2015 was a fantastic year for us at Geyser Music; from great interviews, attending The Peak Performance Project for the second year in a row, getting to be a re-occurring feature on 101.9 FM's The Medicine Show, to all the incredible shows we saw and albums we heard. Read on to find out what our writers and editors were loving this year.
4) Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
This album is not something I could listen to all the time, so its spot on this list is not based on the amount of plays it had in my library. Simply put, this album is sad. It's raw, and if you've had death in your family it can be hard to listen to. But, his message is accomplished in a beautiful way, and I have nothing but respect for this album. Sufjan Stevens has grabbed my attention with each and every album he has put out, and his ability to continually evolve and shift his style speaks hugely to his musical talent.
5) We Are the City – Above Club
For the last spot on my list I've got to give some local love to BC band, We Are the City. I have been seeing these boys play since I was 16, and hearing Above Club next to tracks from In A Quiet World gives me intense nostalgia - while simultaneously shocking me at how much We Are the City's sound has evolved and matured. If you haven't heard of them yet, this is one BC band that's continuously hitting it out of the park.
Echo Nebraska – Send the Ships EP ; Windmills – Windmills Keep Moving EP ; Derrival – Departure and Arrival ; Jamie xx – In Colour ; Born Ruffians – Ruff ; James Bay – Chaos and the Calm ; Of Monsters and Men – Beneath the Skin
1) Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
This album was everything for me this year, and easily grabs my #1 spot. Hearing it now reminds me of summer road-trips, with windows rolled down and boxes of fresh, Okanagan fruit scattered across the floor. For an album that can be so sarcastic and melancholic (with a dash of "first-world-problems"), it just makes me so happy because it's real. There is no sugarcoating or romanticizing of the every-day. Not to mention, I've loved J. Tillman's voice since I first heard it years ago in Fleet Foxes. This album is a must-listen.
2) The Lone Bellow – Then Came the Morning
I've got the biggest soft-spot for Zach Williams' voice, and when it's coupled with Karene Donehey Pipkin's it's just an incredible combination. The Lone Bellow's musical style is so whole, with hints of country, gospel, and pop - making their dynamic albums so engaging. Then Came the Morning is one track I blasted in my car many, many times this year.
I had sort of fallen out of love with Deerhunter before hearing Fading Frontier. I'd been a fan of their earlier works (Weird Era Cont., Cryptograms) and then when Halcyon Digest came out I don't think I gave it much more than a listen or two. When I got my hands on Fading Frontier the magic had already worn off for me, but the album surprised me and grabbed my attention right away. For the pure comeback this album gave Deerhunter in my life, it makes my top 5.
Bo.ttega Festival ; Geyser Music turning 1 ; Co-Hosting The Medicine Show ; Interviews (Good for Grapes, Tamara Stanners, Bob D'Eith, Bed of Stars, JP Maurice, Dylan Dunlap, Mike Edel, AWOLNATION, and many more).
4) Jamie xx - In Colour
Jamie xx opted to make an album that he aspired to have no ties to any era of music, which could have been a disorganized mess. With samples taken from a wide array of genres, the talented British producer tries to make an eclectic collection of sounds come together in an organic way. While at times, the tracks can seem samey, the differences are slowly revealed with each additional listen. Going through the layers is a rewarding experience, peeling away a referential beat from its cultural counterpart and embracing how the two interact.
What makes the album truly stand out isn’t just the song writing, but just how fantastic the quality of the music is. I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times) is infectious afro-pop featuring the incoherent melodies of Young Thug’s rap; Loud Places is a powerful contrast of soul and bass with subtle guitar work that elevates both parts. The album continuously builds on its past successes, putting together a best-of worthy collection of singles, maintaining its cohesion and flow, stringing you along with your next favourite song.
5) Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love
Age never took away the band’s punch during their haitus; instead it’s refined their sound with crisp tones that resonate. It’s emotional but hidden under the guise of 90’s too cool apathy. Something about the dread of being a number in a growing population is ubiquitous, and Sleater-Kinney seem to have become even more familiar with that concept. Over the course of 10 tracks, the band goes through a challenging, trying evolution, but find themselves capable of channeling the fevering youth inside for what could be a final fuck you.
To Pimp a Butterfly is an album of societal strife and dissonance of identity. Delving into intimate confessions, but contrasted by boastful confidence, the duality of Kendrick’s conflicting traits takes center stage for a trip through depression, forced optimism, insecurity, and sex; however, the true genius of the record is how it’s placed in a tumultuous political landscape. Using the juxtaposition between his two sides, the Compton kid turned success story offers insight on how culture and ideology sculpt identity and what we as individuals can do to break the mold. No other album attempts to accomplish what Lamar actually succeeds in doing. Being a record that imposed its cultural relevance by its first track, it was a lock to be at the top soon after release.
Not shying away from incorporating atypical traits, New Bermuda is a refreshing take on traditional metal. Floaty interludes take influence from post-rock and ambient music – contrast to the onslaught of romping riffs, brutal blast beats, and gritty growls; thrash throwback rhythms create solid bases that rousing leads build upon. It’s a balanced 45 minutes that will touch on multiple genres but get tied down by none, expertly maneuvering through influences to bridge music that couldn’t seem further apart.
3) Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
In the past, Sufjan Stevens has not shied away from his emotions. Whether it was the oddity of an existential crisis in Age of Adz, or the revelatory moments of Illinoise, Sufjan’s had no problem with making himself a subject. With the death of his mother, the emotion Sufjan encountered was perhaps the most difficult yet. In a response, he’s toned down his song writing, opting for simplicity with spritzes of synths and keyboards to prevent it from getting monotonous. Rather than wear his heart on his sleeve, he’s pulled it out, still beating and pulsing, and laid it out to be fully exposed. By threading together images of the Pacific Northwest where he and his family vacationed, continuity adds an extra layer of intricate beauty to Sufjan’s already prominent, poignant lyricism. On this album, he professes “We’re all gonna die”; it’s the weight of the moment that makes the repetition hang like an awkward silence, leaving the listener grasping for a moment of solace, but it doesn’t come. It’s an album about death, how could it be anything but unforgiving.
Tame Impala - Currents
From the first modulated synth noise of the opening to Let It Happen, to the sitar like breaks in New Person, Same Old Mistakes, Tame Impala have taken their tried and true 70's throwback sound to death defying new heights with their latest album Currents. The songs are deeply engaging and incredibly well crafted. Every aspect of the album is amazing from flow of tracks to lyrics to musical performances. Even speaking from strictly an audiophile point of view I'm hard pressed to even think of another album that sounds this good. The stereo width of the drums alone is just astounding. Kevin Parker has crafted a masterpiece of an album which easily reaches first place on my list of albums this year.
Melanie Martinez - CryBaby
2015 was an incredibly big year for little body big heart- a Tumblr sensation who goes by Melanie Martinez. First brought to the media's attention when she entered into popular American singing competition, The Voice, Melanie has been working out her unique sound with EPs like Dollhouse and established her place in the indie-electronic community with her album (and my favourite of 2015)- CryBaby. With nothing being off limits in this album, Melanie delves into the worlds of abuse, self-harm, body image as well as bullying in her joyful, yet dark sounding voice. Accompanied by expertly made electronic backing tracks with synths, drum machines and many more- CryBaby packs a punch for the bright pink album cover.
A big thank you to Creative Copper Images for some fantastic shots this past year.
2. Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp
There's more polish and instrumentation on her third album, but Katie Crutchfield has lost none of her heartbreaking rawness and introspection on this meaningful, mature indie-punk offering.
3. Torres - Sprinter
The personal becomes huge and burns slow and dark with dramatic distortion, heavy guitar and Mackenzie Scott's devastating roar-whisper voice.
4. The Mountain Goats - Beat the Champ
The album's idiosyncratic theme of professional wrestling leaves room for a diversity of sounds and plenty of the indie veterans' classic intense characterization and storytelling.
5. Grimes - Art Angels
Utterly modern pop, but far more complex and dangerous. Catchy as well with plenty of weird experimentation in vocals and instrumentation.
1. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett's debut album is a spot-on, self-aware expression of twenty-something apathy and anxiety. Her lyrics are casually complex and so, so cuttingly relatable. Loneliness, indecision and insomnia are soaks in astringent black humour; Barnett's stoned guitar and half-spoken Australian drawl create tones to suit ornery head-banging as well as bedroom catatonia. On Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party, Barnett tackles the all-too-familiar struggle between introversion and FOMO ("I wanna go out, but I wanna stay home"); she explores the cracks in her ceiling and the neuroses that ooze out of them on An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York). Depreston's lovely, standout vocal melody is the vessel for a vivid, melancholic story about house-hunting in a run-down neighbourhood. The characters, the feelings and the imagery on this album are wrought in deliberate and strange detail. Put simply - far more simply than she probably would - Barnett is a genius storyteller.
Girlpool – Before the World Was Big
2015 has been a year of drooling over albums from old favourites including Josh Ritter, Yukon Blonde, The Zolas, Albert Hammond Jr., and many others. However, as much as I love hearing a new album by an artist I know and love, there is something even more magical about that moment when you hear an amazing new artist for the very first time. It’s like the honeymoon period of a new relationship, when just thinking about the person makes you all giddy and excited. That’s the feeling I have right now for Girlpool’s 2015 album Before the World Was Big. This record has everything I love: bubble-gum sweet female vocals, foot-stomping bass, gorgeous harmonies, and a whole bunch of teen angst. Add a healthy dose of riot grrrl ideology and DIY punk aesthetic and you’ve got the perfection that is Before the World Was Big.
Jim O'Rourke - Simple Songs
In a year full of major disappointments from promising artists (Tame Impala, Joanna Newsom) and big budget bores (Adele), an old master serves up, song for song, the most satisfying album the last 12 months had to offer. Jim O'Rourke takes my top spot, proving that experience trumps experimentation in 2015. I'm kind of shocked that I'm picking O'Rourke as this year's best. Surely, there's someone a little more current to come out with a new album this year. In a year as globally troubled as 2015, we need albums that strike at the core of who we are as a people, celebrate the world of music, promote positivity and look the truth straight in the eye. The closest anyone came to reaching these lofty expectations was Kendrick Lamar with his overstuffed, yet undeniably creative album, To Pimp a Butterfly. But it misses the top spot for me; I just don't return to it nearly as much as I do O'Rourke's Simple Songs, or even King Gizzard's Paper Mâché Dream Balloon, for that matter. O'Rourke's been around forever (as a producer, sometime Sonic Youth member, Wilco rescuer and general musical wiz), but he hadn't released a proper solo album for over 14 years. Luckily, this generation's (or maybe last generation's) Brian Eno broke his silence and released Simple Songs earlier this year. It's a record to savour both musically and lyrically. I respond to nearly every note laid down. Sonically, it's quite timeless, at least in a pop-rock sense, with obvious Beatles influences, some Prince-like funk, and shades of just about everyone O'Rourke has worked with. O'Rourke is a pop record master and Simple Songs is a truly special album.
Kurt Vile – b'lieve i'm going down (His best yet, but he could get better.) ; Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (Lamar the Political Poet meets Funkadelic) ; Destroyer – Poison Season (Beautiful, personal, poetic and from Vancouver!) ; King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Paper Mâché Dream Balloon (Surprisingly well written. This year's happiest sounding trip)