Photo courtesy of Flickr/Jirka Matousek
What does it take to get a New Year's party rocking? Well, a good playlist, for one thing.
As 2015 comes to a close, everybody is feverishly making best of lists — favorite songs, albums and artists we give one final shot of praise to in an attempt to get others to listen.
But rather than just tell you what I felt was worth listening to in 2015, why not set up a whole night around the most memorable albums of 2015? Here's a playlist for your New Year's Eve celebration featuring some of my favorite albums of this past year.
Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
After your mid-twenties, you might well find yourself asking “why am I doing this” before attending any social gathering. As you ponder that question preparing for whatever New Years party invitation you accepted either out of guilt, obligation or intoxication, may I suggest Courtney Barnett? Not only did her sophomore album Sometimes I Sit and Think…
manage to live up to the hype she created with her 2014 double EP debut, it also features “No One Really Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party” — a spot-on recounting of pre-party jitters.
The album also manages to swing from the upbeat “Pedestrian at Best” and “Debbie Downer” to the quieter “Depreston” and “Boxing Day Blues” — allowing a match for the gamut of pre-soiree emotions, from the positive (maybe I’ll Meet Someone!) to the negative (Ugh, I have to talk to someone) to the rational (Whatever, at least I have booze… and UBER!)
Mac McCaughan: Non-Believers
The press that accompanied McCaughan’s first official solo album described it as “the soundtrack for an '80s movie which was never made.” With that in mind, Non-Believers
might also be considered the best release of 2015 with which to open a party. Upbeat but never noisy (with the exception of “Box Batteries,” which comes closest to resembling McCaughan’s Superchunk), Non-Believers
floats around in a way that manages to be welcome without distraction — musical compliment for people arriving at a party, saying hello and catching up.
That’s not to say the album only serves as background music — when initial conversation dies as you wait for other people to arrive, Non-Believers
presents itself as the kind of album that will have friends asking “What is this? I like it,” without being so poppy that your friend’s wife who had one too many cocktails at dinner begins singing along.
Run The Jewels: Meow the Jewels
OK, the majority of people have arrived, so it’s time to let everyone know the party has begun in earnest. Having taken one of the best hip-hop albums of 2014 to the groomers and giving it the Cat Fancy treatment, Run the Jewels re-released Run the Jewels 2
this year as Meow the Jewels
— a collaboration of producer re-mixes and cat sounds.
And while the album itself is worthy of being on any playlist, the cat sounds are the party secret weapon. Awkward pause in a conversation? What better way to fill it than saying “Oh man? Is that a cat? Haha, how funny is that? Do you like cats? Remember Toonces?” Yeah, it’s not the best party conversation but it super beats asking about someone’s ex.
Turn the page as our New Year's playlist continues....
Young Guv: Ripe 4 Luv
If we learned anything from Rob Gordon in High Fidelity
, it was not to let a mixtape pop too early. The same rules apply for any party playlist, so rather than try to match the intensity of Run the Jewels, allow the final sounds of “Creown” to segue into Young Guv’s opening track “Crushing Sensation.”
Ripe 4 Luv softens the vibe with its shimmery indie pop, but still keeps the beat going from its playlist predecessor. In other words, it manages to calm down that guy who got a bit too excited and started yelling for “shots” while still keeping the party bouncy.
Colleen Green: I Want to Grow Up
A new year begins in an hour. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Have I grown as a person? What did I achieve this year? Will I really be able to do everything I planned for 2016? Who thought letting the fat guy dress up as baby New Year was funny? Why am I friends with these people?
While it may not feature these exact questions, Colleen Green’s I Want to Grow Up
certainly mines the same territory. Uncertainty, self-doubt and a desire to change, mixed with the failures that accompany those things, are all featured in lyrics hidden beneath music that shifts from fuzzy guitars to upbeat pop to almost house music at one point — diverse enough to satisfy a varied group of party goers. The album also features a two-song suite that may directly relate to party decisions: Should I follow that group of sniffling people into the bathroom? Nah, I’m past that (“Things That are Bad For Me (Part1)”). Ah, screw it, I’ll work on that part of my life next year (“Things That are Bad for Me (Part2)”).
Bully: Feels Like
Do you want to begin the new year quietly humming along with “Auld Lang Syne” or do you want to start it screaming? Drop the convention and be loud — this is your year. One of the best albums of 2015, Feels Like
hits you immediately — imagine instead of the Times Square ball dropping slowly, it explodes all over Ryan Seacrest. This is how you imagine the new year and your place in it – big, bold and upfront. Oh, and when the rash of work or other events hit you in the next couple days and you realize you're still the same confused person you were in 2015, dig a bit further into Bully’s lyrics. The album will work for that as well.
Ryan Adams: 1989
With its opening track “Welcome to New York,” Ryan Adams’ interpretation of Taylor Swift’s 1989
continues the vibe of a fresh start. Everyone is looking for something new, better and exciting – and this year is where it starts. As the album continues, Adams sieges between quiet introspection and the “blue '80s sound” he began displaying with his 2013 self-titled album – all appropriate sounds for a party winding down. This album also allows the soccer mom or two in your group to finally hear some of the songs (albeit different versions) they’ve been grooving to during carpool.
Jason Isbell: Something More Than Free
Go home already!!! While many a partygoer may have gotten the idea that the night had begun to reach its conclusion with Adams’ slowed-down version of “Shake it Off,” some of our characters (i.e. the shot guy, the bathroom snifflers) have a harder time taking the hint.
Sometimes the best way to combat those out for party rocking is with contrast. Isbell’s introspective storytelling might just be the kryptonite that finally sends the straggling celebration supermen and women over to the East Side. It also helps that it’s a really great album, perfect for those few friends you actually want to stay around after the crowd has dissipated — hoping that maybe some of the album’s insight will rub off as you examine your own lives.