After compiling my list of Top Ten EPs of 2015, I realized it wasn’t going to be as easy to come up with a list made up of the year’s best albums. So many fantastic artists from just about every genre, unleashed amazing LPs this year. Whether you are into country, rock, hip-hop, jazz, dance, or pop, 2015 was an over all solid year for releases, with the good out weighing the bad for the first time in a long time. Well established mainstream artists put out music that can be argued as the best of their respective careers, while many new artists had releases that could rival even the most seasoned performer.
Just like I mentioned on my list of Top EPs, it seems that despite the evolution of how the general public listens to music, it seems the EP and LP format has become a bigger trend. It’s far more common for listeners to purchase entire releases instead of just one song that the radio plays. That in itself could be blamed on the fact that mainstream radio stations play less and less variety, or it could be the sales of vinyl has earned a new appreciation of hearing full length albums as they are meant to be heard. Regardless of how it has came to be, it comes to no shock that the general public are far more interested in listening to more than what is featured on the Billboard Top Ten.
It would have been much easier to list my favorites of each genre, seeing as I found myself listening to wide variety of music this year for the first time in nearly a decade, but being that I’m not too concerned with how albums are tied to certain genres, I found the only respectable way to categorize these releases was to simply to them in my genre: The Best Albums of 2015.
10. The Superweaks – Bad Year [Lame-O Records]
One of the most underrated releases of the year comes from The Superweaks (formerly The Weaks, before a potential lawsuit from a pre-existing band of the same name) in that of Bad Year. Power pop hooks of Teenage Fan Club and Pinkerton era Weezer-esque wit come together in an album that probably would have been my favorite album of all time had it been released in somewhere in the mid 90s. The Superweaks have crafted an album that is just as much nostalgic as it is a breath of fresh air in today’s stagnant ‘alternative rock’ world.
9. Scott Weiland & The Wildabouts – Blaster [Softdrive Records]
While the later part of his career may have been seen as spotty at best by the general public, there was one thing about Scott Weiland that mostly everyone can agree on: Whatever he did, he did it 100% for better or worse. Blaster is no exception. Instead of trying to relive his glory days as frontman of Stone Temple Pilots, or emulating the works of David Bowie like his first solo album, Weiland sticks to what he does best on this album and that’s rock n roll. Playing almost as a tribute to his idols and somewhat himself, it’s not a perfect album by any means, but the imperfections is what makes this album feel authentic and realistic. Maybe Weiland was past his prime and maybe the world was over his frontman antics but to me, his last album was a suitable finale.
8. Tame Impala – Currents [Interscope]
I wasn’t a very big fan of Tame Impala’s first couple albums. They were just a bit too synthetic for my taste and they kind of blended in with other bands of this ‘new’ alternative rock movement. Strangely enough, on their 3rd LP, Currents, their sound has evolved deeper into this hybrid of new wave and psychedelic rock relying less on guitars and more tight grooves and experimentation. With so many rock bands hinting at dance and electronica music these days, it’s good to see a band do something interesting with the trend and deliver such a unique and addicting album. It wasn’t my thing at first but with each listen the more it got under my skin and became one of my go-to albums of the summer.
7. Coal Creek Boys – Out West [Classic Waxxx Records]
Out West is a difficult album to explain in terms of genre or style. Even though some may label it country because of it’s acoustic guitars and gruff, mountain vocals, but the truth of the matter is, the album lends itself more to a bigger picture in story telling rather than adhering to tropes and standards. There’s songs of anger, unrequited love, lost loved ones, and the Civil War, even some of the most beautiful instrumentals found on any other album this year. This record is not only one of the greatest releases of 2015 but I can see myself breaking this LP out on private special occasions for years to come. Read my full review HERE
6. Brother O’ Brother – Show Pony [Fonoflo Records]
While some listeners like to debate about which duo does blues-based rock n’ roll best among the likes of The White Stripes and The Black Keys, the real clear winner of that battle would be Brother O’ Brother. Instead of marketing their music to skinny jean wearing hipsters in domestic beer commercials, this band puts their focus on delivering what we like about garage rock period. Grinding guitars, pulsating back beat, and furious showmanship all come together on what I call, one of the finest rock records of the year. Read my full review HERE
5. Local H – Hey, Killer [G&P Records]
With eight albums under their belt and nearly thirty years as a functioning band, Local H isn’t tired or nostalgic like most bands their age, instead they are hungry, mean, and snotty like a band that has to continuously prove their worth by playing an unrelenting, no holds barred, marathon of face melting rock shows. No trends, no gimmicks, Local H knows what to do and how to do it. Hey, Killer sums up everything Local H stands for and doesn’t really care if you like it or not. Just how rock n roll should be.
4. Tennessee Jet – Tennessee Jet [Fonoflo Records]
Mainstream radio will tell you that the likes of Little Big Town and Luke Bryan are the face and talent of the country music industry, but the smokey underground clubs of Nashville will beg to differ. The debut album from Nashville’s TJ McFarland (calling himself Tennessee Jet) combines the authenticity of a singer/songwriter with the mystery and seduction of blues rock, and the added flavor of urban gospel to create one of the most diverse and interesting albums of the year. TJ is delicate when the song calls for it, and poised when the album needs it, donning legitimate artistry without the synthetic polish that modern country has become. Read my full review HERE.
3. Failure – The Heart Is A Monster [INresidence]
One of my favorite albums to come out of the 90s was Failure’s Fantastic Planet, but sadly not too long after the album was released, the band broke up and was all but forgotten. Fast forward nearly twenty years and now they are back with a proper follow-up that no one really expected. The Heart Is A Monster is not the product of areboot or reinventioned nostalgia act, it’s legitimate album of a band that picked up where they left off. Of course there have been advancements in recording studios and the members are more seasoned, but this album features every single thing that made Fantastic Planet such a legendary album, only this time, fine tuned and focused. It’s not only a fine follow-up, but maybe Failure’s finest moment.
2. Riverhorse – Opal [Fonoflo Records]
I have a lot of respect for artists who craft their art with the sole intent to share what they enjoy doing with the world. I have even more respect for those artists who do it themselves without the influence of a multi-dollar record deal or a team of lawyers shoving product down our throats. Opal was self-recorded and self-produced by south side Chicagoan one-man-band Brian Motyll and offered for free on his bandcamp page before releasing it on vinyl through Fonoflo later in the year. It’s a genre-less, sophisticated journey of delicate singalongs, heartbreaking melodies, and over flowing authenticity. Not only hands down the most beautiful record of the year, but merely a baby step in what I believe will be a long and promising career by one of the most gifted artists in the indie music scene.
1. Timeshares – Already Dead [SideOneDummy Records]
Sometimes you just need to put your windows down, blast your stereo while driving anywhere and everywhere, fogetting the person who broke your heart, whether it be the fault of the person you cared for the most or yourself. Already Dead is the soundtrack to just that. On their second full length, Timeshares deliver a collection of songs reminiscent of The Replacements, Superdrag, and even early Wilco while still staying true to the beer and sweat soaked sound they crafted on their first album Bearable in 2011. There is no gimmicks or trends that can match the honesty and authenticity of a seasoned do-it-yourself rock band who writes songs from a place where all of us have been at some point in our lives. Despite having songs about guilt, break-ups and manning up to your own insecurities, Already Dead never gets heavy handed and is never far from a chorus hook that will have you singing along with your fists in the air like any good rock n roll record should.