I love end-of-year lists. I love countdowns. The whole concept, the ranking, the weighing of one thing’s merits against another’s, that all appeals to me. I know some people don’t care for it, but me, I’m all for it. Which is why from now until the end of the year, you’ll see a whole lot of lists on witchsong. Some music, some not. We’re starting with top ten album lists from the editors, and since I get to decide the order, I’m obviously going first. So, enjoy. Here are my top 10 albums of 2015.
10. Troye Sivan, Blue Neighbourhood.
9. Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon. “The whole album has the same sadness and pop and glitter of “This is What Makes Us Girls” and “Video Games” (although no song on Honeymoon comes close to being as excellent as “This is What Makes Us Girls”) but it’s also more self-aware in a way that I find vastly appealing. She is singing about jazz and California and pink flamingoes and Billie Holiday; she is really Performing Lana Del Rey. But she knows not everyone loves Lana Del Rey, and the tension that comes out of that self-awareness is a vital element of Honeymoon. “I don’t matter to anyone, but Hollywood legends will never grow old,” she sings on “Terrence Loves You.” The line that follows “we both know it’s not fashionable to love me” is “but you don’t go ‘cause truly there’s nobody for you but me.” She knows. “Look at you, looking at me.” She sees.”
8. Shamir, Ratchet.
7. One Direction, Made in the A.M. “Maturity is not about attaining fixity, but about learning to handle flux, becoming a person who can grow and learn and leave and become a self, over and over, in new ways. You follow your heart even though it’ll break sometimes. Ending is not erasing, and ending does not eliminate the possibility of future beginning –– you will find me in places we’ve never been, for reasons we don’t understand. One Direction will leave us, is leaving us, has left us, but left with the promise that any time I’ve gone / you can listen to my voice and sing along, and in that sense, the words of “History” have become true: this is not the end, this is not the end, we can live forever.”
6. Carly Rae Jepsen, E•MO•TION. “Pop music is all about desire, but nobody wants like Carly Rae wants. (…) From insistent lead single “I Really Like You” to sweeping opener “Run Away with Me”, Jepsen’s still crushing, but her songs push hard away from the cliché of the passive, lovelorn singer. She sings authoritatively; the chorus on “Run Away with Me” is practically an order, as if everything in the world depends on whether she and the object of her affections leave the party together or not. And on “Emotion”, Jepsen all but hexes the guy who’s rejected her, though she phrases it like a love song. “Be tormented by me, babe,” she sings. “In your head, and I won’t stop/ Until you forget me, forget me not.” The words ring vicious in her sweet and pseudo-innocent delivery — she’s under your skin whether you like it or not.” Sasha Geffen, Consequence of Sound.
5. Alabama Shakes, Sound and Color.
4. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love. “I don’t know how to say that this album zips and quavers with real animal strength I sometimes forget can be a part of music and it makes me feel strong, sleek, like I’d only key somebody’s car if they really deserved it and I’d look good the whole time. Most days I feel as if I might do anything. Most days I cannot make all my parts move in synchronicity. Sleater-Kinney, still, now, and maybe I should outgrow this, though these songs seems to say I won’t (“wandered through the void of me” in the title track) helps me carve a clear self from my whole mess, clean, and that self is cool like concrete for an hour, for a day.”
3. Little Mix, Get Weird!
2. Selena Gomez, Revival. “The current of this album is strong and swift and steady, and it sucks me under, throbs under my skin. This is so calculated, and I mean that in a good way – this is a hypnotist in peak form. This is the sinuous dance of a cobra as it moves toward prey. It’s quiet and even but it feels like when you speak very calmly because you’re afraid you will cry or laugh or scream. It is total control, a mastery of self and emotion, and it is then directing that control outward. Selena isn’t a belter, she’s not screaming at the top of her lungs; even when she’s showing emotion she’s doing it in a way that feels the exact opposite of casual. It’s not an accident when she lets a card show here and there. And there are flashes of that, quick bright bursts of energy up out of the steady rhythmic flow.”
1. Florence + the Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. “But—and here is the vital thing, the thing that makes it an album about absolution and the cleansing power of fire, of fury, rather than the wrath of a woman scorned—through that all there is hope. There are the first tentative steps to piecing yourself back together on the other side of leveling everything you knew because there was something broken and rotten at the foundation. Look at “Third Eye” (you don’t have to be a ghost, here amongst the living; you are flesh and blood / you deserve to be loved). Look at “St. Jude” (and I’m learning, so I’m leaving). Look at “Delilah” (I’m gonna be free and I’m gonna be fine). This is Florence as phoenix, rising from the ashes, newborn and vulnerable but renewed and washed clean by the flames.”