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Waxahatchee - Ivy TrippWaxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

Philadelphia’s, by way of Birmingham, AL, Waxahatchee is the solo project of Katie Crutchfield, who makes DIY singer/songwriter, punk.  Ivy Tripp is Waxahatchee’s fantastic third full length album, first for the like minded Merge Records, and continues Crutchfield’s exploration of feminist ideas that goes back to her pre-Waxahatchee bands P.S. Eliot and The Ackleys.  Ivy Tripp‘s lyrics use Crutchfield’s experiences, or more specifically her mistakes, to demonstrate how a strong, independent woman is formed in today’s society, but it’s clear she’s just an example and makes no claim at creating a road map.  Even if you aren’t interested in the lyrics, though, (and really, whether you’re male or female, liberal or conservative, you should be interested) there is a lot to enjoy on Ivy Tripp.

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Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & LowellSufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

If there were questions as to the direction Sufjan Stevens would take after the departure from the norm that was Age of Adz, naming his new album after his mother and stepfather (his first album since his mother’s passing, mind you) answered those questions load and clear: Sufjan Stevens is looking back, which means a return to lovely, gentle indie folk.  Carrie & Lowell strips away both the electronics of Adz and the lush orchestration of Come on Feel the Illinoise, putting the focus squarely on Sufjan’s lyrics, which come heavily from his life.  This album is going inspire a lot of reminiscing, particularly amongst those who have lost parents, and is going to cause a lot of tears.  They’ll be happy tears, though, so it’s unlikely people will be complaining.

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Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just SitCourtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett is part singer/songwriter storytelling and part punk ethos, which combine to form a fascinating whole appealing to fans of both clever lyrics and visceral noise.  Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit is just her first full length (following her Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas), but following 8 shows last week at SXSW and features with seemingly every major music website in the last few weeks, it already has her poised on the verge of stardom.  Thankfully, Sometimes I Sit… stands up to the hype.  The guitars still cut, Barnett still sings like a slacker, and the lyrics remain charming, creating yet another entry on the already long list of great 2015 albums.

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Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a ButterflyKendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Much to the surprise of everyone (including his management at TDE), King Kendrick’s new album is out in the world a week early.  There is a lot that can, will, and should be said about To Pimp a Butterfly, but it all boils down to one thing: This album is an absolute monster.  To Pimp a Butterfly is essentially (and on “Mortal Man”, literally) a funked up conversation between Kendrick and his fore bearers.  It is also a simultaneous declaration of being a proud black man and a declaration of war against the socio-economic situation so many face in American society.  It’s the most daringly political album in some time, and it is jawdroppingly amazing.

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facadeWhat good fortune! How many of us – whatever kind of music we listen to – ever get the chance to hear two of our favourite recent albums performed in their entirety, live, on the same evening, in a single venue? And this as just part of a two-day event with plenty more wonderful music, from brand-new pieces to beloved classics. Bang on a Can came to Dublin, and the weather improved too.

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Purity Ring - another eternityPurity Ring – another eternity

When Purity Ring released their debut album Shrines in 2012 (my favorite album that year) it took a defibrillator to the pop system.  The duo’s use of synths, drum machine, and Megan James’ lyrics fell in the pop realm, but redirected the genre down a more experimental path.  Now that bands like CHVRCHES have followed that path, the question became whether Purity Ring would push further towards the experimental.  The answer, as demonstrated by another eternity, is that they will not.  Rather than a defibrillator, another eternity is more of a thermostat, maintaining the sound of Shrines within certain parameters, and providing a very enjoyable, if safe, listen.

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BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah - Sour SoulBADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul

Combining an avant-garde, instrumental jazz and hip hop trio and a brilliant MC with a love for soul/jazz samples is a no brainer.  So, it should come as no surprise the combination of BADBADNOTGOOD and Ghostface Killah works so well.  Throw in guest verses from guys like Doom and Danny Brown, and Sour Soul is an embarrassment of riches.  The album sounds exactly as you would hope, with unmistakable Ghostface rhymes (in both topic and flow) sitting on top of a bed of soulful piano/synths, live bass, and drums.  The artists all have such a wonderful feel for each other it seems they’ve been working together for years.  Sour Soul is a great album.

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Drake - If You're Reading This It's Too LateDrake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Drake has jumped on the release an album by surprise bandwagon with If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.  Unlike Beyoncé’s and D’Angelo’s big, blown out surprise albums, however, IYRTITL is really more of a mixtape than a studio album and finds Drake at his most stripped down and emo.  Most of the album is just Drake rapping over spare beats (primarily from Boi-1da, but Noah “40” Shebib is obviously here, too), with only the occasional feature from the likes of Lil Wayne, Travi$ Scott, and PARTYNEXTDOOR.  Essentially, IYRTITL is an album chock full of the most divisive aspects of Drake’s music, so if you’re already a fan you’ll love it, but if you aren’t it’s best to skip this one.

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Shallow Remixed

Shallow Remixed

Porya Hatami increased his profile in 2014 with a string of excellent releases on various labels. Shallow was my favorite album of the year, and I am still listening to it regularly a year after its release. (Review and stream here.) It was therefore intriguing to learn that a remix album was in the works, with contributions from notables such as Loscil and The Green Kingdom. Would it extend the listening pleasure or render the sublime mundane?

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Father John Misty - I Love You, HoneybearFather John Misty – I Love You Honeybear

If you like the sound of soulful 70’s singer-songwriters, but think their lyrics weren’t nearly sarcastic, caustic, or angry enough, I’d like to introduce you to Father John Misty.  I Love You Honeybear is the real life Josh Tillman’s sophomore album as Father John Misty, and while it replaces a lot of the anger of its predecessor with sincere sentiments of love (he met his now wife after Fear Fun was written) he hasn’t lost all of it (the lines “Save me white Jesus” and “Save me President Jesus” from first single “Bored in the USA” are early contenders for my favorite line of the year).  More importantly, there’s a rare depth to this album that takes several listens to reach.  Once it has been reached, however, I Love You Honeybear opens up and shows it is well worth the time.

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