Top 10 Albums of 2015

2015 is coming to a close, and it’s time to whip out the top ranking albums (in my opinion) from the year. It’s been a long one... but there have been some absolute gems of albums released this year. Without further adieu, here’s my top 10 albums of 2015.

Click the links for my in-depth review of the album!

10. Aurora - Running With The Wolves

Kicking off the Top 10 of 2015 is an artist who is set of dominating the pop of 2015. Aurora hails from Norway, and has already been dominating B-lists for radio stations upon the release of her debut EP, Running With The Wolves. The short EP features four beautiful pop songs, which all will leave a lasting mark on the listener. Aurora can be noted for her enchanting instrumentals (see: “Runaway”) and pure voice. Every song is beautifully written, especially “Running With The Wolves” and “Little Boy In The Grass”. Aurora will march into 2016 and absolutely dominate it, if the quality of her music is any indication of her future success. Fingers crossed - who knows what the radio will be attracted to...

9. Loma Prieta - Self Portrait

This hardcore punk outfit from California made a huge mark on 2015. Loma Prieta took a “happier” approach on their relentless punk this year with Self Portrait, the powerful successor to 2012′s I.V. The album is punk at its core, but is different from the zeitgeist of punk in many ways. “Satellite”, the closing track, for example, is everything a punk rock song should be, but it is undeniably happy in tone. The band with this album almost becomes a heavy The World Is A Beautiful Place, most evidently with the song “Never Remember”, though “Merciless” can be passed as a punk version of Deftones’ “Change (In The House Of Flies)”. The album shows a clear progression of the band’s sound, but still stays true to who they are. It delivers some of the heaviest jams of the year, too. That’s always a plus!

8. Halsey - BADLANDS

Halsey had the most triumphant debut of the year. BADLANDS captures the rebellious of Nirvana, the pop appeal of Fall Out Boy and Justin Bieber, and the brooding instrumentals of Sia and Imagine Dragons. With all of these coming together, it’s hard to go wrong. Admittedly, since it’s initial release the album has lost some of its initial hype, but I’ll be damned if “Castle”  doesn’t give me chills. Halsey, rather than a follower of the past, seems to be a leader. A leader of the same rebellion Nirvana led back in the day - she’s the voice for the lost ones of this generation. “New Americana” is the modern day equivalent of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (though the latter will always be the most relevant). Lyrically, there are much stronger songs than “New Americana” - “Castle”, “Colors”, and “Gasoline” are all fantastically written. “Castle” and “Control” have the biggest and best instrumentals on the entire album. Halsey’s crafted a new rebellious wave of pop that has set a precedent that is sure to set off a huge new generation of artists looking for a voice.

7. Years & Years - Communion

Debut albums were huge this year. Years & Years burst seemingly out of nowhere in 2014 with their huge dance tracks “Kings” and “Take Shelter”, both of which can be found on Communion. The album showcases more than just the dance jingles the band executes so well - a darker and more intimate sound to the band can be found in the breathtaking opening track “Foundation” (which sounds like Radiohead meets Diplo) and the acoustic version of “Ready For You”. The band’s trademark electronic dance bangers are still the vocal point of the album, with new tracks “Worship” and “Border” giving the perfect vibes for the club and for love. Olly Alexander’s vocals shine throughout the entire album, his melodies full of emotion, brought higher by the soaring electronics. Years & Years have one of the most memorable debuts of the year under the belts - may this carry them further in the future. It can only go up from here.

6. 10 Years - From Birth To Burial

If you wanted big rock jams this year, you needed to listen to 10 Years’ newest release. The album is the band taking the atmosphere of Minus The Machine and adding a heavier touch to it. The album opens up with the title track, which is one of the biggest songs of the year, where Jesse Hasek draws from Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda for a quick rap verse. “Triggers & Tripwires” and “Crimson Kiss” showcase the band’s heavier side, while “Luna” and “The River” shine the spotlight on the band’s songwriting ability. The closing duo, “Miscellanea” and “Moisture Residue” are a fantastic way to end this massive album. The lead single of the album “Miscellanea” sees Hasek reaching really high for some notes and a piano bridge that is the vocal point of the heart-wrenching “Moisture Residue”. The song brought some of the band’s biggest jams, and definitely some of the biggest headbangers of 2015.

5. Bring Me The Horizon - That’s The Spirit

Being that Thirty Seconds To Mars is my all-time favorite band, I truly enjoyed a lot of this album. Bring Me The Horizon has continued their evolution of sound that began with Sempiternal with this year’s That’s The Spirit, which took the band even further from their post-hardcore roots. This album is more alternative rock than it is hardcore, though Oli Sykes’ vocals are just as powerful as ever. His screaming and singing are the best part of the album, and what carries it so far. “Doomed” and “Follow You” show his ability to write fantastic songs, while “Avalanche” and “Throne” (the latter of which truly play to the influence Linkin Park has had on them) are the big jams. “Drown” is as close to Thirty Seconds To Mars as the band has gotten, though “Happy Song” and “Oh No” use the crowd vocal elements as critically as Thirty Seconds uses them. This is a band who has evolved into something different and more powerful than ever before. This is the powerful evolution of Bring Me The Horizon, that will only continue to spiral upwards into something more incredible.

4. Fall Out Boy - American Beauty/American Psycho

2015 was a big year for Fall Out Boy. An album full of huge anthems that would stay popular throughout the entire year, very big performances at some of the biggest events in music, collaborations with Demi Lovato (for a version of “Irresistible”) and a variety of hip-hop artists (for the remix album, Make America Psycho Again)... you name it, Fall Out Boy probably did it. This album brought back some of the punk/alternative rock anthems Fall Out Boy are known for, while being tossed up with many pop and electronic elements. The band even brought out some tributes throughout the album, sampling Mötley Crüe in the title track, Suzanne Vega (who even sang her own melody for her song, “Tom’s Diner”, for their use!) in “Centuries”, and even The Munsters theme song in “Uma Thurman”. The singles of the album, while all memorable in their own right, the tracks on the second half of the album are were the band truly shines. “Novocaine” brings out some impressive vocals by Patrick Stump, and the driving beat of the song paired with the distorted vocal line and rolling guitars pair for an immense song. “Twin Skeleton’s (Hotel In NYC)” takes a cinematic approach, one of the only songs that shined both on the album and the remix album (that Joey Bada$$ verse!). The harmonies at the end of the song end the album on such a high note, leaving the fans wanting more. Fall Out Boy brought out all of the biggest anthems of the year in 2015.

3. CHVRCHES - Every Open Eye

CHVRCHES burst onto the synthpop scene back in 2013 with their groundbreaking The Bones Of What You Believe and have finally followed up this year with the anthemic Every Open Eye. The trio took everything that shined with their previous effort and combined it with a brighter sound to craft the best electronic and pop album of the year. Singles like “Never Ending Circles” and “Clearest Blue” established CHVRCHES ability to dominate the charts and brought the album the attention it deserves. The band, while admittedly not doing much to separate this album from their debut, did experiment a bit with some songs. “High Enough To Carry You Over” (and bonus track “Follow You”) features Martin Doherty on lead vocals for the first time, while “Bury It” shows a thicker side to CHVRCHES’ electronic ventures, with a thick bass guitar track in the background. Lauren Mayberry’s fantastic vocals and harmonies throughout the album are another shining example of what makes the album so beautiful; the incredible “Afterglow” that concluded the album might just be the most beautiful songs of the year. CHVRCHES took electronic and pop music to a whole new expectation, earning them the third spot in the Top 10 of the year.

2. Arcane Roots - Heaven & Earth EP

From the English underground rock scene burst Arcane Roots, who in 2013 released their massive debut album, Blood & Chemistry. After fairly extensive touring around their mother country, as well as some other European stints supporting the likes of Muse and Biffy Clyro, the band finally returned to the studio this year to record the follow up. Instead of offering a full record this time, new music came in the form of a new, intense EP that stands as a pristine example for future brit-rockers to follow. The album kicks off with the huge banger, “If Nothing Breaks, Nothing Moves” that features vocalist Andrew Grover singing, tortured on top of atmospheric piano chords. The song sums up the album fairly well - strong soft moments, an anthemic chorus, huge breakdowns, and a massive explosion of an ending with all of the songs elements conjoining into one cohesive wall of noise. Another single from the album, “Slow Dance” brings back some of the urgency of their previous efforts and the beginning track, where tracks like “When Did The Taste Leave Your Mouth” and “Leaving” bring that intense radio-rock that could dominate any airwaves and will get the crowds jumping to the beat. The closing track, “Vows & Ceremonies” is a call to love, running away to live your life. It brings back some of the lighter rock from tracks like “Hell & High Water” from their previous album. Arcane Roots have truly crafted a masterpiece of an EP with their signature sound that will continue to dominate Brit Rock for ages to come.

1. Muse - Drones

Muse have always found ways to keep their sound fresh and exciting, whether it be the indie/alternative sounds from their debut Showbiz to the heavy, fast-paced apocalypse rock of Absolution, to the electronic anthems found in The 2nd LawDrones saw Muse exploring the concept of drone warfare, following a protagonist becoming a mindless killer and then escaping the clutches of their oppressors, all the while taking their sound back to the basics. The track is filled with huge rock tracks like “Reapers” and “The Handler”, big jams like “Psycho” and “Defector”, and even the good pop jingles Muse are well known for hitting out: “Dead Inside” and “Revolt”. “The Globalist” is a ten-minute, progressive epic about the fall of a dictator, the successor to an older Muse gem, “Citizen Erased”. The song modulates out of the beautiful end of the main narrative, “Aftermath”, and segues into the final a cappella track that the album draws its name from, a prayer to all of the nameless souls lost in war.

Drones is a challenge to modern warfare, and it should be approached. Can we really stand back and let attacks happen from behind a computer screen? Can we continue to mindlessly destroy entire cities with the click of a button? Muse brought upon this message with powerful music backing it, earning them, in my opinion, the best album of 2015. 

Honorable Mentions

  • Adele - 25
  • Bea Miller - Not An Apology
  • Björk - Vulnicura
  • Coldplay - A Head Full Of Dreams
  • Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
  • Grimes - Art Angels
  • Halestorm - Into The Wild Life
  • Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$
  • milo - so the flies don’t come
  • MUTEMATH - Vitals
  • Purity Ring - Another Eternity

That’s a wrap for this year... another Top 10 list and a wrapup of the fourth quarter is still to come. Thanks for sticking with me throughout the year, and may 2016 be a great year for music.

2nd Quarter Of 2015 in Music - Wrap Up

Just as I did for the first quarter of 2015, here’s my personal wrap-up for the new music I’ve listened to from April through June, as well as my Top 10 of 2015 as it stands. Also, what I’m looking forward to in the third quarter!

Still working on finishing up a few more albums, so bear with me.

Releases I’ve Listened To In The 2nd Quarter:

  • 10 Years From Birth To Burial: 9/10
  • Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color: 7.5/10
  • Ash Koosha - GUUD: 5/10
  • Blanck Mass - Dumb Flesh: 8/10
  • Breaking Benjamin - Dark Before Dawn: 5/10
  • Dr. Yen Lo - Days With Dr. Yen Lo: 7/10
  • East India Youth - Culture Of Volume: 8/10
  • Electric Mantis - Braincase EP: 7.5/10
  • Faith No More - Sol Invictus: 7.5/10
  • Fireflight - Innova: 7/10
  • Foo Fighters - Songs From The Laundry Room: 7/10
  • God Is An Astronaut - Helios | Erebus: 7.5/10
  • Halestorm - Into The Wild Life: 8.5/10
  • The Helio Sequence - The Helio Sequence: 7/10
  • Hiatus Kaiyote - Choose Your Weapon: 8/10
  • Hyukoh - 22: 7.5/10
  • Imagine Dragons - Shots EP: 5/10
  • Incubus - Trust Fall (Side A): 7.5/10
  • Kamasi Washington - The Epic: 8/10
  • King Los - God Money War: 6.5/10
  • Muse - Drones: 9.5/10
  • Prurient - Frozen Niagara Falls: 7/10
  • Ryn Weaver - The Fool: 7/10
  • Steve Aoki - Neon Future II: 7/10
  • Stone Sour - Meanwhile In Burbank: 7/10
  • Torres - Sprinter: 7/10
  • Zedd - True Colors: 8/10
  • Zella Day - Kicker: 7/10

Top 10 Albums of 2015:

  1. Muse - Drones
  2. 10 Years - From Birth To Burial
  3. Fall Out Boy - American Beauty / American Psycho
  4. Halestorm - Into The Wild Life
  5. Purity Ring - Another Eternity
  6. Zedd - True Colors
  7. Joey Bada$$ - B4.DA.$$
  8. Kamasi Washington - The Epic
  9. Zs - Xe
  10. Liturgy - The Ark Work

Upcoming Releases I’m Looking Forward To in the 3rd Quarter (in order of hype):

  • Deftones
  • Years & Years - Communion
  • Halsey - BADLANDS
  • Kwabs - Love + War
  • Team Sleep
  • Metric - Pagans In Vegas
  • EMP!RE - Our Simple Truths
  • Flux Pavilion - Tesla

Halestorm - Into The Wild Life

There aren’t many pure rock n’ roll bands out there any more. No more record-straight-to-analog or single take recordings. It’s all recorded, processed, and edited. Halestorm decided to take it oldschool with their newest record, creating a very organic album along the likes of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. This album sounds like it could be taken straight from the 70s/80s rock scene.

Go into this album ready to jam. You might be sweating by the end. Each track is a punch in the face in one way or another. From the huge opening of Scream to the surfer-metal (?) vibes of What Sober Couldn’t Say, this album explores a lot of territory in the metal realm. Lzzy Hale delivers powerful vocals track after track (interesting to note, all of the vocals were done in one take - no cutting, auto-tune, etc. was done to them. Additional vocals were added in later). The guitars and drums are relentless - Halestorm builds off of the best of their past material here, especially in riff-heavy tracks like I Am The Fire and Mayhem. Not everything is a wall of guitars, though - there are some softer tracks, too, including the confessional story of Dear Daughter and the groovy New Modern Loves. Sonically, this album is incredibly simple, but packs quite a punch nonetheless.

There are few negatives with this album. It might get repetitively rock-y at some points, yet each song is original in its own way. Halestorm shows in each track that they are truly masters of their craft and, even at their third album, can continue to make some great Americana rock-and-roll.

Into The Wild Life is possibly the best follow-up to The Strange Case Of... Halestorm could have possibly created. It showcases their growth as a band and still stays true to who they are. It’s as if the band combined their intensity as a live act with their power as a studio artist. Since the beginning, Halestorm have been an unstoppable force that are the diamond in the rough of the modern hard rock scene. Who says rock is dead?

Favorite Tracks: I Am The Fire, Mayhem, The Reckoning

Least Favorite Tracks: None. If I had to pick one, I’d say What Sober Couldn’t Say

Rating: 8.5/10