Best of 2015: Personal Favorites

kendrickHere are our personal top 10 albums and songs of 2015:

Wes

Songs:

 

10. Grimes – “Kill V. Maim”
9. CHVRCHES – “Leave a Trace”
8. Jidenna – “Classic Man”
7. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty”
6. Jamie xx – “Loud Places”
5. Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”
4. Vince Staples – “Summertime”
3. Kendrick Lamar – “King Kunta”
2. Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian at Best”
1. Sufjan Stevens – “Fourth of July”

Albums:

courtney-barnett-sometimes-i-sit-and-think-sometimes-i-just-sit

10. Low – Ones and Sixes
9. Wilco – Star Wars
8. Tame Impala – Currents
7. Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment – Surf
6. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06
5. Kamasi Washington – The Epic
4. Grimes – Art Angels
3. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
2. Courtney Bartnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Todd

Songs:

10. Baio – “Sister of Pearl”
9. Death Grips – “On GP”
8. Ought – “Men for Miles”
7. David Bowie – “Blackstar”
6. Kurt Vile – “Pretty Pimpin”
5. Grimes – “Kill V. Maim”
4. Jamie xx – “I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times”
3. Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian at Best”
2. Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”
1. Kendrick Lamar – “King Kunta”

Albums:

kendrick-lamar-to-pimp-a-butterfly

10. Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment – Surf
9. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
8. Baio – The Names
7. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
6. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
5. Grimes – Art Angels
4. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down…
3. Courtney Bartnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
2. Tame Impala – Currents
1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Austin

Songs:

10. Dr Dre – “One Shot One Kill”
9. Grimes – “Easily”
8. Jason Isbell – “The Life You Chose”
7. Viet Cong – “Silhouettes”
6. David Bowie – “Blackstar”
5. Titus Andronicus – “Lonely Boy”
4. Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian at Best”
3. Jamie xx – “I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times”
2. Vince Staples – “Lemme Know”
1. Kendrick Lamar – “King Kunta”

Albums:

Summertime-06

10. Death Grips – Jenny Death
9. Janet Jackson – Unbreakable
8. Viet Cong – Viet Cong
7. Jason Isbell – Something More than Free
6. Joanna Newsom – Divers
5. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
4. Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy
3. Grimes – Art Angels
2. Courtney Bartnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
1. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

LxL’s 20 Best Albums of 2015

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We are nearly two weeks into the New Year which many would classify as late for end-of-year lists, but we’ve chose to wait for two reasons. First, we want to get it right and make sure we aren’t missing any last second releases like D’Angelo’s Black Messiah last year or Beyonce’s self-titled surprise the year before as well as giving everything a thorough listen. Second, frankly the holidays get in the way and we haven’t had a lot of time. This year was one frontloaded with monster releases that have topped our list, though there are a couple surprises in our top 20. Unfortunately, years like 2015 where there are all-time great releases like those we got from Kendrick Lamar and Courtney Barnett, frankly these lists aren’t as exciting as years where the best album of the year is more subjective.

20. Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy

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The New Jersey punk-rockers led by Patrick Stickles put out a double album that is somehow not even their most ambitious album. The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a 29-song rock opera around the subject of Stickles own mental illness.

19. Sleater Kinney – No Cities To Love

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The powerful female rock trio Sleater Kinney returned from their 9-year hiatusfor their most rocking album yet.

18. Jamie xx – In Colour

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The best dance record of the year, British producer Jamie xx delivered the goods on In Colour with club jams like “Gosh”, “Loud Places”, and “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”.

17. Low Cut Connie – Hi Honey

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A return to the rock ‘n’ roll of old, Low Cut Connie lovingly revives the sound of Jerry Lee Lewis and the Rolling Stones, even making a fan out of the most powerful man on Earth.

16. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

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Josh Tillman aka Father John Misty is bringing a much-needed sense of humor back into the independent music world.

15. Kamasi Washington – The Epic

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The L.A. saxophonist revived our love of jazz in 2015.

14. Janet Jackson – Unbreakable

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Our biggest surprise of 2015, Janet Jackson returned with one of the best R&B albums of 2015, full of great guest stars and even greater songs.

13. Viet Cong – Viet Cong

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Who knew Canadians could pack such a punch. Calgary newcomers Viet Cong absolutely bring the hammer on their self-titled debut.

12. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

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New Zealand’s Ruban Nielson, the man behind Unknown Mortal Orchestra, continues to expand his psyschedelic pop sound to invigorating new territory.

11. Death Grips – Jenny Death

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Back from a surprise early breakup, industrial hip hop duo Death Grips delivered two albums: The Powers that B and Jenny Death with the latter being our favorite of the two.

10. Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment – Surf

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2015 will be the year that Chance the Rapper broke out big, even cementing himself as Chicago Magazine’s “Chicagoan of the Year”. He especially made a big impact in his role in friend Nico Segal aka Donnie Trumpet’s debut album, one of the most joyous albums of the year.

9. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down…

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Kurt Vile may just look like a stoner in your high school that skipped class, listened to Pink Floyd, and worked fast food (and he may have indeed been that guy), but he is also one of the hardest working and best songwriters going right now.

8. Bjork – Vulnicura

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Bjork’s Vulnicura is just like it’s title: a vulnerable breakup album which is made all the more affecting with Bjork’s chilling voice and the help of the mysterious and experimental Venezuelan producer Arca.

7. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

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Speaking of vulnerable, it doesn’t get a lot more vulnerable than talking about your late mother who left you due to addiction. Sufjan sings about darkness and brokenness with as much grace and beauty as anyone since Elliott Smith.

6. Joanna Newsom – Divers

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Joanna Newsom is certainly not for everyone (her voice upon first listen sounds like a frog and her songs are long and complicated), but if you allow yourself to suspend disbelief and go into her world, you will truly be blown away by her magical music world.

5. Tame Impala – Currents

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Three albums in, Australian psych-rockers have quickly become one of our favorite bands. Currents moves their band in a more dance pop direction, further proving they can’t seem to do no wrong.

4. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

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If it wasn’t for the larger-than-life brilliance of Kendrick Lamar, Vince Staples’ double-disc debut would be an easy pick for best rap album of the year. Vince Staples raps and sometimes croons about the danger and confusion he faced growing up with serious conviction.

3. Grimes Art Angels

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Few artists are bold enough to throw away a year’s worth of work, but that’s exactly what Claire Boucher aka Grimes did when she wasn’t happy with the album she was set to release in 2014. Instead, we waited and were rewarded with Art Angels, an album only Boucher could make.

2. Courtney Bartnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

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Pure joy to listen to, Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett sings, writes, and plays like no one else on her brilliantly-titled studio debut.

1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

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What more do we need to say that hasn’t been said. Kendrick Lamar is embracing his African-American musical heritage yet pushing music forward to a bold new frontier.

Just Missed:

Wes – Wilco – Star Wars

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The first Star Wars of the year was also my favorite (sorry JJ Abrams).

Todd – Baio – The Names

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Vampire Weekend bassist Chris Baio released a surprising and fun solo debut in The Names.

Austin – Jason Isbell – Something More than Free

jason-isbell

Something More Than Free somehow flew under the radar even though Jason Isbell really couldn’t be blowing up any more right now.

 

 

 

Our 10 Favorite Bowie Albums

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Editor’s Note: Today is a sad, sad day as one of our all-time favorite musicians and a true musical chameleon has passed. David Bowie was truly one-of-a-kind and a true advocate for the outcast. So we wanted to revisit our favorite Bowie albums list, one which if we were to redo this list, his latest and final release Blackstar really probably should land towards the end of this list: his best album in 35 years. It’s the perfect mourning, funeral album. 11So please buy/stream Blackstar today as it it shows an icon still pushing boundaries and making emotionally-resonant music 50 years into his career.

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It’s a freaky deaky kinda Bowie week here at LxL. Yesterday, we brought you the five best Bowies (or Bowie characters), and Tuesday came Bowie’s first release in over a decade. We will bring you a review for that next week, but for now, how about we hit you with our ten favorite Bowie albums? The music and fashion chameleon has wore many hats (and costumes) in his career, and today we bring you the ten best. Without further ado, here are the best albums by David Bowie in our humble opinion.

10.  Scary Monsters

scary monsters album cover art

Aaaaahhh…scary monsters! Bowie’s first album in the 80’s was a real return to form, showcasing the sort of glammed-out, spooky, art rock he made a name for himself making in the early 70’s. Scary Monsters also bounces into a little disco with “Fashion” as well as one of the strangest sung Bowie songs in “Ashes to Ashes”, which also makes it one of the best – it’s just so unusual and eerie in the best kinda way.

9. Station to Station

station to station album cover art

Coming off the irresistible Philly soul and disco of Young Americans, Bowie kept some of those characteristics but made a much more experimental record in Station to Station. Headlined by the evercool “Golden Years”, Station to Station serves as the bridge between the extremely opposite albums that it falls between: the Philly soul of Young Americans and the groundbreaking avant-garde electronic rock of Low.

8. Space Oddity 

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Transforming from young Londoner David Jones into the music icon David Bowie started with Space Oddity. Still remaining one of his biggest hits today, “Space Oddity” has Major Tom (David Bowie’s first character) lifting off out into space, and Bowie never really returned –  beside the time he fell to earth in the film The Man Who Fell to Earth, AND on Earthling, AND as Ziggy Stardust on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust…but who’s counting.

7. Diamond Dogs

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A concept album (like so many of Bowie’s albums) based on George Orwell’s 1984, Bowie fell a little without Mick Ronson on lead guitar, but Diamond Dogs still delivers on several levels. Diamond Dogs is what it would sound like if Lou Reed and Mick Jagger kidnapped Bowie and then tried to convince people they were him as to keep down suspicion.

6.  Low

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For his most groundbreaking record, Bowie hooked up with the 70’s best producer, Brian Eno, the king of ambient and experimental electronic music. The former Roxy Music member would work his magic on Bowie like he would later do for both the Talking Heads and U2, combining brilliant atmospherics with strong songcraft to make yet another timeless record.

5. Young Americans

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Whoa that boy can groove. I would imagine when Young Americans came out, there was a handful of rock music fans just furious that Bowie was steeping into the deeply divisive genre of disco, but man did he knock it out of the park with Young Americans. Not only did the album produce three huge disco singles in “Young Americans”, “Fame”, and “Fascination”, but the album as a whole just swings and grooves like John Travolta on some funky acid.

4. The Man Who Sold The World

the man who sold the world album cover art

The Man Who Sold The World was Bowie’s first with guitarist Mick Ronson and its the most riff-heavy, guitar rock album of his career. Oddly enough, “The Man Who Sold The World” is probably best known not as a Bowie song, but as one of the last songs that Kurt Cobain played at MTV Unplugged: Live in New York months before he took his own life – a fitting song for an artist who felt tortured by his own success.

3. Aladdin Sane

aladdin sane album cover art

Following the one-two punch of Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust will leave you knocked out 99% of the time, but Bowie managed to stay on his feet and deliver with Aladdin Sane. Aladdin Sane is the sound of David Bowie taking the glam-rock of Ziggy Stardust to a high-end New York jazz lounge at 2 in the morning.

2. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

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Our top two literally ended in a scoring tie (we occasionally rank and score albums with difficult lists), but just missed out with our tie breaker. Why is Ziggy Stardust so great you ask? Bowie combines his freaky vibe with the second best slew of songs of his career to make more than just a great album but a statement. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust documents an androgynous alien rock star trip to Earth to tell people of its extinction in five years, only to meet his own at the hands of his own destructive behavior. The album stands as an anthem and rallying point for the oddballs, the weirdos, and those who just don’t quite fit in, rest assuring those that feel oh so lonely that “you’re not alone.”

1. Hunky Dory

hunky dory album cover art

The crown jewel of Bowie’s catalog is Hunky Dory. Mixing glam-rock with cabaret and pop, David Bowie released 11 songs of pure songwriting gold. My favorites remain the endearing weirdo’s love song “Kooks” , the freak stomp of “Oh! You Pretty Things”, the heartwarming, showtuney shuffle of “Fill Your Heart”.  You also get some mega classics in “Changes”, “Queen Bitch”, and “Life On Mars”. Not to mention, Bowie had time to write “Song for Bob Dylan” and “Andy Warhol” as tributes to two of his artistic heroes. What does this album not have?

Just Missed

WesHeroes

heroes album cover art

Like Low, Heroes splits about 50/50 in terms of instrumental and vocal songs, but when Bowie and company sing, they shine. Guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame helps the songs rock and Bowie’s singing, especially on his career-centerpiece and arguably greatest song “Heroes”, helps these songs soar.

Todd – Let’s Dance

lets dance album cover art

Anyone who knows Todd knows he likes to get on a good gawky giraffe dance once and a while. Let’s Dance allows him to do this, and for this, Todd is forever grateful to the Thin White Duke.

Austin – Heathen

heathen album cover art

Heathen is one of Bowie’s late career gems, and with this album resulting from a collaboration and tour with Trent Reznor made this a surefire just miss for Austin, whom adores the both of them.

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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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LxL’s Top Ten Christmas Songs

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At 12:00 AM on Black Friday and not a second later, radio stations all across the country began blasting Christmas music, oh so ready to put the Thanksgiving holiday behind them and go headstrong into Christmas season. While we at LxL love the Christmas holiday, our relationship with Christmas music is a little more conflicted. I, for one, love Christmas music in doses but less doses of “Grandpa Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and “Chipmunk’s Christmas” and more pure Christmas carol classics. Austin, on the other hand, is a regular crotchety Scrooge, as he even balked at the idea of doing a Christmas list period. Luckily for you who love Christmas music, two-thirds is majority, and Todd and I won the day.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2012.
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The 10 Worst Christmas Songs of All Time

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Bad, Worst Christmas Songs, santa claus

We at LxL have a very strong love/hate relationship with Christmas music. Last week we focused on the rare Christmas gems that exist in music, so this week we decided to focus on the hate side of that relationship. Just as every sweet needs its sour, every Bing Crosby needs its Bryan Adams. Below are a few of the Christmas songs we loathe the most. The ones that really help induce a month of radio banishment, a lot of hair pulling as well as teeth cringing, and classic holiday depression/alcoholism. So below we give you our inspiration for wearing ear plugs until January 1st. Now let’s get scroogy! Onto the list:

Editor’s note: This list originally published in 2012.
Continue reading “The 10 Worst Christmas Songs of All Time”