Best Music Of 2015 Staff Picks – Dakota Arsenault

How long have you been with Live in Limbo and what do you do for the site? 2 years in November. I was an Associate Editor. As of January 1, I am now the Music Editor of LiL. Also I’m the creator, producer and host of the film based podcast Contra Zoom and I write mostly music and film things while dabbling in photography.

What were your three favourite albums of 2015?

1. Jamie xx – In Colour
It was such a toss up between number 1 and number 2, it really is more of a tie with the edge going to Jamie xx crafting the perfect dance album that is nothing like a dance album. It is a beautiful examination of the club scene from long ago in London and Detroit while also being very intimate and showing a new side to Jamie’s production. If The xx made an upbeat album, this would be it and it would surpass everything they have done as a group so far.

2. Kendrick Lamar– To Pimp a Butterfly 

Talk about a game changer. This album will go down in history as one of the single greatest feats of artistry in not only hip-hop’s history but in all of music. It is way more than just an album, it is a social critique of how black people live their lives in America today while also pointing the mirror at non-black listeners to show them their ugly side. 

3. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
It was hard to come up with album three on this list as it could have been a half of dozen other ones that were great, but nowhere on the same level as the top two. Florence and the Machine, Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile, Alabama Shakes, CHVRCHES and others almost made this spot. Instead I give it to Drake for making by far the best work of his career and hyping the world up for Views From The 6 even more. He also created the catchphrase of the year with “Running through the 6 with my woes”. An album without hooks managed to be one of the catchiest of the year. 

What was the most underrated album of 2015?

Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?
Hot Chip aren’t anything new nor do they seem to be appearing on anyone’s end of the year lists. Sure this might not have been their best album, but if it damn sure is one of the their most fun. If you haven’t listened to it yet check it out, and if you have you probably forgot they even came out with an album!

What were your three favourite songs of 2015?

1. Jamie xx – “Gosh“
This song starts out with a fun club beat and a catchy hook (“Oh my gosh, easy, easy”) then halfway through the song, the beat changes and suddenly you feel introspective and by the end you realize the hook is long gone and not coming back. This song sounds even better with the bass turned up way high on your speakers so you can feel the rattling in your chest and the urgency raising your heartbeat. 

2. Drake – “Hotline Bling“
I don’t even care if you don’t like this song. The beat, the cheesy lyrics, THAT video, it just works. I went from a moderate Drake fan with Nothing Was The Same, to someone who joined team Drizzy as one of the corner stones of future hip-hop after the release of his mixtape (or was it an album?) to finally a full on card-carrying super fan after hearing this song a million times. The end salsa breakdown just is icing on the cake.  

3. Kurt Vile – “Pretty Pimpin”
I debated having a Kendrick song here, but really that album needs to be listened to in full (although Blacker The Berry is my favourite song), but I felt that the stunner that opens Kurt Vile’s latest release is so slick you forget you’re listening to a ‘folk-esque’ song at all! Anyone else just naming the days of the week in a chorus would be laughed off stage, but Vile makes it work with his toe tapping infectious song. 

How many concerts and/or festivals did you go to in 2015?

47 different shows including 8 different festivals! I was really hoping to hit that big 50 mark, but sadly I did not this year. The number of bands I saw totaled well over 100 though. 

What were your three favourite concerts of the year?

1. Will Butler @ Horseshoe Tavern, March 28th
I went in only listening to his vaguely Talking Heads meets The Clash EP a few times, but his energy was through the roof. Between alternating styles of singing each song, Butler managed to bring a chaotic performance down to earth. Not to mention his drummer Miles Arntzen brought a level of intensity I have never seen before, and I doubt I will anytime soon. 

2. Houndmouth and Parker Millsap @ Lee’s Palace, April 9th
Parker Millsap’s voice within three sections silenced the noisey Lee’s Palace in a way that takes your breath away and a moment that you feel is a special one and he was just the opener! I fell in love with Houndmouth’s throwback folk meets southern rock hard and their boozy show was just plain fun. It was easy to get intoxicated in their charm and recklessness, and they were equally intoxicated as they passed a bottle of whisky around too! 

3. Jamie xx @ Danforth Music Hall, August 6th
I truly felt like I was transported back in time to the mid 90’s to some sweaty abandoned warehouse in East London. The bass was thumping, the crowd was eclectic and the DJ was spinning real vinyl records. Danforth Music Hall never felt so alive and huge as it did that sweaty night back in the spring. He is a must see for anyone who hasn’t had xx bless their lives.

What was your favourite festival of the year?

Wayhome! This was the first year festival, produced by the fine folks who run Bonnaroo (a fest I also went to for my third time this year) and they took everything they are great at and brought it up north. The lineup was pretty diverse (although too heavy on the newer acts, not enough throwback or classic artists) and no one really disappointed, well ok I would have liked to see more hits out of Neil Young’s three-hour set. The great part was that the crowd wasn’t overly huge so you could easily move your way up close to the stage right as sets were about to start. Plus the late night mosh pit for METZ was pretty unreal. 

Who was your favourite festival headliner?

Kendrick Lamar aka King Kendrick ruled the festival circuit this year. I got a chance to see him headline at both Bonnaroo and Wayhome and he played almost identical sets (he brought out Anna Wise for These Walls at Roo which was the only real difference). What a change adding a live funk band did to help for his stage show. This is a man who knows his place and can stand in silence with the cocksure attitude that is deserving of a man with a crown. Seriously if you haven’t seen him live yet, you are missing out on the greatest hip-hop performer working. 

Which artist or band won 2015?

Kendrick Lamar released the definitive hip-hop album, destroyed fifty thousand strong festival slots and rose up the profile of everyone around him (Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, SZA, Flying Lotus, Isaiah Rashad etc.). Whether Blacker the Berry, i, King Kunta, Alright or something else was your jam this year it was impossible to miss the year Kendrick Lamar became the biggest star in the world.

What/who was the biggest musical disappointment for you?

Disclosure released one of my favourite albums a few years ago and I was so excited for their follow up, unfortunately Caracal fell flat. There were some solid songs like Nocturnal, Magnets and Holding On but the rest of their album is pretty forgettable including the Latch follow up Omen with Sam Smith. Smith and Disclosure did a cover of Hotline Bling and if it was on the album, would easily be the best track, and that is removing my Hotline Bling blinders too. 

In your opinion, what was the biggest music story?

The return of D’Angelo happening around this time last year, it wasn’t quite 2015, but it was after everyone made their Best Of The Year lists, so he is getting all kinds of love this time around. His return was so big he made publications make sure to put off their end of the year lists until they knew Animal Collective and David Bowie wouldn’t pull the same stunt this year! If Kendrick Lamar was the angry, frustrated artist of Black America, D’Angelo was the hopeful and reassuring artist of Black America, two sides of the same coin. 

What was your favourite new musical discovery of 2015?

Donnie Trumpet aka Nico Segal came to light with the release of The Social Experiment’s album, one made famous by Chance the Rapper’s involvement. His orchestration work and trumpet playing was all over hip-hop this year including the great D.R.A.M. song $. 

Who should we be looking out for in 2016?

Jazz Cartier opened for Rae Sremmurd at Danforth Music Hall earlier this year and I was blown away by his hardcore gangster raps mixed with earnest love songs. He is on the radar of hip-hop heads after the release of his great album Marauding in Paradise and he already is playing Forecastle Festival next July, so look to him to challenge Drake for the ruler of all things Toronto hip-hop very soon.

Who do you hope goes on tour next year?

Daft Punk. Really I could say this every year until they go on tour, but their last two tours culminated in the Alive 1997 and 2007 records but their tours actually started a year prior. The masked Frenchmen needed some time to perfect the live versions of their amazing Random Access Memories and I hope, hope, hope that next year is the year. Also David Bowie, because Bowie. 

Who’s going to be headlining (or at least playing) all the 2016 festivals?

Chance the Rapper is prepping his next release after his breakthrough Acid Rap, and with The Social Experiment he made sure people didn’t pit him in any kind of genre box. His newest single Angels is amazing and he looks to be one of the top hip-hop acts of next year possibly being the second biggest rap name at any festival he plays. 

Is there anything else you want to say about 2015 or predict about 2016?

This was a great year for many bands, we got to see many great up and comers dominate and veteran acts return to the spotlight. Now if 2016 would please bring the light of Frank Ocean, Drake, Kanye West, Gorillaz, M83 and The xx where they all release their albums ASAP I would be a very happy camper. Look for next year to be even better as artists need less and less mainstream exposure to be a huge draw at festivals and touring circuits. It’s crazy to look at the bands at festivals like Bonnaroo that are huge in that world, but the average fan has no idea who anyone is after the second line of names. The business is looking to be more fan sided than ever.

About author

Music Editor at Live in Limbo and Host of Contra Zoom podcast. Dakota is a graduate of Humber College's Acting for Film and Television. He now specializes in knowing all random trivia. He writes about music, sports and film. Dakota's life goal is visit all baseball stadiums, he's at 7.