When we look back on music in 2015, the conversation will be dominated by Adele who has sold almost seven million copies of her latest album, 25, in a little over a month. The second-best selling album of 2015? Taylor Swift’s 1989, which was released in 2014, and sold almost two million copies last year.
Adele has been the topic of conversation since November, but what about the other 11 months? Was music a barren wasteland until Adele emerged with “Hello,” and saved 2015 for the music industry?
Of course not. Kendrick Lamar released his third album, To Pimp A Butterfly, receiving 11 Grammy nominations and critical acclaim from pretty much everyone, including President Barack Obama. The Weeknd, Chris Stapleton, Alabama Shakes, and Jason Isbell achieved some mainstream success after years building small, but loyal followings. Miley Cyrus, Wilco, and Drake all continued the trend of artists releasing music unannounced, while Tool and Radiohead kept fans waiting another year for new albums that were supposedly just on the horizon.
I covered some of the above music in my post listing “The 15 Best Songs of 2015,” but I also had a lot of songs, albums, and moments from the past year that I didn’t (or couldn’t) include, so here is some of my favorite music from 2015.
Favorite Taylor Swift Cover: Screaming Females – “Shake It Off”
Everyone last year went crazy about Ryan Adams covering the entirety of Taylor Swift’s 1989, but I found the completed album kind of boring when compared to TSwift’s originals. The New Jersey trio, Screaming Females, on the other hand gave us this rocking rendition of “Shake it Off” for AV Club’s Undercover series. Along with winning the reader vote for best cover of the season (upsetting two-time defending champ GWAR), the band also released the great Rose Mountain in February.
Favorite Music Interview: Mike Watt on WTF with Marc Maron
The big news last year with WTF had to do with Marc Maron landing interviews with both President Obama and Lorne Michaels, Maron’s personal white whale. While those interviews were great, Maron has always been at his best when someone not as well-known as the president enters his garage. Mike Watt has been doing rock ‘n’ roll his way for over 30 years, from his time with The Minutemen and fIREHOSE to his more recent gig as the bassist for the reformed Stooges, and he covers all of it over the course of this 90-minute interview.
Second Favorite Music-Related News Story of the Year: Shane MacGowan’s New Teeth
Longtime fans of Celtic punk veterans The Pogues were well aware of lead singer Shane MacGowan’s grotesque dental issues. In 2009, his last two teeth were pulled, and he hated his dentures, so last year he received a new set of teeth (which, according to his wife, look like actor Michael Fassbender’s), and a documentary, Shane MacGowan: A Wreck Reborn, to go with them.
Second Favorite Album of 2015: Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
Three years ago, Josh Tillman left the wildly popular Fleet Foxes and created a new persona for himself, Father John Misty. His first album under that moniker, Fear Fun, was more adventurous than any of his previous solo efforts and Tillman found his new voice. The follow-up, I Love You, Honeybear, is equally adventurous, but also at times very bleak and dark as Tillman describes the relationship between himself and his wife.
Weirdest Music in A Commercial: Pantera’s “I’m Broken” for Carl’s Jr.
The fast food burger chain has used music from another metal act, Death Angel, in the past, so maybe this shouldn’t be that shocking, but something about hearing Dimebag Darrell’s riff while a burger floats in the air is a bit strange.
Favorite Music-Related Music Stories of the Year: Wu-Tang Clan on Divorce Court and involved in the Martin Shkreli FBI Investigation
In April, Nathan Sellers and Lia Palmquist appeared on Divorce Court with Sellers accusing Palmquist of sleeping with all nine members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Palmquist admits to hanging out with the group after a concert, but nothing more.
Last month, noted scumbag Martin Shkreli was arrested by the FBI for running a Ponzi scheme that lost millions for investors. In November, it was also announced that he bought the only copy of Wu-Tang’s latest album, Once Upon A Time in Shaolin, for a reported $2 million. After Shkreli’s arrest, fans clamored for information about the future of the album, which led to this tweet from the New York bureau of the FBI:
#Breaking no seizure warrant at the arrest of Martin Shkreli today, which means we didn’t seize the Wu-Tang Clan album.
— FBI New York (@NewYorkFBI) December 17, 2015
In Memoriam: Zune
Microsoft hasn’t officially been making their answer to Apple’s iPod, the Zune, since discontinuing hardware service in 2011, but they were still maintaining Zune streaming and downloading services until last year. Zune owners can still use the devices and transfer music to and from their PC, but they can’t stream online music. It wasn’t a total loss for Microsoft as the company used the Zune to test technologies later used for Windows 8 and the Surface tablet.
Favorite Album By a Band from Detroit (aka The Homer Pick): Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect
It took some convincing from a co-worker in 2014 to get me to listen to Detroit post punkers Protomartyr because I saw a somewhat boring cover of The Stooges’ “Down on the Street” online, but I’m glad he did. Protomartyr is the best band to emerge from Detroit since The White Stripes, and with The Agent Intellect, they gave us an album that is the perfect soundtrack for the recent struggles within Detroit and its continued push toward rebirth.
Favorite Supergroup of the Year: Childbirth
Featuring members of Seattle bands Chastity Belt, Tacocat, and Pony Time, Childbirth released Women’s Rights in 2015. Hitting on subjects like fertility, Tinder, and paternity with a dark sense of humor, this trio has created an album that was the most fun you could have spent with listening to music last year.
Favorite Album of 2015: Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett’s slacker identity fits with the 90s icons (Kurt Cobain, Stephen Malkmus) that she regularly is compared to, but Barnett’s songs tend to be more intimate and outwardly personal. There are no metaphors with Barnett; she wears everything on her sleeve and it translated into a great debut album for the Aussie.