On Carrie and Lowell, Sufjan’s search for meaning in the wake of his estranged mom’s death is arguably his finest work in a superlative career.
Today marks the third and final installment of Listicles Week – my Favorite Albums 2015 Halftime Edition. Be sure to check out my Favorite Concerts and Favorite Songs lists too.
2015 will be remembered in music critic circles as the Twenty-Teens best year, I predict. Yeah, only half the year is in the books but what a half-year. Sufjan Stevens and Kendrick Lamar dropped classics, Sleater-Kinney and Bjork returned with a vengeance and Alabama Shakes, Florence + The Machine and Drake cemented their commercial standing with critically adored records. Plus Courtney Barnett and Leon Bridges performed like seasoned vets not album rooks.
And the year’s second half looks filthy. The promise of scheduled releases from personal faves Disclosure, Frank Ocean, Jason Isbell, Miguel, Tame Impala and Titus Andronicus (to name a few) in the next few months are making my ears salivate – yes, that’s a thing.
That’s one way of saying I might have to rip up my Favorite Albums 2015 Halftime Edition list in short order. For the time being these are my favorite albums released thus far.
Where does Kendrick Lamar rank on the list? Photo Credit: Henning Heide
Today is Part Two of Listicles Week featuring my Favorite Songs 2015 Halftime Edition. Tomorrow I will name my favorite albums of 2015 (so far).
Below are my 40 favorite songs of 2015 (so far). At the bottom you’ll find a Spotify playlist featuring most of the songs. Also, be sure to check out my Favorite Concerts 2015 Halftime Edition too. Enjoy!
His skills with the mic, both singing into it and upheaving it, earned soul goodwill ambassador Charles Bradley a spot on my Favorite Concerts 2015 Halftime Edition. Photo: CajunTomato
Listicles Week starts today with my Favorite Concerts 2015 Halftime Edition – a list comprised solely of NYC shows I’ve attended for free (the only kind of shows I’ve seen this year). I will drop my Favorite Songs and Albums of 2015 later this week.
In the meantime here are my 10 favorite concert performances of the year listed in alphabetical order according to the artist’s first name. Click the performer’s name to read my original review. Enjoy!
Flap your wings, Screamin’ Eagle of Soul.
NYC-based soul dynamo and noted “Victim of Love” Charles Bradley performed Sunday during the World’s Fair Anniversary Festival in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. The 66-year-old “Screamin’ Eagle of Soul” played from his two records, No Time for Dreaming and Victim of Love, surrounded by guitars, horns, keys and percussion players, shimmied, shook and crawled on the stage and shared insight into his transformation from being homeless and on death’s door less than a decade ago to a celebrated musician traveling the world with his band, The Extraordinaires. As in the other times I’ve witnessed Bradley, I came away from his Queens performance convinced the love and joy he manifests on-stage is a rare, beautiful and important force in music today. His spirit touched me.
The lower Manhattan skyline, as seen from the Staten Island ferry, is much more beautiful than my front door. Photo cred: Me.
Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 57 titled “Middle America Hates My Household” riffs on a thought I had the other day while watching my landlord show me to open our new door lock.
Middle America hates my household, is terrified of it, wants to bomb and shame its inhabitants. OK, I admit maybe not my literal address in Queens, but rather people who look like the men, women and children who reside in our narrow slice of a two-story brick rowhouse, worship the same old gods as them and obsessively watch and critique RuPaul’s Drag Race like them.
This epiphany struck me last week while watching my landlord’s step-by-step tutorial on how to open our new front door lock. Just press in on the door as you turn the key, Mohammad repeated, loudly, as if reciting winning lotto numbers. I stared at the crown of his bald brown head, gray and black hairs cloaking the sides, as he pressed on the door. The wooden door opened and I saw his door in front of me, a square piece of cloth with Arabic written on it hanging in the door’s center. Truth is, I kind of hated Mohammad at that instant too. Not because he was Muslim, but because he believed me incapable of opening his new lock – the one he purchased after the old lock stopped turning and locked me inside the house. I nodded when he asked me if I understood his teachings, walked through the open front door and inserted my keys into the inside door to the left of his – the one to the upstairs where my gay dance choreographer roommate and I reside.
Lizzy Ellison (right) and Randy Bemrose of Radiation City perform Friday night at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Photo: Me
Three years since I left Portland for NYC, the former city’s late-night food truck excursions, karaoke make-out sessions and forever gray, forever drizzly winters seem remote like a hazy memory of an ex-lover’s touch. On Friday night inside Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, Portland-based timeless pop/rock act Radiation City unlocked past glories/misadventures on Hoyt, Burnside, Belmont and many other streets and intersections whose names I forget. Of course these memories existed a continent away, if not a lifetime, but for the band’s half-hour set all of these ghosts felt present in one room.
The music of Christine and the Queens, nee Heloise Letissier, excites me despite the fact I have no idea what she is singing.
Somewhere along my journey from the bayou to the Big Apple I failed Madames Naquin, Orillion and Benoit. The conversational French I learned under their tutelage over six years in middle school, high school and college gradually washed away like my native south Louisiana’s wetlands, leaving me a stereotypical monolingual American. In my limited encounters with French-speaking tourists in New York City I’ve tried to resurrect the faint heartbeat of my ancestral language, often to their puzzlement, amusement or both. Same goes for when girlfriends, noting my Cajun heritage, request I speak the language of amour, a request more seductive in theory than practice. After all, it’s hard to seduce someone when your language mastery sounds like Quasimodo looks. Il est pas beau, as the French say.
Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings performs Friday at NYU’s Strawberry Festival.
On Friday afternoon under a tent erected across the street from a ginormous strawberry shortcake Cleveland dystopian rock trio Cloud Nothings inspired one of the most delicious ironies I’ve witnessed in New York City. The small band of NYU students gathered in front of the impromptu stage – god bless ‘em and their overpriced educations – shouted along with Dylan Baldi lines like “I thought I would be more than this” and “No future, no past” with the gusto of true believers during the band’s Strawberry Festival headlining gig. I mean, if they identify this strong with Baldi’s words at 20 or 21, good luck when they find themselves struggling to stay afloat in the job market, while tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
But for one afternoon everything was cakey, noisey and sublime.
Life is not defined by pictures you take in a dark room, thankfully.
Under the social tab in my Gmail sit Meetup invites for feminist book clubs, dog rescue tech groups (???) and amateur pool. Writing groups too. A lot of writing groups. These emails are bold, designating them as unread.
I will begin opening them – and who knows, start attending Meetups? – after hearing the company’s CEO and co-founder Scott Heiferman discuss his vision, both for the company and the world, during this morning’s Uncubed NYC session. Uncubed NYC is a networking and job prospecting event for techies. While some of the conference’s other techie portions on 3-D printing and software building sailed over my non-techie ginger head Heiferman’s nervy, humanist evangelism on the value of community, friendship and connection created through technology inspired in me a sense of reflection. It provided a vision of the future not only with brains but with heart.
The Prince of Jersey, Patrick Stickles. Photo by Cajun Tomato
Titus Andronicus, the best damn rock band in Jersey or anywhere else for the matter, announced its latest album Thursday – a 29-track, 93-minute opus titled The Most Lamentable Tragedy based on frontman Patrick Stickles’s manic depression. With the album announcement came a new song, “Dimed Out”, a three-minute blast of mania and defiance that sprints to its conclusion, never stopping for air. I cannot wait to lose my shit to “Dimed Out” when Titus Andronicus play a five-night residency at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn this July. Tickets are on-sale for $10. Yes! $10! Rock and roll gods, I tell ya!