It’s that time of year again for those of us in the music blogosphere world…the list of favorite albums of the year! There were SO many great records in 2015 and, as always, I found it extremely hard to keep to my regular listing of the ten best.
These albums listed below are simply highlights in a standout crowd of bands and musicians that really made ’15 stellar! They may be in order for the sake of the almighty list…but I love them all equally. I hope you enjoy.
10. Chvrches – Every Open Eye
The Scottish 3-piece have been on a wild ride since forming in 2011 and releasing their debut full-length, The Bones of What You Believe, back in 2013. With songs used in major motion pictures, awards for best album and song, and a tour that took them across the world and back, the trio have made the most of their well deserved accolades. The sophomore album, Every Open Eye, is on pretty much every year-end list (for good reason) and I’ve listened to it non-stop since its release this past September.
9. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
I Love You, Honeybear is J. Tillman’s second studio release as his alter-ego Father John Misty and once again his album hit me right in the feels. It’s raw and powerful and makes you want to turn away at times, but going on this emotional journey with Tillman is cathartic and rewarding when all is said and done. Even if you need a stiff drink at the end.
8. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Self-titled
Sonuvabitch! Talk about a band the ruled the year like no other, the self-titled debut from Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats was a powerhouse of soulful, sweaty goodness and delivered a knockout blow across the music world. The album was released in August on the legendary label Stax Records, and since then Rateliff and his howling band have torn up stages from the Tonight Show to the Newport Folk Festival, leaving all those in attendance with a severe case of shimmy leg-itis and foot-stomp fever.
7. Leon Bridges – Coming Home
Another soulful album that took the world by storm this year came out of Fort Worth, TX like a gospel-guided missile. Leon Bridges seemingly came out of nowhere (which of course is never really the case) and brought the R&B world to its knees with his debut album, Coming Home, released in June. Bridges was the must see act at Newport in July on the strength of his first release, and he knocked it out of the park. This is a must have record in your collection!
6. Blur – The Magic Whip
It’s been twelve years (twelve freaking years!) since the boisterous British band Blur’s last album, Think Tank, was released and that is just too long folks. Fortunately their 8th studio album, The Magic Whip, was well worth the wait. Chock full of Blurry goodness and impossibly catchy songs, including the Bluriest track, “Ong Ong,” the Britpop boys have once again reminded us there is no other band that can do Blur better than Blur. To quote Monty Python “And there was much rejoicing (Yaaaaaaaaay).
5. Grimes – Art Angels
Canadian musician Claire Elise Boucher, aka Grimes, released her fantastic album, Art Angels, the first week of November and it quickly became a favorite of mine. With just a slight tweak made to the experimental style that made the first three records darlings of the underground electronic music scene (I didn’t know that existed either but it does) her fourth record found a new audience while still managing to sound like the Grimes we all know and love. Art Angels is great from start to finish, and always on repeat.
4. The Decemberists – What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World
Portland’s torchbearers of sea-chantey, indie-folk released their seventh studio album, What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World, all the way back in January and I haven’t taken it out of rotation since. With a marvelous video for “Make You Better” hitting the scene in November 2014 as a tease for the release, the Decemberists created a resplendent whirligig of an album. Perfect music for the gadabout in a palanquin or charabanc, or for simply listening to on a beautiful day.
3. Andrew Combs – All These Dreams
Nashville singer-songwriter Andrew Combs has been steadily making a name for himself in Americana folklore since his debut EP was released in 2010. Five years later Combs finds himself in some pretty great company on year-end lists across the many music genres with his second full-length album, All These Dreams, released in March. With his fervent vocals and guitar playing that sends shivers even on the warmest day, this record is truly something special.
2. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
Another album that had fans waiting with bated breath was the eighth release from Washington icons Sleater-Kinney. A decade in the making, No Cities To Love, was let loose in January and promptly met all expectations. To say the bar was set high for this album is an understatement. With music critics and fans wondering if ten years had perhaps softened the punk-rock rage, the trio delivered a commanding response in the form of ten solid tracks of bristling rock. Don’t call this a comeback, No Cities To Love is a welcome back.
1. Christopher Paul Stelling – Labor Against Waste
2015 was Christopher Paul Stelling’s year. The Brooklyn musician released his extraordinary third studio album, Labor Against Waste, in June and made his television debut that same month performing on CBS Saturday Sessions. A month later he would deliver an emotionally charged, powerhouse of a set at Newport, ending with an on-stage proposal to his girlfriend after a riveting performance of the beautiful track “Scarecrow.” Stelling’s ability to tell a story in song is breathtaking, and his ability to play guitar is a phenomenal experience that must be witnessed live. Although I don’t really have an order to this list, despite the numerical lineup, it is hard not to say that Labor Against Waste is my absolute favorite release of 2015.