Zweitausendfünfzehn — My Favorite Music of 2015

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There is no CD this year.

My listening habits have transformed over the last few years. I used to buy a few CDs every month, until I realized that I could buy more music for less money by buying MP3 downloads from Apple or Amazon. Last year I started to experiment with streaming services, a transition I completed in 2015. I started the year with Spotify, then switched to Apple Music when I saw how much easier it works in my iOS/OS X ecosystem. On an average work day, I listen to two new albums that I’ve never heard before. At the beginning of the year, I purchased the songs and albums that I really liked. But by late summer I realized that there was really no reason for that. I like something- I just save it to my library. Really good stuff gets downloaded to my devices. Are you still buying music? Why? Pay $10/month to get Apple Music or to turn off the ridiculous ads on Spotify and listen to whatever you want whenever you want. It’s much cheaper than buying a CD per month and gives you unlimited access to an enormous catalog of music.

Get a subscription to a streaming service and explore. Dig deep into the back catalogs of artists you’ve liked for years, or try something completely new. I listened to an obscure album that Justin Hayward and John Lodge put together during the mid-70s hiatus of the Moody Blues. I also listened to a lot of EDM, Country, and Jazz.

Don’t know what to try? Ask a friend. Or better, ask an acquaintance. You and your friends listen to the same stuff anyway. An acquaintance has a better chance of giving you new ideas. I got a list of six artists from the boyfriend of a professional classical cello player who’s the daughter of a software developer that I worked with 15 years ago.

Or read about it. It seems funny to extol the virtues of dead trees in a piece about the death of CDs, but I get a lot of ideas from Rolling Stone magazine. I found a great B.B. King album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds from an article I found there. I’ve also been working my way through their list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

And of course, there’s lots more of what you already like to listen to. Go back and dig up deep cuts from your favorite artists from years past. I found the wondrous treasure trove that is The 1971 Fillmore East Recordings from the Allman Brothers Band. It’s gold, people.

Oh, yes, and there are songs below too. While I thought seriously about just leaving you with a bunch of vague ideas, in the idea I came up with the Zweitausendfünfzehn list after all. Naturally, after a post about music streaming, it’s in the form of a playlist. Just click one of the links below:

  • 2015 Playlist on Apple Music Service costs $10/month, $15/month family plan. Three-month free trial membership available.
  • 2015 Playlist on Spotify Basic service is free; $10/month to listen to music ad-free and to download tracks to mobile devices for offline use.

This list, my 11th annual, is a sampler of my favorite music that I discovered this year. I hope you enjoy it.

1. New Word Order

The Word, Soul Food (2015)

The Word is a blues/rock supergroup formed from members of the North Mississippi Allstars and Medeski, Martin & Wood. Blues, funk, R&B, jazz, it’s all in here. This was my second-favorite album of the year.

Also recommended: When I See the Blood, Choocolate Cowboy, Play All Day

2. Bad Self Portraits

Lake Street Dive, Bad Self Portraits (2014)

Another song from the album was on last year’s list. I found that song first, liked it, then listened to the rest of the album after the deadline for last year’s collection.

Also recommended: You Go Down Smooth (which appeared in the Zweitausendvierzehn collection). The whole album is solid.

3. I’ve Got a Rock ‘N’ Roll Heart

Eric Clapton, Money and Cigarettes (1983)

How have I not heard this song before? Classic Eric Clapton from his best era. I thought I had filled my life’s quota for Eric Clapton, but I streamed a greatest hits collection on a whim and found this (by me) previously undiscovered gem.

4. Waiting on Words

The Black Keys, Turn Blue (2014)

I’ve heard this album compared to Pink Floyd- more mellow than El Camino.

Also recommended: Weight of Love, Turn Blue, 10 Loves, Gotta Get Away

(This track is not available on Spotify, and therefore missing from the Spotify version of this playlist)

5. Major Tom

Shiny Toy Guns, (single) (2009)

A number of covers made it to my collection this year. At first I felt guilty for including three of them, but everyone has their guilty pleasures. This is a cover of the 1983 hit by Peter Schilling.

6. A Placed Called Space

The Juan MacLean, In a Dream (2014)

Electronic dance music in the spirit of Moroder, who appeared in last year’s collection. describes this song as “Miami Vice-meets-Golden Earring guitar-strangling over the robo-beat”. Which clears it up considerably, don’t you think? Amusing note- the lead artist in The Juan MacLean is named John MacLean. I find that hilarious for some reason.

7. Bartender

Lady Antebellum, 747 (2014)

I listened to a lot more country in 2015. At one point I even created a 25 Greatest Country Songs of All Time playlist based on a Rolling Stone article. This song is labeled country but would more accurately be described as country-influenced pop.

8. Something From Nothing

Foo Fighters, Sonic Highways (2014)

My respect for Dave Grohl and his love and respect for music continues to grow. This is another great Foo Fighters album.

Also recommended: In the Clear, I Am a River

9. Bright Lights (Live)

Gary Clark Jr., Gary Clark Jr. Live (2014)

Gary Clark Jr. is one of the biggest forces in the blues today, giving a fresh take on blues roots music. This live concert album is filled with ridiculously good solos.

Also recommended: Don’t Owe You a Thang, Three O’Clock Blues, When My Train Pulls In

10. Dirty Deeds

Joan Jett, The Hit List (1990)

A classic rock singer doing a cover of the classic AC/DC song.

11. Tainted Love

Imelda May, Mayhem (2011)

The old Soft Cell dance single, gone rockabilly.

12. Stay Vicious

The Gaslight Anthem, Get Hurt (2015)

I’ve always been a big fan of the Gaslight Anthem. Get Hurt was a big exception. Outside of this leadoff track, I just couldn’t get excited about the album, even after repeated listenings.

13. Angels of Fenway

James Taylor, Before This World (2015)

Angels of Fenway is not the best song from James Taylor’s new album. That would be Far Afghanistan. But this is a song about the Red Sox, so… I still remember standing in the family room in October 2004, watching my Red Sox through a storm of static snow caused by poor TV reception. They won. They won. Oh my God they won.

Got Netflix? Watch Four Days in October.

14. Doing It To Death

Gov’t Mule, Sco-Mule (featuring John Scofield) (2015)

I saved the best for last. Sco-Mule was, without any doubt whatsoever, my Favorite Album of 2015. Nothing else even came close. Gov’t Mule is the jam band from Warren Haynes, who also played with the Allman Brothers Band. They did a series of concerts in 1999 with jazz guitarist John Scofield and created a double-album from it this year. It’s jam rock with heavy (heavy) jazz influences and wonderful tension-and-release rhythms. It was very hard to pick a favorite from this two-disc collection, but I ended with this song originally written by James Brown. Read a full-review of the album at AllMusic then do yourself a favor and listen to the full album on Apple Music or Spotify.

Pronounciation Guide

To native English speakers, Zweitausendfünfzehn looks intimidating, but it breaks down as follows:

  1. Zwei (2)- pronounced with an “s” sound, followed with “veye” (rhymes with eye), all packed into a single syllable
  2. tausend (1000)- pronounced like the English word “thousand”, replacing the “th” sound with a straight “t” sound (there’s no “th” sound in German)
  3. fünf (5)- pronounced like it sounds- you can (almost) ignore the umlaut in this case
  4. zehn (10)- pronounced like “czain”, with the “cz” from “czar.” German has a habit of switching the last two digits of their numbers- for example, “twenty-four” in English becomes “four-twenty” in German. It’s used to make my head hurt. But then Nate’s kindergarten (oops- another German word) teacher told us that her kids struggle with the numbers 13-19. Think about it…

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