Year in Music, 2015: Top 20 Albums

This year was…weird. My listening habits got thrown for a loop with Caleb’s arrival, and I didn’t end up getting as much time as usual in the second half of the year to devote to seeking out new music. Even so, there were a couple albums that came out in Q4 that made their mark quickly.

There are a number of obvious choices here, a couple surprises, and at least one by a band that I kind of hate. Enjoy!

592893020. Susanne Sundfør – Ten Love Songs

I had not heard of Sundfør’s music until about June, but was immediately captivated by her brooding, arty synth pop. The ten minute long “Memorial” wrecks the pace, but even so, once her dark siren songs get their hooks in, they don’t let go.

 

592893019. Bring Me the Horizon – That’s the Spirit

I really, really dislike this band’s earlier stuff. I’m not even sure why I gave That’s the Spirit a try, but it surprised me quite a bit. When I needed a rock music fix in the second half of the year, this is where I turned.

 

592893018. Toundra – IV

Toundra is here, instead of Godspeed, because I never really found a way to approach Assunder, Sweet and Other Distress. IV, meanwhile, was both approachable and deep, and ended up soundtracking many a cloudy evening or rainy drive home.

592893017. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

It was a good year for Courtney Barnett. She had a huge song in “Pedestrian at Best” (which would been top 5 on the songs list, had the list been made in June), and even ended up scoring a Grammy nomination. A couple of listens to this album shows that all the attention was well warranted.

592893016. Swervedriver – I Wasn’t Born to Lose You

The cover says it all: this is warm weather music. The guitar tones, only barely removed from the band’s shoegazing past, wash over you like a warm day. I’ve been listening to Swervedriver for quite a while, but I would never have expected an album this good to come out of the reunion.

592893015. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

The day I bought this CD, I wasn’t looking to buy Sleater-Kinney, I was looking to buy Panda Bear vs. The Grim Reaper. Luckily, the store was out of that album, so instead of some warmed over psychedelia, I got kickass rock music. A win for me.

 

592893014. The Weeknd – The Beauty and the Madness

I don’t know if this is better than House of Balloons (an album with a much better shelf life than I could have anticipated at the time), but it is a well put together pop album in a time where not many of those seem to exist. Come for the undeniable singles, stay for the surprisingly good album cuts.

592893013. Doomtree – All Hands

It took a while to get into this one. The verses didn’t initially land for me, and the hooks all seemed off. Thankfully, the album does reward further listens, and now, I’d put it just under their self-titled on the list. The heavy electro-rap they utilize now is something to behold.

592893012. Grimes – Art Angels

I wasn’t a huge Grimes fan the last time around. “Genesis” and “Oblivion” were good, obviously, but the rest of the album felt weird for its own sake. Art Angels, on the other hands, caught me from the first listen. It’s well-crafted where Visions settled for empty quirk. Plus, it brings the TUNES. I haven’t even mentioned “Kill v. Maim” yet in these posts, and that’s just wrong, but it’s indicative of the kind of quality that Art Angels possesses.

592893011. Falling Up – Falling Up

In my opinion, the gradual transformation of Falling Up from “Alt CCM Also Rans” to “fascinating band with legitimate ideas” was, strangely enough, Exit>Lights. With this, their final, self-titled album, they’ve completed that transformation, and the results are stunning. I’ve only gotten to listen to this album for a little under a month, but it’s already taken ahold. Ask me to make the 2015 list this time next year, and this album could be much further up.

592893010. Purity Ring – another eternity

Purity Ring gets to me in a way that Chvrches never will. Both of them put out an album this year, and while Chvrches always seems to get the radio plays and ‘buzz’, Purity Ring just seems more appealing. It’s a little darker, and the sound feels a little fuller (as in “Heartsigh” and “Sea Castle”). Also, no more Pokemon-like track names.

59289309. Jamie xx – In Colour

A couple of undeniable high points (“Gosh” and “Loud Places”) are surrounded by some excellent UK Bass music. This was the headphone album of the year for me.

 

 

59289308. The Go! Team – The Scene Between

The knock on these guys anymore seems to be that they didn’t break up after their first album. That’s nonsense. They’re on a four album winning streak now. The Scene Between reorganizes the group considerably (gone are the double dutch clap-alongs, along with any traces of rapping), but with that comes a focus and a tunefulness that shines brightly through the whole album.

59289307. Beach House – Depression Cherry

I didn’t really get a chance to dig into the other full length album that Beach House released this year, but even so, Depression Cherry filled the void in me that was desperately searching for some chill guitars backing a lilting, dreamy Victoria Legrand. Thank Your Lucky Stars will have to wait for 2016.

59289306. Carpenter Brut – III EP

Okay, listen, I could listen to “Turbo Killer” on repeat all day (and Linds probably thinks I do just that), but the rest of this EP kicked a lot of ass, too. Fake 80’s neon synth vomit nostalgia is pretty much the worst thing ever, except when Carpenter Brut is concerned. Carpenter Brut gets a lifetime pass.

59289305. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

The sound of the best rapper on earth raising the bar, then sticking the landing. Who knew that sounded like Kendrick Lamar rapping about his dick over a crazy, beatless free jazz section?

 

59289304. Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth

…and yet, I liked this album better. I don’t think there’s a person alive that would say that this is better than To Pimp a Butterfly, but for me, this album was simply a joy to listen to. The Lupe Fiasco that I knew and loved is back, and honestly? He’s better than ever.

 

59289303. mewithoutYou – Pale Horses

I’m a huge mewithoutYou fan, but for the last decade, that’s most been trading off the credit they earned for the front half of their discography. Pale Horses changes all that by doing what mewithoutYou does best: loud guitars, shouty vocals, and ever-more-dense lyrical analogies. All centered (obliquely) around the loss of a parent and the eventual end of the world.

59289302. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

This is, at times, a very uncomfortable record to listen to. It’s a wrenching album for nearly its entire duration. Still, Sufjan’s talent for arrangement and ear for melody shines through all of it and imbues what could be a dour, bitter affair with a life that I’m not convinced anyone else could have given it.

59289301. Tame Impala – Currents

I really liked Lonerism (once I heard it, that is – it took me a while), so when I heard “Cause I’m a Man” for the first time, I was disappointed. The cheesy faux-funk that I was hearing was nothing like the direction I’d hoped they’d go in. Luckily, “Cause I’m a Man” is the second worst song on the album (and a really bad choice for a single), and not really representative of the album as a whole. Sure, the album skews a bit cheesy, but unlike in that song, it feels earned most everywhere else. The bass feels vibrant throughout, and with one unfortunate exception (really though, what in the hell is up with putting the worst and weirdest song of the year immediately after the best song of the year??), the pacing is perfect. Upon my second listen through the album, sitting on my deck, drinking a gin and tonic watching the hummingbirds buzz around the honeysuckle, I felt sure that nothing else was going to touch this album.

Nothing else did.

Year in Music, 2015: Top 30+ Songs

Usually, I do 30 songs and write nothing. This year, I decided to write up blurbs for the top 20 songs, while making a Spotify list for the top 30. I even tossed in some honorable mentions at the top, because I care.

A Dozen Honorable Mentions in Alphabetical Order! (with YouTube links!!)

30. The Go! Team – Waking the Jetstream
29. 2814 -恢复
28. Sleater-Kinney – Fangless
27. Falling Up – Aron on the Wind
26. Nicolas Jaar – Swim
25. Swervedriver – Autodidact
24. Purity Ring – Heartsigh
23. Day Wave – Drag
22. Carly Rae Jepsen – Run Away With Me
21. EL VY – I’m the Man to Be

592893020. Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta

G-Funk is back! For one song, at least. “King Kunta” is Kendrick at his most swaggering, most danceable, and most radio ready.

“The funk shall be within you”, indeed.

 

592893019. Joywave – Somebody New

An Alt Nation mainstay, “Somebody New” hits all the sweet spots when it comes to catchy electronic-heavy alt rock music.

 

 

592893018. Grimes – REALiTi (demo version)

I’m specifying the demo version that started circulating in March, since it’s the version that was with me all summer. Both versions are good, though. This is the song that made me give Grimes a second look (I liked “Oblivion” and “Genesis”, just not enough to aggressively seek out more). A catchy, super-uplifting harbinger of a great album to come.

592893017. Sufjan Stevens – Fourth of July

Backed by little more than a piano which sounds like it’s being played in an underwater auditorium, Sufjan sings of coming to grips (or perhaps not coming to grips) with his absentee mother’s death.

“we’re all gonna die” Oh indeed, Sufjan.

592893016. The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face

Oh, hey, it’s the song of the summer!

Probably my favorite Michael Jackson song, to be honest.

 

 

592893015. Beach House – Levitation

“Sparks” was a good lead single, but this is a great way to start off another solid album by Beach House. A beautiful paean to youth and young love.

 

 

592893014. Jamie xx – Loud Places (feat. Romy Croft)

The easy blurb is that this is a great song by The xx, but in reality, it works so much better in the context of Jamie xx’s debut full length. Romy Croft’s voice has rarely worked better, but the real star here is the sample used for the main hook. “I feel music in your eyes”, then the classic xx guitars start to fade into view – bliss.

592893013. Lupe Fiasco – Body of Work (feat. Terrace Martin & Troi)

There were a surprising number of really good tracks on Tetsuo and Youth, but the one that really got to me was the one that had the darkest beat, the “corrupted audio file” vocals, and the kickass saxophone solo at the end.

592893012. Doomtree – Final Boss

The fact that All Hands ended up on my album list (uh… spoiler) is directly due to this song. It’s immediate and punchy in a way that a lot of the rest of the album isn’t at first blush.

Gettup. LikeI. Never. Fuckin. Gottup. Be. Fore.

 

592893011. Falling Up – Flora

Of all the songs on this list, this one I’ve spent the least time with this one by far. It’s a seven minute epic that feels half that length. Go listen to Crashings, then listen to this, and realize that is the same band.

 

592893010. Kurt Vile – Pretty Pimpin’

For some reason, I only listened to the album which accompanies this song a single time. I don’t know why that happened, as this song is one that simply would not leave my head for days.

“Didn’t recognize the man in the mirror, then I laughed and I said ‘oh silly me, that’s just me'”

59289309. Grimes – Flesh Without Blood

This song is a lot of things: the best produced song of the year, Claire Boucher’s finest vocal work, a song that Linds even sort of likes, almost certainly Grimes’ best chance to get played on the radio, and, in my opinion, the best straight up “pop” song of the year.

 

59289308. Sufjan Stevens – Should Have Known Better

This song is my favorite from Carrie and Lowell, not just for the “my brother had a daughter” part (though that part is sublime), but because it’s the perfect mixture of old Sufjan and new Sufjan. The melody peeking from behind the sparse first half. Sufjan reminding himself “don’t back down!”

It’s enough to make a person forget that there’s a line that goes “when I was three…three maybe four, she left us at that video store.”

59289307. Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker the Berry

The centerpiece and angry high point of To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick has everyone in his sights here. He delivers some of his most cutting lines ever, backed by a pacing mountain lion of a backbeat. Everyone is part of the problem, now who’s willing to work towards a solution?

59289306. Courtney Barnett – Depreston

Wherein a house hunting expedition seems like the saddest thing ever. Even the most staunch Courtney Barnett fan would likely admit that her lyrics get a little overly clever at times. “Depreston” cuts most of that out (quirky lyrics fans, fear not, there’s still plenty of quippy observations here) and is the better for it. Plus, that outro…

59289305. The Go! Team – The Scene Between

Every Go! Team album has one song that I play on repeat for about eight months. So, here that is. Set uplift to ‘maximum’, set catchiness to ‘ebola’ and enjoy.

 

 

59289304. Carpenter Brut – Turbo Killer

Too much sad music in your life? Need something that glows neon, kicks so. much ass. and justifies an entire genre’s existence?

I’ll just leave this here.

 

59289303. Jamie xx – Gosh

Because it’s a really fun song to sing to Caleb.
Because the doubletime backbeat after the first verse is great.
Because the outro really is that good.
Because the music video is great.
Because it’s an excellent freaking song.
Just because.

59289302. mewithoutYou – Red Cow

The most propulsive song on Pale Horses is also the song with the best riff and the song with the best lyrics. “Red Cow” is a throwback to ‘classic’ mewithoutYou with its multi-layered lyrical references and (gasp) shouty vocals. It would’ve fit in just wonderfully on Brother, Sister, which is about as high a compliment as I can give a song. Whatever splash Pale Horses made this year (and it made a surprisingly big one, considering), “Red Cow” is the lion’s share of the force behind it.

59289301. Tame Impala – The Less I Know the Better

God, I love this song. It’s the only song to come out this year ranked 5 stars in my library (“Red Cow” could make it sometime soon, and I’m sure one or two others will make their way there). I first heard it while waiting for TV on the Radio to come on stage at First Avenue. My friend and I were standing in the crowd talking, when her suddenly tapped me on the shoulder and said “this is that song I was telling you about”. From the instant the funky bassline exploded into a warm, inviting full fledged entity, I was hooked. I bought the album the next day, and this song has never been far away from my ears ever since.

I don’t expect that will change for a long, long time.

Year in Music, 2015: Top 20 Moments in Music

Little snippets that caught the ear, lyrics that stunned, and at least a million spots devoted to mewithoutYou. It’s the “Best moments of 2015” list!

20. Big Data – The Business of Emotion (feat. White Sea)
“Doesn’t matter if you like it or not…”

This is the part that sells the song (well, that and the percussive backbeat). Lots of artists are emulating the 80’s these days, but few have captured the outright catchiness as well as well as Morgan Kibby does in the pre-chorus.

19. Lil’ Ugly Mane – SIDE THREE-A
“I sent a bomb to a computer expert”

“A catalog of destruction.”

18. Tame Impala – Disciples
Tape clicks – filter drops

Disciples is a decent song. Kevin Parkers sings most of the song with a thick pseudo-70s effect applied to his voice, as if the song were being played on an AM radio or a cassette tape. Then, the tape deck clicks, the vocal filter disappears, and the unfiltered hook bursts forth.

17. Sufjan Stevens – The Only Thing
Momentary flight

Carrie and Lowell is heavy, man. In the midst of it, “The Only Thing” ends up possibly being the heaviest thing about it. Lyrics like “The only thing that keeps me from driving this car half-light, jack knife into the canyon at night” abound. Just as the dour mood threatens to overwhelm the listener, though, a short instrumental line soars. It’s just part of the wonder of Sufjan Stevens: able to craft moments of intense, fleeting beauty in the midst of songs that are stacked with anguish.

16. Lupe Fiasco – Body of Work (feat. Troi and Terrance Martin)
“Sanskrit dance on the page of the dead book”

There’s some annotation over at Genius. I just like the way it sounds. When Lupe is on his game, he twists words in such a beautiful way. It was good to see that version of Lupe back for Tetsuo and Youth.

15. Day Wave – Drag
“I know it’s hard being around me.”

Day Wave’s breakout hit “Drag” hides within its hazy pop and bright guitar lines a look at a relationship which is strained by the singer’s depression. Things come to a head in the bridge, where the singer simply admits “I know it’s hard being around me” before swinging back to the chorus “hold me back, I don’t wanna be a drag.”

14. Toundra – Viesca
Horns? In MY crescendo porn??

I love me some guitar-fronted post-rock. The problem is, of course, that a lot of it sounds similar. Most of the big bands have their style, of course, but an Explosions in the Sky song sounds like an Explosions in the Sky song. Same with Godspeed, etc. Toundra’s not really all that much different, but in “Viesca”, they add horns to the mix for an excellent crescendo that sounds triumphant and invigorating. WOuld that more post-rock bands tweaked things like this.

13. Beach House – Levitation
“There’s a place I want to take you”

God, I love Victoria Legrand’s voice. I could listen to her sing the fade out to this song all day.

12. Bully – Trying
“Been praying for my period all week”

I mean, what’s more alt rock than a pregnancy scare? Close second: the part at the end of the song where she screams “TRYING. TRYING.WHY AM I??”

11. mewithoutYou – Rainbow Signs
“Let’s keep that silly punchline between me and you…”

And so, the year’s other depressing album about parental death ends the only way it really could: with an unexplained inside joke about “apostrophes and pronouns and you-remember-who” between Aaron Weiss and his departed father. The song, and the album along with it fade away. There’s nothing more to say.

10. Falling Up – Aron on the Wind
The end credits to the movie that exists only in my head

So, Falling Up made a post-rock album out of some of the studio castoffs from their final album. I suppose that’s not such a surprise – most of their last couple of albums have sounded like the kind that could have some pretty interesting material missing. What is surprising is how THEATRICAL some of it is. “Aron on the Wind”, in particular, stands out. Every time I hear it, about a minute in, I get the feeling I’m watching the credits of some great movie.

9. Sufjan Stevens – Should Have Known Better
“My brother had a daughter”

Same comment as the earlier moment, only MORE. I just love the line “My brother had a daughter – the beauty that she brings: illumination.” For a moment in a very dark album, a little light shines through.

8. Majical Cloudz – Downtown
The romantic sentiment of the year

“…and if I suddenly die
I hope they will say
He was obsessed, and it was okay…”

7. EL VY – I’m The Man To Be
“…the green one”

The line is “I’ll be the one in the lobby in the green collared ‘fuck me’ shirt…” which is absurd enough (and yet, strangely amazing, given that it’s being sung by Matt Berninger), but then he just has to go ahead and add “the green one” with such a cocksure, redundant swagger, that it’s pretty much the best thing to ever happen.

6. Courtney Barnett – Depreston
“If you’ve got a spare half a million”

“…you could knock it down, and start rebuilding”

Never has such a vaguely affirming sentiment seemed so… depressing.

5. Carly Rae Jepsen – Run Away With Me
“I’ll be your sinner in secret”

The way her voice goes up for the second syllable of “sinner”. Pop moment of the moment, no doubt.

4. mewithoutYou – Blue Hen
“You’ll soon see exactly where my victory is”

This was never going to be a happy album – albums about dead parents rarely are (oh, hi, Sufjan…), but Blue Hen takes the cake. After ironically singing “death, where is thy sting?” earlier in the song, Aaron Weiss turns the tables on himself. As Death, he retorts:

Death where is thy sting?
You ought to put more thought into what you bravely sing
Aft-mast ships of straw-short bricks
You’ll soon see exactly where my victory is

3. Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker the Berry
“The bigger I shoot”

There were a few parts from this song that could have conceivably fit here. There’s the menacing chord change in the beginning of the song that mirrors the one in the hook (with Kendrick singing “and sometimes, I get off watching you die in vain”), there’s the now-legendary part at the end, where he bitterly declares himself (and through implication, just about everybody) a hypocrite.

Still, the part I’m picking is the pre-chorus, wherein “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice” morphs into a distorted growl “the blacker the berry, the bigger I shoot”. I’ve done this because it’s visceral, badass, and terrifying. It stops you in your tracks, even as it sounds SO cool. It’s a microcosm of the song, and the album that contains it.

2. Jamie xx – Gosh
Color seeps in

“Gosh” is fun to sing to your infant son. ake my word on this. The part where the backbeat gets half-time handclaps is quite awesome, as well.

The part that really gets me, though, is the end of the song, where a synth, very slowly sneaks it way into the song, and suddenly, it’s all you hear, splashing color and melody everywhere. It’s beautiful.

The music video for “Gosh” is perfect for the song. First, it shows a planet, then it shows a slightly closer look. When the synth line comes in, it shows you the mountains and the valleys you can’t see from the distance. Life is everywhere, beauty is all around.

1. mewithoutYou – Red Cow
The hook.

The heaviest song on the album (and the one that most resembles the 2004-2006 mwY) gets the most memorable bit of music that mewithoutYou has written in a long time. It all ties back to that guitar line in the hook. It’s huge, it’s crunchy, but it has that progression… all while Aaron finally gets to get some of the lead out. Memorable lines like “Iron mixed with Oxygen as per the laws of chemistry and chance” and “was he a violent man? well, he had his genocidal moments”. This is a side of the band I thought was lost.

It’s back.

Year in Music 2015: Favorite Album Covers

No particular order, just a dozen or so album covers I really liked this year.

Son Lux – Bones
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August Burns Red – Found in Far Away Places
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Tame Impala – Currents
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Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo and Youth
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American Wrestlers – American Wrestlers
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Colleen Green – I Want to Grow Up
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2814 – 新しい日の誕生
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HKE – Apocalypse
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Kauan – Sorni Nai
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Drake – Back to Back (original cover)
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2015 Year in Music: Top 3’s

Let’s kick this off with a smattering of random top 3’s that I don’t have any other good place for.

Top 3 Albums That I Should Have Loved Last Year

3. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Or so I hear… I’m still not a fan.

2. TV on the Radio – Seeds
I know what the problem with this one was… I was listening to it in the wintertime. Listening to it in the summer with the windows rolled down proved a LOT more rewarding.

1. Alvvays – Alvvays
Fuzzy, tuneful female-fronted indie pop from Canada. I listened to a lot of this in 2015.

Top 3 Artists That I Love that Came Out With Albums That I…Didn’t

3. Drake – If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late
Okay, maybe “love” is a bit strong when it comes to my feelings for Drake’s music, but I’ve found him to be a solid, reliable source of good times. I just really didn’t care for his new style (and that album with Future…oish). “Hotline Bling” has grown on me, much to my own personal shame.

2. Kelly Clarkson – Piece By Piece
I unabashedly enjoy much of Clarkson’s music. Piece By Piece was very bad, though. One of my least favorite albums that I devoted any time to this year, in fact. Very few highlights, lots of failed experiments (what is with the tries at EDM? Even Coldplay did them better…)

1. Children 18:3 – Come In
It’s…okay. Mostly, though, it’s just the end. I was becoming increasingly okay with the fact that the band had already used up most of its creativity and hook, but the Kickstarter was still a siren’s call that brought me in. I think it was worth it, but I’m not in love with the album that came out of it.

Top 3 Songs That I Burned Out On After Listening to Them a Bunch Last Year

3. Katy Perry – Dark Horse (feat. Juicy J) (29th place last year, 0 plays this year)

2. Ingrid Michaelson – Girls Chase Boys (17th place last year, 1 play this year)

1.The Jezabels – The Look of Love (8th place last year, 1 play this year)

Top 3 Songs That Were Fun to Sing to Caleb

3. Fetty Wap – Trap Queen (totally appropriate)

2. “Wheels on the Bus” (the horn on the bus goes “beep, beep, beep”

1. Jamie xx – Gosh (less “singing”, more saying “oh my gosh!” like he does in the song, though occasionally I would continue with the rest of the lines. I’ve even got Linds saying it now)

Albums I Somehow Didn’t End Up Listening To in 2015 (aka, candidates for next year’s “Albums I Should’ve Loved” List)

3. Mew – + –
I like Mew. I missed this album entirely. No idea why.

2. Foals – What Went Down
It’s not like Foals are amazing or revolutionary, or anything, but I enjoy them plenty, all the same. What makes this one particularly egregious is that I enjoyed all three songs I heard from this album. Every indicator points to this being an album I would like a great deal.

1. Deerhunter – Fading Frontier
I heard a lot of really good things about this album, and then I… just never sought it out at all. I had plenty of opportunities, I just passed on all of them. Maybe in 2016.

Top 3 Albums I’m Excited For In 2016

3. Radiohead – tbd
I mean, who knows? It’s been seven years. It’d be cool to hear new stuff.

2. Animal Collective – Painting With
Centipede Hz annoyed me. “Floridada” is pretty good, though. Much better than “Today’s Supernatural”, anyway. This one’s got a shot at being good.

1. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
I mean, they have to put out a dud sometime, right? The answer is no…they never do.

 

2015 Year in Music!

It’s the end of the year. I haven’t written a post in, like, six months. This must mean it’s time for the 2015 Year End Music Countdown Spectacular Extravaganza!

Here’s how this works:

* I talk about music I liked!
* I talk about music I listened to a lot!
* On January 2nd, I go back to never ever posting!

I’ve prewritten the posts like a boss. Here’s when I’m going to post them.

December 27thVarious Top 3s, 2015 Edition
December 28thFavorite Cover Art of 2015
December 29thTop 20 Moments in Music of 2015
December 30thTop 20 Songs of 2015
December 31stTop 20 Albums of 2015
January 1st30 Most Listened To Songs of 2015
January 2nd – December 20thAbsolutely Friggin’ Nothing.

WOOT, let’s do this shit.

Best Moments of Final Fantasy VI: Number 1

Vector

Deep breath

Finally, you reach the headquarters of the Empire where Gestahl resides. An, aw man, the fucking music. It’s simultaneously creepy and depressing. Go ahead and remind yourself why Nobuo Uematsu is a goddamn genius.

The place is dreary. There appears to be only soldiers and poverty. Try to bum rush the front gates, though, and you run into this oh-my-god-I’m-gonna-die!

“Warmech is my baby brother.”

After you sneak in, you work your way through a complex labyrinth of conveyor belts, which is fun, but also frustrating when you take the wrong one and hope you have enough stamina to survive. When you finally work your way to the end, you fight a depressing battle with Ifrit and Shiva. And if that weren’t depressing enough…

It’s the first moment when you truly realize that it’s not just Kefka that is evil, but the entire Empire is depraved and must be brought down and you’re not powerful enough to stop them. Hell, you’re barely powerful enough to stop these assholes:

See all those dead guys? Yeah, that was my party. The cranes were the hardest boss I had fought in possibly my entire RPG life to that point. I believe I died six or seven times and was close to restarting the entire game over because I stupidly didn’t have a save point prior to Vector. If I recall, I got lucky on a Setzer slot machine and moved on from there. After that, the mine chase is a more relaxing diversion, though not a cakewalk by any means.

After all that, Gestahl and Kefka are still as powerful as they were before you walked in. It’s depressing as hell, and it was the highlight of the game for me. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the return to Vector after the Espers finally throw a shit fit and destroy the place. The dinner with Gestahl is really cool, especially since you get the sneaking suspicion that he’s just setting you up. But it’s cool to see Kefka brooding on a jail cell toilet.

And that’s the end of the list. Did you have a favorite moment you missed?