Top Albums of 2015

top albums of 2015

Tis’ the season for year-end listicals! The staff and writers at The Blue Indian are pleased to share our favorite releases from 2015. Like years before, we’ve opted for an unranked list in favor of a collection of records that impacted us each in different ways. Each contributor submitted five releases that resonated with them the most over the last twelve months and the albums were organized alphabetically by title. We hope you enjoy this year-in-review as much as we do! Here’s to 2016…

100 Watt Horse100 Watt – Everything’s Alright Forever and Forever and Forever and Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou Amen – June 16 – Bear Kids Recordings 

Perhaps 100 Watt Horse (George Pettis and Anna Jeter) could have gone with a shorter album title for their full-length follow up to 2014’s The 100 Watt Horse EP, but that wouldn’t have been any fun at all. The group, which includes Pettis, Jeter, and a rotating cast of Atlanta’s finest, hunkered down in early 2015 to record an album that is charming and captivating in its construct. Whether sparse acoustic numbers or pop tracks that demand booming speakers over headphones, the record is chock full of songs that are thoroughly contemplative in their makeup and graceful in their approach. Look for a new release in 2016 but for now (and forever and forever and forever…), let this one wrap around you. – Sean Pritchard

andrew birdAndrew BirdEcholocations: Canyon – February 3 – Wegawam Music Co.

Andrew Bird has always offered a heavy dose of classical flair with his eclectic, folk/rock songwriting. Echolocations: Canyon plunges the listener into the depths Bird’s mastery of violin and melodic atmosphere. While the thought of a violin heavy, instrumental album seems daunting and stiff, Echolocations: Canyon brings approachable rhythms and progressions that only showcases the folksy spontaneity of Andrew Bird. If you are willing, it is definitely worth a listen. – Kyle Barfield

beirutBeirutNo No No – September 11 – 4AD

Beirut’s No No No delivers a distilled, skeletal sound that pulls from the band’s traditional Old-World style while maintaining a streamlined feel. While some have not taken to the album’s more mellow pace, No No No gives the listener an intimate perspective on Zach Condon’s songwriting and talent. From the djembe and piano on “Gibraltar” to the trumpet and cello on “So Allowed” Beirut delivers their trademark aesthetic while proving that sometimes less is in fact more. – Kyle Barfield

BullyBully – Feels Like – June 23 – Columbia / StarTime

Feels Like, Bully’s debut full-length is the caliber of album that any seasoned act would be thrilled to release a decade into their career. Spearheaded by Alicia Bognanno, a Minnesota transplant who earned her Audio Production degree from Middle Tennessee State University before interning with Steve Albini in Chicago, the band couldn’t possibly had a restful day over the last year; Between national support and headline tours to dates all around Europe, 2015 belonged to Bully. Bold, brainy lyricism and ear-ringing instrumentation make Feels Like an easy stand-out for rock records released in the last year. Dedicate a morning run or a late night to this one — anywhere in between works also but make sure to give this record your undivided attention . – Sean Pritchard

chineseChinese FootballChinese Football – September 12 – Self-Released

There’s no doubt that Chinese Football, an indie 4-piece out of Wuhan, China, wears their mid-western emo influences on their sleeve. Besides the nod to genre OG’s American Football, the band’s dreamy, light math-rock made popular by their American forefathers is a near-perfect emulation. The second track of the album, “守门员”, is beautiful, complex, and a wonderful intro to the band. – Andy Carter

Chris StapletonChris Stapleton – Traveller – May 15 – Mercury Nashville

Mainstream country music has not seen a talent like Chris Stapleton in some time, but he has been a Nashville fixture for years, writing some of the most successful country songs of the past ten years. Traveller is his major-label debut, and it stands in direct opposition to the pop country machine responsible for such travesties as hick-hop and Miranda Lambert. What Stapleton gives us instead on his debut is a little southern rock, some classic country, and flecks of bluegrass left over from his days fronting The SteelDrivers, all cloaked in the smoke of a deserted dive bar. He is above all a master songwriting with a voice unmatched, channeling at times Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger yet sounding assuredly unique. – Grafton Tanner

courtney barnettCourtney BarnettSometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit – March 20 – Mom + Pop Music

It seems as if Barnett exploded on the scene in 2015 despite having been making music for quite some time now. Her debut LP, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, certainly deserves every bit of praise it’s been garnering over the past few months though. The Australian singer-songwriter has a way of engrossing you in the tales she weaves through her songs. She simultaneously seems aloof yet focused in her delivery which creates an awesome effect when paired with the fuzzed out, poppy guitar riffs. Likewise, her lyrics weave between devilishly clever wordplay and seemingly disoriented rambling. In Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, Barnett’s entire approach to crafting the album feels like that of a close friend strumming out, particularly well if I may add, personal, oddly comedic songs to a living room full of slightly inebriated party goers. It’s intimate and endearing, yet light hearted enough to never take itself too seriously. – Peterson Worrell 

dalmatianDalmatianDalmatian/Dalmation – November 20 – Self-Released

Let me just go ahead and say that I didn’t just include this record in the list because they call my hometown of Macon, GA their home, too. I have been grooving this record for over two weeks straight — every day. You go listen to “Camo Chameleon” and tell me that ain’t fantastic. Like some of the other albums I submitted, this one made my list in part because the group’s sound transcends time. It would have been cool in 1965 and it’s cool in 2015. Oh, the coolest part to me? I just realized one of the members of the group lives 2 doors up from me. I had the opportunity to tell him how great the album is and that he should be very proud. Listen to the record and you’ll see what I mean. – Luke Goddard

dangeloD’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah – December 15, 2014 – RCA Records

At the dawn of 2015, D’Angelo released the long-awaited follow-up to his 2000 classic, Voodoo, and the result, Black Messiah, does not remind me of his previous album but of another 2000 release whose presence has glided over music history since – Kid A. Like Kid A, Black Messiah sprawls and cherry-picks from multiple sources throughout history and sounds like it took years to create. But it is not over-wrought; on the contrary, every minute detail of Black Messiah is in its right place (no pun). What D’Angelo and his band achieve here is perfection – a meld of the analog and the digital, the sound of gospel, James Brown, and Fela Kuti crashing into J Dilla, glitch, and A Tribe Called Quest. This is the work of the pros wrestling with the great struggles of our time, and everything else just sounds like amateur hour. – Grafton Tanner

decemberistsThe DecemberistsWhat a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World – January 20 – Rough Trade Records

With their seventh studio album, The Decemberists continue their tradition of immersive imagery and storytelling that defines them so well. Though not quite as intricate as past albums, there are still tales of trying to get the girl (“Philomena”), real life attempts at love (“Make You Better”), mother entrenched in war (“Better Not Wake the Baby”), and even references back to past songs (“Anti-Summersong”). The single “Make You Better” seems to be where they took a chance on this album, and it paid off. Leaning more on the rock side of indie-rock, it has the expected Decemberists sound merely amped up. The last two songs (“12/17/12” and “A Beginning Song”) are quintessential Decemberists songs, doing what they do best – eliciting a little bit of longing and encouraging hope, much like the title of the album. All in all, nothing new and crazy, but is that a bad thing? Not when what we know is so good already. – Sarah Weitman 

diamond rugsDiamond Rugs – Cosmetics – February 24 – Sycamore Records / Thirty Tigers

Perhaps the only “supergroup” to make this list, Diamond Rugs follow-up to their eponymous 2012 release is nothing shy of pure rock ‘n’ roll bliss. On stage and on record, the band, comprised of John McCauley and Robbie Crowell (Deer Tick), Ian Saint Pé (The Black Lips, Saint Pé), Hardy Morris (Dead Confederate, T. Hardy Morris), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), and Bryan Dufresne (Six Finger Satellite), is a blur of activity; beer cans are crushed, strings are broken, drumheads are busted, and voices made hoarse. Cosmetics has a confident swagger that could carry evening drunken night on to morning’s light. – Sean Pritchard

The DistrictsThe Districts – A Flourish and a Spoil – February 10 – Fat Possum Records

As a small town band that caught the attention of Fat Possum a few years back, The Districts have really begun to come into their own with their second full-length. An swirls of Americana laden with skuzzy vocals and traditional rock sounds aid this album in masterfully carrying a theme of personal journey and a sense of young adult wonderment that involves optimism alongside lessons learned the hard way. Immense growth in sound and maturity is evident in this album. It’s quickly becoming an all-time favorite of mine. – Everett Verner

earl sweatshirtEarl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside – March 23 – Tan Cressida / Columbia

Just one week after Kendrick Lamar released his phenomenal, precedent-setting LP To Pimp A Butterfly,  Earl (Thebe Kgositsile), would bring I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside to the table — offering up his own philosophical musings. Although Butterfly would propel Lamar to massive heights (President Obama just announced his favorite song of the year came from the record), Earl’s record flew slightly under the radar. Still, the album (and the timing of the respective releases) reaffirmed that Earl is among a class of rappers and producers that see much more than just dollar signs. – Sean Pritchard

family and friendsFamily And Friends – XOXO – July 17 – Self-Released

Family and Friends gives another taste of their music that leaves you wanting more with XOXO. Still featuring their trademark impeccable harmonies, upbeat guitars, and heavy percussion, they begin to explore more into new territories in the songs “Howl” and “Parasites.” With six band members, it’s easy to understand how they get such a powerful sound that doesn’t quite sound like anything else out there. The overall feeling of this album is less carefree than Love You Mean It, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not as fun. “Wyoming,” “Amadeus,” and “Vestiges” in particular still inspire some toe tapping, in addition to being a little thought provoking about life, love, and the future. – Sarah Weitman

father john mistyFather John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear – February 9 – Sub Pop

Yes, Josh Tillman played a part in Fleet Foxes years ago and we’re all thankful for that, largely in part because it led to him stepping away and pursuing music on his own full time.  Since his inaugural album as FJM (he has solo records as J. Tillman, check them out), Fear Fun, an album that was laced with a sense of excitement and creativity that mirrored the beat movement of the 50’s, Tillman has become the icon (anti-icon) of a generation. I’ve never been so happy to have a drummer take up the mic and move up front since Dave Grohl did it 20 years prior. I Love You, Honeybear holds that same tone of idyllic joy and reckless abandon but with a touch more lounge singer-vibe. Remember, no photography. – Everett Verner

GrimesGrimes – Art Angels – November 6 – 4AD

Claire Boucher’s ascent to pop stardom is a story that defies the genre’s industry norms. Rather than fitting a label-generated image and singing other writers’ songs, she has always maintained a D.I.Y. approach to crafting who she is and what she performs as Grimes, internet be damned. Her latest effort is no exception, as she exhibited complete artistic control, writing, producing, and recording this new batch of fourteen songs. Art Angels, which pulls from K-pop, bubblegum, Eurodance and more, is essentially a maximalist pop smorgasbord from the perspective of multiple characters. Strip back the personas and tags, though, and at its core Art Angels is simply pop music that everyone can enjoy. – Andy Barton

the high diversThe High Divers – Riverlust – October 9 – Hearts and Plugs

I remember exactly where I was when I heard the first track off of The High Divers’ record, Riverlust. My friend Kyle Barfield, who happens to be a writer here at TBI, asked if I had the chance to check out the TBI premiere of the band yet. Without giving me a chance to say “not yet,” he flipped it on. Our windows were down and as soon as the build of the first track (my favorite) “Rising Water” was pleasantly interrupted by Luke Mitchell singing “I know you’re trying,” I just started dancing. My body started moving and I couldn’t help it. I am not sure South Carolina realizes what it has in The High Divers. That group is special. There wasn’t a record released in 2015 better than Riverlust and I’m standing by those words. – Luke Goddard

hop alongHop AlongPainted Shut – May 4 – Saddle Creek 

Painted Shut may have been one of the most anticipated records of 2015 due in now small part to it also being one of the most anticipated records of 2014. Hop Along, formerly Hop Along, Queen Ansleis, dropped the first single from Painted Shut, “Sister Cities”, back in 2013 following up on their sophomore effort, Get Disowned. The single garnered instant praise and then came silence. Luckily, the year paid off for fans, and Painted Shut does not disappoint in the least. Frances Quinlan’s sometimes raspy, sometimes crooning, vocals are just the tip of what makes this album great. She knows her range and isn’t afraid to bound outside of those limits to make the emotion of her lyrics all the more palpable. The band isn’t afraid to show their range as well, drawing influences from indie and folk music on certain tracks, while relying more on a rock infused backbone on other tracks. Here’s hoping that Hop Along doesn’t make us wait another three years for a follow up to Painted Shut, but if that is the case, the wait will most certainly be worth it. – Peterson Worrell 

jason-isbell-something-more-than-freeJason IsbellSomething More Than Free – July 17 – Southeastern Records / Thirty Tigers

Isbell’s previous release, Southeastern, may land itself in my Top Ten records of all-time. He’s an alcoholic and his battle against the throws of addiction is well documented throughout the record, which I suppose resonates well with me, as I’ve had family go through the same situations he so eloquently describes in nearly every song. To be honest, I suspected just about anything released after Southeastern would have a hard time living up to its acclaim. Something More Than Free is not only exceeded expectations, but it stands alone as perhaps Isbell’s best. This guy astounds me. – Luke Goddard

Jim OrourkeJim O’Rourke – Simple Songs – May 19 – Drag City

Like Black Messiah, Simple Songs seems to stand outside time. Both albums honor the traditions of analog production without relying on the clichéd past-baiting that is so in vogue in 2015. And Simple Songs sounds great partly because of the masterful production and partly because O’Rourke has always had a penchant for dense Wall of Sound arrangements that never sound bloated. Listen to the string swells that crescendo into the mix on “Half Life Crisis” or the most perfect electric guitar tone during the outro to “Friends With Benefits.” These are the kinds of musical decisions not often made for fear of nit-picking a recording to death, but O’Rourke has built his career on making these decisions, leaving behind a music legacy worth envying. – Grafton Tanner

josh ritterJosh Ritter – Sermon on the Rocks – October 16 – Pytheas Recordings

As a follow-up to 2013’s Beast in its Tracks, Ritter returns with an album of self-described “messianic oracular honky-tonk.” As the title indicates, there’s a fair amount of biblical imagery presented throughout the album, but merely stating that doesn’t do it justice. It’s much more complicated, an almost mini crisis of faith if you will, filled with tales of the apocalypse (“Birds of the Meadow”), a girl who has more questions than answers after being sent off to “bible college” (“Getting Ready to Get Down”), and various other mentions. Another subject that’s the focus of many of these songs is the small town setting, especially in “Where the Night Goes,” “Cumberland,” and “Homecoming.” In “Young Moses” and “Cumberland” the rapid-fire singing that is common amongst all the great upbeat Ritter songs can be found. The whole album may vary in its tone, from serious to obstinate to nostalgic, but it is always earnest and hopeful. – Sarah Weitman

julien bakerJulien Baker – Sprained Ankle – October 23 – 6131 Records

Sprained Ankle, the gorgeous debut from Memphis-based singer-songwriter Julien Baker, is impressive on all accounts. Baker addresses themes of love and loss with somber clarity, acknowledging and questioning the beauty and mystery of even the simplest of moments of life. The album is void of complexity in its instrumentation, favoring earnest guitar-work over layers of samples and synths, but its sparseness adds great emphasis to the weight of Baker’s words. 2016 will be a big year for her, guaranteed. Especially since she’s ringing it in with The National in Aspen. Check out our Band of the Month feature on her for December 2015. – Sean Pritchard

kaceyKacey MusgravesPagent Material – June 23 – Mercury Records

It’s somewhat of a mystery to me as to why Kacey Musgraves hasn’t completely blown up in the pop universe yet, but I think we’re a little better off for it. Her follow to 2013’s Same Trailer Different Park, Pageant Materal, is a catchy, honest, simple country album. Musgraves co-wrote all thirteen tracks off of the album and recorded the album live at Nashville’s RCA Studio A. “Biscuits” was the debut single, but the combination of pedal steel, whistles, and infectious melody on “High Time” is tough to beat. – Andy Carter

kurt vileKurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down – September 25 – Matador Records

Mr. Vile is anything but boring with his hazy guitar riffs and gravelly voice. 2013’s Walking on a Pretty Daze was brimming with slack-jawed, fuzz-heavy numbers, and b’lieve builds on that, adding a hefty dose of  pop to the mix. His tempo is up and his lyrics are more exploratory in this contribution, and this evolution of sound makes me very optimistic for what else he has in store for the future. – Everett Verner

laura stevensonLaura StevensonCocksure – October 30 – Don Giovanni Records 

2015 has easily been the year of Don Giovanni Records. Any “Best of 2015” list is likely to have at least one artist from their roster among its ranks and for good reason. Needless to say, having to pare down their contribution to this list was a hefty task, but even among recent releases from great label mates such as Screaming Females, Waxahatchee, Upset, and Aye Nako, Laura Stevenson’s newest record, Cocksure, stands out. Stevenson has a knack for combining fiercely emotional and personal lyrics in the vein of other acts like Gin Blossoms under the guise of infectious power-pop/rock tunes in such a perfect manner that it’s difficult to realize how cutting and revealing her lyrics truly are. Cocksure is a bit more polished and produced than some of Stevenson’s previous albums, but the fuller sound never quite feels too overpowering and still lets Stevenson’s lyricism take center stage. – Peterson Worrell 

liturgyLiturgy – The Ark Work – March 24 – Thrill Jockey

The most hated band in metal returns with an album that uses the tropes and sounds of digital culture to construct a transcendent, schizophrenic mélange of the sacred and profane. Blowing open the very notion of irony and arriving at the other end with music both earnest and willfully plastic, they question our conceptions of trash and capital-A art, much like another artist on this list, Oneohtrix Point Never. All the talk of “occult-oriented rap” and “post-Internet” would be nil if the songs on The Ark Work were subpar, but Liturgy succeeds again at targeting both the mind and the body with their tantric rhythms (very few can match drummer Greg Fox’s prowess), beatific melodies, and apocalyptic lyrics. The Ark Work is the sound of modern man: digitized, post-secular, watching the world collapse. – Grafton Tanner

lord huronLord Huron – Strange Trails – April 7 – Iamsound Records 

There’s something about the dreamy sound of Lord Huron that makes this album a perfect companion for a back roads drive or a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s upbeat enough (“Until the Night Turns,” “Hurricane,” “Meet Me in the Woods”) that you’re fully engaged, but calm enough (“Love Like Ghosts,” “The Yawning Grave,” “The Night We Met”) that you’re not going to start a riot. The almost surreal sound complements the sometimes eerie storytelling, especially in songs like “Dead Man’s Hands” and “The World Ender.” This is a sophomore album three years in the making that demonstrates the benefits of taking your time. Strange Trails presents songs that blend effortlessly together and have an air of confidence and assurance about them. – Sarah Weitman

lymbyc systymLymbyc SystymSplit Stones – October 16 – Western Vinyl

Brooklyn-based Lymbyc System is the brain-child of brother Jared and Mike Bell. Their 2015 release, Split Stones, is an instrumental exploration into a variety of sounds and rhythms. It isn’t exactly post-rock, or electronica, or ambient but incorporates aspects of all of those styles. The title track is our personal favorite, but with a sci-fi feel from an era that’s tough to place and some incredibly creative beats. – Andy Carter

mac demarcoMac DeMarco – Another One – August 7 – Captured Tracks

This album is surprisingly vulnerable. But not in the way where you are sitting by a piano crying into the keys. His music is always chill yet upbeat but the vulnerability comes from the sincerity in the songs. It brings out the truer side of the listeners and gives a safe place to be goofy and wild without the need of chemical assistance. – Katie Flint

majical cloudzMajical Cloudz – Are You Alone? – October 16 – Matador Records

Canadian duo Majical Cloudz picked up steam in 2013 after Matador released their second album, Impersonator, a minimalist take on emotive electro-pop coating singer Devon Welsh’s personal yet universal lyrics in a wash of synth textures and programming. The two have toured heavily in North America since, even opening for Lorde in the fall of 2014. That association alone might’ve indicated that their follow-up would attempt at some sort of crossover appeal, but this year’s Are You Alone? wasn’t vastly different from what made Impersonator so great. Matthew Otto’s instrumental texturing is fuller but doesn’t infringe upon Welsh’s messages, instead providing a comfort blanket to the singer’s fragility and sadness. – Andy Barton

maseratiMaseratiRehumanizer – October 30 – Temporary Residence Ltd.

Athens-based Maserati is a band that hasn’t been afraid to re-invent and tweak their sound over the years. Their 2015 release Rehumanizer has the familiar Maserati driving, delay-heavy sound but adds in some synthwave textures that create some really cool dark sci-fi vibes, backed up by the original John Harris art on the cover. The last track on the album, “Rehumanizer II” is a brooding track with retro influence but that same Maserati head-nodding feel. – Andy Carter

matthew perryman jonesMatthew Perryman Jones – Cold Answer – July 17 – MPJ Music

This EP from Matthew Perryman Jones has all the elements of songwriting and melody that makes Jones one of the more dominant songwriters in recent years. Loaded with heavy lyrics and backed by steel guitar, Cold Answer hovers in that place where old-country meets blues. Tracks like “Wrestling Tigers” and “Can’t Get It Right” delve into the frustrations of continued setbacks and always coming up short. Matthew Perryman Jones has truly mastered his craft and continues to offer up quality material while keeping his genre fresh and relevant. – Kyle Barfield

the mountain goatsThe Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ – April 3 – Merge Records

Have you ever heard an acoustic album that strictly focuses on wrestling? Because I haven’t. The Mountain Goats are very good at creating whimsical stories with their music and this album is no stranger to that. I kept being reminded of their creativity in “The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton” throughout this album, which made me smile. For those that want a good album with great lyrics, this is a top contender. – Katie Flint

Mutemath_VitalsMUTEMATH – Vitals – November 13 – Wojtek Records

The energy and color on this album is refined and tight. MUTEMATH has made a name for themselves for experimental rhythms set against bright synth melodies. Vitals offers up the band at its best. The tempo stays high with layered instrumentation and engaging choruses. “Light Up” is probably the best track on the album, and it may be the best MUTEMATH track to date, which is quite an accomplishment given their productive history. Vitals brings a new depth of soul and emotion to MUTEMATH’s already exceptional sound. – Kyle Barfield

nathanielNathaniel Rateliff & The Night SweatsNathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – August 21 – Stax / Concord

Nathaniel Rateliff’s debut album with backing band The Night Sweats will put you in the mood to go watch The Blues Brothers and listen to some classic soul music (which is fitting since it was put out by Stax Records). There’s a rawness and realness that comes across that not only compliments Rateliff’s voice, but also The Night Sweats’ sound, putting them right at home with Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, and Booker T and the MG’s. With plenty of toe-tapping and dance-inducing tunes, this album makes you want to get up and move. There’s the more upbeat “I Need Never Get Old,” “Trying So Hard Not To Know” and “Look It Here,” and songs that just make you want to find someone to dance with like “I’ve Been Falling,” “Wasting Time” or “I’d Be Waiting.” Of course, it’d be remiss to not mention the barn- burning, almost revival feeling “S.O.B” preaching the sermon of alcohol to mend a broken heart. If you’ve only heard “S.O.B.”, it’s easy to wish that the entire album would have that feel and sound, but consider it a blessing that it doesn’t. – Sarah Weitman

of montrealof MontrealAureate Gloom – March 3 – Polyvinyl Records

This album goes back to the band’s peak years with Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? It brings on a story that follows Kevin Barnes and Nina Grottland and their on-again off-again relationship. A staple in their albums, the love and loss is shining in another light in this album, which people can relate to even more. – Katie Flint

oneohtrixOneohtrix Point NeverGarden of Delete – November 13 – Warp

Daniel Lopatin, the sonic plunderer behind Oneohtrix Point Never, has always been skilled at sampling the dated sounds we are conditioned to deem cheesy (Casio presets, macho electric guitar, Muzak) and turning them into music both alien and serene. On Garden of Delete, Lopatin turns his attention to teenagehood in the early 2000s: gulping down Surge, rocking out to Korn and Rob Zombie, battling acne, and watching a nascent war through the lens of a news journalist’s camera. The result is a mind-blowing album that bridges the gap between our very recent past and this perpetual present in which we have found ourselves. No other album in recent memory has sounded so refreshingly original and so dazzlingly disturbing. – Grafton Tanner

saintsenecaSaintsenecaSuch Things – October 9 – ANTI-

Though much of Saintseneca’s third full-length, Such Things, was written by the Ohio natives during or shortly after the recording of their second album, there’s an even more potent energy to these recordings than their previous work. Such Things still showcases core member Zac Little’s fascination with traditional folk instrumentation and carefully worded storytelling, but the album leans more towards the rock end of the folk-rock spectrum—a stark departure from their bluegrass-y start. Aside from a few slower, acoustic-driven numbers like “How Many Blankets Are In The World?”, the majority of ST’s songs possess propulsive rhythms and incredibly catchy choruses, proving the band can expound on the intersection of physics and neuroscience while still keep things accessible. – Andy Barton

sleater kinneySleater-KinneyNo Cities To Love – January 20 – Sub Pop 

It’s pretty easy to be wary of band reunions these days. As current generations start looking back to the stars of old and long to experience what they missed due to being born just a few years short, it’s becoming common for lackluster reunion tours to pop up for the easy cash grab. Thankfully, there are bands like Sleater-Kinney that stand as a beacon of how to come back together in the right way. The Pacific Northwest based titans of indie rock and riot returned after nearly a decade and gifted a new generation with one of the best albums of 2015 right off the bat. No Cities to Love offers up all of the angst, frustration, and sincerity that the band was known for in the 90’s. Carrie Brownstein’s guitar riffs are as technical as they ever have been, Corin Tucker’s voice still demands attention and ropes you in with astounding melodies, and Janet Weiss provides an energy and groove on drums that makes it seem as if the trio hasn’t spent more than a few months apart as opposed to a few years. This is the rock album of 2015 for sure. Fun, energetic, powerful; the superlatives could go on for days. – Peterson Worrell

son luxSon LuxBones – June 23 – Glassnote Records

For this one, I’m thankful for Arthur Alligood, a good, singer/songwriter friend of mine from Nashville, TN. It seems like at least once a year Arthur turns me onto something brilliant floating around out there in the sonic waves of the universe. Son Lux has been around a while, but Ryan Lott, the genius behind the group, has recently become the new Pitchfork darling. And deservingly so, if you’re one who feels that’s an accomplishment. Go listen to “Change Is Everything” off Bones. It’ll get in your bones and inspire you. – Luke Goddard

stokeswoodStokeswood2075 – June 16 – Self-Released

I saw this group live earlier this year and was incredibly impressed by their energy and charisma. The name Stokeswood gives off the vibe of a relaxing jam band with a killer light show, but the band is very upbeat and fun and will get any one dancing. 2075 is their latest release which brings their sound and aura into a full form. – Katie Flint

summer saltSummer SaltSummer Salt – June 24 – Self-Released

Summer Salt’s self-titled debut release is a throwback to millennium-era emo and pop-punk records, and succeeds in re-capturing the spirit and emotions inherent in that style. PJ Elias is the backbone of the band, having written the majority of the songs with the help of guitarist Kyle Coleman. He is backed up by drummer Nathan Stone, who also produced the album. Highlights of the album include “Wanting More” and the triumphant build of “Dam”. – Andy Carter

sufjanSufjan StevensCarrie and Lowell – March 30 – Asthmatic Kitty

It’s been a minute since we sat in our feelings with Stevens. He has brought back his melodic and soft spoken tone that has tugged at our heartstrings before and it has done it again. “Should Have Known Better” is an indie Cindy’s ultimate driving tune, with its vocals and guitar in coexistence. It’s a fresh breath among the punk and electronic music that has flooded the alternative realm. – Katie Flint

teleTelekinesis – Ad Infinitum – September 18 – Merge Records

As the platform for singer/songwriter Michael Benjamin Lerner to flesh out his more eclectic, electronic ideas, Telekinesis’ third full-length album stays on course with his previous brilliance in a pop-infused electro-indie wave of sound. The record is reminiscent of dreamy synth sounds of the early 80’s — a heavy mix of beats alongside wistful vocals and optimistic lyrics. If a record brings LCD Soundsystem to mind, that’s never a bad thing. – Everett Verner

tobias jesso jrTobias Jesso Jr.Goon – March 17 – True Panther Sounds / Matador

If you need some modern day Paul McCartney / Elton John in your life, go pick up and copy of Goon by Tobias Jesso Jr. and let it take you places. After living in LA for four or so years playing bass in the band The Sessions, Tobias moved back to his native land of North Vancover, Canada. He picked up the piano while working for a moving company in his spare time and wrote the gem “Just a Dream,” which can be found on the full-length. It makes me so happy to know that there’s people like Tobias in this world still making the kind of music my parents used to dance to in the 60’s-70’s. Enjoy this one. – Luke Goddard

title fightTitle Fight – Hyperview – February 3 – ANTI- 

Pennsylvania emo stalwarts Title Fight imbued their bleeding-heart punk with a surprising dose of shoegaze on this year’s Hyperview. Whether jagged and biting or pensive and serene, heavily-effected guitars lent more depth to the band’s sound, complementing the album’s lovelorn subject matter. Take the sequential “Rose of Sharon” and “Trace Me Onto You”, for example, which sound like they could fit on the band’s previous effort, Floral Green, if it weren’t for a glassy guitar sheen and extensive use of the whammy bar. Many were taken aback by the band’s stylistic shift, but the band pulled it off well, opening themselves up to new audiences while retaining much of their core followers. – Andy Barton

twilight sadThe Twilight Sad – Òran Mór Session – October 16 – FatCat Records

This album gives you a rare look at the heartfelt artistry of a band who’s made waves by being loud in sound and brutally open in their writing. Òran Mór Session pairs a melancholy yet resilient electric guitar with singer James Graham’s penetrating Scottish vocals. This project, recorded at the Òran Mór Auditorium in Glasgow, pulls from the previous album, Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave, however this elemental sound creates an engaging and introspective atmosphere that highlights a strength of songwriting for The Twilight Sad that shouldn’t be missed. – Kyle Barfield

unknown mortalUnknown Mortal OrchestraMulti-Love – May 26 – Jagjaguwar

If it wasn’t frowned upon, I’d just write about how cool their name is and leave it there for readers to get the hint. That being said, Unknown Mortal Orchestra has landed a few tracks from this album on XM/Sirius and deservedly so; They groove along and help the day go by a little easier. II, their 2013 release, set UMO up for a bright future and Multi-Love gracefully carries that baton onward. Lo-fi psychedelia is chum in the water to my ears (Yes, Tame Impala and Mild High Club made a great records too…). Ruban Neilson’s voice drips into each song with a resistance of power that allows each cut and groove to sync and bounce along with the mellow vibes that make Multi-Love an album worth chilling on. – Everett Verner

viet congViet CongViet Cong – January 20 – Jagjaguwar 

Viet Cong made it incredibly easy to let their narrative speak over their music. Founded by Matt Flegel and Michael Wallace after the public dissolution of Women, their previous band, in 2010—and the tragic overnight death of one of that group’s guitarists, Christopher Reimer, just a year later—Viet Cong were steeped in expectation and public fixation from the get-go. Their problematic choice of band name didn’t help much either. But behind the onslaught of news lay a record so dense and obfuscating that the band’s commensurate layers of persona made sense. Over the record’s seven songs, the band manages to completely re-haul and update the post-punk canon, facing Reimer’s death with dry and acerbic statements coated in a patchwork of industrial sounding guitars. As idiosyncratic as their statement was—isolated, suffocated, regretful—it seemed very much of 2015. – Andy Barton

Worriersworriers-coverImaginary Life – August 7 – Don Giovanni Records

Worriers may have only been playing together for about 4 years now, but you’d be hard pressed to find a punk outfit with a stronger background than the Brooklyn quartet. With big names from legendary punk bands like guitarist/vocalist Lauren Denitzio formerly of The Measure [sa] and drummer Mikey Erg of The Ergs! aren’t enough to draw you in, then tossing in names of more contemporary musicians who’ve contributed to Worriers like Big Eyes‘ Rachel Rubino, Caves’ Lou Hanman, or Audrey Zee Whitesides of Little Waist should stir up something. Worriers doesn’t just rely on speed on intensity as has been the growing trend in punk recently. Lauren’s lyrics are carefully crafted and are belted out with meaningful articulation. The songs are meaningful and poignant. They’re an introspective look at the music scene from artists that have seen the best and the worst of it. The issues are put right in your face, but at the same time, there’s a certain optimism for the future that permeates every lament spoken. Imaginary Life is the punk album that’s needed in the music scene right now. – Peterson Worrell

More Albums We Loved

Adele25 All DogsKicking Every Day – Allison WeissNew Love – Andrew CombsAll These Dreams –Ava LunaInfinite House – Aye NakoThe Blackest EyeBeach HouseDepression Cherry – Beach Slang The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us – Chastity BeltTime To Go Home – ChildbirthWomen’s Rights – Downtown BoysFull Communism – Fake FlowersWonderwave – Girl PoolBefore The World Was Big – George Ezra – Wanted on VoyageGrand VapidsGuarantees – HalseyBadlands Hardy & the HardknocksDrownin’ On A Mountaintop – John MorelandHigh on Tulsa Heat – Kacey MusgravesPageant Material – Keith Richards – Crosseyed Heart – Kopecky Drug for a Modern Age – Krill A Distant Fist UnclenchingThe Lone BellowThen Came the Morning – MetzMetz II – Natalie PrassNatalie Prass – Night Birds Mutiny at Muscle Beach – PileYou’re Better Than This – Ryan Adams1989 Screaming Females – Rose Mountain – Speedy OrtizFoil Deer – TORRESSprinter – TriathalonNothing Bothers Me – Valley MakerWhen I Was a Child WaxahatcheeIvy Tripp