My friend Aubrey England listens to a lot more new music than I do. And his tastes are a lot more exploratory. For that reason I asked him to write up a "Best of 2015" music list for PostConsumer Reports. Aubrey plays electric guitar during worship at my church and he also dabbles in some singer-songwriter stuff himself (perhaps one day he will put out some music of his own). Lately, (based off of pre-worship practice sound checks) Aubrey has been challenging himself to learn some of the more difficult Radiohead songs (e.g. "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi") and some of the more iconic U2 hooks (e.g., "Bad"), and I hope him and I have many more music discussions in the future. (You can read my own year end albums list here)
I could probably sit around and talk with people about music for hours on end, but right now, my ramblings will be confined to somebody else’s blog. 2015 was an incredible year for new music, and it might be one of my favorite years for new music, particularly because some of my longtime favorite bands have created some truly great records. The music you listen to (or consume, depending who you ask) will follow you around. Or at least that’s what happens with me. I usually discover a band or an artist and i genuinely follow them for years, essentially until they break up. Even after that, I’ll still listen. I’ve based my decisions on two primary criteria. Firstly, and possibly most obviously, I have a listening history with the majority of these bands and artists. Secondly, I am truly an album listener at heart—most records I enjoy are played from track one, until the end, and then started over again. Therefore, the fact that these new releases have all made it into my year end list further convinces me that this is one of the best years for new music in a long time.
Painted Shut - Hop Along
Hop Along. Yes. You’ll see this band and record on many other year end lists, and for good reason. They blew me away two years ago when I discovered “Get Disowned”. That was their first major release as simply Hop Along, which left me wanting… But wanting in a good way, for more sonically rich and narrative driven music—and that’s exactly what they offered this year. The dynamics from lead singer Francis’s voice alone make this one worth checking out. Even if you don’t get instantly hooked, you’ll probably come back for a second listen at least to try and understand what the fuss is all about. Hop Along never disappoints and I’m excited to see how they progress and grow..
Pale horses - mewithoutYou
This might be mewithoutYou’s most ambitious effort yet- which really is saying something. It’s a fantastic blend of everything they’ve done in the past, with an apocalyptic and almost nihilistic narrative. Listening to this record, and as with most mewithoutYou’s records, one of the first things you’ll notice is the density of the lyrics. You’ll practically want Google at your side to research the references in Aaron Weiss’s lyrics, and that in itself is a trip. Aaron’s occasional shout-on-the-edge-of-screaming singing style and the instrumental breakdowns that accompany it have drawn fans from heavier and lighter genres, and these are prevalent throughout the record. Everything from the groove driven “Mexican War Streets” to the folk hum of “Magic Lantern Days” exemplifies what make mewithoutYou one of the current best, and honest to goodness post-hardcore bands in music today.
Imbue- The Early November
This record makes the list because it’s just so catchy. With that being said, this is easily the popiest release on this list. If you’re unfamiliar at all with The Early November, they essentially set the stage for early 2000’s emo/indie rock with “The Room’s Too Cold”. That’s the record everyone was listening to at the time of release. I think with this record, they tried to return to the same accessibility of their first release, and they certainly succeeded. I often criticize frontman “Ace”, for writing lyrics that are nonsensical but somehow end up making sense in a Jimmy Eat World sort of way. However, the hooks and lyrics on this record are more cohesive than ever and well worth looking into.
Carry the Ghost - Noah Gundersen
Writing honest songs is difficult—I’ve tried it. It requires a certain level of openness and vulnerability that not everyone possesses. Thankfully, Noah Gundersen has always been out to write those sorts of songs, and his latest release knocks them out of the park. He’s simply not afraid to deal with difficult topics and his songwriting reflects that. If you enjoy this one, check out his previous release “Ledges”.
Hospital Handshakes- Rocky Votolato
Rocky has released a folk rock record that is a triumphant return from a 3 year writing hiatus in the same vein as Noah Gundersen, but punchier and not as gritty. From the shimmer and shine of the title track to the raw punch of “Rumi”, there isn’t a weak track on this record. Per Google, this song was inspired by a book of Poems by Rumi called Whispers of the Beloved. It happens to be one of my favorites off this release. Rocky’s songs feel more polished and focused than ever before. Additionally, there is a lot of grace and truthfulness in these folk and punk-ish influenced songs, which might make Hospitable Handshakes my favorite release of his. That is quite a claim, considering his previous release “Makers” was also quite good.
New Bermuda - Deafheaven
Okay. Let’s talk black metal for a minute. If you asked me four years ago if i’d ever listen to this genre I would have laughed, and probably made some snarky sarcastic comment about how black metal isn’t “real music”. Deafheaven have certainly caused me to repent of that train of thought with their 2013 release “Sunbather”. Tha record is fantastic, and New Bermuda is a perfect follow up. Essentially, this is accessible black metal. If you aren’t a seasoned black metal listener, It might take a few listens, but New Bermuda certainly has epic moments to discover. As with many black metal or atmospheric records, this is essentially one giant song. Give this one a shot.
Honorable Mentions / Quick Recommendations:
Death Cab for Cutie - Kintsugi
This was not their strongest release, but definitely worth checking out—an all time favorite band of mine.
Baroness - Purple
This hard rock record came out a bit too late in the year to make this list, but it’s rad.
Eskimeaux - O.K
Catchy, playful, and fun indie bedroom pop with crystalline vocals.
Andy Shauf - The Bearer of Bad News
A Canadian indie folk group with a knack for emotive and believable story telling.
The Oh Hellos - Dear Wormwood
Beautiful indie folk pop inspired by C.S Lewis’s Screwtape Letters.
Yowler - The Offer
Lo Fi and minimalist indie folk tunes that will make you weepy.
Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp
Indie pop rock that will stick with you long after it’s over.
Dustin Kensrue - Carry The Fire
The frontman for Thrice also makes a wonderfully honest, folk oriented singer songwriter.
Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & LowellSufjan’s laments are beautiful and heart breaking. Make sure you have tissues nearby. This is easily his best release, and would have made my main list, but I figured Chris has already written about this record. (oh. yes. indeed. he. has.)
Best Albums of 2015 (by Chris Marchand)
Lists 2011!: Music
PostHumous Record Reviews