Aka the year of the female.
Less music here than usual because, quite frankly, I listened long and hard and found very little to enjoy. It seems like most of my favorite bands took the year off and the music that was produced alternated between mindless pop-rock or new variations of hip-hop/alt rock that does nothing for my senses. Still, there were a few gems in the rough, and here are five of my favorite acts in 2015:
As an unabashed fan of The National, I didn't immediately cling to lead singer Matt Beringer's side project, El Vy, but after a couple of listens, I stopped expecting the searching, pained lyrics that dot the landscape of the usual National songs and allowed this one some slack. Playful, loose and sincere, "Return to the Moon" is a great little album.
Country? Yes. Folk? Yes. Straight up female vocalist? Yes. Brandi Carlile covers it all with warmth, passion and a clear sense of pop lyrics that cut right to the bone. Her sixth album, "The Firewatcher's Daughter" also displays this wide-ranging talent and has been on my playlist since early in the year.
Formed from the ashes of the indie rock band Women, Cindy Lee is like listening to Tommy James and the Shondells with a bit of Nico and 60's girl groups thrown into a blender. Constantly staggering in the way their music shifts tempos and moods, the album "Act of Tenderness" is a heartbreaking experiment.
On any given day, Hop Along's album "Painted Shut" could be in the number 1 spot on this list. I love it that much. As I said earlier in the year, lead singer Frances Quinlan's voice sounds as if its going to shatter into a million pieces at any minute, giving every song a pensive edge.
I completely understand Bjork is an acquired taste. She's been surprising and challenging me for over 20 years now. Her latest album, "Vulnicura", continues that fascination with a streak of artistry that's melodic, frustrating, brilliant and moving. And, like the best albums, it just grows and grows on repeat listens.