack a ton of creativity. Mind you, when I tried the experiment of giving "feel" half the score with the other devoted to all the other criteria, my top three didn't change. I did see a ton of lift for bands like The Sonics, Thunderbitch and Courtney Barnett.
What did you notice about my list? Anything with which you vehemently disagree?

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