This year has been a crazy year of music, and I’ve never acquired as much music from a year as I have in 2015. In fact, I’ve accumulated 40+ hours of music released in this year. I’ve talked about my seven favorite albums and seven favorite EP’s on my own blog, but I have now extended that list into my top 20 favorite albums of 2015. I’ve attempted to describe them with only a sentence each, and I’ve also provided my favorite tracks from each album as well as any content caveats.
First, here are some honorable mentions (in no particular order):
Beneath the Skin by Of Monsters and Men
COIN by COIN
Depression Cherry by Beach House
The Great Minimum by Tow’rs
Highspeeds by Elliot Moss
Hiraeth by Shy, Low
Permission to Feel by Civilized Creature
Smoke + Mirrors by Imagine Dragons
Star Wars by Wilco
Summer and Fall by Justin Small
Now, without any further blabbering, here are my 20 favorites:
20 Anxiety by NYVES
Favorite track: “Love My Way” (and, yes, it’s a Psychedelic Furs cover)
Demon Hunter’s Ryan Clark teams up with Project 86’s Randy Torres for a dark electronica album that uses its muted palate to accentuate the light known by its creators.
19 Adventure by Madeon
Favorite track: “OK”
The French prodigy’s debut dance album focuses on concepts bigger than dancing and music.
Content caveat: The word “damn” is used in the chorus of “You’re On” (though the vocals are breathy enough and the bass loud enough for it to be missed).
18 Fly Exam by JGivens
Favorite track: “Hummingbird Stance”
JGivens presents a beautifully coherent and masterfully produced rap album with disarming wittiness and a decidedly West Cost vibe.
17 Home by Josh Garrels
Favorite track: “Colors”
This peaceful Americana/folk album was my soundtrack for when my siblings were in the hospital recovering from their amputations.
16 Kindred by Passion Pit
Favorite track: “All I Want”
Passion Pit grows up and remembers when he was younger, relying more on ballads than on 8-bit synthesizer freak-outs to tell his story.
Content caveat: Things get somewhat sensual in “Until We Can’t (Let’s Go),” and the final track contains profanity (earning an explicit label). However, the latter is the weakest track on the album with regards to music, and it doesn’t damage the flow of the album to be left off the end.
15 VEGA INTL. Night School by Neon Indian
Favorite track: “Slumlord” & “Slumlord’s Re-Lease” (the latter is a postlude/encore of the former)
A tone poem about 70’s/80’s nightlife officially ends Neon Indian’s dance project VEGA, pushing him away from the chillwave scene he helped create into a sea of nostalgia and neo-futuristic funk.
Content caveat: The track “Smut!” is aptly named, though it is implicit rather than explicit regarding its titular content. Though some interesting commentary could be made on this song and how it furthers the ideas of the album, the track ultimately can be skipped.
14 Vitals by MUTEMATH
Favorite track: “Best of Intentions”
MUTEMATH embraces a cooler, crisper production style while retaining their thoughtful lyrics and smooth melodies.
13 A New Heart by Civilized Creature
Favorite track: “I Need You”
Civilized Creature presents a strong full-length debut with deliciously strange electronic beats and a dramatic increase in musical maturity.
12 One Wild Life: Soul by Gungor
Favorite track: “Us for Them”
Gungor sets a strong tone for their forthcoming album trilogy while adopting the most restrained and pop-y approach from Gungor to date.
11 Every Open Eye by CHVRCHES
Favorite track: “Bury It”
These synth-popsters have found hope and empowerment in their problems this go around, and they deal with their transgressors with maturity instead of malice.
10 Sleeping Tapes by Jeff Bridges
Favorite track: “My Keys”
I still can’t quite wrap my brain around how an actor can create an ambient album that serves as a commercial while still standing alone as a satisfying listening experience.
Content caveat: “Ass” and “Hell” pop up out of context in the storytelling of “Temescal Canyon” and “Goodnight (We’re All in This Together).” However, they are not used in a derogatory manner, and the quirkiness of the release almost completely nullifies the mild potential offensiveness of these words.
9 What Went Down by Foals
Favorite track: “Mountain At My Gates”
These horses have left the stable, and Foals find themselves as untethered as in their debut Antidotes with the musical skill found in Holy Fire.
8 Bones by Son Lux
Favorite track: “This Time”
This chamber-synth record further cements Ryan Lott’s knack for composition, bolstering the production with motifs from previous albums.
7 Sea of Glass by Warbler
Favorite track: “Golden Gate”
The Californian singer-songwriter, Warbler, challenges Californian mindsets and American cultural problems with boldness in one hand and tenderness in the other.
6 The Desired Effect by Brandon Flowers
Favorite track: “Can’t Deny My Love”
A modern rock star writes endearing pop tunes with satisfying, nostalgic production.
5 Perennial by FILMLOOM
Favorite track: “V C R”
Beauty rises from troubled life events, manifesting in a sprawling electronic singer-songwriter experiment.
4 In Clover by Fiery Crash
Favorite track: “Annie”
Mature perspectives find their place in what would normally be the home to angst and hopelessness.
3 Blurryface by twenty one pilots
Favorite track: “Goner”
In its whirlwind of sound and genre fusion, Blurryface inspires hope and spreads contagious energy and creativity
2 Death is Their Shepherd by Physick
Favorite track: “Goodspeed God’s Fire”
This gloriously ambitious mixed media project fulfills all its potential greatness and showcases pure brilliance of the duo Physick.
1 Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
Favorite track: “Eugene”
Beautifully nuanced and gentle production emphasizes deeply affective lyrics.
Content caveat: see Lucas’ review of this album here for more details about the rougher edges of this album.