…not that 2015 was bad in general, because it was one of the best and somehow most succesful years I've had. Sadly enough, I can't say the same when it comes to music. I don't know if it's because of me not working at the radio anymore, but honestly - I don't remember a year when I found myself as disappointed with the new releases (even by my favourite bands!) as in 2015. When I came to realisation that I got bored with most of the albums only a week after their release, it literally terrified me. And because I'm one of those people who hate moaning about how bad something was, I decided to write something about those records (an absolute gems) that made this year more bearable.
So here they are, the top three (or, how I called it in my notebook "the only three") albums I've listened too in 2015.
3. Drenge - "Undertow"
For the past few years, I've had a bit of an love/hate relationship with Drenge. Their debut album was probably my most played one in the times of being simply pissed off with the whole world (what doesn't happen THAT often, but come on - we all have those days) and always helped me to get back to that "I'm gonna kick your ass" attitude. The "hate" part was their live performances. Don't get me wrong, I loved what they did onstage, but after getting back to the hotel one freezing night in December and discovering that my back is actually covered in blood (my own, hence the advice: NEVER wear a sequin top to a Drenge gig), I kept my distance at their further gigs. To not sound too dramatic - their live shows also managed to do something good for me. After hearing "Favourite Son" two years ahead of the second album release, I was already eager to hear the new stuff. And thank God, they didn't disappoint.
"Undertow" has everything what a follow up album should have. Innovative sound (thanks to their new band mate Rob Graham), great (and witty) lyrics and that dash of mystery that makes you want to check the record out - here in the form of an amazing album cover. It's dark, dirty and somewhat spine-tingling. Melodically, it gets both cheerful ("We Can Do What We Want", "Favourite Son") and depressing ("Standing In The Cold", "The Woods"). That specific mixture makes Drenge a generic grunge band. In personal news - I also overcame my fear of getting hurt at their live performances and discovered that they are even better as a three-piece!
2. The Vaccines - "English Graffiti"
Now, it's been quite a long time since I started this blog, so it comes as a massive surprise for me that I haven't mentioned my favourite band here EVEN ONCE. Not that I've forgotten about them, but having to spend the whole 2014 without any tour or even a glimpse of their new material made me focus on some other bands - and it was close to start naming them my new favourites. But when the beginning of 2015 brought The Vaccines back with their new single "Handsome", they had me just like the day I first heard their music. It's not hard to call the song a perfect choice for a first single after a long break - it's short, but refreshingly lively, with an amazing videoclip (shot in Brooklyn!) and lyrics that might surprise even the oldest Vaccines' fans. Why? Cause two years after "The Vaccines Come Of Age", Justin Young is no longer seeing himself as ordinary and average, but is in awe of his own physical appearance.
There are loads more of courageous statements on "English Graffiti". Fast and brisk "20/20" is almost striking with the I'm through thinking about you message, while "Denial" shows how it is to be a man with a pride with fighting with your significant other. Don't be afraid though - it's not only airs and graces. There's a whole different side on this record, all dreamy and hopelessly romantic. The second single, "Dream Lover", talks about wanting to be in a different place with a different person. "Want You So Bad" (one of the best songs on the album) shows a burning need for someone and "Give Me A Sign" gets seriously dramatic, especially live (honestly, check the recordings!). There's a perfect tie between those two faces of this record though - the title track, "English Graffiti". Simple and melancholic, shows both the boredom of the shallowness and fakeness of the world that can only be cured by being with the one you care about the most.
You can't not mention the visual part of the album. While the cover and the sleeve art drags you with its simplicity, the videos make you burst with laughter, mostly showing the band members in the superhero roles.
"English Graffiti" was a strong candidate for my album of the year. It is indeed a great come back by a great band, but it has two small defects - "Minimal Affection", that sounds too much like The Strokes, and "Maybe I Could Hold You" - a manly version of Haim's "My Song 5", minus the strength. Nevertheless, The Vaccines are still my favourite band ever and I strongly recommend seeing them live, as the new songs sound amazing and their shows are a perfect proof that they became truly massive.
1. Father John Misty - "I Love You, Honeybear"
If you never heard of Joshua Tillman and his solo project and during your record hunt you accidentally stumble upon a beautiful, pink album cover with a weird, sacrum-meeting-profanum like art and words "I Love You, Honeybear" on it, prepare to be blown out. In simple words, it's a collection of songs that Tillman (a.k.a. Father John) wrote mostly for his wife, Emma (a.k.a. The Honeybear), what makes them indeed a perfect example of love songs. But saying just that would be an understatement. Ok, I totally agree - the title might seem soppy and the melodies might sound sweet, but it's a lyrical miracle (that is definitely not suitable for children). It's full of songs that us, Polish people, would call "bedsheet melodies". Here they become so intimate, that you actually feel like you were in Tillmans' bed.
I'm not going to lie - there's a lot of praise for his wife on this record. One of it's strongest sides is that it doesn't reach the "overly soppy" level. It even gets bitter and angry - like in "Strange Encounter", where he begs the girl to be not more than the girl who almost died in his house after a night together, or "The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt.", which is an caleidoscope of his love's downsides (my favourite must be: she says, like literally, "music is the air she breeds" and the malaprops makes me wanna fucking scream, I wonder if she even knows what that word means, because it's literally not that). The whole record is an interesting play on the traditinal model of marriage, but it can be especially seen in "I Went To The Store" and "Ideal Husband", where Tillman angrily asks (screams) let's put baby in the oven, wouldn't I make the ideal husband?. If you feel like you've seen enough of the couple's private life, you're wrong. The intimacy reaches its pinnacle in the songs like "Holy Shit" and "Bored In The USA" - booze-soaked, narcotic thoughts about the world around you that can only be shared with and understood by your loved one. Summing it all up, "I Love You, Honeybear" is, in its twisted and filthy way, one hell of an amazing love album.
I swear to God, I was sure my folk years are happily gone (R.I.P. 2012). And then I went to Open'er Festival and my sister dragged me to see a guy called Father John Misty. And my whole world has changed. He showed me that folk is not only four men with banjos and ukuleles singing about being heartbroken. It can get a lot more interesting when you have a guy dancing like Jarvis Cocker's and Nick Cave's adopted child, and "inappropriate" should be his second (third?) name. "I Love You, Honeybear" totally won me on it's first listen. It's exactly that kind of music you want to listen to when you're in love. And if my own, personal, FIDLAR-loving honeybear likes it too, believe me, there MUST be something in it.
All album covers are property of the bands mentioned above. Live pictures taken by me. Drenge live shot taken at Soundrive Festival, Poland, September 2015. The Vaccines live shot taken at The Albert Hall, Manchester, April 2015. Father John Misty live shot taken at Open'er Festival, Poland, July 2015.