The Best Live Acts of 2015

courtney-barnett

When it comes to end of year lists, you tend to just see half of the music world covered: recorded music. But many more people are interested in live music, and in turn want to know who are the acts I should be spending my hard-earned dollars to go see. That’s what we try to accomplish each year with our favorite live acts list. While certainly not comprehensive, these are the 10 acts we saw that we would say are definitely worth it.
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The 10 Best New Artists of 2015

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Every year when December comes around, we get excited like all other music fans about putting together our end-of-year lists. Of course we get excited about best songs and albums, but maybe the most exciting list is the best new artists. These were fresh and exciting new faces that surprised us with their debuts, and we can’t wait to see where they go next. For example, the members of our favorite new artists of 2012 list are now giants in their own right and will likely top our 2015 albums list (Kendrick Lamar, Alabama Shakes, Father John Misty, and who knows, maybe Frank Ocean will surprise us with an album release before 2016). So without further ado, our favorite new aritsts of 2015.
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The Top 10 Songs of 2015….so far

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best songs of 2015

2015 has been a solid year in music so far as we examined last week with our list of best albums up to this point.  This week, we take a look at some of the best tracks 2015 has had to offer.  I think we have a very nice diverse list, although many of the songs have some sort of electronic element, but that’s just been the trend in the music industry the past few years.  Enjoy the list, and please let us know your favorite tracks from 2015.

10.  Viet Cong – “Silhouettes”

We all like post-punk with some teeth, and Viet Cong is currently hearkening back to some of our favorite artists of the early 80’s.  “Silhouettes” is a great example of what Viet Cong has burst onto the scene with, not just settling into the genre, but expanding on it.
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Best Movies of 2014

movies of 2014

I know what you may be thinking by the photo above, and yes, all of those movies did make our list. Now, as a brief disclaimer, there are quite a few movies this year that we have yet to see. Including the likes of Inherent Vice, Big Hero 6, 300: Rise of an Empire, etc, but the below is what we have seen from 2014, and what we feel was tops. Let us hear your qualms:
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LxL’s Best of 2014: Individual Edition

best albums of the year 2014

Here are our personal year-end best albums and songs from 2014. Be sure to check out our collective list of the best 20 albums of 2014 as well as our best new artists and best live shows.

Austin

Perfume Genius Too Bright Review

1. Perfume Genius – Too Bright
2.Beck – Morning Phase
3. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
4. Jack White – Lazaretto
5. D’Angelo – Black Messiah
6. Run the Jewels – RTJ2
7. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
8. The Antlers – Familiars
9. Taylor Swift – 1989
10. Elbow – The Takeoff and Landing of Everything
11. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
12. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
13. Spoon – They Want My Soul
14. Courtney Barnett – The Double Ep: A Sea of Split Peas
15. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
16. Strand of Oaks – HEAL
17. tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
18. The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream
19. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
20. Future – Honest

Songs:

1. Jenny Lewis – “Slippery Slopes”
2. Perfume Genius – “Grid”
3. Beck – “Blue Moon”
4. Marc Ronson featuring Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”
5. TV On The Radio – “Careful You”
6. Future – “Look Ahead”
7. Jack White – “High Ball Stepper”
8. Elbow – “Honey Sun”
9. Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”
10. Run The Jewels – “Blockbuster Night Part 1”
11. First Aid Kit – “My Silver Lining”
12. Sturgill Simpson – “Just Let Go”
13. Perfect Pussy – “Interference Fits”
14. Courtney Barnett – “Avant Gardener”
15. Tinashe – “2 On (Featuring SchoolBoy Q)”
16. Perfume Genius – “Queen”
17. Vince Staples – “Blue Suede”
18. Sharon Van Etten – Everytime the Sun Comes Up
19. New Pornographers – “Brill Bruisers”
20. Lana Del Rey – “Brooklyn Baby”
21. Future – “Move That Dope”
22. FKA Twigs – “Two Weeks”
23. Alvvays – “Archie marry me”
24. Iggy Azalea – “Fancy”
25. St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”
26. D’Angelo – “The Charade”
27. Spoon – “Do You”
28. The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure”
29. Sylvan Esso – “Coffee”
30. Angel Olsen – “unfucktheworld”

Todd

St. Vincent Double Song Review

1. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
2. Ty Segall – Manipulator
3. Spoon – They Want My Soul
4. Run the Jewels – RTJ2
5. Jack White – Lazaretto
6. Courtney Barnett – The Double Ep: A Sea of Split Peas
7. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
8. The Antlers – Familiars
9. TV On The Radio – Seeds
10. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
11. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
12. D’Angelo – Black Messiah
13. Beck – Morning Phase
14. Perfume Genius – Too Bright
15. Ought – More Than Any Other Day
16. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
17. Perfect Pussy – Say Yes to Love
18. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
19. Arca – Xen
20. FKA Twigs – LP1

Songs:

1. St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”
2. Ty Segal – “Tall Man, Skinny Lady”
3. TV On The Radio – “Careful You”
4. Courtney Barnett – “Avant Gardener”
5. Jack White – “High Ball Stepper”
6. Perfume Genius – “Queen”
7. Sylvan Esso – “Coffee”
8. FKA Twigs – “Two Weeks”
9. Ought – “Habit”
10. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me (Featuring Kendrick Lamar)”
11. Spoon – “Inside Out”
12. Foxygen – “How Could You Really”
13. Run the Jewels – “Close Your Eyes”
14. Beck – “Blue Moon”
15. Sharon Van Etten – Everytime the Sun Comes Up
16. Modest Mouse – “Lampshades on Fire”
17. Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks – “Little Fang”
18. SBTRKT – “NEW DORP. NEW YORK (featuring Ezra Koenig)”
19. Father John Misty – “Bored in the USA”
20. Kendrick Lamar – “I”
21. Perfect Pussy – “Interference Fits”
22. The Orwells – “Who Needs You”
23. Parquet Courts – “Black and White”
24. Sturgill Simpson – “Turtles”
25. Panda Bear – “Mr Noah”

Wes

Albums:

Perfume Genius Too Bright Review

1. Perfume Genius – Too Bright
2. D’Angelo – Black Messiah
3. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
4. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
5. Spoon – They Want My Soul
6. The Antlers – Familiars
7. TV On The Radio – Seeds
8. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
9. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
10. Strand of Oaks – HEAL
11. Lykke Li – I Never Learn
12. Beck – Morning Phase
13. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
14. Kelis – Food
15. The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream
16. Protomartyr – Under Color of Official Right
17. Courtney Barnett – The Double Ep: A Sea of Split Peas
18. Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son
19. Run the Jewels – RTJ2
20. tUnE-yArDs – Nikki Nack
21. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
22. Ex Hex – Rips
23. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
24. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
25. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
26. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
27. Hurray for the Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes
28. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
29. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
30. Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything

Songs:

1. Sharon Van Etten – “Your Love Is Killing Me”
2. Perfume Genius – “Queen”
3. The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure”
4. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me (Featuring Kendrick Lamar)”
5. Timber Timbre – “Hot Dreams”
6. Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks – “Little Fang”
7. D’Angelo – “The Charade”
8. Courtney Barnett – “Avant Gardener”
9. Beck – “Wave”
10. Hurray for the Riff Raff – “The Body Electric”
11. tUnE-yArDs – “Real Thing”
12. St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”
13. Strand of Oaks – “JM”
14. Jenny Lewis – “The Voyager”
15. Todd Terje – “Johnny and Mary”
16. Wye Oak – “The Tower”
17. New Pornographers – “War On the East Coast”
18. FKA Twigs – “Two Weeks”
19. Sun Kil Moon – “Carissa”
20. Sylvan Esso – “Hey Mami”
21. Jack White – “High Ball Stepper”
22. Spoon – “Do You”
23. Damien Jurado – “Metallic Cloud”
24. Sturgill Simpson – “Life of Sin”
25. TV On The Radio – “Could You”
26. SBTRKT – “NEW DORP. NEW YORK (featuring Ezra Koenig)”
27. Protomartyr – “Come & See”
28. King Tuff – “Black Moon Spell”
29. Lykke Li – “Never Gonna Love Again”
30. Ex Hex – “Waterfall”

LxL’s 20 Best Albums of 2014

best albums of the year 2014

Here it is. Arguably our favorite list every year. A year’s worth of listening all distilled into one list. 2014 was a surprisingly weak year for hip hop (minus the colossal RTJ2), a wonderful year for triumphant returns (Beck, Jenny Lewis, D’Angelo), and a showcase of how important honesty is in music with some beautifully vulnerable records (Perfume Genius, Sun Kil Moon, Damon Albarn). Who knows what 2015 holds, but for now we can reflect on all the greatness their was in 2014. Now onto the list.

 

20. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

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Sturgill Simpson is the 21st century country outlaw, with the same rebellion and classic sound of his country forefathers with a post-modern, existential spin to wrap your head around. Sturgill will have trouble beating his 2014 release, an instant country classic in Metamodern Sounds in Country Music.

19. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

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The Soderberg sisters that make up First Aid Kit have some of the purest harmonies in years, and Stay Gold was a huge step forward for the Swedish duo that sounds like they are from the Carolinas.

18. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

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Angel Olsen’s 2012 debut Half Way Home was a beautifully promising first step, but Burn Your Fire For No Witness is a giant leap forward, thanks to 11 tightly written songs and some dynamic production from John Congleton, undoubtedly our producer of the year since he’s responsible for the new St. Vincent, Strand of Oaks, and Angel Olsen.

17. Strand of Oaks – HEAL

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Goshen, Indiana’s own Timothy Showalter releases titanic rock songs as Strand of Oaks, and HEAL is the big ambitious rock album that was missing from mainstream rock this year. For more on Strand of Oaks, read my breakdown of his perfect tribute song in “JM”.

16. Sun Kil Moon – Benji

Sun Kil Moon Benji album cover art

Like Perfume Genius, Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon releases music as brutally honest and open as a high school diary. While it may come out clumsy at times, after over 20 years of music, Benji is no doubt Kozelek’s masterpiece.

15. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

the voyager

Jenny Lewis releases music only every few years, but it’s an absolute treat when she does. The Voyager is her first album in six years and succeeds thanks to some surprisingly great production work from Ryan Adams and Beck.

14. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

Flying Lotus You're Dead album cover art

There are few artists as singular and sophisticated as Steven Ellison aka Flying Lotus, making some truly one-of-a-kind electronic music. You’re Dead, a concept record about death and mortality, brings some heavy hitter guests like Herbie Hancock, Ennio Morricone, Kendrick Lamar, and Thundercat.

13. Ty Segall – Manipulator

Ty Segall Manipulator album cover art

Ty Segall is as prolific at releasing music as Taco Bell is at releasing new menu items, but Ty Segall is actually good. Manipulator might be the garage rock youngster’s best album yet, filled with monster riffs, tons of attitude, and even better melodies.

12. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

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Sylvan Esso released musical Pop Rocks with their debut, a sparkling electro-pop album for the ages.

11. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

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Damon Albarn has headed up Blur, Gorillaz, and the Good, Bad, and the Queen, so it’s interesting that he finally releases an album under his own name over 20 years into his career. Everyday Robots is a dark-night-of-the-soul album for the 21st century, speaking to how we use technology to shield are loneliness.

10. TV On The Radio – Seeds

TV On The Radio album cover art

Coming off the death of their bassist Gerard Smith, TV On The Radio regroup and make their most immediate and catchy album in Seeds.

9. Courtney Barnett – The Double Ep: A Sea of Split Peas

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Our favorite new artist of 2014 is witty Aussie Courtney Barnett, whose combined EPs from 2013 was released in 2014 as one of the best albums of the year. Her guitar work, sense of humor, and song craft has us excited for much more.

8. Jack White – Lazaretto

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Beyond releasing one of the greatest instrumental songs of all time in “High Ball Stepper” and putting on our favorite live show of 2014, there is nothing Mr. White can’t do. Lazaretto is yet another great release from a living legend.

7. Run the Jewels – RTJ2

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Usually super groups never deliver on their promise, but El-P and Killer Mike are the undisputed rap champs of the year with RTJ2. Never has Killer Mike sounded so vicious, and never have El-P’s production sounded so urgent.

6. Beck – Morning Phase

beck-morning-phase-album cover, cover art

Beck’s long-awaited (and completely unexpected) sequel to his acoustic change-up Sea Change was a perfect record for the quietness of winter. Unfortunately as the year has went on, Morning Phase fell a little ways down on our list from it’s number #1 spot midway through the year, but still deserved to be up here with the best.

5. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

st-vincent

Guitar goddess St. Vincent has truly become fully formed on her self-titled fourth album, her most confident and unique album to date.

4. The Antlers – Familiars

The Antlers Familiars Review

Another one of our favorites just keeps churning out quiet but beautiful masterworks. Familiars is the trio’s third album, and while it’s their least immediate, it also blossoms more and more with each listen.

3. Spoon – They Want My Soul

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Back from a minor hiatus and sounding as rejuvenated as ever thanks to the sonic stylings of producer Dave Fridmann, Texas indie giants Spoon prove why they are one of the ten best bands in the past ten years with They Want My Soul.

2. D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah

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After a 15 year hiatus following his R&B masterpiece Voodoo, D’Angelo proves some things are worth waiting for, releasing the perfect R&B album at the perfect time, looking to restore the racial divide that has torn apart the U.S. in 2014.

1. Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Perfume Genius Too Bright Review

Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius releases nakedly honest ballads, but with his third album, he has combined beautiful vulnerability with creative ambition to make his best album yet and our best album of 2014. It’s a once of a lifetime album from Hadreas.

Just Missed:

Wes – Lykke Li – I Never Learn

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Power ballads are usually left to AM radio and bad 80’s rock compilations, but Lykke Li has mastered the art of them on I Never Learn: triumphant love songs you can reflect on quietly or belt out to the sky.

Todd – Sharon Van Etten – Are We There?

Sharon Van Etten Are We There Review

 

Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There is undoubtedly beautiful and a real lift to Todd’s soul.

Austin – Taylor Swift – 1989

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Some pop music just can’t be denied, as is the case with Taylor Swift’s 1989, her full-on conversion from pop and country darling to full-on pop superstar.