This year seventeen albums fought to make my top 10. I think that’s the most I’ve ever considered. Between all the great albums that came out and all the concerts I went to go see music was a central focus of my life in 2015. The fight for slots ten and nine in my list was brutal with me making a last second change just before I sat down to write this. I probably could have held off until New Year’s Eve and still had trouble getting this list exactly right. However, I’ve been confident in the top 8 for weeks now so its time to call it. This list feels good.
Don’t forget there are Spotify links to each album after each entry and at the end of the whole thing a playlist I made of 10 songs from this year’s list. And of course I would love to know what your favorite albums were from this year.
10. Citizen – Everybody is Going to Heaven (Run for Cover Records)
I didn’t know anything about Citizen until the hype train for this album started to leave the station. I was under the impression they were either a pop-punk band or a hardcore band. It turns out they are fans of both genres trying their best to not sound like either of those genres. Their influences bleed in from time to time but honestly there weren’t too many records like this one in 2015. The album is downright jarring. There are tracks that build and build into a catchy heavy ending just for the next song to start abruptly and its a straight up ballad. Everybody is Going to Heaven is uniquely Citizen.
Spotify Link: Everybody is Going to Heaven
9. Title Fight – Hyperview (Anti-)
Last year Epitaph released the fantastic album Keep You by Pianos Become the Teeth. The band changed almost their entire sound for that album. This year Epitaph does it again through subsidiary Anti-. Title Fight’s last album Floral Green had the band doing more of what they were good at, playing fast throaty punk rock. Except for a couple of curveball songs that found the band playing with atmospherics and actual singing. Little did we know that those songs were the precursor to Hyperview. This album is a brisk walk through an alternate universe version of Title Fight where someone played Floral Green 100x’s slower than recorded. Regardless of whatever baggage you attach to this band Hyperview is still a fantastic album. Separate it from what came before and you’re still left with one of the best indie rock records of 2015.
Spotify Link: Hyperview
8. Annabel – Having it All (Tiny Engines)
Having it All sounds like it came out of an early 2000’s time capsule. Like the last band to make a true Emo record before Emo got associated with bands like My Chemical Romance. And it had to be protected until people could appreciate music like this. If you ever drove with the windows down while blasting Nothing Feels Good this album is for you.
Spotify Link: Having it All
7. Wilco – Star Wars (dBpm/Anti-)
No one was expecting Wilco to release one of their best albums this year. Mostly because no one even knew Wilco was making a new album. Star Wars was released the day of their headlining Pitchfork Festival set with no warning. This record finds the band wonderfully constrained. The band uses every trick in their bag on every song but they never waver or sound messy. All the songs are brisk and stay on track. By the time its over you want more and songs are stuck in your head. Wilco hasn’t been this fun in a long time.
Spotify Link: Star Wars
6. Defeater – Abandoned (Epitaph)
At this point I’m not sure Defeater will ever make another album as wildly ambitious as Endless Days, Sleepless Nights but on their latest album you get the impression that they are building towards something. Anyone who follows the band already knows their music is conceptual. Telling the same story over and over again from the perspective of different characters. But this time they throw back to lyrics and audio cues from past albums in a really obvious way. It makes being a long time listener exciting. On top of that this is definitely a big improvement on 2013’s Letters Home. Easily the best straight up hardcore record of the year.
Spotify Link: Abandoned
5. Self Defense Family – Heaven is Earth (Deathwish)
Self Defense Family is one of the best indie-rock bands in the world. Why they don’t get the respect they deserve I have no idea. Everyone should be raving about Heaven is Earth. In eight songs Self Defense Family accomplishes something that most bands spend eight albums trying to perfect. The band puts out nearly a half dozen releases every year but they really brought their A-game to their second album. If you’re a fan of slightly left of center indie-rock this deserves at least one listen.
Spotify Link: Heaven is Earth
4. Take One Car- Everyone You Know is Here Right Now (Broken World Media)
Take One Car make long songs. Almost all the songs on this album are over five minutes. But I can tell you from repeated listens that they never get boring. Take One Car are masters of tension. Every time the music gets softer its because you needed a break from the intensity. When it gets loud again its because the lyrics and vocals demand extra noise. The ebbs and flows are placed perfectly through each song. Like a roller coaster you’ll listen to this album again just for the thrills.
Spotify Link: Everyone You Know is Here Right Now
3. Drug Church – Hit Your Head (No Sleep Records)
Drug Church sounds like a band at odds with its singer. The band sounds like a throwback to great heavy 90’s alternative rock. Their singer is singing the most ironic sarcastic lyrics I’ve ever heard. There’s something about listening to a band play honest music while their singer rolls his eyes that just works with these guys. This album will make you feel better about yourself as you listen to depiction after depiction of some of society’s worst people. The album ends with one last breathtaking curveball that I won’t spoil here.
Spotify Link: Hit Your Head
2. Deafheaven – New Bermuda (Anti-)
We waited two years to find out what Deafheaven would do after their crossover success with Sunbather. New Bermuda strips away much of what made them likable to non-metal fans leaving just tiny breaks in their relentless assault. New Bermuda is heavier, scarier, and much less accessible than their previous album. Yet its also more focused and the songs feel more like songs and not pieces stitched together. The slower moments are more epic and create an atmosphere that makes me feel uneasy. By the end you’re left wondering what isn’t Deafheaven capable of.
Spotify Link: New Bermuda
1. The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die – Harmlessness (Epitaph)
In 2013 The World is a Beautiful Place were the poster children for the Emo Revival. Their debut album Whenever, if Ever is a landmark for bands trying to recapture the emotional indie-rock sound that marked third wave Emo. Instead of building on that Harmlessness completely rewrites the book not just for what Emo can be but what indie-rock is. The World is a Beautiful Place should be a much bigger band talked about in the same conversations as Arcade Fire, Ra Ra Riot, and Wavves. Instead they are stuck with their Emo tag playing to kids in tiny rooms. But maybe that’s the kind of band TWIABP needs to be.
Harmlessness takes us on a journey to teach us that not everything is going to be ok but there’s nothing worse than wallowing in it. While the music is busy changing genres the lyrics are on a whole different level. Harmlessness sounds like an audio guidebook on how to deal with your mental health. This album is downright inspiring and I could see it being a direct link to people getting help for their depression or anxiety. For me there really isn’t a better album this year. Musically this record is ambitious and more spontaneous than the meticulously planned Whenever, if Ever. The lyrics here are some of my favorite ever written. Every time I listen to it I can hardly believe over fifty minutes have passed. It never feels like a moment is wasted or any song is skippable. Harmlessness is an album not a collection of songs. Give it a listen and see if it does as much for you as it has for me.
Spotify Link: Harmlessness
Honorable Mentions, EPs, 7″s, etc.
MewithoutYou – Pale Horses
Refused – Freedom
Desaparecidos – Payola
Run Forever – Run Forever
Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi
Tyler, the Creator – Cherry Bomb
Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
A$AP Rocky – At.Long.Last.A$AP
The World is a Beautiful Place…. – Death to New Years
Drug Church – Swell
Touche Amore/Self Defense Family – Self Love
Birds in Row – Personal War
Loss Leader – Flex Your Hair
Warm Thoughts – Intangible
Adventures – Supersonic Home
Finally here is the Top 10 of 2015 playlist. Enjoy!