An abundance of superb original music dropped in 2015, but even more extraordinary was the profusion of exceptional tribute and covers albums, which found an array of artists putting their own personal stamp on other artists’ material. Here’s a survey of the finest 15. To check out playlists featuring "traditional" Best of 2015 album nominees, listen here (for releases out January through June) and here (for releases out July through December). Our final picks will be revealed in the coming week.
Ryan Adams, 1989 We’ve already gushed about the prolific indie rocker’s full-album re-tool of the chart-busting LP from Taylor Swift. In sum, Adams’ 1989 is neither ironic nor novelty but elegantly-wrought interpretations that transform sparkly pop into brooding folk or upbeat Americana and force you to re-evaluate and appreciate both the lyrical and instrumental quality of the source material.
Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield, Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith The two Americana darlings started collaborating on songs from the late artist’s catalog while Mayfield toured with the Avett Brothers in 2011. The dozen tracks on the resulting LP are sparse, heart-breakingly exquisite renderings fueled by the pair’s gorgeous winding vocal harmonies.
Lea Delaria, House of David Bet you didn’t know the actress who plays Big Boo on Orange is the New Black is a brilliant singer with a jazzy-rich vocal quality? Delaria flexes her impressive pipes in this homage to David Bowie that encompasses a melancholic gospel-hued delivery of “Modern Love” and some “Starman” scatting.
The Delorean Sisters, The Delorean Sisters The Brooklyn group has likened their music to “Hank Williams in leg warmers,” and their self-titled debut is a collection of delightful banjo-and-uke-plucked alt-country/Americana-spun covers of pop and hair metal hits from the ‘80s, with gems ranging from the Eurythmics’ “Here Comes the Rain Again” to Danzig’s “Mother” to “Take On Me” by a-ha.