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2015 Albums of the Year

2015 Albums of the Year

2015 was one hell of a year for music. I think any one of my top 10 could be number ONE for me, it would just depend on the day you ask me. I fear that 2016 will suffer due to how many incredible albums all came out in 2015. This is my 4th year of trying to listen to one new release a day. I was probably in the ballpark of 340 listens this year. I’m just in awe of the amount of great music being made and released these days.

As always, here is the link for the previous year’s list.

The List

10. Death Cab For CutieKintsugi
This is another that probably would have made the top 10 in another year. One of my all time favorite bands, recording with one of my all time favorite Producers (Rich Costey). The single Black Sun may have been song of the year though. Terrific.

9. Kowloon Walled CityGrievances
I was a big fan of their last LP, Container Ships. It’s the right kind of angry & heavy for me. I am really blown away by the production of the album, and sending a big cap tip to Scott Evans (Singer / Guitar / Engineer of KWC) for pulling it off. Just a great natural, raw, heavy album which is exactly what I wanted it to be.

8. Ryan Adams1989
When Ryan Adams was posting in late 2014, that he wanted to cover 1989 on his new/old 8 track, I was all about it. I am fascinated with the song craft of Max Martin (Taylor Swift’s genius producer), but I am deep into a Ryan Adams binge. When I found out that he abandoned the 8 track for a full on Pax Am production, I was even more excited. The album is pretty much what I expected / wanted. An almost Springsteen-esque take on a fun record.

7. City & ColourIf I Should Go Before You
At this point, I have a good idea as to what to expect from Dallas Green. This record explored some new territory by being done live, with a group of studio guys at Nashville’s Blackbird Studios (dang). The first couple tunes are one hell of a way to start the record. Overall, it’s a pretty consistent album front to back, and has some killer tunes.

6. SwervedriverI Wasn’t Born To Lose You
I suppose 2015 was the year of the reunion. Reunion shows, reunion albums, etc. Thank god, because Swervedriver picked up where they left off. This album has all of the hallmarks of their best work, and it doesn’t feel like they’ve missed a beat. Lush sounds, great tunes, killer production.

5. Pet SymmetryPets Hounds
I’m always impressed with Evan Weiss. You can always tell when another musician grew up listening to the same stuff you did. He has a knack for clever melodies and memorable lyrics. Even though Pet Sym is ultimately a side project for him and his friends, it doesn’t make it less impressive. Clever indie rock tunes with a killer drum sound, Cave In’s bass tone, and and a fun, upbeat vibe from front to back.

4. VennartThe Demon Joke
This is the solo album from Oceansize frontman Mike…wait for it……Vennart. It’s not Oceansize, but if you liked them, I’d bet you’d like this. It’s a big sound, piles of layers, and some terrific tunes. It’s great to hear him releasing some new music again!

3. FailureThe Heart Is A Monster
Man, I was nervous about this one. I wanted it to be good, but I feared the worst. How could a band release a followup to one of my favorite records, damn near twenty years later, and not suck? Well, I couldn’t tell you HOW they did it, but this record is terrific! They aren’t just rehashing more of the same (despite a couple early catalog inclusions). It’s a logical followup to 96’s Fantastic Planet. Terrific production, tones, songs, flow. Thrilled to have them back, and firing on all cylinders.

2. SuperheavenOurs Is Chrome
This one just absolutely leveled me. I had checked these guys out when they called themselves Daylight, but they kind of fell off my radar, for no real reason. I put this album on as part of my attempt to check one new album a day (thanks, Bandcamp!), and I was absolutely floored. A modern grunge album with a PERFECT production. Superheaven & Will Yip absolutely crushed this release, and I spin it weekly.

Number One is split three ways. I just can’t decide. Any day you ask me for the best of the year, you may get one of these as the answer.

1c. Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell
My goodness. What a heavy listen. The instrumentation, tone, lyrical content. As close to a flawless release as I’ve heard in a long long time. This album is the result of him losing his mother, and the subsequent grieving process. It’s a very dense, but small listen that feels very intimate and personal. It’s a great winter listen, and I’m looking forward to bringing it on some snowy treks.

1b. Hidden HospitalsSurface Tension
It’s almost unfair how great this band is. They are setting a tough curve for everyone in the indie / prog / hard rock genres. This album is perfect from front to back. The production is almost a 5th band member, courtesy of their wizard behind the scenes, J.Hall. What kills me is that they whittled these 12 songs down from SEVENTY, and some how landed on this stunning collection of music. Heavy, beautiful, melodic, mathy, textures that just create one of the best alt rock records I’ve heard. If you’ve picked up on what I want from alternative music, you’d understand that HH managed to shoehorn everything I love about music into one perfect package.

1a. Butch WalkerAfraid of Ghosts
Butch Walker is one of a handful of artists who has a great chance of making my list if he puts out an album. Each release is slightly different, and this is a big departure from his traditionally poppy albums. Afraid of Ghosts is a 10 song tribute to losing his father to cancer in 2014. It was recorded live at Pax-Am, with Ryan Adams acting as producer. Adams’ backing band ended up being the contributing musicians, along with guest spots by Johnny Depp (wut) and Bob Mould. The songs are soft, moody, and well crafted on every level. The performance is great, and it’s a killer fall album. It may be my most played album of the year. Stunning.

Runners Up
No particular order here, just a pile of stunning records that didn’t make the top ten when I wrote this post. I could have made a top 10 in another year, just from the runners up!

CloudkickerWoum
At this point, it’s safe to assume that if Ben Sharp releases a record, it will probably end up on this list. His latest is an excellent departure from his previous works. This still scratches the proggy, mathy itch, but covers some new ground for the Cloudkicker moniker. A little cleaner, a little groovier, but still an absolutely brilliant instrumental record.

WilcoStar Wars
An unexpected free Wilco record? I’ll take it. It’s clever, noisy, and fun. The more Wilco, the merrier.

Town PortalThe Occident
If you liked the insane instrumental trio’s Chronopoly, you’ll love this. A terrific follow up that would have been in the top 10 in any other year.

The Staves If I Was
Three sisters, produced by Justin Vernon in a deep Wisconsin winter. Dense layering, incredible harmony.

CloakroomFurther Out
Modern heavy shoe gaze recorded with and produced by Matt Talbot from Hum? Recorded right to tape? I love it.

MorenoThe Winter Has Wrung You Out Again
One of the more exciting reunions of 2015, even if for one night. It’s nice to hear some of my favorite Chicago Indie Pop that wasn’t previously released.

Jason IsbellSomething More Than Free
2013’s SouthEastern was one of my favorite records, and this is the appropriate follow up. Great songs performed by great musicians recorded incredibly well.

Self EvidentThe Traveler
Just terrific angular mathy indie rock. These guys never fail to deliver.

Father John MistyI Love You Honey Bear
Another big orchestral release from the fleet foxes alum. Described to me as “indie folk gyrational music”.

Rocky VotolatoHospital Handshakes
An upbeat indie acoustic record from the former waxwing frontman. Check it.

Wolf AliceMy Love is Cool
Female fronted noisy indie rock. Kind of grungy, huge impact, and great sound.

Mikal CroninMCIII
Indie rock from the Ty Segall family. Some great song craft, and terrific instrumentation.

From The Petrified ForestNeon On The Inside
Great heavy layered instrumental guitar post rock. Cool, proggy, riffy songs.

BirthmarkHow You Look When You’re Falling Down
Stunning creative layered indie rock songs from Nate Kinsella.

Aero FlynnAero Flynn
Electro Indie, produced by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. Such a cool, unique sound.

Tame ImpalaCurrents
I wasn’t too into their previous efforts, but this one has a great feel to it. A fun, laid back spin.

Honorable Mention
Other incredible records that I’ve loved this year.

Zombi – Shape Shift
More killer cinematic synth / drum tunes.

Meat Wave – Delusion Moon
Chicago indie rock with a hot snakes vibe.

Battles – La Di Da Di
More great instrumental weirdness from Battles.

Actors & Actresses – Pyre
Final release from atmospheric slow jammers.

Puscifer – Money Shot
Maynard’s (Tool) joke band that’s not a joke band. Possibly the Best opening tracks of the year.

Coheed & Cambria – The Color Before The Sun
I had low expectations, but this is a good rock record. Great pop tunes.

Foals – What Went Down
Best opening track of the year. Sadly, it doesn’t keep that vibe, but the record still kills.

Sidewave – Glass Giant
West Coast space rock.

Mew – + –
More smart indie tunes with a brilliant production.

Mutoid Man – Bleeder
Probably the most ‘metal’ thing I listened to this year. Fun heavy goodness from the Cave In frontman.

City Of Ships – Ultraluminal
I’m not sure what this brand of dark heavy indie rock is, but I dig it.

Sumac – The Deal
Huge production of a down tuned doom all star band.

Sleater Kinney – No Cities to Love
The girls are back with their noisy bouncy indie rock. Such Creative fun songs.

Toe – Hear You
Mathy Japanese indie rock.

Caspian – Dusk & Disquiet
More huge atmospheres from the instrumental giants.

Motion City Soundtrack – Panic Stations
Synthy Pop rock goodness.

The Wonder Years – No Closer to Heaven
Steve Evetts produced heavy emo/pop punk.

Albums I Worked On
DH currier – Courier
My buddy Dustin wrote, performed, and recorded some incredible dirty acoustic (ish) indie tunes.

Thunderdriver – TMFD
AC/DC meets MotorHead meets KISS. Top down, volume up type of stuff.

Late to the Party
The War on DrugsLost In The Dream
This is solid! Why didn’t anyone tell me about it?

Most played, not from 2015
Ryan Adams – Self Titled.
The #1 from last year.

Butch Walker – I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart.
Still played, after all of these years.

Biggest Disappointment
The Dear Hunter – Act IV
Maybe not biggest disappointment, but most unrealized expectations. I am as big of a Casey fan as you’ll find, but this didn’t resonate with me the way the others did. It feels like a wonderfully written paragraph, but without any punctuation. Perhaps it will grow on me.

 


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