2015 is over, and we have lots of music to show for it. What follows is a list of the best (and worst) of the year, as voted by the Mind Equals Blown staff. Leave us your opinions at the bottom!
Courtney Barnett was hard to miss this year for her unabashed nonchalance and comical honesty. In a year where female artists sang about the unfortunate, usual topics (heart break, crushes, etc), it is refreshing to hear existential spoken word about avoiding parties, thinking people are annoying, and wondering what the deal with organic produce is. In short: Courtney is a badass, and I am so excited that her voice is being heard. Most recently, Courtney was nominated for Best New Artist for the 2016 Grammy Awards, so we have our fingers crossed that she wins.
– Christina Troitino
Turnover broke into the scene in 2013 with Magnolia, an emo/punk record that was nothing more than a solid effort. The ambitious turn they then made on their sophomore full-length resulted in a much more resonant release. Simply put, the quartet mellowed out – and in the best way possible. They dug deep into their alternative and rock sides, expanding their sound to include ambient textures, soft-spoken vocals, and tons of reverb. It hasn’t even been a year, but Peripheral Vision is already showing similarities to a fine wine. It’s been fascinating to see the effects of time on what was first a swift improvement and soothing listen, as this record has steadily climbed to the top of many AOTY lists.
– Tim Dodderidge
The Front Bottoms – Back On Top
There’s no greater hope than anticipating a triumphant follow-up to one of your favorite records of the past few years. There’s also no greater disappointment than finally getting it and realizing how much you took the favorite for granted. The Front Bottoms made me realize the latter with Back On Top, the lackluster, burnout younger brother of 2013’s Talon Of The Hawk. Even including key tracks like “West Virginia” and “Laugh Till I Cry”, Back On Top fell off rather than took off after the band signed to Fueled By Ramen earlier this year. The signing has worked out in their favor, however, as the band has sold out show after show and even seen radio play. But for those of us who know what they’re truly capable of, The Front Bottoms threw us for a loop this year.
– Connor Feimster
Sometimes it can be tough being the site’s (completely made up and self-appointed) punk and emo President. It can be exhausting keeping up with the newest twinkle daddy four piece that has signed with Count Your Lucky Stars. So I often turn to pop music as an escape from the rigors of my mantle atop the emo mountain. And no one (except Carly Rae Jepsen) did pop music better in 2015 than Justin Bieber. Your wimpy, teeny-bopper douchebag jokes from five years ago no longer pertain, as Bieber has graduated into a full-fledged master of understated pop jams (although the douchebag label still occasionally fits. If anything, Bieber’s output in 2015 forced all corners of the music world to acknowledge his prowess, even me, CEO of Emo Corp. LLC.
– Nick Niedzielski
For the generation of listeners that grew up unaware of just how good Sleater-Kinney was, that era is no more. However far from the mainstream consciousness the band has thrived, that bubble grew a little bigger, and a little younger with No Cities To Love, a record that took the previous decade that the band spent idle and made up for it. The band took their heyday and brought it to a new crop of fans and listeners who hadn’t experienced their power for themselves. Selling out shows left and right, and putting out a record that proved beyond anything we could’ve imagined, it’s safe to say that Sleater-Kinney have made it back in style.
– Adit Ahmed
Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
We live in an age where the build up to the music video is hyped up more than the actual video. There are trailers to the trailer to the video releasing. Music videos work best when they just exist – when they accentuate the content in the song to make it come alive. There’s a scene in Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” where he and the rest of TDE are in a car and the camera pulls back and it’s four police officers carrying the car. Through recent events this year and the beginning of the video that was a very powerful image. “Alright” is the video that you would sit a younger sibling or child down to watch. The black and white narrative works as much of this year could be considered devoid of much things to be bright about. Lamar is the hero that made it through. It’s more than a bunch of random shots. Just like the statement of the song, “we gon’ be alright.”
– Murjani Rawls
Big Sean/Kanye West/John Legend – “One Man Can Change The World”
There are two reasons why rappers get other artists on their single: to help sell the song, and/or make it a great collaborative effort with handpicked artists that make sense and complement its essence. Big Sean successfully did both with “One Man Can Change The World.” John Legend and Kanye West take turns singing the uplifting chorus as Sean bares his soul while still spittin’ bars. The bouncy piano keys, easy to sing melody and heart tugging lyrics dealing with family and goals, make this not only an event, but hip-hop’s most personal ballad of 2015. Something about a real MC rapping on a beat with no drums feels angelic and something that artists need to tap into more.
– Norman Galang
You, Me, And Everyone We Know – Dogged
With a strong cult following behind him, Ben Liebsch new momentum for himself in 2015. Bringing a full band back into the mix, Liebsch and You, Me, And Everyone We Know used Dogged as an opportunity to build up a fresh dose of momentum. Immensely personal and well thought out for a short EP, the band gives us everything one could expect from them, and so much more. Catchy, energetic and unapologetically candid, Dogged hits all the right notes, and then some, with a universal appeal that keeps old fans on board and opens the door to a new crop of fans.
– Adit Ahmed
Tame Impala – Currents
2015 was the year of Tame Impala. Their new album Currents is filled with lush instrumentals, rump-shaking beats and trippy lyrics. This album has quickly become the de facto chill party jam which is a world of change from Tame Impala’s previously psychedelic-pop sound. Their music videos have also been received well, using equally psychedelic visuals (ex. gorillas playing basketball, an abstract of a heart attack, etc.). Tame Impala masterfully reinvented themselves this year and totally took the rock world by surprise.
– Christina Troitino
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Five years have passed since Sufjan Stevens thrived with the whole emotional, electronic chaos/melancholy thing, he tipped the scales to the other extreme with Carrie & Lowell. Armed with a guitar, Stevens manages to bring great intimacy and emotional weight to a record that took his songwriting to new heights. Just when we thought he had pushed himself to his limits, it is the return to his roots that take him even further. This album isn’t filled with elaborate orchestration or experimentation, and that’s what makes it so worthwhile, the fact that it can move listeners so much in the way that it does, with a guitar and a strong emotional core.
– Adit Ahmed
Bring Me The Horizon – That’s The Spirit
I think the saying goes that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In music, over a course of a band’s career, it can actually be the opposite. With every subsequent release, Bring Me The Horizon has jumped head first into some form of evolution. Building upon their 2013 release, Sempiternal, That’s The Spirit not only broadened their musical horizons, but pushed them into a wider audience. There were some push back from older fans, but that’s going to be a given as a band gets older. Keyboardist Jordan Fish definitely helped the band enforce more structure into their song writing which turned out into some of their best music yet. It’s not to say that BMTH lost their edge. Songs like “Blasphemy” still satisfied the fans of the old days. The band also gave a nod to one of their main influences, Linkin Park in the electronic-fused, “Throne.” One of the more impressive aspects of this record was the evolution of lead singer Oliver Sykes and how his clean vocal style has improved. This album will no doubt carry them into 2016 on the main stages at your favorite rock festival coming up.
– Murjani Rawls
Deafheaven – New Bermuda
While being a black metal album at heart, Deafheaven’s New Bermuda can be categorized as “rock” or “metal” because of the range of vibes and influences tucked in its endless layers. In many ways, the quintet’s third album surpasses its highly acclaimed second one, as with two less songs and a shorter runtime, it showcases a more cohesive whole where every second counts and the dynamics within each track are perfected and pronounced. The influence of bands like Oasis and Wilco shows the absolute artistic mastery showcased across the this record’s tortured canvas. Between its light-versus-dark juxtaposition, musical prowess, and enigmatic spirit, it’s one of the year’s best metal releases.
– Tim Dodderidge
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
2015, to many fans was one of the best years in rap releases in recent memory. For three years, Kendrick Lamar recorded To Pimp A Butterfly where it developed into more than an album, but an unapologetic and in-your-face narrative. Did we need it? Yes. In a year with much social unrest, many people needed a voice and what better to look to than music – often a voice of the voiceless. The album not only incorporated rap, but elements of spoken word, jazz, funk – it was if you were going through a musical time machine. “I,” the first single of the album gave a message of empowerment, “The Blacker The Berry” was not only Lamar’s self critique, but a much needed statement on racial relations. “How Much A Dollar Cost” is a profound statement on greed and giving. There was a precedent set by J Cole’s 2014 Forest Hill Drive at the tail end of 2014, but Kendrick Lamar was very much the winning run to cross the base. Not only does To Pimp A Butterfly deserve an non distracted deep listen, it sets Lamar further into the echelon of great and intelligent artists – not just rappers.
– Murjani Rawls
Brooklyn’s own Whiskey Bitches is straight up the funnest rising band out there. Their music represents all of the best parts of punk: they’re fun, they’re fast and they make you want to move around. When we sat with them earlier this year, they spoke candidly about the origin stories of their tattoos, their surprising but cool day jobs (ex. their drummer Glenn is a software engineer), and their upcoming showcases. They most recently were invited to record a session at the Converse Rubber Tracks studio, so clearly we’re not the only people who think that they’re the raddest out there!
– Christina Troitino
To say that Brand New are most definitely putting out new music in 2016 is to bet against the odds at this point – no one has any real idea what Jesse Lacey and co. are up to or what they’re planning for the future. This past year brought a new single, a giant tour, and a new song thrown into a setlist here or there, but nothing in the way of certainty from the reigning kings of emo. And yet, just as it did exactly one year ago, the hype feels palpable. It has to be close, right? They’ve definitely been working on something…right? One thing is for certain: Until a fifth Brand New record is finally unveiled, we here at MEB will continue to anticipate it more than anything else.
– Eli Shively