2015 in Music

This page contains my music reviews for music originally released in 2015. Due to my podcast, I have not been listening to as much new music as I’d like.

1. Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance: Synovial Joints (10/10)

The best jazz album of the 21st century? Read more.

2. Vijay Iyer: Break Stuff (9/10)

Fantastic. Read the review.

3. The Visit: Through Darkness Into Light (9/10)

Read the review.

4. Mary Halvorson: Meltframe (8/10)

Read the review.

5. Wilco: Star Wars (8/10)

For just over a decade (between the mid ’90s and the mid ’00s) Wilco was one of the most interesting “indie” rock bands in the world – they changed their sound (nearly) every album, from roots rock to pop to post rock to classic rock revival. And then they got comfortable. For the last decade or so, they’ve been making very pleasant pop rock with only the odd hints of their more interesting past. (This is different live, where they remained edgy.) I have felt like the last few albums were the first time the band settled for something.

Read the full review.

6. The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (8/10)

I saw these guys just the other night and found them significantly more traditionally jazzy than a few years ago.

With Redman, they appear to be forced into playing more conventionally. That’s not to say that this is all that conventional jazz, but they do seem to stay far more within tradition this time around.

That’s not a bad thing: they move from post bop so ballad-heavy and melodic it’s borderline cool to moments that are borderline avant garde. Most of the rock influence appears gone, but it’s not a bad thing that they are changing their tune this far into their career. That’s admirable.

They are significantly more abrasive live, which makes this album a bit of a let down – most of the tracks here were included in the most recent set I saw)- as everyone, particularly Redman, seems to be behaving themselves a little too much.

But this is still great music made by fantastic musicians. It’s just not as unique as the band at its earlier peak. But that’s okay.

7. Godspeed You! Black Emperor: ‘Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress’ (8/10)

To my ears, this is a more aggressively difficult record than the last one. It’s less obviously melodic and there is lots of time for noise. And though I welcome the change in some ways, I find it kind of less appealing than the stuff from their prime.

But the sound is absolutely massive – as it should be for a larger version of the band – and though the music is less immediate, it’s still compelling. It’s hard for me to fault them for being slightly less accessible given that they don’t do accessible anyway.

But still, I’d say this is a fans-only album. Not going to convert anyone who isn’t already on the bus.

Just a note: apparently these four tracks are actually a slight change to a big piece called “Behemoth,” that they have been playing for years. I have only seen GY!BE twice, and they only played this on their most recent tour, so I am not sure how true that is.

8. Rabbit Rabbit Radio Vol. 3 – Year of the Wooden Horse (7/10)

The third edition of Rabbit Rabbit Radio is different in conception than the first two. This time out, Kihlstedt and Bossi asked twelve guitarists to submit riffs to them, and then they’d build the songs.

Read the full review.

9. Faith No More: Sol Invictus (7/10)

When I was young I hated reunions, I felt like they were cash-grabs, things only sell-outs would do. I had a hard time thinking of musicians, particularly my musical idols, as people. I had an idea of artistic integrity and I thought that musicians should stick to it (or face my wrath, I guess). But another reason I hated reunions was because I was a fan of (mostly) “classic” rock. And the vast majority of those bands which reunited…well, those reunions went badly. And my favourite band at the time had never reunited. And the band that took over that role form them only reunited for one off concerts every few years. Both “preserved” their legacies.

Read the rest of the review.

10. Battles: La Di Da Di (7/10)

Read the Review.

11. Desaparecidos: Payola (6/10)

Read the review.

Not Ranked: Stephen Hough: Sonatas and Poems (8/10)

Read the review.