Before, during or after looking at my lists, check out What’s Good In 2015. It was an off year for me in terms of my music listening, but that’s more or less all of what stuck, and there’s plenty to love. I’ll do better next year. Be sure to share what you liked or anything I might’ve missed in the comments!
I missed this record in the beginning of the year, but it definitely caught me at the right point just as fall was coming on. More than anything else in my top ten, Painted Shut just hits sonically. Frances Quinlan throws her voice around and pushes it to its limits on nearly every song, keeping it grungy without ever quite losing how pretty it is. The instrumental parts are crafted and honed to perfection, and are responsible for about as much of the songs’ catchiness as the vocals are. It’s brilliant. For my own sake, I promise to not sleep on whatever follow-up this record gets.
The Desired Effect is the best work Brandon Flowers has released since Sam’s Town. That should be enough to get you to listen to the record if you haven’t already, but if you’re the sort who needs more direction, start with “Lonely Town” and “Can’t Deny My Love.” If you aren’t hooked on those, rinse and repeat. Flowers dives into his ’80s for most of the record, with a nice Beatlesy section in the closing track. The production is great across the album, and the songs and vocals are even better. It’s a winning combination.
This was my midyear most-anticipated record, and it came through wonderfully. Like a lot of really great albums, this one hits a certain set of feels, and, though Work It Out is definitely poppier than Like We Used To, Lucy Rose manages to cut deep and nail the perfect heartbreaking aesthetic, song in and song out. It’s easy to assign more emotionally heavy albums into the fall or winter, but I think this is going to be one for the whole year. The world could use more records in this vein.
Before this year, the last time my favorite band put out a new album, it was 2007. It’s rare that eight years of waiting ends with fulfilled expectations, but Strangers To Ourselves accomplishes exactly that. Riffs, harmonics, a tight rhythm section, and Isaac Brock’s full complement of lyrical and vocal abilities all come together on a lengthy set of great songs. Revitalizing important aspects of the band’s sound while pushing boundaries just enough, this record is exactly what a modern Modest Mouse needed to sound like.
The first time I listened to Carrie & Lowell (on the same night as Strangers To Ourselves, no less), it was through headphones at around 3AM with no lights on. From that first time through, I knew that this record was something special. I didn’t need to see it live to confirm the emotional weight of these songs, but it certainly didn’t hurt, either. Sufjan is in a class nearly by himself, and the intimate, introspective Carrie & Lowell proves his songwriting is as strong as it’s ever been.
11. Fall Out Boy – American Beauty / American Psycho
12. Dance Gavin Dance – Instant Gratification
13. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion
14. Allison Weiss – New Love
15. Punchline – Thrilled
16. Ryn Weaver – The Fool
17. Nate Ruess – Grand Romantic
18. The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven
19. The Maine – American Candy
20. Pentimento – I, No Longer
Top 5 EPs:
1. The Japanese House – Pools To Bathe In
2. Tsuki Bomb – Vices & Virtues
3. You, Me, And Everyone We Know – Dogged
4. Beach Weather – What A Drag
5. Violents – Absentee
Top 10 Songs:
1. “Lonely Town” – Brandon Flowers, from The Desired Effect
2. “Fourth Of July” – Sufjan Stevens, from Carrie & Lowell
3. “The Ground Walks, With Time In A Box” – Modest Mouse, from Strangers To Ourselves
4. “Blessings (Ft. Drake)” – Big Sean, from Dark Sky Paradise
5. “Thank God For Girls” – Weezer, from Thank God For Girls – Single
6. “The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive” – Death Cab For Cutie, from Kintsugi
7. “English Girls” – The Maine, from American Candy
8. “Stuck Forever” – Pentimento, from I, No Longer
9. “Harsh Light” – Nate Ruess, from Grand Romantic
10. “Does It Amaze Thee?” – You, Me, And Everyone We Know, from Dogged
I listened to something like 2,000 songs this year. Here are my top 25 in a convenient Spotify playlist:
Best Album Art: Passion Pit – Kindred
I don’t know who this kid is, but he’s too real.
Favorite Live Show: Sufjan Stevens and Moses Sumney at The Altria Theater in Richmond, VA, 5/6/15
My first time seeing one of my favorite artists and he’s playing every song from the best album of the year, all set to old home movies and a beautiful light show? Mmhmm. It’s almost insane to think that hearing “Chicago” live wasn’t even really a highlight. But, that’s how good this show was. In addition to Sufjan’s brilliance, Moses Sumney also showed off more talent on his own than a lot of bands do put together. What a night.
Biggest Surprise: Bleachers – Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2
A version of 2014’s incredible Strange Desire, slightly tweaked and with vocals from female artists like Carley Rae Jepsen, Sia, and Sara Bareilles? Oh, and it’s free and completely out of nowhere? Yep, I’m in. If you liked the original, this is worth your time. Probably not better, but certainly enjoyable.
Biggest Disappointment: Senses Fail – Pull The Thorns From Your Heart
This is the first Senses Fail record in more than a decade that I didn’t love immediately after hearing it. While the run from Still Searching to Renacer saw the band hit multiple peaks despite a fairly drastic shift in sound, Pull The Thorns From Your Heart was a bit of a miss. Maybe this ended up being an unwanted casualty of the “Boycott Pure Noise” thing or the split with Man Overboard that preceded the record left me with too much of a bad taste, or maybe these songs just didn’t come out particularly good. It’s hard to tell. Either way, I hope the Buddy and the rest of the band can bounce back with whatever comes next. I’ll spot them this one.
Best New Discoveries:
1. Hop Along
2. Purity Ring
3. Ryn Weaver
4. Milo Greene
1. The 1975
2. John Mayer
4. Pierce The Veil
5. Kanye West
6. The Summer Set
7. Hands Like Houses
8. The American Scene
9. From Indian Lakes
10. The Killers
Oh, and if you’ve ever got like eighteen and a half hours to kill, here’s almost everything I liked this year, all in one handy playlist: