Best Of 2015, Editor-in-Chief Edition
I thought a lot about what a traditional end-of-year list would look like for me, and while I have a handful of albums that I might consider my “favorites” under other circumstances, the fact of the matter is 2015 was not a “traditional” year for me; it was one filled with personal and professional transformation, and as such, the irregular nature of this post reflects that.
Julia Nunes – Some Feelings
So, I have a lot of feelings about Some Feelings. Julia Nunes has the unique ability of making ukulele-based music sound happy and uplifting one minute and heart-achingly bleak the next. It is this dichotomy, and the album’s back-and-forth nature of its songs, that make Some Feelings so remarkable, and my most important album of the year. Nunes said about the album, “[it] chronicles my realizations about how shitty I let my life get…There are songs about looking back in horror, and looking forward with hope. You also get to hear me fall in love again, which is dope.”
The latter part of that statement is undeniably true; songs like “Make Out” had me cheering. The former is there too, and she doesn’t hold back; “Fondly Enough” crushed me so thoroughly I needed a few moments to collect myself before doing literally anything else. There’s a moment in that song when her voice is just about to crack, when all that pain and angst is about to burst through the surface… I can hardly listen to it without breaking, I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like to record – or how many takes it required.
Those may be the two extremes of Some Feelings – and the fact that they’re the last two songs is beautiful – but there’s plenty in the middle too; about doubt, self-discovery, and making it through to the other side. There’s a passage in “Something Bad” that may be my favorite verse of the year:
I wanna kiss somebody else without thinking about your lips / I wanna kiss somebody without my heart about to rip / I wanna make so many mistakes that you’re lowest on the list / I wanna make mistakes and I want you to hear about it
I’ve found myself wondering what the album would sound like if you rearranged all 11 tracks into a linear narrative, and while I think that would be an interesting concept, it misses the point of Some Feelings’ structure. We may move forward — linearly — in time, but we are shaped by our experiences and our choices, and we mustn’t ignore them as we define our future.
Listen to: “Then OK”, “Something Bad”, “Make Out”
Greg Holden – Chase The Sun
Chase The Sun was almost an album that didn’t happen. In fact, it may never have happened at all if weren’t for Greg Holden’s co-songwriting work on the now ubiquitous “Home”, the very song that’s been stuck in everyone’s heads thanks to Phillip Phillips since winning American Idol in 2012. Before all of that happened, Holden had all but hung up his guitar and given up music altogether. The success of “Home” and a life-changing trip to India and Nepal later, Chase The Sun was born.
There’s no question that the resulting 11 songs are undeniably Holden, but their spirit, their very soul is so markedly different from his last album, 2011’s I Don’t Believe You. I had the opportunity to interview Holden in June of 2014, about 10 months prior to the album’s release, and when he spoke about the recording process, and upon introducing those new songs during his set later that night, you could sense the level of excitement and pride that he felt about what he and producer Greg Wells had put together.
I ended my review of Chase The Sun with the following: The late Jim Valvano spoke of three things we should do everyday: “Number one is laugh. Number two is think – spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think, and cry – that’s a heck of a day.” Listening to Chase The Sun, I can’t help but cycle through Valvano’s tenets – and I’ll be damned if that’s not what music is supposed to do in the first place.
Listen to: “Give It Away”, “Save Yourself”, “Boys In The Street”
Other 2015 favorites, in no particular order:
My favorite posts of the year:
My second interview with Irish singer-songwriter Janet Devlin of the year. We talked for half an hour about pretty much everything, and I can’t wait to do it again.
This part confessional, part story time, part book review I wrote on the anniversary of Robin Williams’ death and Jamie Tworkowski’s book, If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For.
My interview and photos of Born Cages from this past Summer’s Warped Tour. As good as their album is, this trio is even better live. I can’t wait to see what they do in 2016.
And lastly, this interview with MC Lars, also from Warped Tour. He was so genuine in his responses, about the music industry, his career, and why he writes the songs he does.
And with that I’m just about ready to close the book on 2015. Here’s to a great 2016. Happy New Year!