The Best in the World 2015: Part One

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The Laugh Till You Cry But Mostly Cry Because It’s So Relevant Right Now Award
Master of None

The latest frontrunner of Netflix releases, “Master of None” is a comedic journey delving into the not so glamorous golden age of adulthood. Aziz Ansari stars as Dev, a budding actor in his 30s and his misadventures while navigating through social paradigms and societal expectations. The show touches on various topics that were once considered taboo: Plan B, racial stereotyping in the media and gender inequality. Shedding light on these topics with a playful air of comedy results in hilarious scenes that’ll expose the viewer to a new way of thinking. This show has something for everybody – for the first generation American check out the episode “Parents” for an insightful, dead-on narrative on being born to immigrant parents. For the feminist – check out the episode “Ladies and Gentleman” for belly-splitting comparisons on the unequal treatment of men and women. I won’t give out any spoilers but the show concludes on a bittersweet note – shattering all preconceived notions of where you “should” be at 30. Also, the music direction on this show is so on point – if you don’t recognize some, if not all, of the songs featured make sure to have your Shazam app on standby. With 9 Golden Globe nominations, this show should be in the top spot on your binge-watch list. – TAMARA SYED


Greatest No-Frills Guitar Album
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think Alone, And Sometimes I Just Sit

The primary question of all modern day rock music is how to make their genre sound fresh again. For Courtney Barnett, the answer is to have a unique voice – not just in the timber and pitch and character of her barely-singing voice, but in her point of view. She’s a storyteller, but in a populist, vernacular way. She explains a story the way you’d explain it in conversation. There are so few frills to everything on Sometimes I Sit And Think Alone that it should sound empty. Instead, it just sounds clean, focused, and fun to be around. Standouts like “Depreston” and “Dead Fox” barely take the time to rhyme, but put all the care into the character of the song. It’s a lovely time and constantly amusing. – JUSTIN PANSACOLA


Best Podcast Featuring Actual Band Members of the Titular Joke
U Talkin’ U2 to Me?

The brilliantly subversive U2 fan podcast from Scott Aukerman and Adam Scott is anything but the fodder of typical music nerds. Over the span of nearly two years, Scott and Scott have spent less than 50% of their recordings actually discussing U2, instead riffing on guest commentators or side podcasts within the show (Inane and short segments following a key phrase include “What’s Your Deductible, Bro?” and “Talkin’ ‘Bout Turtle From Entourage”) The show culminated with an appearance by the band themselves in a late August episode, an occurrence that seemed otherwise totally improbable up to that point. A hilarious and sprawling set of episodes, U Talkin’ U2 2 Me makes some of the least sense out of any internet radio show one can tune in to while still providing some worthwhile content for a legacy act. – JAKE TULLY


No One Really Paid Attention To This But Should Have
Shlohmo – Dark Red

Death is a subject that many musicians have based songs and entire albums on throughout history. On Dark Red Shlohmo explored this macabre subject matter using an extremely unique palette of raw, distorted sounds often drawn from “real” instruments. The album fluctuates from melancholy musings to intense moments of organized chaos all while maintaining the dark undertones appropriate to represent the album’s overall theme. It’s disappointing that no one seemed to take note of the album, and for whatever reason it seems to have flown under the radar. If you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor and listen to it. Right now. Yes, right this very second. – TAYLOR BARNES


Most Exciting Label Branding
Ghost Ramp
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I’m always thinking about things I wish indie would borrow from hip hop, and one of them is buzzed about, top tier artist getting their own label imprint. That’s kind of true of Ghost Ramp, a label set up by Nathan Williams of Wavves. Ghost Ramp features heavy hitters like Cloud Nothings and Spirit Club, but what’s really interesting to me is that it’s a label with a style and identity. Most indie labels, what makes them unique is just how they do business and handle talent — things us fans will never really see. Otherwise, Merge and XL and Kill Rock Stars are just businesses with rotating rosters. There’s something about Ghost Ramp that really feels like an identity, the way Odd Future felt like an identity, the way GOOD Music felt carefully curated. That thought occurred to me as I looked at their online store for the “Ghost Ramp Dad Hat” — how many bands will boldly admit to caring about aesthetics that way, to admit that they have a clothing style? Of course, it all comes down to the music, but music is even more enjoyable when you feel participant in a community vision. – JUSTIN PANSACOLA

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