Top Artists of 2015

A buddy of mine recently reached out to me for an idea for my next post. His request was seemingly simple; come up with a Top 10 Music Discoveries or Favorites of the Year.

I can almost see the look on his face as he pressed send on his text to me. For he, better than most, knows how difficult of a task it is for me to nail down a Top Ten list. Especially when such a list concerns my listening habits or preferences. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I decided give it a go.

Mostly out of curiosity (and undoubtedly a lopsided cerebral hemispheric battle) I decided to humor the data-driven side of my personality. Using data from, iTunes, and Spotify Year in Music, I began harvesting stats, cross-referencing, and compiling. Within no time at all, I had the results. I was a quick copy/paste away from letting the numbers speak for themselves and calling it a day. I mean, the list seemed pretty solid and accurate:

Lonesome Dreams album cover by Lord Huron

Top Listened Artists of 2015

  1. Lord Huron
  2. The Oh Hellos
  3. Russian Circles
  4. Jóhann Jóhannsson
  5. The Appleseed Cast
  6. Into It. Over It.
  7. Sigur Rós
  8. Motion City Soundtrack
  9. The Decemberists
  10. Lydia

But something felt off, cheap, and disconnected. Void of depth or story. Unsatisfied I closed the lid on my laptop and walked away. Stats are great and all but they rarely tell the whole story.

Hvarf/Heim album cover by Sigur RosFor example; this list fails to mention that only one of these artist (Sigur Rós) is a carryover from last year. Or showcase my tendency towards post-rock when I’m in need of heads-down, strict focus. Or how I’m prone to favor songs I can sing along to while driving.

Speaking of individual songs (tracks); my most frequently played tracks were also not very helpful. Only five artists have tracks that fall into my 10 Most Popular Tracks. Two of which fall completely outside the Top Listened Artists list altogether. The plot thickens. As does my uncertainty that I’ll ever end up with something definitive. Throwing my hands in the air, I walked away (again) from this post for nearly a week.

When I came back I decided to start from scratch and approach this list from a slightly different angle. Instead of asking, “what have I listened to this year?,“ I asked, “what have I enjoyed listening to?” Nearly identical in appearance, it is the latter of these two questions that yielded the most satisfying results.

I had to act fast to make sure that whatever happened next wouldn’t be tainted with play counts and scrobbles. So with my laptop closed I quickly compiled a list of artists that have carried me through this year, from memory. The “go-to’s” for not only the singalongs, but also the quiet escapes. In a matter of minutes, I had my list.

Who You Are Is Not Enough

Top Enjoyed Artists of 2015

  • Athletics
  • First Aid Kit
  • Glen Hansard
  • Into it. Over it.*
  • Moving Mountains*
  • Noah Gunderson
  • Sigur Ros*
  • The Appleseed Cast*
  • The Oh Hellos*

At long last, I had my list. One artist shy of a the, “Top 10 ____,” we’ve all come to expect from the internet, but a list nonetheless. If given enough time I’d breakdown the specifics about each of these artist. And deeply theorize about why I think each one is there. But to save you, the brave who have made it this far, from rambling any further I’ll leave you with one observation. Only half of the artists on my Top Enjoyed list, also appear on my Top Listened List*. Not exactly the zinger I was hoping for with my earlier point of facts only partially telling the story. But I’ll take it.

Mansion album cover by NFIf you still haven’t had enough, I’ll conclude (for real this time) with a couple more random collections of data-driven uselessness and musings:

  • Of my Top 10 Listened Artists, only four put out new albums this year.
  • I listened to tracks from my Top Listened Artists during 2015 a total of 1266 times. My Top 25 artist? 2505 times. And my Top 50 artists? 3859 times. This tells me I have a broader library (not to be confused with discover) than I realized.
  • I have a couple up-and-comers (according to frequency and play count) that surprised me; CHVRCHES, NF, Gates, We Lost the Sea.
  • Speaking of NF; on the outside it might seems surprising that a rapper would land anywhere near my library. However, I’d encourage any fan of great lyricism to check this guy out. Even if you’re not a fan of hip hop.
  • Spotify was of no help by itself in harvesting any stats. While putting together this post I realized that Spotify makes me feel like a consumer. A one-sided, give-me-everything-you-got, bystander. Versus my personal library where the inherent ability of being a curator, participant, and connoisseur is strongest. I don’t blame Spotify of course, their business model depends on discovery. And they’re doing a stellar job of it. It just may not be for me in the long run.