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.

3rd Quarter Of 2015 in Music - Wrap Up

Just as I did for the first and second quarters of 2015, here’s my personal wrap-up for the new music I’ve listened to from July through September, as well as my Top 10 of 2015 as it currently stands. Also, what I’m looking forward to in the fourth and final quarter! Getting ready for the Best Of 2015 lists soon! Thinking of a URL change, too...

This quarter was admittedly slow compared to the previous two. Not many releases stuck out to me, but there were definitely some great albums! Click on the links for some of the albums below for my in-depth reviews of them!

Releases I’ve Listened To In The 3rd Quarter:

  • Alessandro Cortini - Risvelgio: 6/10
  • Bea Miller - Not An Apology: 7/10
  • Bring Me The Horizon - That’s The Spirit: 8/10
  • Carly Rae Jepsen - E•MO•TION: 7/10
  • Cattle Decapitation - The Anthropocene Extinction: 7/10
  • Chelsea Wolfe - Abyss: 8.5/10
  • The Chemical Brothers - Born In The Echoes: 6/10
  • CHVRCHES - Every Open Eye: 8.5/10
  • Corpo-Mente - Corpo-Mente: 8/10
  • Dead Letter Circus - Aesthesis: 6/10
  • Disclosure - Caracal: 6.5/10
  • Drake & Future - What A Time To Be Alive: 4/10
  • Foals - What Went Down: 7.5/10
  • Flux Pavilion - Tesla: 3/10
  • The Front Bottoms - Back On Top: 5.5/10
  • Future - DS2: 6/10
  • Halsey - BADLANDS: 9/10
  • Kwabs - Love + War: 5/10
  • Lianne La Havas - Blood: 6.5/10
  • Metric - Pagans In Vegas: 5.5/10
  • milo - if the flies don’t come: 7/10
  • Myrkur - M: 7/10
  • Phedora - The House Of Ink: 7/10
  • Prides - The Way Back Up: 6.5/10
  • Run The Jewels - Meow The Jewels: 6.5/10
  • Saint Asonia - Saint Asonia: 6.5/10
  • TesseracT - Polaris: 7/10
  • The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - Harmlessness: 6/10
  • Years & Years - Communion: 8.5/10

Top 10 Albums of 2015:

  1. Muse - Drones
  2. Halsey - BADLANDS
  3. 10 Years - From Birth To Burial
  4. Fall Out Boy - American Beauty / American Psycho
  5. Halestorm - Into The Wild Life
  6. Purity Ring - Another Eternity
  7. CHVRCHES - Every Open Eye
  8. Zedd - True Colors
  9. Years & Years - Communion
  10. Bring Me The Horizon - That’s The Spirit

Upcoming Releases I’m Looking Forward To in the 4th Quarter (in order of hype):

  • Deftones
  • Arcane Roots - Heaven & Earth
  • Stone Temple Pilots?
  • City and Colour - If I Should Go Before You
  • Puscifer - Money Shots
  • Trivium - Silence In The Snow
  • Loma Prieta - Self Portrait
  • Coheed & Cambria - The Color Before The Sun

Years & Years - Communion

Fresh off of their Y & Y EP released earlier in the year, Years & Years have finally released their triumphant debut album, Communion. The band appeared on the electronic / dance scene back in 2012, when the group was then a five piece. Six singles later (four of which have made it onto Communion), the now-three piece have perfected and polished their sound for their first major album. After demanding attention with their catchy singles like ‘Take Shelter’ and ‘Desire’, this album truly shows how the trio have brought a sense of finesse to a broad genre.

The albums begins on an intimate number entitled ‘Foundation’, one of the group’s more modest cuts. While minimalistic in terms of the sonic landscape of the song, it’s still quite beautiful and emotional. It acts as a ‘Foundation’ for the emotional aspect of the album, which is conveyed heavily throughout the album, most notably through lead vocalist Olly Alexander’s pure vocals. A lot of the soul throughout the album comes from his voice. The actual instrumentation behind the vocals also add a certain level of fun to each track, definitely getting your foot tapping with each beat. A common formula in terms of the synths on the album is to build up over time. In more cases than not, you can find yourself listening to a track that has a moderate introduction that transitions to an explosive collection of synths and noise to conclude the song. The album also has a few tracks that dare to push the borders of electronica. ‘Border’ is almost a rock ballad, with a driving beat and a chorus melody that pleases your ears to hear - the only thing keeping it from filling that “rock ballad” label is the lack of any acoustic instrumentation, though that is more than forgivable. ‘Memo’ takes a brief step away from the electronic landscape and is lead by room-filling piano chords. The song still has traces of electronica riddled throughout and at the core, but the acoustic instrumentation is a welcome change of pace for the album. The closing track, ‘1977‘, has an enchanting bassline, subtle but demanding your attention. This album is all about the little things hidden in the mix, while the foreground of sounds is already pleasing to hear.

The album name definitely lives up to the general idea expressed throughout the album. Each track has an aspect of intimacy of it, despite being upfront and arresting your attention on the surface. Upon further inspection, a story is revealed. From beginning to end, the whole album is generally a love story, building from desiring love to holding on to memories of it. Each track can be perceived in a variety of ways unrelated to love, but that core idea is expressed through the general progression of the album. Communion is definitely one of the more relatable releases this year.

Communion is a challenge to the electronic and dance scene. Its catchy to simply listen to, and heavy to take in with an honest listen. The acoustic takes on the deluxe edition of the album are beautiful renditions, be sure to check those out if you haven’t heard them already - they add another level of emotion to the album. Years & Years’ debut album is a major success, not only on the charts, but in execution as well. With the music they’ve released up to this point, the trio has brought their sound to a polished and firm state that can only improve with time.

Favorite Tracks: Border, Foundation, Take Shelter

Least Favorite Tracks: Ties, Real

Rating: 8.5/10