ctoverdrive's Top Five Records of 2015 Monday December 14, 2015

Guess what kids? It’s time for my yearly Top Five Records of the Year post.

Now, a couple of things before we get into the nitty gritty of this list. First off, the death of rdio has had a big impact on how I cobbled together the list this year. Not only does the end of my beloved rdio mean that you won’t be able to stream the these records in a single playlist, like last year’s list, but it also a changed how I manufactured this year’s list of records.

See, rather than sitting down and brainstorming my favourite records from memory, this year I let “my rdio history“http://www.rdio.com/people/ctoverdrive/ dictate the selection of records that qualified for the list. In comparison to my previous best of lists, there turns out to be a couple of surprises on this year’s list. Two of the records on here were absolute givens, but the other three were a bit of a shock and interesting enough to supplant a few records that probably should have made the list.

So without further adieu, here’s my favourite records of 2015.

1. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

It terms of placement and ranking, this is probably the easiest of my selections. And if I’m being honest there hasn’t been a more obvious choice since Rob placed Smells Like Teen Spirit on his Top Five Track One/Side One list. Soulful, powerful and mesmerizing, Sound & Color truly is just all around brilliant. From the initial wandering moments during it’s namesake title track to the last few guitar strings on Over My Head, Sound & Color is an album of pure perfection. Tracks like Dune and Don’t Want To Fight No More are those heartfelt sing out loud songs that are perfect for the open highway or just stumbling around your apartment late at night. If you don’t already own the album, either as a download or as one of those fancy CD thingies, do yourself a favour and just go out and buy it.

2. Jamie xx – In Colour

Whether it’s the Caribbean infused beats of Obvs or the uplifting soulful swings of Loud Places, In Colour screams to be spun multiple times through a set of high quality headphones or speakers. As a record that strikes a perfect balance between moody and introspective ballads and feet on floor “dance” tracks. My only minor beef with In Colour is that if you’re already familiar Jamie xx’s (a.k.a Jamie Smith) main gig as lead of The xx and previous remix work, In Colour may actually feel like a more elaborate and experimental The xx record than anything truly unique and life altering. But when it comes to black marks to describe a record, anything with the same pedigree of previous The xx records is nothing to really complain about.

3. MUTEMATH – Vitals

I know I make this comment almost every year, but the state of rock/alternative music is sad and pathetic. It’s the musical equivalent of the Edmonton Oiler’s second round draft picks over the past decade. If I’m being perfectly honest, I can probably count the number of acts out there that I feel are really crafting unique and accessible music with one and a half hands. Now luckily for everyone New Orleans quartet MUTEMATH happens to be one of those bands. Although it only rolled out a couple of weeks ago, Vitals manages to carry the torch of the band’s previous underrated masterpieces with it’s mind-bending techno-fusion of alt-rock and Southern Louisiana soul. Tracks like Joy Rides, Monument, Vitals and Used To pop out of the speakers like sonic firecrackers and the entire record is a mind-melting tour from start to finish.

4. Atomic Tom – ERA

Trust me, when it comes to compiling lists of the best music of 2015, this will be the only place you’ll find this record. If I’m being honest I was kinda floored to find it as one of my most listened to albums… that was until I gave it another listen.

So who the hell is Atomic Tom? If you’re a long time fan of the old c.t.overdrive blog, you may recognize Atomic Tom as the quartet of New Yorkers who went viral by recording their first single, Take Me Out, using their iPhones and a couple of speakers on a NYC Subway car. Atomic Tom’s sound also happens to be a massive throw back to some of my favourite glory music of the 80s – bands like Human League, Duran Duran, A-Ha, and of course Culture Club. ERA is their second “major” release and while it’s not as technically awe inspiring as other records on this list, ERA does happen to be thirteen simple and wonderfully nostalgic tracks that are a breath of fresh air when juxtaposed against most of the other garbage coming out of the modern rock/alternative music genre.

5. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye

So how does Scottish synth-pop trio CHVRCHES follow-up their stunning debut album? Of course they knock it right out of the pitch with a full catalog of tracks just as strong and catchy as anything that appeared on their refreshing The Bones Of What You Believe. Again, I must be some kinda of closet 80s music junkie, because similar to Atomic Tom before them CHVRCHES grabs some of the best elements of the 80s and slams them headfirst in to the digital age. Stealing elements of Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys to build a full record of engaging and artistic pop tracks.

The also rans…

Big Data – 2.0

Straight up, I have no bloody idea how I stumbled across this record. Seriously, who the hell is Big Data?

That being said, 2.0 is a mess of a mash-up album that is made up of smouldering pop songs that don’t even exist. While that sounds messed-up, and trust me it is, 2.0 actually turns out to be an album you can’t stop listening to. There’s no real rhyme or reason with the record and the tracks disjointedly flow into one another with no linear connection. But if you take a minute to give songs like Dangerous, Clean, Snowed In (Featuring Rivers Cuomo), and The Business of Emotion a spin for a couple of hours you’ll find it almost impossible to remove them from your playlist. I dare you. It makes no sense, but it’s impossible.

The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness

It was hard not to sneak Beauty Behind The Madness into the top five this year. Tracks like Can’t Feel My Face and The Hills were not only infectious, but inescapable within the pop culture realm. But at the end of the day, while sonically this record is on a different plane than most anything that came out this year and the aforementioned tracks will probably define most of 2015, there is only so many tracks about “hooking up” that an old fossil like myself can really give a damn about.

Grimes – Art Angels

The first single from Art Angels, Flesh Without Blood, is one of the best pop songs you’ll hear all year. I probably can’t pinpoint my own personal attraction to this song, but it’s undeniably infectious. But the problem with Art Angels as a record is that it never really matches the same layered music heights as Flesh Without Blood does, so the record as a whole doesn’t make the top five. But as probably one of the best pop songs of 2015, Flesh Without Blood sure does give the record enough streetcred to warrant a mention on this list.

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