Today Now I’ve Heard Everything begins presenting its Best Albums of 2015, with the Best Songs of 2015 to follow. Each of those lists will be presented in two parts. Although in past years most of the bands on the Now I’ve Heard Everything year end lists were locally based, that is really not the case this time around. Chalk that up to 2015 being a banner year for the type of music covered here. I’ll also admit to not getting to everything that I could have listened to this year.
We’ll begin with the two Best Albums of 2015, because this year there is a tie for first place. The remaining records presented in alphabetical order today and tomorrow.
Bottle Rockets – South Broadway Athletic Club
The Bottle Rockets have been around for a while and their songs have previously come and gone from my life. But this time around TBRs have planted a rock n roll stake in the ground and will not leave. The subjects on South Broadway Athletic Club range from the passage of time, assembly line jobs, and just lying around and all get a very satisfying two guitars, bass and drums attack. Even the clean and straight forward production by Eric “Roscoe” Ambel deserves special mention. If you like rock, this album will provide you with many, many hours of pure enjoyment.
Secret Someones – Secret Someones
All four members of Secret Someones – Bess Rogers, Lelia Broussard, Hannah Winkler and Zach Jones – have been playing solo and as part of other bands in New York’s Lower East Side music scene for a number of years. Two years ago they got together as Secret Someones and their music took off to the next level. This self-titled, first record has 10 songs bursting with hooks, power chords and harmonies. The band has readily acknowledged a sonic debt to Weezer, but I also hear influences here from The Cars as well. Although this record can accurately be summed up as power pop, it is a type with lots rock substance. Producer Chris Kuffner is credited by the band as almost being their fifth member, and his work getting this record to sound as good as it does needs to be acknowledged.
Dawes – All Your Favorite Bands
Dawes‘ fourth album continues down the road that somehow makes this band a favorite of both millennials and baby boomers. Heirs to both the introspective Jackson Browne and the more excitable Warren Zevon, Dawes offers up lyric driven folk rock that avoids being maudlin or tired. All Your Favorite bands is that musical staple, the break up record. Lyricist and lead singer Taylor Goldsmith spends nine songs intelligently exploring the emotions and ramifications of decoupling. He comes up with a nifty goodbye benediction, “may all your favorite bands stay together,” in the title track. Of course, that might have been too much of a dare to lay out before the universe, as Dawes keyboardist parted ways with the band a few months back.
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
You can view Jason Isbell‘s songs as incredibly detailed snapshots or very brief short stories, but each certainly tells a tale. Those stories concern people battered, bruised and sometimes broken by life. Yet you always root for these underdogs. The music here is Americana, sometimes tinged with rock. The production by Dave Cobb is clean and never overwhelms or subdues the music. Although there is no song that jumps off of this record, the whole disk is satisfying.
Jeff Litman – Primetime
One among many former Minnesotans playing music in New York City, Jeff Litman plays guitar and keys (sometimes on stage at the same time). This six song EP is full of power pop, with just one somewhat slower number. Whether Jeff is turning his watchful eye on others, TV or himself, he makes sure that everything rocks. To its credit, this record sounds very much like one Jeff’s live shows. If there is a problem with this record it’s that once hearing you are left wanting to hear more of Jeff.
Best Albums of 2015 will conclude tomorrow.