Written by 4:15 am Audiophile Music

Best for 2015 Albums For The New Year

Mark Smotroff recounts some faves for 2015 and looks forward to those he missed


When you read this we’ll be into 2016, looking back on the year past fondly or not-so-fondly depending on your perspective.

AR-22AllasSakRedPlaying225.jpgMusically, it was a pretty good year and there was a lot of interesting music to check out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to it all in 2015. But, hey, that is why man invented time and the “New Year,” right?  

Generally, I dislike these sort of “Best of” features which most journalists are almost obligated to generate each year. But I get it that some people like a handy recap so I’ve tried to keep things brief in case you want to print out this little check list for your purchases in the year ahead. Or  just click through and buy stuff if you feel so inclined. 

So… the envelopes please…

AR-22ConcertBySea2015Cover225.jpegBEST REISSUE IN MONO

Concert by the Sea, Erroll Garner

A jazz classic I wrongly ignored all these years now lovingly restored for the ages by the good folks at Plangent Processes….   

BEST REISSUES IN STEREO

The Ladder, Yes

Fabulous more-or-less-first-time-on-vinyl-for-most-of-us pressing on lush 180-gram vinyl from the folks at Music on Vinyl. This two-LP issue shimmers, shines and sparkles.  Can we have a surround sound version soon? 

Simple Things, Zero 7 

Best album of cool out mood music from 2000 that I’d never heard before… how did I miss this?? Easy. Seems a lot of people did except those hep folks in-the-know. Sounds great on first time ever vinyl…

Bruce Springsteen in Hi Resolution

Nebraska, Born To Run, Greetings From Asubury park on HD Tracks downloads sounded amazing, thanks especially to the technology from Plangent Processes. I can’t wait to get the LP box set once the price comes down a bit. 

AR-22BeatlesOnePlus225.jpgBEST REISSUES IN SURROUND SOUND

#1’s-Plus, The Beatles

Beatles videos restored and remixed in 5.1 surround sound. ‘Nuff said. Essential.

Oranges & Lemons, XTC

Producer Steven Wilson’s 5.1 (and stereo mixes) help to warm up this fine basket of California-raised British pop rock hits. 

Fragile, Yes

Steven Wilson strikes again producing another stellar reinvention of a prog rock classic, bringing it into 5.1 surround sound yet keeping true to the feel and intention of that original stereo mix. 

AR-ZappaRo33xyBlu225.jpgBEST LIVE CONCERT VIDEO: BLUE RAY

Roxy: The Movie,  Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

It was worth the 40 year wait for technology to evolve which could repair a glitch that kept the film in the vaults all these years. Essential.

BEST LIVE ROCK ALBUM : VINYL/CD

The Move at Fillmore West

The only known complete soundboard quality recording of a concert by the legendary Move, the group that morphed into The Electric Light Orchestra. Appearing in San Francisco for their first and only visit, this end-of-the-tour concert documenmt shows the band pulling out all the stops delivering a spectacular show that pre-echoes the ELO to come. 

BEST LIVE JAZZ ALBUM : VINYL/CD

John Coltrane Live at Temple University

Yeah, its pricey but the performance is off the hook and the sound and packaging are exemplary. 

BEST LIVE ALBUM : CD

Andrew Gold’s The Late Show

Fine fine Archival release from 1978  underscores that he was not only a great performer, Gold was way more than a three hit wonder… The band really had goin’ on. 

]]>AR-22GoasttLPPlaying225.jpgBEST NEW MUSIC IN STEREO

Play Intimately As If Among Friends, Pugwash

First domestic US release for Ireland’s pure pop underdogs, this album is a fab end-to-end listen on CD or vinyl. If you like melodies, harmonies, earworm-inducing-hooks and warm production, Pugwash is for you.  

Allas Sak, Dungen

Sweden’s psychedelic pop day trippers come back with a fine slice of progressive, immersive, indie rock with a lysergic twist that takes its listeners on a musical journal. Don’t worry that they sing in Swedish. If you like vintage 1970-era Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things, Soft Machine, Nektar and Neu, you might just like Dungen. 

Coming Home, Leon Bridges

The album lives up to the hype, this guy creates fabulous soulful rock sounds with passional vocals that fall somewhere between Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye.  Very much looking forward to seeing where this promising young artists goes. Fabulous debut. 

Cradle to Grave, Squeeze

Welcome back boys! Fine new album from one of England’s finest pop bands. 

BEST NEW MUSIC IN SURROUND SOUND

Rattle That Lock,  David Gilmour

This new Pink Floyd album rocks! Ok, so its David Gilmour’s latest and not Pink Floyd, but, hey, it is still a wonderful journey and the 5.1 mix on Blu-ray is super tasty.  

AR-J22effLynnesELO225.jpgBEST COMEBACK ALBUM

Alone in The Universe by Jeff Lynne’s ELO 

 Call it a Beatle record.. call it the new Traveling Wilburys album… call it a Jeff Lynne solo album….Whatever you call it, the new ELO album is a fine return from band leader/co-founder. Also worth checking out is ELO’s Live in Hyde Park Blu-ray Disc (but get the British version with one extra track!). 

SOUNDTRACK FOR THE AGES

The Wrecking Crew Movie

Get the Blu-ray and the four CD complimentary soundtrack. Be prepared for an eye opening journey into the star making machinery that created some of the most enduring pop music of the 20th Century.

BEST STUDIO ALBUM OF 2014 THAT I FIRST HEARD IN 2015

Midnight Sun by The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger

This album shows founder Sean Lennon finding his voice and coming into his own with a fine modern psychedelic sound and solid songwriting. 

COOLEST COLORED VINYL RELEASE

Odessey and Oracle, The Zombies 

The special edition put out by Newbury Comics is just beautiful! Sonically, it may not be the definitive version of the album, but it is certainly the prettiest and most fun to look at while its playing.

AR-22BuzzcocksBlue225.jpgCOOLEST INDIE LABEL RELEASES

The Way, Buzzcocks

I’ll give props to our local heroes at 1,2,3,4 Go Records who not only opened a new record store here in San Francisco, but also put out a kick ass new album by England’s The Buzzcocks. What’s that you say? The Way came out in 2014?  Hey, its my review and I didn’t discover this until 2015 so…. thus it goes here. 

MOST DAUNTING BOXED SET

King Crimson’s Thrak Box

6 CDs a Blu-ray, a DVD, live concerts, out takes, alternates, video and more. The box arrived a month ago and it is still sitting there staring at me, daring me to open its inevitable Pandora’s Box of  mad joy. 

MOST UNEXPECTED COLLABORATION 

Jazz violin virtuoso Jean Luc Ponty and vocalist Jon Anderson (of Yes)Somehow, it works! 

MOST UNEXPECTED ALBUM TO BE MIXED INTO SURROUND SOUND 

The Velvet Underground, Loaded

Yup. Loaded in 5.1 in high resolution sound. Whodathunk it? Pricey set but the surround mix almost makes it worth it.

BEST STREAMED ALBUM

Miley Cyrus and The Dead Petz.

Ok, so what if its the ONLY album I streamed since that was the only way to get it, I like what I’ve heard in all its sprawling mad grandeur. Her version of the Lips’ Yoshimi-era outttake — “Karen Don’t Be Sad”  — is wonderful. Keep it going Miley.  We’re rooting for ya. 

CONSISTENTLY COOLEST RECORD STORE DAY REISSUES

Parlophone Records

bHat tip to the folks handling the Parlophone Records back catalog who gave us wondrous obscure psych gems on lovely well pressed colored vinyl, from Tomorrow and The Gods, to Lord Sitar and Buzzcocks. Thank you Parlophone peeps!

SOME 2015 THINGS I STILL NEED TO HEAR

Steven Wilson’s latest in surround sound….

The remastered early Mono LPs by The Kinks…

Flaming Lips Heady Nuggs Vol 2 (Clouds Taste Metallic era, 5 LP set!) 

Tony Benett & Lady Ga Ga’s live Blu-ray

And so so so much more…

It never ends… thankfully!

(Visited 4 times, 1 visits today)
Close