With another 12 months in the books it’s tough to really explain how I feel about this past year’s crop of albums that have been regularly pouring from my speakers. Large amounts of mediocrity were quickly shuffled through while comprising this year’s favourites (make no mistake that this is a favourite list and not a best of), and it was during this sifting process that I realized the one album which left any kind of real impact was a cover album. Kind of odd, but it’s my list and I will allow it. Spoiler Alert – this list does not contain To Pimp A Butterfly and/or Currents and is more pop driven than anything.
With his take on Taylor Swift’s hit album 1989, Adams has swapped out a bright, celebrated pop-gem for a folk-rock creation that at times immerses itself within a dark prism of heartache and pain (no more apparent than on his takes of “Blank Space” and “Out Of The Woods). On Swift’s hit single “Shake It Off” and her album opener “Welcome To New York”, Adams channels his inner Bruce Springsteen; while his take on “Bad Blood” and “All You Had To Stay” confirm that no matter how lonesome and dark Ryan Adams may get, he still has an ear for bright pop sensibilities.
Muse have never been a band afraid to reinvent and challenge the ideas that make up each new passing album. On their 7th studio album Drones, that desire and ability to explore new sounds and concepts prove to be the boost that this British band desperately needed. In scaling back on the synth-pop undertones that filled the group’s prior two albums, Drones motions the band back towards the guitar heavy arena-rock sound that fans haven’t heard since Absolution.
Digging deep into the 80s soul that make up large parts of Brandon Flowers being, The Desired Effect is a brilliant piece of pop art that swirls about thanks to large disco-synth hooks and a bleeding desire to plunge even deeper into the era that legitimized Michael Jackson and Madonna as bonafide pop stars. Tracks “Can’t Deny My Love” and “I Can Change” could easily find themselves on any past Eurythmics album while “Lonely Town” could very well be an outtake from the sessions that made up The Killers’ 2008 album Day & Age. In my opinion, The Desired Effect was the best pop album released this past year.
Quick, short and to the point, The Struts’ release from 2015 might have only been a four song EP, but god damn it’s catchy. Big, booming, arena rock from start to finish, The Struts’ ability to pen an earworm is as good as anyone out there and Have You Heard should prove to be a drop in the bucket. With a sound and look that crosses past greats Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger, lead vocalist Luke Spiller and co have forged a sound that should pave the way for the next wave of Britpop rock stars.
Key Tracks – It’s a four song demo. They’re all key.
With Momentary Masters, vocalist/guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. has departed from The Strokes sound which you might have heard on his past solo outings, and has instead opted for a more individualistic and courageous experience. Littered with crisp and catchy arrangements, Momentary Masters will at times find itself swaying towards the indie-garage rock sound that helped to define one of the most successful bands of the past 20 years, but never fully commits to the idea.
On their third release, Please, Everyone, it’s become quite apparent that local lads Bruce Gillis and Mike Ryan have spent the past few years maturing while honing their songwriting skills both lyrically and musically. Drawing inspiration from Orwell’s 1984, the latest release from the Cape Breton duo is filled with songs questioning existence and reason but ultimately finds itself consistently swinging back to the idea that if you keep moving forward, everything will work out. Where The Town Heroes have started to separate themselves from the pack is their ability to perform with a ferocious energy while maintaining a cool and sleek stance from front to back. Keep your eyes peeled for the Heroes to be a breakout band in 2016.
Key Tracks – “Baton Rouge“, “Guts For Days”, “Constellations”
With their roots firmly planted in the jazz and funk realms, it was a great experience to hear that Mutemath have continued on their path of exploration and experimentation with their latest release Vitals. Loaded with 70s style synth beats, infectious dance grooves and colourful chorus arrangements, Vitals is an album sure to please on a pure sonic level. This album just grooves so much, it’s an massive head bobber.