by: PJ Wascher
2015 is in the books! I love this time of year. Music fans across the Internet share their favorite mu
sic. I love reading those lists and sharing my own. 2015 has been a solid bounce back year for music. Last year, I struggled to find ten albums I loved. This year, I found over ten albums in the first half of the year. The second half did not quite hold that trend up, but added a few pieces to this year’s list. This will go down as one of the best years in music since 2012 (my favorite since I’ve been making this list).
To review how I judge. Throughout the year I’m listening to every album I can get my ears on. Still a fan of pens and post-its, I manually create a list throughout the year. My list looks for albums with great song depth and great staying power. Something you’ll find yourself listening to beyond 2015. I find several albums with a strong group of songs, but very few that let me press play and let it roll all the way through. 2015 was a relatively strong year for this. Of the Top 10 albums I listed, I found myself continually playing five all the way through.
My goal is to find something new everyday, as you can see with the #SOTD tweets I post every weekday. Ranking music gives me something to go back to and reflect on what I really loved. Let’s get to the fun part! Here’s my official Top 10 Albums of 2015 and Song Of The Year:
The Top 5
- Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes
Three years has become the norm for a band’s album life cycle. Despite this lengthy amount of time, it’s surprising how often the result can end up half-thought out. Struggling to recreate their original sound or create a new one, the second album can be a daunting one. Alabama Shake’s first album was a promising entry, which appeared on this list in 2012. Featuring several catchy tunes with a hint of Rock-A-Billy, the songs could sometimes seem simple, but you could tell there was another layer within those tracks. Watching them live left no doubt. Britney Howard is one of this generation’s best live performers. So much soul and power, the range of style and personality she features is unique. I cannot recommend enough seeing her live. I was lucky enough to see her in the fall and she did not disappoint. This second album felt like their coming out party. Boys & Girls gave us a taste of what they could become. Sound & Color showed off this band’s evolution into a big retro soul southern rocker.
- Don’t Wanna Fight
- Gimme All Your Love
- The Greatest
- I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty
I have to admit this was not an artist I expected on the list at the start of the year. That may also be thanks to the fact I’d not heard of him. As a fan of Fleet Foxes, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t keep up with the member’s splinter groups. Former drummer of the Fleet Foxes, Joshua Tillman has a few projects of note. This moniker has now produced two fun albums. It may be weird to describe his music as fun, but a certain perspective is required to translate his highly cynical lyrics out of reality. Beyond the lyrics are layers of fun in the instrumentals. The album bounces in and out of retro 70s and 80s sounds with some hard rock mixed in between. I love all the places this album goes. He was the opener at the Alabama Shakes concert I saw early in the year. It was an amazing, emotional performance that raised the bar to a level I thought the Shakes may struggle to meet. Both groups ended up being fantastic, but I made sure to see him again in the fall during his headline tour. The live performance unlocked a lot of the personality stored inside these songs. If you’re looking to listen to something different or you can’t get your brain to sit still, this music will fit in just fine.
- I Love You, Honeybear
- The Ideal Husband
- Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)
- Strange Trails by Lord Huron
These top three albums have traded spots with one another all year long. For most of the year I thought this would be my album of the year. It’s a great album and I want to spend all of my time talking about that fact. Its swinging melodies and du-op beats bring you back to the sixties, but a folky base is what brings out the emotion. I found this to be the easiest album to listen all the way through on my list. When I start feeling sentimental this is the album I put on. Several of the songs have connected soothing transitions. I wanted to make this my album of the year badly and in many years, since I’ve started this list, it would be. This year it joins a group of three albums that defined my year in music.
- La Belle Fleur Sauvage
- Until The Night Turns
- Vitals by MuteMath
Grading one of your favorite bands can be very tricky. You want to call everything they do the best. They’re your favorite for a reason right? Well one of my favorite bands released an album in November. I did my best to honestly rank them and this is as low as I could stomach putting them. I’m just too excited to have an album from them again. It’s been four years since their last album, which featured a new lead guitarist. It was hard to get a feeling for when the next album may come out and what it would sound like if it did. Their last album made a push towards southern blues featuring a lot more organ and guitar. Their 2015 release goes back towards their roots. Electronic beats and sounds coming back into the fold. Guitars have taken a little bit too much of a back seat for my tastes, but the album is a promising release. 80’s sounds have become very trendy in music of late, MuteMath has grabbed hold of this trend and put their own twist on it. I’ve loved every album this band has put out and I’m happy we finally have another one to add to the collection.
- Joy Rides
- Space Is Still The Place by The Bright Light Social Hour
Sometimes you just get lucky finding an artist. Music recommendation engines continue to evolve. Between Apple Music’s new personalized playlist recommendations and Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist, 2015 added several tools to my search for new artists. This is one of those discoveries. Prepare for psychedelic hooks that mix in catchy pop hooks and some awesome guitar solos. The drummer is fantastic and even better live. Fears about rock music disappearing should quiet a little after this year’s crop of albums. Several of my favorite rock albums went back to a 60-70s psychadelic phase, but there’s plenty outside this genre as the Alabama Shakes have already demonstrated on this list. The depth on this album is fantastic. The album refuses to sit completely in one genre of music, mixing in electronic sounds and a few pop hooks.
- Infinite Cities
- Ghost Dance
- Sweet Madelene
The Next 5
- Currents by Tame Impala – We’ve entered the psychedelic rocks section of this list. It was a good year for retro rock sounds. Almost all of the albums appearing on this list are sampling sounds from another era. No band appears more committed to that then Tame Impala. While they stick to their traditional psychedelic sound, this album is just bigger than anything I’ve heard from them before. Unafraid to make +6 minute songs, it’s amazing how mainstream this band is becoming. Their success at big music festivals is probably helping and appears to be an influence on their overall sound. I’ve always been a fan of this band, but their albums have never had as much depth as this one. I got a chance to see them at Outside Lands this summer, they were fantastic and so is this album.
- Let It Happen
- The Less I Know The Better
- For Use And Delight Promised Land Sound– A lot of the albums on this list came out in the first half of the year. This is one of the few late finds I found this year that made my Top 10 list. Continuing the psychedelic rock trend, this album completes the trio on my list. Each band carries their own unique sound. This album mixes in a little more country rock sounds than the other two. At times, the guitar effects remind me of Explosions In The Sky at other moments it goes more towards Pink Floyd. It’s been a good year in this music genre. We’re seeing artists mix in so many different styles.
- Push And Pull (All The Time)
- Otherworldly Pleasures
- She Takes Me There
- Till It’s All Forgotten by Faroa – This is one of the newest artists to make my list. The album features sparse arrangements that allow her beautiful vocals to control the sound. What makes this album work for me is the percussion. It changes tempo and gives the music so much power. The first track on the album is a great example of that. I saw them in Detroit in the fall. You can tell they are still learning and growing. I was surprised to see Faroa was only a duo. With the sound on the album I was expecting several more players. I wouldn’t mind seeing more performers as this band grows up. They have a lot of potential.
- My Love Is Cool by Wolf Alice – This album just came at the right time of year. It’s fun and bright. Perfect summer album to open the sunroof and blast out the car speakers. Their sound combines a little bit of Best Coast’s California rock with electronic effects on the vocal that remind me of The Metric. I could hear this album throughout the year on the British radio waves, but it even crossed the pond to some American indie/alternative radio stations.
- Your Loves Whore
- Moaning Lisa Smile
- Such Things by Saintseneca – This band makes my list two years in a row! It’s become pretty rare for a band to release albums in back2back years and even more rare for the finished product to be any good. Not only did Santseneca produce a second album in two years, they started growing up. This album rocks out more than their first release, but it still maintains their overall sound that I liked. That is helped out by a unique set of vocals that I would normally associate in a quieter folk setting. This album clears any confusion with that.
- Rare Form
- Such Things
If Only I could List 15 Albums
Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra – So close to making the Top 10. Would have made it four albums in psychedelic rock genre.
- Like Acid Rain
- Necessary Evil
Coming Home by Leon Bridges – I’m a big fan of Sam Cooke, wouldn’t mind seeing more artists bring this retro soul sound back.
- Smooth Sailin’
- Brown Skin Girl
- Better Man
The Ashen Tang by Royce Wood Junior – One of the more unique albums on my list. Hard not to compare Royce to Prince. Very funky.
- Clanky Love
Imaginary Men by Rayland Baxter – This was a late find for me in 2015. Made a late push to be on my list. Was just very hard to knock anything off for it. This is what I wish John Mayer’s newer albums sounded like.
- Oh My Captain
- Yellow Eyes
Jackrabbit by San Fermin – I went back and forth on this album all year, but in the end it settled into a nice spot for me. It just carries so many different styles and can be tough to settle into. At one point it sounds like The National and then it transitions to something from The Family Crest.
- Women In Red
What Went Down by Foals – One of my favorite straight rock albums of the year. You don’t see many mainstream rock albums these days. Foals have taken over this rare spot from artists like Muse and The Killers.
- What Went Down
- Mountain At My Gates
- London Thunder
Plenty of music to get you through the upcoming year. Did the trick for me! Feel free to go through and listen to all the links below, or click here and go to an online playlist hosted by WHYD.
Our Own House by MisterWives https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGl7O1EVR7Y
The Firewatcher’s Daughter by Brandi Carlile https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYvwRpqidvY
Honeymoon by Lana Del Rey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kYsxoWfjCg
Jukebox The Ghost by Jukebox The Ghost https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gevER2R7pkc
No Cities To Love by Sleater-Kinney https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdNgHnLJWgw
Don’t Lose This by Pop Staples https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2Vdoghm8Sw
LOVETAP! by Smallpools https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSJtjPi8CcY
National Throat by Will Dailey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3nGl4on1jo
Escape From Evil by Lower Dens https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHaL2jwWnl4
Xtra Love by WE ARE TWIN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRAF9DxT1Os
Glitterbug by The Wombats https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLzGV3R0kLw
Phantom Pop by Wild Party https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygLy1FSNEAA
Makes A King by The Very Best https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gr9hkox3ALA
The Embers Of Time by Josh Rouse https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=objraP0Pbog
California Nights by Best Coast https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MDWtSf_AI4
Wilder Minds by Mumford & Sons https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHzc_DLHztA
The Waterfall by My Morning Jacket https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDjGnCvDOk4
Such Jubilee by Mandolin Orange https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7PvgY65OxA
The Helio Sequence by The Helio Sequence https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAMNzmoMTIU
Drug For The Modern Age by Kopecky https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdu5n0sDNw8
The Desired Effect by Brandon Flowers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FmPEoC7vg4
English Graffiti by The Vaccines https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RM5byRW_jM
1997 by Mirror Talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXbE3K53Ii0
It’s All Just Pretend by Ivan & Alyosha https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSyDnHhth9o
Axis Mundi by Brownbird https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMLDVtUICo8
Fear And Lies by Sick Sad World https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twg5ZL-_nKc
Holly Miranda by Holly Miranda https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIKOV9RlP1I
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ50rvySDCk
Algiers by Algiers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGV9rFA-tRk
Coin by Coin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35zBQeOW3F4
The Fool by Ryn Weaver https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qafdnLo5mYw
Welcome You by Motopony https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBcs4fff8Yw
Pageant Material by Kacey Musgraves https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uN5Ge-ICDM
Born Under Saturn by Django Django https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ucPrtZS6kI
Venus by Joy Williams https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55sY1WqGyMY
Broken Into Better Shape by Good Old War https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zL1l81KBHGY
The State of Gold by Matt Pond PA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0_jAT_ZBKM
In The Wilderness by Stranger Cat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvIrqvxoMsU
Story Of An Immigrant by Civil Twilight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-Jh7GJ4XjE
Flying Lessons by Fool’s Gold https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5iANGjjBfM
Let The Good Times Roll by J.D. McPherson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QGE2xjhEY0
Traveler by Chris Stapleton https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zAThXFOy2c
On Blonde by Yukon Blonde https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8q84cm8rxc
Second Sight by Hey Rosetta! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AB1cMMxJ7Uk
All Yours by Widowspeak https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_9TW_QyZFM
Everybody’s A Good Dog by Diane Coffee https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADJiK-X1Vm4
No No No by Beruit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfE156KQBa0
twelvefour by The Paper Kites https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eN2ZrTkrk1U
Pagans In Vegas by The Metric https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnJKGwOA2vI
Trading Change by Jeremy Loops https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dumv7o1zIJ0
Fuel To The Fire by The Rationale https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHs6O6jC7Y8
Thunderbitch by Thunderbitch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-_oXNzc04A
JR JR by JR JR https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iNG_DJOw5k
The War Inside by Jill Andrews https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc8X927co6o
Emotion by Carly Rae Jepsen https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeccAtqd5K8
Boom Forest by Boom Forest https://soundcloud.com/boomforest/freshly-laundered-linen?in=emily-horton-3/sets/dec-2013
Sermon On The Rocks by Josh Ritter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIHMAhIe9es
Men Amongst Mountains by The Revivalist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fbvL6zUJKQ
Dear Wormwood by The Oh Hellos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz5MGQZfKPo
Sun Leads Me On by Half Moon Run https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZbfyWg1xlY
Living by Oh Pep! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qv8OThXB8M8
Peace Is The Mission by Major Lazer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqeW9_5kURI
LIMBO by Pell https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQLZRKel-c8
Oh Wonder by Oh Wonder https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LFGqokvOwI
Big Grams by Big Grams https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIG2_N1drc4
A Head Full of Dreams by Coldplay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtXby3twMmI
Kept by Stolen Jars https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4-O0muFRtE
Keep The Village Alive by The Stereophonics https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJ5cg0KNKH0
Ones And Sixes by Low https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZfjysllZyg
Before We Forgot How To Dream by SOAK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgaRm9j8SQI
Architect by C Duncan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R15J_yfHJ8g
Shedding Skin by Ghostpoet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIR_Qs3tbFU
Song Of The Year Goddess by Chrome Sparks
It’s wrong to put this song at the bottom of this posting, but I’m not going to have time to post a full SOTY article this year. This song is a bit of a surprise to be my number one. The song was a relatively late find, but once I heard it I couldn’t stop playing it. It’s unusual for me to list an electronica song #1, but it’s just so epic. A video editors dream song. Makes all videos look dramatic.
Wow! You made it to the bottom of the list! Nice work! That’s a lot of music listed above. Hope you enjoyed some of it. Leave a comment let me know what you thought of 2015. What was your favorite album? Be sure to keep an eye out as I get ready to transition this site. Coming soon, I plan to launch a site focused on music.