Oklahoma Gazette's 2015 music year in review 

In 2015, bigger music trends featured broad, conceptual albums that sonically illustrated vivid worlds. The year also saw no shortage of singers with soul and songs with heart. From global blockbusters to local heroes, here is a look at what caught our ear and a glimpse at what we’re excited for in 2016:

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Better Luck

John Calvin Abney

Genres: singer-songwriter, alternative country

Released:  Jan. 20, 2015

Abney has become one of local music’s more prolific recording artists. Since November, he has churned out three projects, the most memorable being full-length Better Luck, which is both focused and personal.

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Let the Good Times Roll

JD McPherson

Genre: rock

Released: Feb. 9, 2015

Roll, indeed. Few projects went down as smoothly in 2015 as McPherson’s celebrated sophomore solo album. Built on natural progression and flow, Let the Good Times Roll harkens back to another time, but it couldn’t sound more alive or fresh. With a runtime of just over 30 minutes, listeners likely stacked up heavy replay numbers on this release.

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To Pimp a Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar

Genre: hip-hop

Released: March 16, 2015

If your taste in rap music involves trap beats only or gangster porn for white youths, maybe look elsewhere. If you’re open to a funky, soulful, jarringly introspective and meticulously plotted journey through modern times as a black entertainer, this is the record of a lifetime.

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Carrie & Lowell

Sufjan Stevens

Genre: indie folk

Released: March 31, 2015

Stevens strips down his sound to a raw, emotional core. The death of a close family member or friend is often counted as an emotional turning point in someone’s life. Artistically approaching the subject, however, is sometimes seen as easy, a critical layup. There’s nothing easy about Carrie & Lowell. It’s recommended for anyone with a heart.

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There’s Still Time For Us to Die

Deerpeople

Genres: pop, psychedelic, folk

Released: April 1, 2015

Do good things come to those who wait? Apparently so. After years as a regional live-show darling, Deerpeople released its long-awaited debut, There’s Still Time For Us to Die. It’s loud yet graceful and oh so familiar for the band’s strong following.

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Beat the Champ

The Mountain Goats

Genre: indie rock

Released: April 7, 2015

Mountain Goats mastermind John Darnielle takes indie rock and folk into a new arena entirely: the fantastic world of professional wrestling. It’s an odd merger at first glance, but it’s actually a wonder more people have not tapped into wrestling’s romanticized and gritty lore.

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High on Tulsa Heat

John Moreland

Genre: singer-songwriter

Released: April 21, 2015

It’s fitting that this record deals with Oklahoma themes because it plays in spots like a modern-day musical version of True Grit. Fantastic lyricist Moreland was the personification of the state’s ideal sound and soul last year.

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The Epic

Kamasi Washington

Genre: jazz

Released: May 5, 2015

The Epic truly lives up to its name. Its three discs and nearly three-hour runtime might leave some intimidated by the daunting task of climbing this musical, mostly wordless mountain. Do not be afraid. There are few more rewarding listens from 2015. Washington breathes new life into an old but beautiful sound.

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The Horror of Trespass

Power Pyramid

Genre: dream pop, shoegaze

Released: May 16, 2015

Put on The Horror of Trespass and float away to a world made of guitars and dreams. Personal favorites include the more aggressive “Fake” and throwback “Arc of Descent.” Highlights also include three brief instrumental tracks that go a long way in establishing Power Pyramid’s distant planet.

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Timepiece EP

Ripple Green

Genres: rock, pop

Released: July 31, 2015

This 15-minute EP is brief, but it delivers. The four-song offering features its fair share of catchy earworms, including the infectious title track and equally upbeat “Making a Man.” Ripple Green and lead vocalist Joel Parks set the bar high for an eventual full-length project.

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Compton

Dr. Dre

Genre: hip-hop

Released: Aug. 7, 2015

2015 will be remembered in hip-hop as the year the West Coast came back. Rap fans have been waiting since 1999’s 2001 for Dre to follow up with now-infamous Detox. The legendary producer has since canceled that project, but this guest-heavy tribute to his hometown does more than suffice in its absence.

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Elder

Bowlsey

Genres: neo-soul, hip-hop

Released: Oct. 1, 2015

If debut release Decorous represents what Bowlsey can be, Elder is everything they ought to be. The five-song EP perfectly balances a more uniform sound with the trademark variety and range that makes the band great.

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Divers

Joanna Newsom

Genres: chamber folk, avant-garde

Released: Oct. 23, 2015

Newsom crafts a beautiful and diverse soundscape on her fourth studio album. A quest to outrun time, death and loss of love, Divers swings from the contemplation of folk music to the rage of heavy metal.

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Deciduous

Fiawna Forté

Genres: rock, rockabilly

Released: Nov. 14, 2015

Attitude. Moxie. Emotion. Forté parlays a background of church performances into soulful-but-rugged, from-the-gut rock ’n’ roll. Listeners will be drawn in by Forte’s voice but will stay for lyricism full of heart.

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25

Adele

Genres: pop, soul

Released: Nov. 20, 2015

Hello, Adele. America hears you loud and clear, and they would like to remind you that they still love you — a lot. Despite a quiet, almost four-year hiatus and a sharp denial to streaming services like Spotify, the songstress’ third LP took the world by force with golden vocals and stories that tug at your insides.

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Mutant

Arca

Genre: electronic

Release date: Nov. 20, 2015

Maybe you have not heard of experimental producer Arca. But if you’ve heard recent, off-kilter sounds from Kanye West, Bjork or FKA Twigs, there’s a good chance you already love or hate him. Mutant is a gripping, unorthodox kick in the pants.


Fast-forward

Almost as exciting as an album’s release is the anticipation of said release, especially for the world’s more elusive artists: the tour announcement, the album art reveal, the first single release. Many such moments will happen in 2016. Here’s a short list of who’s expected to catch ears in the coming year:

Jabee

Perhaps taking cues from recent enlightened efforts by acts like Kendrick Lamar and Lupe Fiasco, the Oklahoma City rapper promises a deeper, more reflective full-length release in 2016. Jabee has the potential to create Oklahoma’s defining rap project to date.

Bon Iver

Justin Vernon might be prepping the indie folk band’s triumphant return. The 2011 release Bon Iver, Bon Iver captured a Grammy. Many fans are eager to see how the group follows up its critically adored sophomore release, especially after it began playing live again in 2015.

Elms

Vocalist Chelsey Cope joins drummer Billy Reid, bassist Michael Bewley and guitarist Chavez Soliz to form Elms. Like its namesake, it is rooted and earthy. The single “Savages,” released New Year’s Day 2015, particularly whetted pallets for what is to come.

Modest Mouse

Will we really see a new Modest Mouse record in 2016? The band took its sweet time to release its 2015 project, Strangers to Ourselves. The album marked the act’s first release since 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. And what would a follow-up to the latest release sound like? Frontman Isaac Brock has said much of what will be the next album was recorded at the same time as Strangers, so can we expect more of the same?

Kanye West

There’s never a dull moment with Mr. West. His music has recently become a must-listen commodity, as much for its otherworldly sideshow idiosyncrasy than the genius he has displayed in past projects. Most notably, the rapper and husband to Kim Kardashian clocked studio time with none other than Sir Paul McCartney. Whatever the new year brings, fans can bet that West will transform it into an event.

Print headline: Pause, rewind, 2015 was a high-fidelity year for soul-rousing, foot-stomping music, and 2016 might end up being even better.

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