The first quarter of the year is past us, so it’s time to look back on our favorite albums so far – and what a terrific first three months it was. We’re listing twenty of our favorites, and they’re listed in alphabetical order. Today is Part I – so the first ten. Check the site tomorrow for Part II. Honorable mentions to the following (although if some of us had our way these albums would be on the list):
- Faith Healer
- In Tall Buildings
- Jose Gonzalez
- Modest Mouse
- Skye Steele
- Volunteer Dad
- The Lone Bellow
Swedish indie-psych rockers The Amazing truly released one of the best records of the year so far. Picture You is a sublime record, full of lush guitar and reverb laden vocals. There are dreamy tracks like the opener, “Broken”, rocking tracks like “Safe Island”, and acoustic tracks like “Headless Boy”. Picture You comes to a close with the gorgeously epic “Winter Dress”, a fitting end to a record that is truly both gorgeous and epic.
With The Bearer of Bad News, Saskatchewan native Andy Shauf wrote one of the finest storytelling albums of not just this year but over the past three or four years. It’s a concept record that tells stories of heartbreak, tragedy, and loss – it’s like a Shakespearean play but to song. “Wendell Walker” and the dual perspectives of “Jerry Was a Clerk” and “My Beloved Helen” are remarkable feats of songwriting, and they are songs that should be cherished for a long, long time.
One of the most devastatingly beautiful and remarkable debut albums to come out in recent memory, Annalibera‘s Nevermind I Love You bowled us over from the very start until the end. The project was the imagination of frontwoman Anna Gebhardt, who put a life’s work into the album. Supported by Phil Young and Ryan Stier, Gebhardt not only put together a fabulous album, but also crafted two of the most stirring singles of the year with “Black Cat, White Cat” and “Battle World”. Big things are in store for the Des Moines, Iowa band.
Belle & Sebastian
We have a hard time finding a bad album by Belle & Sebastian, and we all gave Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance a big thumbs up with our First Impressions when it was released in January. If Wendy were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one artist’s entire discography for the rest of her days, Belle & Sebastian would be a huge contender. There has been so many great releases already of the first three months of 2015, but we couldn’t leave out one of our favorites from earlier this year. The Party Line is a great single but there are other awesome tracks like “Nobody’s Empire” and “Play for Today”.
We’ve been on the Courtney Barnett bandwagon since our early days of 2013, and we eagerly awaited her proper debut LP, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. It did not disappoint at all, from the first track, “Elevator Operator”, Barnett’s wit and storytelling ability truly shine. Telling stories of searching for a house in “Depreston” or buying organic vegetables in “Dead Fox”, Barnett turns the mundane into something entertaining. Part of that is the little things she brings to the record, the transitions between songs are awesome, from a little bit of static between “Elevator Operator” and “Pedestrian At Best” or the drum fill between “Aqua Profonda!” and “Dead Fox”. On the LP version, Barnett included a hidden track after “Boxing Day Blues”, as well as a locked groove of static at the end of the record. Those little touches are a lot of fun, and really add a lot to a record that’s already getting “Album Of The Year” type acclaim.
Death Cab for Cutie
We just recently listened to Death Cab for Cutie’s brand new release Kintsugi and shared our thoughts on the Seattle based rockers first release since 2011. In our opinion, this is the best release from the “Biggest Little Band in the World” since Transatlanticism. We are all enthusiastic to include the album as one of the best of 2015 so far, even with Chris Walla leaving and a brand new producer being utilized on the newest album. It is a great breakup/transition album and there is not a bad song on the 11 track album. Stand out tracks include “Black Sun” and “You’ve Haunted Me All My Life”, and “Little Wanderer”.
Twenty-year olds shouldn’t be writing songs that are poignant and insightful, or crafting music that makes our muscles want to rock out yet provokes our minds. Yet Lititz, Pennsylvania quartet, The Districts, have been doing just this not just on their latest album, Fourth and Roebling, but for the better part of the past five years. The album blazes with anthemic and epic rockers, such as “Young Blood” and “Peaches”, and melodic, contemplative numbers like “6 AM”. It is an album made in 2015 but one that will last ages.
It’s hard to believe The Dodos have been around for a decade but the duo continues to mesmerize audiences with their percussion-focused, rhythmic indie rock. We all were impressed with Individ when we reviewed it for our First Impressions piece earlier this year. We all gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up. With awesome tracks “Retriever” and “Competition”, this album might be the closest thing to capturing the duo’s live energy as best as it can be done with a recording.
Father John Misty
I first heard Chateau Lobby #4(in C for Two Virgins) on the radio in my car, and was immediately hooked. The entire album, I Love You, Honeybear, is a combined ode to falling in love and rant against the spread of rich-kid ennui. Biting, sneering songs like The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt. form perfect counterpoints to the broken-open honest love of True Affection. Tillman’s songwriting is almost overly direct and un-tricky, but somehow it works perfectly. Unsung hero: third-to last track Ideal Husband.
Three years after good kid, m.A.A.d. city, L.A.’s realest megastar rapper finally came back with a virtuosic tour-de-force. Pushing the envelope with rapid-fire flow, and direct, purposefully non-comedic interludes, Lamar’s new effort immediately got attention and broke Spotify’s streaming record with 9.6 million on day 1. On To Pimp A Butterfly Lamar’s poise, musicality, and bluntness are on full display. The final three tracks, You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said), i, and Mortal Man, form an unforgettable triptych. If you hate rap, if you think Kendrick sucks, if you don’t like West Coast rappers, you still have to listen. Kendrick Lamar will not be denied.
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