Mini-reviews of 2015 albums

Compton: A Soundtrack by Dr. Dre 
New songs inspired by the film Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Has great production and amazing guests such as Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, and Snoop Dogg, but the lyrics reveal nothing groundbreaking. Similar to the movie, it’s entertaining, but sanitized. The violence of Dr Dre’s past is not delved into, instead he is content to rap about what is already in the movie. The album goes for homage and not revelations. “Animals” has a bit on his childhood and on the strong closer “Talking to My Diary” he makes peace with Eazy-E.
On a few tracks Dr. Dre looks at contemporary life, but unfortunately this is not particularly interesting. His evaluation on today others have said before.
The album is well-produced and sounds great, but if you put the effort in to reading all the lyrics you may come away feeling a little cheated. Perhaps the autobiographical aspects can be found in the biography by Ronin Ro.
Favorite lyric:
 “Man this industry to me, it feels a little plastic. I ain’t heard nothin’ that I can consider classic”
Rating 7/10

To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Not an easy listen. I’m actually surprised that this type of fast-paced and wordy hip hop is among the top 40 of the year’s biggest commercial sellers, because it’s quite demanding to listen to. In fact I can hardly keep up with this dude when he raps, even with the lyric sheet in front of me. Having said that, the album does have some outstanding moments.
“The Blacker the Berry” is a powerful call for race equality. “These Walls” is my favorite where I think the lyrics have substance and his vocal performance is the most pristine. “King Kunta” is maybe the catchiest offering, and “For Free? (Interlude)” could be a statement on how music is free today and the repercussions of that.
An album that will take a few plays to digest, so I’m hesitant to give it a rating at this time.
“You really think we could make a baby named Mercedes. Without a Mercedes Benz and twenty four inch rims”
“Been allergic to talkin’, been aversion to bullshit”
“My rights, my wrongs; I write ’til I’m right with God”
Rating: undecided

B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down by Kurt Vile
His sixth full-length solo studio release. The opening 4-5 songs are really good, with Outlaw the only misstep. “Lost My Head There” is the strongest tune from the second half of the album, a song that is quite different to the others in terms of production.
Right now #2 in my top 10 albums of the year. YouTube critic The Needle Drop was quite harsh in his assessment of the lyrics, which he deemed “empty and aimless”. I don’t think the writing is of paramount importance, it’s the guitars and mood that are the biggest assets in his music.
Favorite tracks: That’s Life, tho (almost hate to say), Lost My Head There, Pretty Pimpin, Wheelhouse, Dust Bunnies, Bad Omens,

Rating 8/10

Honeymoon by Lana Del Rey 
It’s pleasant, but a number of tracks failed to trigger an emotional response in me. For that reason it’s a patchy album where I pick out a few songs here and there I like: Terrence Loves You, The Blackest Day, and Salvatore. The latter I prefer the orchestral version of.
There’s still hope that I may grow to appreciate the album in the upcoming months. I didn’t connect with Ultraviolence (2014) right away either.

Rating 6.5/10

Have You in My Wilderness by Julia Holter
A critical darling. I like it, but I’m not as enthusiastic as others seem to be. I think Enya is the queen of this type of music and everyone else is fighting for runner up spots. Julia Holter’s album does have value and I appreciate what she went for in terms of mood. Probably an album that grows on you with repeat listens, and there’s more to it than simply the influence of Enya.
Favorite tracks: Feel You, Sea Calls Me Home, Everytime Boots
Rating 7/10

Depression Cherry by Beach House
Favorite album of the year! Good from start to finish. Songs work well as a cohesive whole. Goes for atmosphere, but I admit there aren’t any big hits. A change of pace compared to 2012’s Bloom, which went for a rockier sound. Depression Cherry goes for a softer, mellower approach, which is reminiscent of their earlier albums.
Rating 9/10

Universal Themes by Sun Kil Moon
Similar to Benji (2014), the confessional lyrics are like reading his diary entries. This time, the storytelling has its emotionally involving moments, such as the ending of “The Possum”, and the track “Garden of Lavender”, but overall feels too self-indulgent and not as deeply affecting as his previous album. You could call Universal Themes the B-side, and Benji the A-side.
Rating 6.5/10

E•MO•TION by Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen surprised me, because her old stuff didn’t really appeal to my taste. Her new album is so upbeat and happy and puts me in a good mood, and I’m a fan of the 80s pop vibe. I mainly have praise for the opening five tracks, as there are a few skippable tracks on the second half of the album. The stand-out of tracks 6-12 is “Let’s Get Lost”. I agree with those critics who say it’s a superior pop record to last year’s 1989 by Taylor Swift.
Rating 7.5/10

Vega Intl. Night School by Neon Indian
I don’t understand the positive reviews this has received? I enjoyed his last album Era Extraña (2011) a lot, which had a great atmosphere and songs I still play.
The new LP again goes for an 80s throwback but failed to deliver music I would go back to, except “Smut!” and the Prince-like closer “News From The Sun”, which are at least tolerable. I liked the intro on “Slumlord”, but a disappointing album. Many of the tunes annoyed me.
Rating 4/10

Thank Your Lucky Stars by Beach House (released October 16)
I just listened to their new album on spotify, and while it has its moments (Elegy to the Void, The Traveller, Somewhere Tonight, All your Yeahs), there are other tracks that seemed too repetitive in terms of instrumentation. The album is quite good and better than I anticipated, but I prefer what the group did on Depression Cherry this year.
Rating 7/10

Have you listened to any of these albums? What did you think? Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome 

New Bond song Writing’s On the Wall by Sam Smith

In a weaker era for popular music which the 2010s is I suppose you have to expect a weaker Bond song. I’ve played Writing’s On the Wall by Sam Smith a few times in the last couple of days and it’s not growing on me. I wish they had picked another singer such as Lana del Rey, her powerful voice is a far better match.

Sam Smith’s high pitched vocal performance seems wrong for a film about a macho action hero like James Bond. He told NPR. “Writing’s on the Wall” is supposed to be from Bond’s perspective—“I wanted a touch of vulnerability from Bond, where you see into his heart a little bit”. Perhaps in Spectre (2015) we will see an emotionally vulnerable 007.

Unfortunately the new song is quite annoying because of the vocal delivery. Sam Smith was selected because his debut album In The Lonely Hour (2014) was a big international chart success.

If you go online, the theme has its fans, yet many were underwhelmed. BBC entertainment correspondent Colin Paterson said it was “good enough, but not a classic“. What do you think?

New songs I’m listening to

The Only Thing Worth Fighting For by Lera Lynn (True Detective, Season 2)

It Gonna Come by Melody Gardot

B a noBody by SOAK

Sitting Up On Our Crane by Pond

Wallflower by Peacock Affect/George Holman  (listen to his other material here)

Fade Away by Susanne Sundfør

A Million Stars by McCluskey, Kroehler, Antonoff, Dost  (The D Train soundtrack)

I have not previously shared any of these tunes. All are from 2014-2015 albums. Are you familiar with any of these artists? Which new or old music are you currently listening to?

Top 50 songs of 2015 so far (tracks 1-25)

You can listen to the music on the YouTube playlist I created.

I also added my top 50 to a Spotify playlist

1.) Let It Happen by Tame Impala

2.) Where the Sky Hangs by Passion Pit

3.) True Survivor by David Hasselhoff (from Kung Fury soundtrack)

4.) Need You Now by Hot Chip

5.) Love Me Like You Do by Ellie Goulding (Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack)

6.) REALiTi by Grimes

7.) Stonemilker by Björk

8.) Play for Today by Belle and Sebastian

9.)  Strange by Laura Marling

10.)  Fourth of July by Sufjan Stevens

11.) Dark Bird Is Home by The Tallest Man On Earth

12.) Running Out Of Time by Toto

13.) 21st Century Blues by Toto

14.) When The Lights Turn Out by Twin Shadow

15.) Dreams by Beck

16.) Buffalo by Toro Y Moi

17.) Tell Me (Feat. Saoirse Ronan) by Johnny Jewel (Lost River soundtrack)

18.) Bunker Buster by Viet Cong

19.) Baltimore by Prince (protest song) (not on YouTube or Spotify)

20.)  I Really Like You by Carly Rae Jepsen

21.) Can’t Deny My Love by Brandon Flowers

22.) Right Here Right Now by Kylie Minogue and Giorgio Moroder

23.) Yes by Chromatics (Love Theme) (Lost River soundtrack)

24.) On Fire by Garbage

25.) Change Is Everything by Son Lux

Agree or disagree? How many of these have you heard? Did I share something you want to listen to? As always, comments are welcome

Top 50 songs of 2015 so far (tracks 26-50)

You can listen to the music on the YouTube playlist I created.

I also added my top 50 to a Spotify playlist

26.) Duke of Burgundy (Opening Credits) by Cat’s Eyes (Duke of Burgundy soundtrack)

27.) The Party Line by Belle and Sebastian

28.) All That by Carly Rae Jepsen

29.) Great Expectations by Toto

30.) Garden of Lavender by Sun Kil Moon (not on YouTube)

31.) Shégué by Mbongwana Star

32.) King Kunta by Kendrick Lamar

33.) Uptown Funk ft. Bruno Mars by Mark Ronson

34.) Living for Love by Madonna

35.) Sunshine On My Back by The National

36.) Leaf Off /The Cave by Jose Gonzalez

37.) Easy To Get by Hot Chip

38.) Laughing In The Sugar Bowl by Veruca Salt

39.) The Beginning by Levon Vincent (Not on Spotify)

40.) 74 Is the New 24 by Giorgio Moroder

41.) Lionsong by Björk

42.) Way It Is, Way It Could Be by The Weather Station

43.) The House by Le Volume Courbe and Kevin Shields (2015 version) (Not on Spotify)

44. Welcome To Love by Young Ejecta

45.) Lampshades on Fire by Modest Mouse

46.) Vortex by John Carpenter

47.) Saturns Pattern by Paul Weller

48.) Eventually by Tame Impala

49.) Feeling Ok by Best Coast

50.) Brothers In Arms by Tom Holkenborg aka Junkie XL (Mad Max : Fury Road soundtrack)

Have you listened to any of these? What did you think? Which are your favorites of 2015 so far?