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The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2015

Caribou


Caribou at The Fillmore // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Justin Yee

Ah, where did 2015 go? It felt like we were just ringing in a new year a couple months ago. But with another year in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to once again doll out our annual “Best of” lists. Much like we did in 2014, we heard a lot of music this year, whether it was at a show or at a festival, at work, on the bus or in our cars. From established headliners who continue to amaze us to emerging artists who rekindled our excitement for new music, our collective lives were filled with one musical memory after another over the past 12 months.

So, with that said, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2015.

The 25 Best Live Music Acts of 2015

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2015:


Tycho


Tycho at Lightning in a Bottle // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2015
1. Jack White at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 11th
There’s a reason why Mr. White was named our No. 1 live music act of 2014 around this time last year, and it’s not because he’s simply a guitar god. The Detroit native and former White Stripe is much more than that now, as he has proven with the kind of clever, genre-swirling songwriting that permeates his two solo albums Blunderbuss and Lazaretto. But witnessing White perform live almost feels like a musical right of passage in and of itself, reminding us that while inventive, mainstream rock ‘n’ roll may be harder to come by these days, it’s still far from dead. On this warm, spring night in the California desert, he imparted on us that “music is sacred” — not just with his words in between songs, but also with every ferverous note that he struck on his fret board. From the moment White appeared on the festival’s main stage, his 20-song, headlining set was bold and powerful, even if it would serve as one of his last shows for a while.

2. My Morning Jacket at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – October 11th
3. Modest Mouse at Hollywood Forever – Los Angeles, CA – August 21st
4. Tycho at Lightning in a Bottle – Bradley, CA – May 24th
5. The War on Drugs at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 10th

Top 5 Albums of 2015
1. My Morning JacketThe Waterfall
When My Morning Jacket announced that they would be releasing a new studio LP in May after nearly a four-year layoff, their longest between albums since forming in the late 90’s, I wasn’t sure if they could top what they had devised on 2011’s Circuital. But these Louisville rockers, rather, did just that, putting together a flawless record that opens with the inspiring “Believe (Nobody Knows)” and concludes with the gloomy, yet poignant “Only Memories Remain”. In between it all, frontman Jim James continues to build off his 2013 solo album, showing what a thoughtful songwriter he has become — knowing when to step on the gas pedal and when to ease off of it. With an already impressive catalog highlighted by 2005’s Z, it’s hard to definitively say that The Waterfall has taken over the throne as MMJ’s best album now, but there’s no doubt it belongs in the conversation.

2. Father John MistyI Love You, Honeybear
3. Silversun Pickups – Better Nature
4. Jamie xxIn Colour
5. Tame ImpalaCurrents

Top 5 Songs of 2015
1. My Morning Jacket – “Tropics (Erase Traces)”
It’s only fitting that my favorite album of the year also boasts my favorite song of the year. The penultimate track on My Morning Jacket’s The Waterfall is an absolute rocker that gradually builds from the opening, Led Zeppelin-esque guitar lick before peaking midway through for a chilling finish. There might not be a better example in MMJ’s catalog that demonstrates how well Jim James and Carl Broemel play off each other, and if the two guitarists haven’t already, then they’ve certainly cemented themselves as one of rock’s best one-two punches by now.

2. The Weeknd – “The Hills”
3. Modest Mouse – “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box”
4. Battles – “The Yabba”
5. Tame Impala – “The Less I Know the Better”


The Chemical Brothers


The Chemical Brothers at The Armory // Photo by Justin Yee

Molly Kish // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2015
1. Jamie xx at Bimbo’s 365 Club – San Francisco, CA – July 31st
Whereas those familiar with his early XL Records mixtapes were satiated by his intermingling of Gil Scott-Heron and Idris Muhammad samples between hits, Jamie xx’s newfound, post-In Colour fans experienced equally breathtaking moments with the crowd hitting peak energy levels during the chorus of “Loud Places” amidst the glow of a warped-speed, neon-green strobe light. Another notable moment included the near-religious choral drop of “Gosh” that escalated the packed house to spiritual levels of enthusiasm, all while bathed in the glowing sparkle of Jamie Smith’s staggeringly iridescent, ceiling-to-floor disco ball and stage lights.

2. The Chemical Brothers at The Armory – San Francisco, CA – November 30th
3. Kate Tempest at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – May 20th
4. Kishi Bashi at Palace of Fine Arts Theatre – San Francisco, CA – January 30th
5. Caribou at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – March 1st

Top 5 Albums of 2015
1. Jamie xxIn Colour
Acclaimed London-based producer and half of electronic powerhouse The xx, Jamie Smith (aka Jamie xx) broke the mold this past year with his stunning solo debut In Colour. Earning top accolades within the music industry, including a 2015 Mercury Prize nomination and a Grammy nomination for “Best Electronic/Dance Album”, In Colour featured both individually conceptualized strokes of production ingenuity as well as many of the biggest contemporary-crossover hits this year. Smith explored his dubstep, house, garage and trip-hop influences on In Colour to deliver a genre-spanning masterpiece, highlighting his illustrious career as an electronic composer while setting the standard for the current and future state of EDM.

2. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly
3. Tame ImpalaCurrents
4. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness
5. Lord Huron – Strange Trails

Top 5 Songs of 2015
1. Jamie xx – “Loud Places”
As part of a track list that included some of 2015’s most groundbreaking and genre-defining hits, “Loud Places” holds its own as a standout cut on Jamie xx’s monumental solo debut In Colour. It comes in toward the latter half of the UK producer’s LP and enlists the gorgeously haunting vocals of Romy Madley Croft, one of Jamie Smith’s partners in The xx and a longtime collaborator of his. Amid a packed roster of acclaimed vocalists, emcees and iconic samples, Croft’s contributions, while paired with a full choir, help manifest the lyrical content of the song while evoking a near-religious experience for its listener.

2. Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”
3. Robyn – “Love Is Free”
4. Kendrick Lamar – “King Kunta”
5. FKA twigs – “In Time”


Outside Lands 2015 - Tame Impala


Tame Impala at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival // Photo by James Nagel

Brett Ruffenach // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2015
1. Four Tet b2b Floating Points at Public Works SF – San Francisco, CA – May 3rd
Sparked by their set at Plastic Peoples in London earlier in the year — a set, coincidentally, that was named “Best of the Year” by THUMP a few days ago — SF’s own DJ Dials was kind enough to bring Kerian Hebden and Sam Shepherd, better known as Four Tet and Floating Points, to Public Works last May. Starting early in the evening, the two well-established English producers put on a scorching, non-stop, six-hour, vinyl-only DJ set. Kicking off the evening with over an hour of early-70’s Brazilian samba and steadily moving from there to all forms of funk, big band, soul, jazz and of course their own eclectic catalog of music, the two DJs seamlessly moved between tracks, bringing up and down the energy at just the right point to keep you guessing what’s going to happen next. After dozens and dozens of shows and DJ sets this year, I always keep thinking back to this one because it wasn’t only a chance to see an artist I like play their music — it was a chance to see two artists I like play the music that they love, and do it on an absolutely killer sound system.

2. Kendrick Lamar at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – November 10th
3. Tame Impala at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival – San Francisco, CA – August 8th
4. Jamie xx “In Colour” album release show at Church of St John-at-Hackney – London, England – July 16th
5. Nicolas Jaar at Symbiosis Gathering – Oakdale, CA – September 19th

Top 5 Albums of 2015
1. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick wins. No contest. At this point, there’s nothing I can say that will be new or not already over-analyzed by the blogosphere over TPAB. All I can say is that TPAB is one of those rap albums that, just like Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010, expanded my understanding of what a rap album can be. From the very start you hear Lamar’s voice in the genius, FlyLo-produced “Wesley’s Theory” — a track that I think is among the greatest album openers ever — to the closing conversation with 2Pac in Mortal Man, TPAB is among the most ambitious and thoroughly conceptualized productions I have had the pleasure of hearing (and seeing) in my life.

2. Tame ImpalaCurrents
3. Nicolas Jaar – Nymphs I-IV
4. Jamie xxIn Colour
5. Beach HouseDepression Cherry

Top 5 Songs of 2015
1. Pumarosa – “Priestess”
“Priestess” is a seven-minute, punk-meets-disco dance party that starts as an observation and ends as a declaration. Its declaration? To dance. Its lyrics (for instance: “Cut from clay and stone / Electricity flows through your spine and shoulders/In the night when we’re alone”), its visceral rhythm and undeniably entrancing, three-minute instrumental closing out the track (DAT SAX) are what make it an easy choice for my favorite of the year. In a culture engulfed in consumerism, celebrity and over-consumption, “Priestess” reminds us all that dancing is free. Dancing can be a protest. Dancing can be a celebration. Dancing is whatever you make of it. “Priestess” is a track that reaches into your soul and forces you to do one simple thing: dance. That’s something we all need in our lives every once and a while.

2. Kendrick Lamar – “Wesley’s Theory”
3. Jamie xx – “Gosh”
4. Tame Impala – “Eventually”
5. Nicolas Jaar – “Swim”


High Sierra Music Festival 2015 - The String Cheese Incident


The String Cheese Incident at High Sierra Music Festival 2015 // Photo by Benjamin Wallen

Benjamin Wallen // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2015
1. Greensky Bluegrass at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – November 1st
Many bands get bigger and play bigger shows. Every now and then, you get to see them in a smaller venue with a more “intimate” feel. This was that show. Following a crazy night at the Fox Theater Oakland celebrating Halloween, the band crossed the Bay Bridge to play a birthday show for its dobro player Anders Beck at The Independent. It was a “Greatest Hits” setlist of all the songs I loved the most: past, present and future. The show was definitely intimate and filled with energy, and Greensky ended the night with some acoustic tunes. I think it says a lot about a band that can pack a big venue and then play a smaller venue and still the heat. This is my favorite band these days. They are consistently great and just too much fun.

2. String Cheese Incident at High Sierra Music Festival – Quincy, CA – July 3rd
3. The Sam Chase at High Sierra Sierra Music Festival – Quincy, CA – July 3rd
4. Jeff Austin Band at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – April 26th
5. The Devil Makes Three at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – February 3rd

Top 5 Albums of 2015
1. Della Mae – Della Mae
These girls are damn talented as much as they are cute. I stumbled upon these five girls from Nashville while at The Chapel a few years back, and they were just damn good. Then, I heard that they were nominated for a Grammy and only beaten by the legendary Del McCoury Band. These ladies can pick and tick and get the crowd jumping. For Della Mae, powerful songs and epic throw-down jams are just par for the course. This album was Kickstarter-funded, which I was happy to contribute to, and continues the revival of bluegrass for the younger generation and modernizing the sound with the energy of youth. I find myself playing this album more and more each day from start to end — it’s just that good.

2. The Dustbowl Revival – With a Lamp Shade On
3. Father John MistyI Love You, Honeybear
4. Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers – Loved Wild Lost
5. Jackie Greene – Back to Birth

Top 5 Songs of 2015
1. Jackie Greene – “A Face Among the Crowd”
I have been a Jackie Greene fan since I moved to SF almost 10 years ago. This song I heard a number of years ago when Greene was uploading hotel room solo tracks on the road. This song was put up on Father’s Day for Greene’s dad and was a touching song. Creepily sitting in a hotel room, you can feel the emotion. Hearing it on a record in my home is just heaven. After some of those really tough days in life, I come home, put this song on while listening on my best pair of headphones and zone out — let all the crap from the day that doesn’t mean shit just fade away. This song does that for me, and as a music lover, finding this type of song is like finding gold on the street.

2. The Dustbowl Revival – “Standing Next to Me”
3. The California Honeydrops – “When It Was Wrong”
4. Father John Misty – “I Went to the Store One Day”
5. Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers – “Mr. Saturday Night”


Father John Misty


Father John Misty at Treasure Island Music Festival 2015 // Photo by Marc Fong

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2015
1. Father John Misty at Treasure Island Music Festival – San Francisco, CA – October 18th
Of all of the performers on Day 2 at the festival, Father John Misty held my attention the most. A stellar performance, hitting all of the right points, which gave me good reason to believe that he may in fact be one of the best frontmen of the last 10 years.

2. Hum at Slim’s – San Francisco, CA – September 18th
3. Fat Wreck Chords 25th Anniversary at Thee Parkside – San Francisco, CA – Aug 22nd & 23rd
4. Refused at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – May 28th
5. alt-J at Greek Theatre – Berkeley, CA – April 16th

Top 5 Albums of 2015
1. Tame ImpalaCurrents
From top to bottom, this is an album that I can listen to over and over without feeling burnt out (and believe me, I have). I appreciate the fact that on this album, they steer clear of too much “jam” and keep it straight forward. I can’t help but move my feet when I hear some of the tracks on Currents.

2. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly
3. Failure – The Heart Is a Monster
4. Father John MistyI Love You, Honeybear
5. God Is an Astronaut – Helios/Erebus

Top 5 Songs of 2015
1. Tame Impala – “The Less I Know the Better”
From the first time I heard this track, I knew it was the best song of the year. Infectious as hell, you cannot stop your body from getting into that groove.

2. Grimes – “Kill V. Maim”
3. Father John Misty – “Bored in the USA”
4. The Velvet Teen – “All Is Illusory”
5. Viet Cong – “Continental Shelf”


Viet Cong


Viet Cong at Rickshaw Stop // Photo by Diana Cordero

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2015
1. Viet Cong at Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco, CA – March 5th
Viet Cong were easily one of the most brilliant bands in 2015 as they shook up South by Southwest (even when their drummer had a broken arm), generally not caring about the whole band-name fiasco and releasing a stellar debut LP. The brooding studio work from this Canadian outfit turned out to be way more accessible on the live stage as bassist/singer Matt Flegel bounced between playful banter and pile-driving post-punk.

2. Caribou at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – March 1st
3. Todd Terje (Live) at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 10th
4. Kendrick Lamar at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – November 10th
5. BADBADNOTGOOD at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – August 22

Top 5 Albums of 2015
1. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly
No surprises here, as truly this was objectively the best album of the year. With expectations high from his growing fan base, Lamar delivered an LP that had it all: crushing singles, a bold concept and a clear message. The smorgasbord of genres and vibes TPAB lays out for the listener further shows that K-Dot’s bag of tricks has no end in sight.

2. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect
3. DJ Paypal – Sold Out
4. Tame ImpalaCurrents
5. Archy Marshall – A New Place to Drown

Top 5 Songs of 2015
1. Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”
This track was our first taste of Currents, and it got fans salivating in no time. “Let It Happen” was the perfect amuse-bouche with Kevin Parker’s vision shifting a bit toward synths over his trusty Rickenbacker guitar, which slightly became the resounding chatter behind the LP. Oh yeah, and there was the “record skip” in the middle of the track that we all went mental over.

2. Ought – “Beautiful Blue Sky”
3. The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”
4. DJ Spinn – “Dubby” (feat. DJ Rashad & Danny Brown)
5. Deerhunter – “Snakeskin”

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