2015 was a weird year for me album-wise. It is by far the year that I paid attention to new music the most…but to me there is no clear-cut #1. It was a huge year for the new age of indie rock and alternative pop, and those will be reflected. But it was also a return to form, or just return in general, for many artists. It was really hard to pick only 10, but here goes:
10. The Maccabees: Marks To Prove It
Released: 13 Nov. 2015 (Fiction)
The screeching guitars of this record’s opener and title track almost sound like a war cry, giving way to The Maccabee’s most complete album of their shy catalogue. It shows how they’ve become a true “album” band, meaning they’re in the business to put out a complete project. The deeper meaning of this record is the gentrification of their hometown of Elephant & Castle in South London. While the first track may be the record’s most powerful track, the rest feels truly complete, which is a first for the quintet. They are the marks that prove what this once bustling area was.
Standout Tracks: “Marks To Prove It”, “Spit It Out”, “Something Like Happiness”.
9. Blur: The Magic Whip
Released: 27 April 2015 (Parlophone/Warner Bros.)
In their first album in 13 years, Blur proves that the magic is still alive. Parklifers can rejoice as the opener “Lonesome Street” takes a sponge bath in the band’s Britpop roots, exclaiming the need to catch the “5.14 to East Grinstead”. But what the album does greatly is fuse the old Blur formula with new explorations, such as on lead single “Go Out” and the beachy “Ong Ong”. Hard to believe this album was made in 5 days. Damon Albarn’s still got the magic, let’s see what he can do under the Gorillaz monicker later this year.
Standout Tracks: “Lonesome Street”, “Go Out”, “Ong Ong”.
8. Cage The Elephant: Tell Me I’m Pretty
Released: 18 Dec. 2015 (RCA)
Cage The Elephant sneak in their second consecutive Stitched Up top 10 album appearance, because people may recall last year when I forgot Melophobia came out in 2013. Likewise, the Cagers decided to drop the album as the clock struck midnight on the year. Lucky enough for yall, your boy got a good listen.
And what he heard was the fourth album by the Kentucky quartet that is truly a pretty different genre than anything they’ve done before it. Producer and Black Keys front man Dan Auerbach was there to guide them through the process of creating a mostly blues rock album. This includes louder guitars and more complex lead parts, but also a challenge to front man Matt Schultz, who may have delivered his best lyrical and vocal performance to date. I hear a band that is on the verge of headlining arena tours, and they just hope that you like their fourth new sound in as many albums. (“Tell me I’m pretty.. Get it?)
Standout Tracks: “Cry Baby”, “Mess Around”, “That’s Right”.
7. Muse: Drones
Released: 5 June 2015 (Warner Bros./Helium-3)
For anyone who missed it, this is a concept album about, “metaphorical psychopaths which enable psychopathic behaviour with no recourse,” according to Matt Bellamy.
And for anyone who missed my bitchin’ meme/shotty photoshop job, here’s that as well:
So the world got a politcally-charged Muse concept record. The glory of this one is the stripped down, three-pronged guitar/bass/drums (and a little keyboard) attack, something that really hasn’t been seen in Muse since Absolution. Throw in some dark whistling and JFK, and this actually a pretty cool concept album about war and destruction. I also can’t wait to see how many drones are buzzing around TD Garden two weeks from the writing, I’ll let yall know how the show is ;).
Standout Tracks: “Psycho”, “Reapers”, “Defector”.
6. Death Cab For Cutie: Kintsugi
Released: 31 March 2015 (Atlantic)
“And I guess it’s not a failure we could help
And we’ll both go on to be lonely with someone else”
Should this album make me hate Zooey Deschanel? No. Did it? Well… I’m sure there are two sides to this story, like the one in Horton Hears Domestic Violence In The Next Apartment And Doesn’t Call 911.
It kind of makes her seem a little more like Summer, for those of you know what I’m talking about when I say that name.
But ah yes the album.
Well… That’s really what it’s about. But Ben Gibbard’s failed marriage to Zooey Deschanel really manifests itself quite masterfully in this album. The lyrics from opener No Room In Frame speak for themselves above, and this only continues in The Ghosts of Beverly Drive, which became the most popular track off the album, with Gibbard wondering why he “returns to the scenes of these crimes” and wondering “what I expect to find”. Yet another depressing, introspective adventure from Death Cab, and also guitarist Chris Walla’s last time riding the Cab, who delivered his best performance of his career. (see: “Black Sun”.)
Standout Tracks: “No Room In Frame”, “Black Sun”, “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive”.
5. Smallpools: LOVETAP!
Released: 24 March 2015 (RCA)
In what may be the quickest rise to fame ever, I’m just itching to see what they do next. At the time I saw this band live, they only had four songs to show for. Luckily I was able to hear some tracks off this album almost 8 months before it was released…and I was blown away. 8 months flew by, and some of the album tracks are better then the EP tracks, which I didn’t think was going to happen. I say in the review above that they could eliminate a bunch of songs at the end as well as the closing track and the album would have been damn near perfect. I stand by that, but the rest of the tracks are so good that it doesn’t even matter. An alt. dance/ indie pop land that leads with flaunting keyboards, catchy AF choruses, and a frontman in Sean Scanlon who can grow hair like Ron Swanson but sing like Adam Levine is always going to be ultra successful. And mark my words, they will be.
Standout Tracks: “Killer Whales”, “Dreaming”, “Street Fight”.
4. MisterWives: Our Own House
Released: 24 Feb. 2015 (Photo Finish)
Instead of giving the usual anecdote I do every time this band is mentioned, just sauce that link above a click if you really care.
The band that really brings the school girl out of me. Tales bubble gum, trophy wives, and saying “no.”This band very imbeccably shoves r&b, jazz, funk, and soul liquids into a blender and out comes a spectacular medley of uppity indie pop. Frontwoman Mandy Lee Duffy is the driving force behind the New York quintet. She may have the most amazing voice of our generation, its some sort of mix of Taylor Swift and the girl with the really Icelandic name from Of Monsters & Men, and throw in the vocal range of Freddie Mercury for good measure.
Standout Tracks: “Our Own House”, “Best I Can Do”, “Reflections”, “Not Your Way”.
3. Coldplay: A Head Full Of Dreams
Released: 4 Dec. 2015 (Atlantic/Parlophone)
(Note- has not been reviewed because Brendan Fitzpatrick is a lazy sack of shite who is still letting it “sink in” after calling dibs on the review a year ago, and also owes me $120.)
Thank GOD we got this world of color this time around. Ghost Stories‘ negativity was making it real hard to be creative. Fuckhead. (Maybe one person in the world will get that reference.)
The opener and title track is exactly what I wanted from a Coldplay opener (“Hurts Like Heaven,” “Life In Technicolor II,” “Politik,” and “Square One” didn’t exactly let anyone down). It’s a stadium-ready anthem that kicks off a stadium-ready album. I can’t wait to shout the bridge right back at them. Lead single “Adventure Of A Lifetime” as well as “Fun” show that Coldplay aren’t afraid to tackle what they’re often criticized for – trying new things… Although hidden hip-hop track “X Marks The Spot” may have taken things a little too far. After Obama is done singing, we get the magestic “Up&Up”, a track that took them 15 years to finish and features a vintage Noel Gallagher guitar solo at the end, and leaves the listener with one simple sentiment: “Don’t ever give up.”
See yall at the Super Bowl.
Standout Tracks: “A Head Full Of Dreams,” “Adventure Of A Lifetime,” “Up&Up.”
Speak of the devil…
2. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: Chasing Yesterday
Released: 25 Feb. 2015 (Sour Mash)
How was the set up on that one?
I mentioned the Britpop revival of 2015 earlier. Well the king himself even made a return, and in exactly the fashion one would expect: a record that sounds like anything else he’s ever done. Well when you’re as big of a fan of his as I am, then that’s a pretty good thing. Especially when the album is just as good as the best Oasis albums.
The “sounds the same” thing actually isn’t entirely true. Opener “Riverman” sounds like it’s being played in a smoky blues bar at 2 am, but eventually gives way to a vintage Noel solo at the end. The same can be said of “Lock All The Doors” and “Ballad of the Mighty I”, but Noel has no shortage of memorable hooks, eruptious guitar solos and passive aggressive songs about his brother. The truth is, he’s a musical genius with and without his cockwomble of a brother, to use a British insult.
Standout Tracks: “Riverman,” “In The Heat of the Moment,” “Lock All The Doors.”
Note: The horn section makes this live version synergistically 38x better than the studio version. Catchiest song on the record. Brilliant.
1. New Politics: Vikings
Released: 14 Aug. 2015 (DCD2)
Bet no one was expecting that one right?
Well it just so happens that this is the album I’ve had the most fun with this year. I saw them live twice (once before this album was released and once after), and met the guys both times and they were the opposite of cockwombles. Cockwombles don’t put on the most energic performances I’ve ever seen.
Vikings is, for the most part, the victory lap after the success of their sophomore album A Bad Girl In Harlem, and they even gave ballads a shot on this one (“Stardust,” “Lovers In A Song”) and hit it like Lee Harvey hit JFK. But of course, its the Dodrio (anyone?) of anarchic indie punk, righteous pop choruses, and arena-ready anthems that make 19-year olds like me fall for these guys. And the rest of the album is literally that. Singles “Everywhere I Go (Kings And Queens),” “West End Kids,” and “Girl Crush,” showcase the punk riff/pop chorus relationship as good as *gulp* the Beastie Boys ever did. But album tracks like “Aristocrat,” “Loyalties Among Thieves,” “Pretend We’re In A Movie,” and “15 Dreams” are really the hidden gems of this album, all following the same gold formula outlined above, as if they were composed by Midas himself.
Closer “Strings Attached” also includes two of the most dynamite examples I can think of of a band having a blast – hidden tracks “Bitch I’m Gold” and “LSD” are potential crossover hits waiting to happen.
Favorite Tracks (Because they all stand out at this point): “Everywhere I Go (Kings And Queens),” “15 Dreams,” and “Aristocrat.”
So that’s it. New Politics’ Vikings joins Weezer’s Everything Will Be Alright In The End atop Mount Stitch as the recipient of the album of the year accolade. I’m sure they’ll be so excited when they hear the news.
I do need to include the list of upwards of 30 albums I started off with…it was a good year for music gnight yall 🙂
Tame Impala: Currents
Sorority Noise: Joy, Departed
Hop Along: Painted Shut
Frank Turner: Positive Songs For Negative People
Kodaline: Coming Up For Air
5 Seconds of Summer: Sounds Good, Feels Good
Mumford & Sons: Wilder Minds
The Arcs: Yours, Dreamily
The Libertines: Anthems For Doomed Youth
Alabama Shakes: Sound & Color
Florence + The Machine: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Donald Cumming: Out Calls Only
George Ezra: Wanted On Voyage
Twenty One Pilots: Blurryface
Brandon Flowers: The Desired Effect
Modest Mouse: Strangers To Ourselves
Foals: What Went Down
James Bay: Chaos and Calm
The Vaccines: English Graffiti
The Mowgli’s: Kids In Love
The Decemberists: What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World
These Kids Where Crowns: Still Having Fun
State Champs: Around The World And Back