witchsong top fives of 2015, albums edition

Sophia’s Top 5 4 Albums To Cry To of 2015

1) Carrie and Lowell, Sufjan Stevens

My mom loves this album; she heard an NPR interview with Sufjan Stevens while driving my brother to his karate classes and she listened to it, sent me an e-mail about it—“Sophia!! Have you listened to the new Sufjan Stevens album?” and that was enough to make me cry. I miss my mom, you know, but mostly I miss being sixteen and living at home, a quiet kind of mourning for a relationship that is still good but won’t be the same. There is a song on this album that goes “the only thing that keeps me from driving this car / half-light jack knife into the canyon at night / signs and wonders” and Sufjan’s voice is barely a murmur and the guitar twinkles gently in the background. The sob hitches in the back of your throat and it’s only natural.

2) Downers, Jamaican Queens

On this album there is a song called “Emo + Poor” and that is the main thing I have to say about it, really. This album sounds exactly like sinking into the horrifying black sludge of your brain feels, the kind where you aren’t really even trying to claw your way out anymore. I just wanna eat pills and sleep and you don’t understand me. I listen to this album when I would rather pull my own teeth out than touch anyone or listen to anyone, maybe, ever again. I’m still emotional and poor. From “Joe”: “In my defense, my dad’s a Republican / my awful grin says ‘yeah, come on in.’” This album is so awful and I am so awful and I am sitting in the car with this in my headphones on repeat for six hours. Singing along very softly, “you were a charming kid but now you’re grown” which is just the way it goes.

3) Beat the Champ, The Mountain Goats

Maybe you are a person who cries regularly about professional wrestling and I hope that you are, I do. I am not but I do regularly cry about this, a concept album about professional wrestling (I know nothing about professional wrestling.) I don’t know how to talk about this album except to say that it is mostly about sometimes winning and often losing, about having a hero and then maybe not, about small human figures like shadow puppets made so huge against the light in all our eyes. I have seen this album live twice and both times I have stood very still with my spine very straight, paralyzed by the force of my own strange devotion, fist stuffed in my mouth sobbing during all the piano solos.

4) Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording), Hamilton Cast

Listen. I mean, listen. Everyone and their mother has heard of Hamilton now and the hype is very real but this is an album about the delicate suspension of myth and truth, about storytelling, and it is important not in spite of but partially because of what everyone says. There is a song on here about George Washington retiring and I cry and cry. I think a lot about wanting to be a story and this is an album about people who are also stories, the way we make those stories back into people when we reconstruct them in our minds. This album is crying about George Washington at 2 AM sitting on your bathroom floor and the tile cold underneath your palms, fingernails curling up—crying not really about George Washington at all.

Top Five Albums We Didn’t Really Talk About But Kenzie Wishes We Had

  1. Shamir, Ratchet
  2. Flo Morrissey, Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful
  3. The Dead Weather, Dodge and Burn
  4. CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
  5. Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material


  1. Big Grams, the self-titled EP by a group that consists of Big Boi (of Outkast) and Phantogram (of every indie kid’s dreams). It’s apparently not gotten great reviews, but I am intrigued enough by the premise that I would have listened to it had I not been looping Get Weird incessantly.

  2. Black Lines, by Mayday Parade. Nothing’s as good as their first album – the one before the vocalist with the scratchy voice left – but the following few had enough tracks that I really, really loved to keep me interested. If Revival hadn’t dropped on the very same day I might have noticed it.

  3. Tetsuo & Youth, by Lupe Fiasco. I am always trying to get back into Lupe Fiasco – there are three or four songs of his that I will never get over, and The Cool was really formative for me somehow, but I have never managed to like… keep up with him, if that makes sense. Like, I kind of didn’t know he was still making music. But I would have listened to this if I’d known about it. It probably doesn’t help that Reflection showed up about a week later and stole my heart.

  4. Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, by Courtney Barnett. She might win a Grammy! She might be the only one nominated who deserves a Grammy! I don’t know! I haven’t listened! I blame Froot for this one.

  5. Magnifique, by Ratatat. I didn’t even know that this had come OUT and honestly I am furious. I love Ratatat, like, a lot, and I wish I had known they had more music because I could have been listening to it all! damn! year! I don’t even have an excuse!

Honorable mentions: Motion City Soundtrack, Blitzen Trapper, The Neighbourhood. I was told (erroneously, apparently) by Wikipedia that we would get new Atomic Kitten this year, as well as Becky G, Crystal Castles, and – somehow – Fleetwood Mac. None of these things have occurred, although there are eleven days left in the year. I am hoping to expand my listening scope this coming year – most of these artists are those whose work I’ve previously enjoyed, and I still didn’t manage to hear any of their new music. And that’s not even getting into the artists I don’t know about! All I’m saying is that I tend to get into musical ruts, and this year was pretty good evidence of that. One of my resolutions for 2016 is to broaden my horizons. Hopefully next end-of-year will see me with a longer list of things I did listen to, rather than a still-meager list of could-haves.

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