After barely registering with our voters for her 2011 album Strange Mercy, St. Vincent burst into our collective musical consciousness in 2014 with the confident and groundbreaking (and eponymously named) St. Vincent. Annie Clark’s fourth studio album (if you don’t count such collaborations as the one she had with David Byrne in 2012), St. Vincent is a powerful addition to a discography already rich with quality. Every song on the album resonates and displays such diverse influences as classic rock, prog rock and jazz. Clark’s commentary on the Internet and society’s obsession with “screens” is confidently conveyed. Listeners can either appreciate the little details or let the music wash over them as a while. It works on multiple levels.
2015 Calvin Awards: Best Album
By Kim Hollis
February 9, 2015
Just missing the top spot is a previous winner in this category. In our first ever award in this category, The New Pornographers won the prize for the 2005 album Twin Cinema. Now they’re back with Brill Bruisers, a return to form after a few albums that suffered a bit from the fact that Dan Bejar, A.C. Newman and Neko Case were focused on more personal side projects. If you listen carefully, you can hear a touch of Fleetwood Mac, a pinch of the Who, a bit of glam and even a smidgen of psychedelia. It’s an album that demands to be heard multiple times before its themes and ideas emerge.
Depression is challenging subject matter no matter the artistic venue, but The War on Drugs created a relatable, thought-provoking album in Lost in the Dream. With an ‘80s rock influence, the introspective tunes will make you reflective about your past and hopeful for your future.
Fourth place goes to an album that was the cause of some controversy in 2015. On September 9th, U2 performed the first single from their album Songs of Innocence at the Apple product launch event for the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch. That same day, they released the album free to all iTunes users. It proved to be the very example of people looking a gift horse in the mouth, as the album was automatically added to libraries, an inconvenience that enraged some clients. As for us here at BOP, we were perfectly pleased to have the opportunity to listen and own Songs of Innocence for free.
Rounding out our top five is Jenny Lewis’s The Voyager, which critics called “a grower.” Fans of Lewis (and Rilo Kiley) will be familiar with her achingly lovely voice, and it’s on full display here. The songs on the album are underscored with pain that is somehow packaged in the form of unpretentious pop melodies. Savvy listeners will catch a touch of humor, too.
Breaking up the run on alt and indie rock is an entry from the hip-hop duo Run the Jewels. Apparently, we really, really like getting music for free, because like U2’s Songs of Innocence, Run the Jewels 2 was released for free on iTunes. Where the band’s eponymous first album was well loved, this “sequel” exceeded it in every way. Its criticisms of abuses of power by the police were timely and impactful, packing a wallop that cannot be ignored.
The luscious Stay Gold from Swedish band First Aid Kit takes seventh place thanks to expansive melodies and a soaring folk-country vibe. The single “My Silver Lining” burst onto the scene and made people take notice, but the entire album is confident and beautifully harmonized. The Söderberg sisters provide one of the most exciting breakthrough stories of the year.
We maintain the Swedish theme as Lykke Li’s I Never Learn is next on our list. She follows up her acclaimed albums Youth Novels and Wounded Rhymes with this ambitious breakup album that has a sense of tenderness surrounding it.
Our ninth place performer proves that we’re not total music snobs and that we can enjoy the occasional mainstream selection as well. Taylor Swift’s 1989 is completely unlike anything she’s ever done before, a pop candy confection with choruses and hooks that will lodge themselves firmly within your brain.
The final entry in our top 10 is reserved for Jack White and his latest album, Lazaretto. When he’s not busy looking miserable at Cubs games, White is pretty great at writing songs, and the ones featured on this album were inspired by some short stories, poems and plays that he wrote when he was 19-years-old and recently rediscovered in an attic. As always, there’s a hint of genius surrounding the work, which combines blues, garage rock and a multitude of other genres for a unique, Frankensteined-together sound.
A few of the albums that just missed making the cut for us include Beck’s Morning Phase, Shriek by Wye Oak, The Both’s eponymous album, Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes and Mended with Gold by The Rural Alberta Advantage.
2015 Calvin Awards
Best Overlooked Film
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best TV Show
Best Use of Music