Every now and then a bunch of my favorite artists will come out with new albums all within the same calendar year, which is obviously awesome, so I've cobbled together a rundown of each from this richly musical 2015. Keeping my 'analysis' to one paragraph apiece is almost heartbreaking, but I must.
Kelly Clarkson, Piece by Piece
Release date: March 3
Though her last album, Stronger, won her her second Best Pop Album Grammy award, I feel this is the, er, stronger album - more variety, more vivid production, even if she doesn't break any molds. It's shocking but her American Idol contract had her locked in for SEVEN albums, and with this release she is finally free. Seriously, OMG. Here's hoping with her next one she can really try something new. Side note: Piece by Piece was just nominated for Best Pop Album for 2016.
Best song: "Good Goes the Bye"
Her best album: Piece by Piece
Mumford and Sons, Wilder Mind
Release date: May 4
Their latest release is a sad study in the bullshit way nobody is ever happy with anything. If M&S had put out another acoustic album everyone would have allegedly been bored, but they did a 180 and went 'electric' and everybody was all omg, whaaat, I don't get it, who do they think they are, Coldplay, omgaaah... Objectively Wilder Mind is a perfectly solid rock album that is very charming and would have been the darling of worthless overpaid music critics everywhere had this been their debut. As with some of the best things, the more you spend time with this album, the more you understand it, and the more brilliant it becomes.
Best song: "Tompkins Square Park"
Their best album: Babel
Florence + and the Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Release date: June 1
Best song: "Long and Lost"
Their best album: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Lana del Ray, Honeymoon
Release date: September 18
A gentle recap: Born to Die was a huge breath of fresh air; Paradise is stunningly beautiful and dark. We'll forgive her Ultraviolence since apparently Dan Auerbach knows hypnosis. Honeymoon is a true return to form - yes, she seems to be singing even slower, yes, somehow she's even more tortured - but that's why we listen. The first four songs come off a bit disappointing at first, because an entire album along their lines would sink like a stone, but everything picks up with "High By the Beach" and doesn't let up till we've floated past "Swan Song." LDR has a funny way of setting up a song's core melody, and then hitting the bridge and spinning a whole new soundscape; the effect is just subtle enough to make you lose yourself for a moment.
Best song: "Blackest Day"
Her best album: Born to Die
Carrie Underwood, Storyteller
Release date: October 23
Carrie can do no wrong, let's just get that out of the way. But her last album, Blown Away, was a bit underwhelming. She has new producers for Storyteller and it definitely shows - she's got some blues, some 80s, and - some R&B, which I think is fantastic. It shows in her inflections in the song "Heartbeat" and the structure of the chorus of "Clock Don't Stop." While rap-country may never take off (sad! just kidding), I'm a huge fan of musical acculteration and think there's so much potential in marrying country and R&B, and frankly it should be the direction of Kelly Clarkson's next album. Just sayin'. The only negative I have for this album is it's missing a really beautiful ballad in the vein of "Someday When I Stop Loving You" and "Wine After Whiskey." I was so looking forward to a new one.
Best song: "Clock Don't Stop"
Her best album: Play On
Ellie Goulding, Delirium
Release date: November 6
Ho-kay. Halcyon is my favorite album of the decade. She killed me and raised me from the dead with that one. I needed more of that. And...she went in a completely different direction and I KNOW, I just defended Mumford & Sons, but come on. Like 98 dance tracks, seriously. Beneficent critics have tried to point out 'ballads' - that's a joke, there ain't one damn slow song. Anyway, there are a couple of quality tracks but I'm so let down with this...plus, ok, she's in a relationship, fine, whatever, but of course that means she has lost the ability to write some real-ass lyrics. Amid the ridiculously overproduced beats scientifically designed to induce people to dance in da club, there's no way she could fit in a line like 'I think of dying all the time.' Tsk, tsk!!
Best song: "Army"
Her best album: Halcyon
Release date: November 20
So there's this British singer who puts out some good songs, don't know if you've heard of her, but I'm sure one day she'll get her due. Anyway. I think 25 is legitimately better than 21 - 21 had some highest highs ("Hiding My Heart Away") but also several tracks I would regularly skip. The only track on 25 I find myself zoning out on is "River Lea." She's keeping up with the times by having fresh backing beats, and yes, her voice sounds stronger; let me give you a little tip. A person's voice doesn't fully mature until their early 30s. So...expect her voice to continue to get stronger. Be 'in the know; at your next party. Side note: I don't get the high praise for the Smeezingtons' production of the track "All I Ask." How hard is it to produce a vocal over a piano. Geez, people.
Best song: "Water Under the Bridge"
Her best album: 25
Well that was fun. Maybe next year my dudes can come out with new stuff? Ray LaMontagne, Kings of Leon, Gavin deGraw, Jonny Lang, Casey James? Etc. etc.? Please and thank you. :)