Audiophile : Akwitz

From A to Z: Discovering new music so you don't have to…

Leave a comment

The Audiophile: Top Albums of 2015



We have now made it to 2016 and therefore let’s put 2015 to bed with a recap of the best 2015 had to offer musically.    In this now my third edition of the Audiophile Top lists since the blog’s inception, I would have to rank the music of 2015 with a grade of B and 2nd behind 2013 which would definitely be considered a high-water mark for music so far in this decade.  In my previous post I provided the Top 51 Albums of 2015. Now, we whittle that original list of 51 down to a size much more manageable and easier to consume, a top 10.   These albums consumed the Audiophile’s ears this year as they were compelling on multiple levels and had numerous tracks to hear on repeat.  So who won the year?  It was a tough and close fought battle (with everyone being a winner thanks to the quality music), but without further ado, I give you your top 10:



SOAK – Before We Forgot How To Dream

It’s quite an accomplishment for an artist’s début album to break the top 10 of the year.  It’s even more so when you accomplish this at the tender age of 19 like that of SOAK.  Ireland’s very own Bridie Monds-Watson put together a compelling and inspiring album.  Heartfelt, evocative and incredibly relatable, the youngster’s lyrics are far beyond her age, be it on the tracks B a noBody, Blud, Shuvels  or Sea Creatures.  Her breathy voice and the indie folk she creates was worthy of a 2015 Mercury Prize nomination and equally worthy of this place here on the countdown.  Not only that, but when you can get a fellow artist who is also on this list (CHVRCHES) to remix your tracks, you know you’ve got some definite traction.



Leon Bridges – Coming Home

“A return to an old and familiar sound and style” may be the words best to describe another début on this countdown from Fort Worth, Texas.  Leon Bridges‘ album is a wonderful mix of Soul, R&B and Gospel and has a very recognizable quality to it.  Along with the quality of his voice and overall compilation of his work on the album, this album deserves all the credit it is due.  The tracks Coming Home, Smooth Sailin’, Better Man and River are all standouts on a very strong release.





Ratatat – Magnifique

It isn’t very often that you have an instrumental album make a “Top…” list, but Ratatat’s return with their fifth studio album Magnifique after a 5-year absence was down right awesome.  Be it the lead single Cream On Chrome, second single Abrasive or the industrious and industrial Nightclub Amnesia, this album delivers over and over without a single lyric.  Artfully crafted licks and dance-paced tracks make this a great listen at any time of the day.






Purity Ring – Another Eternity

The Canadian duo’s sophomore effort was well deserving of a Top 10 spot this year.  Purity Ring’s début album was strong on its own, and what better way to follow that up than with another equally strong, (if not even better) album?  That’s exactly what they did in 2015 with Another Eternity.  Whether your favorite track was push pull, bodyache or begin again, you really couldn’t go wrong as the album is a complete one from start to finish.  Their sound and style is quite unique and they are part of a string of musicians coming out of the Great White North with a ton of quality new music lately.





Tame Impala – Currents

A lot of other music sites,writers and panels have placed this album much higher on their charts than we do here, but to tell you the truth, it was not my favorite Tame Impala album.  Don’t get me wrong, Kevin Parker and company put together quite the solid album, but Currents was a departure from previous albums’ style which I thoroughly enjoyed.   For what it was though, it truly is an excellent piece of work.  The opening track Let It Happen is an almost 8-minute long dance track that is equal parts compelling as it is trippy and dance-friendly.  Meanwhile, other singles like Cause I’m A Man (which got the remix/rework/cover treatment from an Audiophile favorite, HaimEventually and The Less I Know The Better are all equally compelling in their own right.  There is much to discover on this album and a complete listen through from start to finish is much needed to truly grasp the quality of this album.





We now break into the upper echelon, the Top 5.  In truth, these albums could all be tossed around and reordered depending on the day, but they were by far the most complete and thoroughly enjoyable albums of 2015 in our minds.



CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye

Glaswegian’s Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty who make up the trio known as CHVRCHES had a lot to live up to with their sophomore album after the meteoric success of their début album The Bones Of What You BelieveWere the banded destined for a sophomore slump with Every Open Eye?  Common sense pointed to yes, however what the group delivered was not to be the case.  This album delivers on every front cover to cover.  Beginning with Never Ending Circles and seeing its way through to the closer Afterglow, the album is track after track of uplifting, energetic and exciting Synthpop.  The album is incredibly dancey and enjoyable.  There are many tracks vying for personal favorite on the album too: Leave A Trace, Clearest Blue, and Empty Threat are all definite contenders worthy of this honor, while Make Them Gold and Bury It are close behind.  You really can’t miss listening to any track on this album.






Foals – What Went Down

There is a special place in my heart for the music that UK act Foals make, and maybe this is why they are ranked so highly on this year’s Top Albums of 2015.  But then again, when you actually get into and listen to What Went Down in its entirety, there is good reason this album landed where it did.  The lead single Mountain At My Gates is an absolute CRUSHER of a song that I have yet to get tired of (nor do I think I ever will).  Outside of the lead single though you still have plenty to look forward to, whether it is the opening and title track What Went Down, or closer A Knife In The Ocean, or any one of the numerous tracks in between such as Birch Tree, Albatross, Night SwimmersLondon Thunder or Give It All, the album is track after track after track of quality.  The 10-track album is jam-packed with music that just swells over and over with increasing tenacity and fervor, washing over you with walls of auditory bliss.







Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

Aussie Courtney Barnett has had a tremendous 2015.  Not only did she release her official début LP Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Ignoring the double EP release in 2014), but she has also been nominated for a Grammy award for “Best New Artist” (albeit it is the Grammys and many people don’t put very much stock in the award itself), won 4 ARIA Awards as well as Triple J’s J Award (Australia’s Album of the Year) all in 2015.  These accolades are WELL deserved though, as this album is killer.  The lead single Pedestrian At Best is a garage rock anthem while less high energy tracks such as Depreston are cutting and lyrically brilliant.  Barnett’s music is consistently of the storytelling variety and her lyrics are both cutting and poignant.  Add into the mix that she’s a lefty and this girl oozes cool.   You don’t want to sleep on the tracks Dead Fox, Elevator Operator, Aqua Profonda!, Nobody Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party and album closer Boxing Day Blues.  This album has a lot to offer and lots of different styles that you really must listen to if you haven’t explored it just yet.  It is #3 for good reason!






Jamie xx – In Colour


Jamie xx’s debut solo album was by far my biggest surprise of the year in terms of quality.  One third of the down-tempo UK band The xxJamie xx absolutely crushed it out of the park with In Colour This album is absolutely perfect driving music with the right beats and pace.  Whether you are listening to the massive album opener Gosh (with equally massive music video) or the closer Girl the album flows smoothly from track to track with numerous inflection points and differences of style.  Familiar faces show up on the album to assist in its creation including  the likes of Romy and Oliver (of The xx) on a number of the tracks including the  lead single, Loud Places.  SeeSaw is another enjoyable piece of music as well as The Rest Is Noise.  Last  but not least, probably what surprisingly enough was my personal favorite (and is by far the biggest outlier on the album) was the second single and lights out track I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) which also features dancehall artist Popcaanrapper Young Thug and a sample from Afro a cappella group The Persuasions.  This album may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was definitely a big winner here at The Audiophile!








And finally we get to The Audiophile’s top album of 2015…




Modest Mouse – Strangers To Ourselves

What is there to say about Modest Mouse’s first album in 8 long years?  The group’s return with Strangers To Ourselves hits on so many levels.  The album is lyrically cutting, culturally relevant, is heavily Pacific Northwest-influenced and overall incredibly unique to the garage rockers turned fully alternative artists known as Modest Mouse.  The album varies in styles throughout the album, sharing with listeners different phases of the band’s musical expression and delivery through its history of being.  The album begins with the title track, Strangers To Ourselves, a slow and melancholy piece that lulls you into a false sense of calm before breaking into the lead single Lampshades On Fire.  Follow this with Shit In Your Cut, Pistol (A Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996) and Ansel, each vastly different and dynamic in their own ways while still epitomizing the sound that can only be labelled as from the minds of Isaac Brock and company.  The band released a handful of tracks before the album officially dropped in March and the second single The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box was one of the four tracks released prior to this.  This track is a psychedelic freak out if I’ve ever seen one, and comes equipped with a trippy music video to match. The track that follows has to be my favorite on the album, Coyotes.  Surprisingly down-tempo and incredibly revelatory, the track delivers on multiple fronts with tremendous success.  As the album progresses further down the rabbit hole of sorts different directions are taken and lyrics appear which are even more out there and plaintive.  The band has always had base, pessimistic and downright heart-rending lyrics pertaining to their view of the world and man’s impact on it, but this album drives hard on that theme whether in Pups To Dust, Wicked Campaign or God is an Indian and You’re An Asshole.  Be Brave is among the muck and the mire of the middle tracks but should not be overlooked.  The final track to be released prior to albums actual release was the album’s fourth single The Best Room.  Equally impressive as the other singles although it comes as a very deep cut on the album.  Just as the album opened with a slow and melancholy track, the bookend track to close it out,  Of Course We Know, is equally slow and melancholy and the perfect way to cap off what can only be considered a musical journey in that of Strangers To Ourselves.  It is for reasons like that, that this album is rises to the top of 2015.  From beginning to end, the 15-track album offers something different with each track, equally compelling, evocative and interesting.  Each track may not be your favorite, but each track is deserving of a place on the album and for that reason, also deserving of the title of Top Album of 2015.






Now with our Top 10 finally delivered, we look forward to an optimistic 2016 with many returns from acts we have loved from the past as well as numerous new discoveries.  One can only hope 2016 trumps 2013 in terms of music, as the world would no doubt enjoy it!

Also, don’t miss out on the results for the Top Tracks of 2015 as well!

Once again, here were your top 51 albums of 2015:


Was something omitted from the list?  Speak up and share your opinion! Discussion is always appreciated.

If you haven’t heard some of these albums, have no fear! I’ve made a playlist with them all in it for your listening enjoyment right here:

Playlist: The Audiophile: Top 51 Albums of 2015

and don’t forget to follow on Facebook, Twitter at @AudiofileAkwitz  and Instagram @Audiophileakwitz to get even more music updates that don’t make the posts.


Now Playing: The Audiophile: Top 51 Albums of 2015


1 Comment

The Audiophile: Top 51 Albums of 2015 – VOTE


As 2015 winds to a close, the annual Audiophile Top 51 lists appear to recap what was great about this year in music.

While the music industry as a whole faces an ever-changing delivery and format dilemma, one thing continues to remain true; artists new and old continue to develop and create new music worthy of devoting our ears’ attention to it.  Some artists are capable of putting out one really great track that entices and absorbs your attention, others are able to plan it out and give you that good slow burn throughout the entirety of an album.  It’s the latter that we want to focus on here, as it takes a lot more skill and effort to really create a body of work that is both intriguing and enjoyable without being one-dimensional or repetitive to the point of the listener zoning out.  Here at the Audiophile we try to separate the wheat from the chaff and provide you with this year’s big winners who have been able to successfully compel audiences with more than just one hit single, with the truly prestigious delivering at all levels.  51 is the number we propose to highlight and hopefully you agree (or please, vocally disagree if you feel an artist was slighted or missed).  Feel free to listen and vote on your favorites and the year’s big winners will be posted at the end of December.

Also, don’t miss out on voting for your Top Track of 2015 as well!

Now, without further ado, in no particular order, your top 51 albums of 2015:

Be sure to vote for your favorite:

Did I miss someone or leave them off the list?  There are some notable absences from the list this year, including the likes of Grimes, The Decemberists, Sleater-KinneyLana Del ReyChris Cornell, Coldplay and Mumford & Sons  Were these artists’ absences  (or others) warranted? Discussion is always appreciated.

If you haven’t heard some of these albums, have no fear! I’ve made a playlist with them all in it for your listening enjoyment right here:

Playlist: The Audiophile: Top 51 Albums of 2015

and as always, don’t forget to follow on Facebook and on Twitter at @AudiofileAkwitz to get even more content that doesn’t make the posts here.


Now Playing: The Audiophile: Top 51 Albums of 2015

Leave a comment

New Music Tuesdays – March’s Madness Edition


We are four weeks into March and the music just keeps coming.  While most of the US spent this past weekend fretting over basketball brackets, the music industry was scheduling music delivery for today.  Am I complaining? Heck no!  This week marked my biggest haul of the year so far, with 7 albums purchased (5 of which released this week).  I felt the urge to buy everything that came out this week, and that’s a great thing to say for the music industry.  Well, who needs a long introduction, let’s just get into the music already, right?

We start with what has to be the album of the week, and a definite Album Of The Year contender, Courtney Barnett’s début full-length LP, Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit.

The Australian songstress is just that.  Exploding on the scene in 2013 and releasing a double EP last year, her first official LP hits with as much ferocity as the previous releases.  Courtney has already become known for her deadpan storyteller delivery and her imaginative, self-deprecating lyrics.  Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit follows in the same footsteps in terms of writing style and maintains that fuzzy garage-styled aesthetic sound.  The album is an enjoyment to listen to and features the lead single Pedestrian At Best.

There is much more than just that track however.  I thoroughly enjoyed An Illustration Of Loneliness (Sleepless In New York) and the track Depreston is getting a lot of airplay which will probably result in it being named the second single (if not already).

The entire album is a work of master craftsmanship for something that has been termed “slacker rock”.  Courtney is far from lazy on the album and apparently was the talk of the town this past week at SXSW.  I also can’t pass up the opportunity to talk about a song on the album named Debbie Downer.

When you pen a song and name it after a familiar trope that spurned a hilariously over-the-top SNL skit, how can you not succeed?  The most ironic part of the track is that it is quite the uplifting and happy song, completely counter-intuitive to its title.  It’s simple things like this that show off Courtney Barnett’s wit and clever songwriting.  She doesn’t utilize complicated licks or even instrumental solos, but prefers simple transitions and easily replicated riffs to aid the listener in honing in on the important parts of her music, the words.  In perfect contradiction to my previous sentence, I also enjoyed the track Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party, which sure enough, has a small (yet still there) guitar solo in it.  Discover the rest of the album for yourself, I can assure you, it won’t be a waste of your time.


Next on the list today is another début full-length album.  This one comes from Big Data with their album 2.0.

Yes, that is in fact the album cover pictured above.  The début features the tracks you no doubt have more than likely heard on major radio by now, Dangerous (feat. Joywave) and possibly even The Business Of Emotion (feat. White Sea).

There is much more to this album however.  The electro-pop producer intended to capture a humans vs. technology theme on the album, and he pretty much succeeded.  Loaded with features, including the likes of Jamie LiddellRivers Cuomo (of Weezer), KimbraTwin Shadow, Bear Handsand even Jenn Wasner (of Flock Of Dimes and Wye Oak) each track has a unique feel to it.  The underlying connection however is the supporting instrumentation, put together by Harvard grad and primary creative lead for the group Alan Wilkis.  The lone track not including a feature is the track Big Dater and is a effects-laden track, computerized bass-heavy track which even includes a bridge featuring the original internet dial-up sound (remember those AOL disks anyone?)


Next, we’ve got the “next big thing” in the terms of the potential of following in the footsteps of a Phillip Phillips or Vance Joy type musical character (although Spotify wants to tie him to Foy Vance, Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard), Mr. James Bay.  His début album out this week is Chaos And The Calm.

His foot-stomping début features the lead single Hold Back The River which has (as of  03.24.2015) over 41 million streams on Spotify already.  Based on those numbers, if you have yet to hear him on radio, you aren’t listening.

The album is much more than just that single track however.  The opening track Craving is a high-energy heartfelt track that gives the listener an immediate example of what to expect on the entire album.  Let It Go (no it’s not a Frozen cover) was the buzz track from his EP of the same name that truly broke the English boy onto the scene.

The boy really has some pipes on him, and just enough rasp to add a bit of sex appeal.  Meanwhile, tracks like If You Ever Want To Be In Love and When We Were On Fire add a wholesome and happy summer vibe to the album.  The album ranges from softer, soulful ballads like Move Together and Scars to the upbeat romps like Best Fake Smile and .  The album is folk/country pop through and through.  It’s been produced in a way that it is easily digested by the mass audiences that you can hear in similar music from the likes of Ed Sheeran and Kid Rock.  Is this a bad thing?  Yes and no.  James Bay is talented, without a doubt, and it is a bit of a shame that he has been shaped into this pop mold, but you can tell his live show has to be top-notch.  He sings with too much raw emotion not to perform well live.  Outside of the out-and-out singles from the album (which are stellar), my next favorite track is probably Collide.  It has that classic Rhythm & Blues feel to it with the keys that takes you back to all the great original rockers.  This album is definitely a Summer album and going to get a lot more spins as the weather heats up and more time is spent outdoors.

Lastly, we’ve got the physical release from everyone’s favorite kooky Icelandic lady, Björk with her album Vulnicura.

The album featured two images (shown above) with the first one being the official album cover, and the latter being the cover sleeve.  After the album leaked online more than a month ahead of the official release, Björk released it online for purchase, but refused to post it publicly on Spotify for streaming purposes.  The album itself features the lead single and kickoff track Stonemilker.  The track features a full orchestra and utilizes classical volume transitions to add a level of depth that is too often forgotten about in the new music of today.  The album features only 9 tracks, but the album comes in at just under an hour in length (0:58) with all but two songs being 6 minutes or longer.  In reality, a majority of the album is orchestral based, and this is personally a welcome change of pace to listen to in today’s Indie/Electronic/Underground/Pop/Rock environment.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the tracks Lionsong, FamilyAtom Song (which is the only track on the album which features additional vocalists) and Black Lake. If you can find them online, I strongly urge you to listen to them.

Björk is definitely not for everyone, and I did not really take a liking to her music until relatively recently, but if you do quirky, complexly comprised musical structures outside of your standard 4/4 meter, you could definitely find joy in this album.

At this time, I will skip over the other albums I picked up today, but that is not because they are not worth mentioning.  Each of the remaining purchases from today is worth more than one listen and could easily make the end-of-the-year Best Of… lists.  Also, in an apparent oversight, I missed out on picking up the new album from Washington all-girl group Chastity Belt but did listen to it today on Spotify and it is definitely worth a listen as well.

Finally, I will leave you with a track that will be featured on the upcoming new album from the Brooklyn-based band San Fermin which, from the sound of the single, may go in a vastly different direction than their début album.

And now, as always, here was everything acquired on this New Release Tuesday:

and be sure to follow on Facebook and on Twitter @AudiofileAkwitz to get even more music updates that don’t make the posts.

Spotify Playlists:


Now Playing: San Fermin – Jackrabbit