Albums, Mundo, Music, The Revue, Year-End Lists — December 28, 2015 at 7:00 am

50 Favorite Albums of 2015 – Part 1

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We’ve come to the last week of the year, making it the perfect time to reflect on our 50 Favorite Albums of 2015. We’ve collectively heard well over 1,500 albums, but we fully are aware that this represents probably 2% or 3% of all the albums released this year. As such, we never could produce a “best albums” list, but we can share our favorite LPs. As always, the list is in alphabetical order. It contains familiar artists and some great, under-the-radar bands that blew us away with their debuts. We hope you, too, will fall for these bands as much as their more famous contemporaries.

The first fifteen on the list are below. We will share the next fifteen tomorrow and the final twenty on Wednesday. To review our Favorite LPs of 2014, check out the list here. We also shared some of our favorite EPs of 2015, featuring them as Part I and Part II.

50 Favorite Albums 2015 - Part 1

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

alabama shakes 2Alabama ShakesSound & Color was one of our most anticipated albums of 2015, and we all collectively gave it a big thumbs up back in April. It is no surprise that they now have a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year with their sophomore release. We weren’t sure if their new album would have been as great as Boys & Girls. However, when we selected our “Favorite Albums” for this year, Sound & Color was a shoo-in with our team. The album is full of soulful greatness thanks to Brittany Howard’s mesmerizing voice and a harder, classic rock sound, showcased by showstoppers “Don’t Fight”, “Gimme All Your Love”, and “Shoegaze”. ~~ Wendy

 

Algiers – Algiers

Algiers - Algiers

One of the most jaw-dropping debut albums of the year landed in late May: the self-titled release from Algiers. This trio of Atlanta natives has an unlikely blend of post-punk with soulful gospel blues; its intensity was unlike anything released this year. The ferocious anger of punk exists here, tempered by educated ambition and a social conscience. File it under agitprop if you will, but the gritty subject matter (slavery, oppression, corporate greed and consumerism, to name a few) is handled with righteous yet reverent indignation, an appropriate response to modern racial tensions. Lead singer Franklin James Fisher’s commanding vocals and guttural grunts are a hellfire pulpit sermon over a synth-laden beat, a clarion call to the masses to wake from their collective apathy. If a music laboratory mixed TV on the Radio with Rage Against the Machine and Nitzer Ebb, the result might be something close to Algiers. From the chilling, handclap punctuated intro of “Remains” to the soul-stirring track “Blood,” this album has profound depth that’s a rarity in modern radio. Earnest conviction never sounded so compelling. ~~ Hollie

The Amazing – Picture You 

The Amazing 2In a year where the other psychedelic acts like Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra took creative sharp turns to in musical styles The Amazing doubled down in their beautifully ethereal, proggy take on the genre with Picture You. This fantastic album is the definition of a slow burn with truly epic songs like “Picture You” that unfold in three stages over a sprawling eight plus minutes. The other stand out is “Circles,” a track that pulls the listener into a dreamy lush haze. ~~ Michael

 

 

American Wrestlers – American Wrestlers

American Wrestlers 1

We love this record so much we just had to invite American Wrestlers to rock one of our houses.  Their self-titled debut LP is a record that gets your attention right from the opening track, “There’s No One Crying Over Me Either” while “Holy” scintillates with a great ’80s rock groove. While the St. Louis-based rock and jam on tracks like “I Can Do No Wrong” and “The Rest Of You”, they also can get really pretty and reflective with “Wild Yonder” and “Cheapshot”.  American Wrestlers is a great combination of styles, and to call it a true debut might not be fair, as the man-behind-the-project Gary McClure has been doing this for a long time and it shows. American Wrestlers is definitely one of 2015’s finest. ~~ Rich

 

Anderson East – Delilah

Anderson East - DelilahAlabama native Anderson East launched his debut album, Delilah, earlier this year. Let us tell you, it is AMAZING! It is the perfect amount of soul, blues, and rock ‘n roll. The LP is his first release with super producer Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton). The ten songs and 33 minutes are a throwback to old-fashioned music. Honest lyrics, raspy vocals, punchy guitar licks, and blasting horns are just some of the thoughts that come to mind. East has made the sound refreshing, hip and infectious. All in all, Anderson East, has delivered an impressive debut album and he is one of the many reasons why we loved music in 2015! ~~ Zac

 

Annalibera – Nevermind I Love You

Annalibera 3From the first few notes of Annalibera‘s Nevermind I Love You, it becomes apparent that the Des Moines, Iowa band’s debut album will be something special. Highlighted by frontwoman Anna Gebhardt’s haunting and stunning voices, the album tantalizes from the opening track, “Morning Song,” to its finale, “Honesty.” The two tracks that epitomize the cinematic beauty of the LP are “Battle World” and “Black Cat White Cat.” Gebhardt’s voice is dramatic while the orchestration of Phil Young and Ryan Stier complement the heartbreaking emotions of the tracks. Nevermind I Love is arguably one of the most overlooked albums of the year, but it’s one of our favorites of the year. ~~ Ben

 

Astronauts, etc. – Mind Out Wandering

Astronauts etc - Mind Out WanderingFor years, Anthony Ferraro has released music under the moniker Astronauts, etc., teasing music fans by occasionally sharing a new single here and there. Beginning with 2012’s “Mystery Colors,” Ferraro would occasionally show up on the music radar for the next three years, which only whet our appetites for more. Finally in September of this year, Ferraro released his debut album, Mind Out Wandering. It was a startling album because Ferraro moved away from the lush, ambient music of his initial singles to ’70s- and ’80s-inspired soft rock. While similarly conceived albums have utterly failed, Ferraro succeeds by not trying to recapturing the era but reinventing it. Adding his trademark calming vocals, intimate storytelling, and ethereal ambiance, he’s taken the music popularized by the likes of Paul Simon, The Eagles, and Chris de Burgh and made it contemporary, fresh, and brilliant. The one track that demonstrates the genius of Ferraro is “Shake It Loose,” which will make you fall in love with ’80s all over again. ~~ Ben

 

Belle and Sebastian – Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance

Belle & Sebastian 1

When Belle and Sebastian released in January “Party Line”, the lead single from their new album, the iconic band from Glasgow took a bit of a different turn with a disco / dance-laden sound. While we enjoyed what we heard, we were left wondering if the album would be as great as their previous efforts. Upon its release and a joint review, we ultimately all gave Girls In Peacetime Want to Dance a huge thumbs up with myself even hinting that it could be a best of contender and it absolutely is. The album is eclectic, diverse and extremely melodic as is the rest of their albums. Aside from the first track, we couldn’t get enough of “The Book Of You”, “Play for Today”, and “Nobody’s Empire”. ~~Wendy

 

Bop English – Constant Bop

Bop English - Constant BopEarlier this year, White Denim frontman James Petralli took a solo turn as Bop English; however, in some way shape or form, all of his White Denim bandmates contributed to the album. With our review of the album, Petralli holds true to some of his signature White Denim sounds, yet adds in new elements, including jazz, 60s rock and even a vocoder on a couple of tracks. The result is an extremely enjoyable album that feels nostalgic yet familiar and includes great songwriting by Mr. Petralli. Top tracks include “Dani’s Blues (It Was Beyond Our Control)”, “Struck Matches”, and “Sentimental Wilderness”. Sometimes solo projects go to the wayside and don’t get much fanfare, but Constant Bop definitely deserves to be recognized as a great and promising solo effort for Mr. Petralli. While White Denim has taken a bit of a hiatus due to two core members touring and busy with Leon Bridges, we hope there is another Bop English or White Denim album soon. ~~Wendy

 

Brandi Carlile – The Firewatcher’s Daughter

Basic CMYKThe Firewatcher’s Daughter is the best album Brandi Carlile has released, and it is one of the best albums of 2015. The foundation of the album is heavily thematic with vocals that seemingly intertwined with the other band-mates. Brandi’s emotional vocal performance is one of her best and the twins, Tim and Phil Hanseroth, are equally talented. Our first taste of her powerful vocals comes in the form of “The Eye”, an outstanding song with beautiful three-part harmonies that was inspired by Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Helplessly Hoping.” The Firewatcher’s Daughter is an album that you’ll need to hear multiple times to fully love, but each time, it’s better and better. The dynamic vocals and genre-mixing music make for an excellent album. This is great music that everyone can appreciate! ~~ Zac

 

Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style 

Car Seat Headrest - Teens of StyleWill Toledo has been releasing fantastic self-produced music under the moniker Car Seat Headrest out of his bedroom in Leesburge, Virgin for the past five years. He found new focus in 2015 after moving to Seattle and enlisting a guitarist and drummer to flesh out his previously sparse sound and releasing Teens of Style, a re-recording and re-imagining of some of his previous best work. The influences are clear and the results are fantastic moving him from bedroom wonder to a new voice in indie rock. Best tracks include “Something Soon” and “Sunburn Shirts.” ~~ Michael

 

 

Chris Stapleton – Traveller

Chris Stapleton - TravellerChris Stapleton released a monster of a record this year under the giant producer, Dave Cobb (the same one who worked with Anderson East). By now, everyone has heard of Stapleton and knows that he has been this year’s biggest success story. At the Country Music Awards, he won Album of the Year, New Artist of the Year, and Male Vocalist of the Year. This was an unprecedented and historic moment since he had virtually no commercial success compared to his peers. Since then, he has been awarded four Grammy nominations and his album, Traveller, has gone gold (over 513,700 copies sold). All these awards are a win for music that is more traditional country. It is a win for music that is more independent. And it is a win for music with meaning. When Stapleton breaks into a chorus, you get that special feeling and think “I could listen to him all day.” Chris Stapleton is a name that will be remembered alongside the greats, if he isn’t already among them. ~~ Zac

 

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Courtney Barnett 2

If innovative, genre-redefining debuts were the theme of 2015, then Courtney Barnett is the reigning queen of the movement. The sheer force by which she exploded onto the charts with the Nirvana-channeling hit “Pedestrian At Best” is a testament to the depth of her talent. Barnett’s no-frills approach to music is refreshing amid the throngs of over-produced wannabe stars. This is unadulterated rock & roll at its angsty best. She claims to be “having an existential time crisis” in her Sprechgesang sing-speak style, and her song lyrics are more free-form poetic philosophical musings than traditional rhymes. A true example of substance over style, Barnett eschews the glitzy glamour of mainstream girl rock (no short skirts or makeup here) to no detriment. She won multiple ARIA awards (Best Independent Release, Best Breakthrough Artist, Best Female Artist) last month in Australia and is also a Grammy nominee for Best New Artist. Clearly, the music industry has been appropriately wowed by her honest reflections on life. Whether she’s tackling rational fears of home ownership in a sketchy neighbourhood (“Depreston”), pondering pesticides in vegetables (“Dead Fox”), or forthrightly apologizing for insecurity (“Debbie Downer”), her lyrics ring true with remarkable clarity. These aren’t the rambling thoughts of a flighty Millennial but rather the insightful internal monologue of a gifted storyteller. Combined with her unabashed guitar skills and equally talented band members, Barnett’s full-length debut proves there is hope for rock & roll. Substance matters, and she’s got it in spades. It’s fully showcased here, in all its raw, unpretentious glory. ~~ Hollie

 

David Ramirez – Fables

David Ramirez - FablesTexas singer-songwriter, David Ramirez released a gem of a record this year. His album, Fables, is about a person’s true nature and best intentions. With songs like, “Harder to Lie” and “Rock and A Hard Place,” you instantly get the theme of the album. It plucks at the heartstrings and creates an aura that lingers well after the music fades away. Ramirez is such a great songwriter and singer that there was no need to wash out his work with over production. His vocals feel emotional and weathered, while the pedal steel used sounds majestic. Ramirez created a brilliant record that showcases personal growth as a musician and as a man. It is the lyrics and honesty in songs that stand out above all. ~~ Zac

 

Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi

Death Death Cab for Cutie - KintsugiCab for Cutie is probably the most well-known independent rock band in the world – well, outside of Radiohead and Arcade Fire. They have consistently produced albums that connect with everyone in some way. The band from Washington started humbly with just Ben Gibbard and Chris Walla with Walla  producing every album since their beginning. But when Chris Walla announced he was leaving DCFC and the band was turning to an outside producer with their newest release, questions were raised on how Kintsugi would translate. It didn’t take long for our fears to subside, as in our review of Kintsugi we were all unanimous that this album was their best since Transatlanticism. With well-deserved, upcoming Grammy nods, there is not a bad track on this album. Instead, the album has produced some great singles, including “Black Sun”, “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive”, and a few of our favorites include “Little Wanderer”, “Everything’s A Ceiling” and “Ingenue”. Kintsungi was a welcome return to form by the indie music legends. ~~Wendy

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