Wow, what a wonderful year for music. If you’ve been anywhere on the internet over the past few weeks you’ve most definitely been inundated with various end of the year lists from various publications. Well, now you get to know what some of the wonderful staff here at WHUS thought of this year in music. Check out our lists below!
Dan Manning – Music Director
1. Viet Cong – Viet Cong
2. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
3. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
4. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
5. Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone?
6. Alex G – Beach Music
7. Mount Eerie – Sauna
8. Stove – Is Stupider
9. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion
10. Deafheaven – New Bermuda
11. Royal Headache – High
12. Palm – Trading Basics
13. Ought – Sun Coming Down
14. Tame Impala – Currents
15. Mark McGuire – Beyond Belief
16. Floating Points – Elaenia
17. Torres – Sprinter
18. Weed – Running Back
19. Institute – Catharsis
20. Beach House – Thank Your Lucky Stars
Mitch Britton – Assistant Music Director
Bread Pilot, Bread Pilot: Bread Pilot hails from my sleepy hometown of Southbury, CT. This is their first full-length album, rich with beautiful harmonies and colorful, driving instrumentation. Watching these songs grow from demos and intense performances to expansive, refined tracks has given them a really sentimental value to me. Look ‘em up on Bandcamp, these boys seriously groove!
Alex G, Beach Music: Alex G has been crafting bedroom-pop gold for quite a while now, but Beach Music is really something special. The tracks are extremely eclectic; jumping from creeping piano lounge jazz to twitchy electronic lushness to pitch-bent acoustic balladry like it’s nothing. This album feels like some artifact accidentally discovered that’s too weird and catchy to ignore. Keep it up G.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Multi-Love: Multi-Love is UMO’s grooviest, lushest-sounding work to date and I couldn’t love it more. The album details Ruban Nielson’s newfound polygamous lifestyle: joy, confusion and all. The songs are brimming with lavish effects and dynamics, yet somehow the whole thing manages to sound very (tastefully) lo-fi. Mmm, tape hiss.
Archy Marshall, A New Place 2 Drown: I’ve been a big fan of Archy Marshall ever since he was a lanky 17 year-old making music under the name Zoo Kid. After a two-album stint as King Krule, we’re blessed with his first new material in two years. A New Place 2 Drown is as chilled out as it gets; Marshall’s intricate, hypnotic beats dance beneath subtly groovy synth textures and samples. It’s truly awesome. Put this on shuffle at the next social gathering you’re at.
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly: Much more than the sum of its parts, TPAB captures the raw emotion, struggle, and aggression of being a minority in today’s society. Kendrick’s powerful, politically-charged poetry weaves in & out of funky, dynamic beats which I find refreshing in such a trap-obsessed rap game. I love this album for its direct honestly, pristine production, and sheer jazziness.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Quarters!: With an impressive output of ambitious self-recorded albums behind them, these Australian spaceboys (seven in total) have become one of my favorite forces in psychedelic rock. Comprised of only four tracks, each exactly 10:10 long, this album is an incredible journey through time, space and beyond. The songs are the perfect blend of precise structure and vibrant improvisation. Listen to “The River” on a long car ride for some real jazzy feels.
HOMESHAKE, Midnight Snack: Midnight Snack rules because it showcases a big leap for songwriter Peter Sagar. I was dazed the first time I heard it, as its smooth R&B-inspired jams were unlike any others they’d previously released. Full of beautiful guitar and synth interplay, the tracks cruise along at a mellow speed, leaving me with nothing but good feelings. I really like Sagar’s knack for simple, irresistibly catchy songwriting. Truly inspiring.
Protomartyr, The Agent Intellect: I had never heard Protomartyr before this album, and damn what an awakening. These songs have some of the coolest post-punk dynamics I’ve ever heard, all delivered effortlessly. The guitars are piercing yet melodic, the drums pound as if Animal from The Muppets is behind them, and Joe Casey’s moody sing-speaking is angsty as all hell. Stop wasting your time and just put on “Dope Cloud” right this second.
Panda Bear, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper: Panda Bear is one of my favorite voices in music ever. From his incredibly melodic contributions on most Animal Collective tracks to the amazing sample grafting on his masterpiece Person Pitch, he never fails to amaze me with that Brian Wilson-esque tone and range. This new album is a real gem in terms of sonic instrumentation and catchiness. Every song glows with warmth and passion as multicolored synths gurgle over powerful beats.
Tame Impala, Currents: This album is nothing short of incredible. Holy shit. Kevin Parker has shifted his production wizardry from heady psych-rock to glistening dance-pop and won my heart over in the process. The songs are unbelievably crisp and thick with an orchestra of lavish instruments and every note and texture is pristine. It blows my mind that this whole thing is the output of one man alone. With such a potent Prince/Michael Jackson vibe, I don’t think it’s possible not to be moved by this, I simply must dance. Album of the year hands down.
Kailey Townsend – Social Media Director
- Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly: Favorite Track: The Blacker the Berry
- Lianne La Havas, Blood: Favorite Track: What You Don’t Do
- PWR BTTM, Ugly Cherries: Favorite Track: I Wanna Boi (especially intro’d before All the Boys)
- Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear: Favorite Track: The Ideal Husband
- Dawes, All Your Favorite Bands: Favorite Track: Things Happen
- Florence + the Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful: Favorite Track: What Kind of Man
- Reduction Plan, Paradise: Favorite Track: Own Yr Own
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Multi-Love: Favorite Track: Multi-Love
- Eskimeaux, O.K.: Favorite Track: I Admit I’m Scared
- Alabama Shakes, Sound + Color: Favorite Track: Shoegaze
- FKA Twigs, M3LL155X EP
- Turnstile, Nonstop Feeling
- That Frank Ocean album that never came out.
Charlie Smart – News Director
Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell: A perfect album for sitting on the floor of a dark room contemplating death and the futility of existence. Nothing like a song slowly fading out as Sufjan whispers, “we’re all gonna die.” Recommended track – “Fourth of July”
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly: Feat. Tupac. Also home to POTUS’s favorite track of the year which has to count for something. Recommended track – “Alright”
Kamasi Washington, The Epic: In FLAC, this album weighs in at a hefty 1.06 GB. It comes on three CDs. All three hours of it are required jazz listening. He also played on To Pimp a Butterfly, which is cool. Recommended track – “Re Run”
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress: At least this album doesn’t have a creepy voice grumbling about lonely suicides and machines bleeding to death. That never fails to startle me. GY!BE, as usual, kills it. Recommended track – Oh, just listen to the whole album. It’s not that long.
Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Surf: When your (fake) last name is Trumpet, you better be pretty good at it. Nico shreds, and, as an added bonus, it’s kind of a new Chance album. Recommended track – “Familiar”
Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color: Brittany Howard said she based her vocal style on Bon Scott. Sounds more like Janis Joplin to me, but either way, it makes for a killer album. Recommended track – “Gimme All Your Love”
Kneedbody & Daedelus, Kneedelus: If you haven’t heard Kneebody, check them out. Then listen to this album for some good jazz on top of great Daedelus beats. Recommended track – “Home”
Jamie XX, In Colour: This album is all over the place. Is it house? DnB? Moombahton? Was that a ballad? Young Thug? Yup. Recommended track – “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”
Snarky Puppy & Metropole Orkest, Sylva: 1930s big band-inspired, funk-filled symphonic jazzfest. Whoever suggested combining two bands of 40+ musicians each had the right idea. Recommended track – “The Curtain”
Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear: Here, J. Tillman manages to make me nostalgic for things that never happened. He’s also pretty witty and can write a decent melody or two. Recommended track – “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)”
Chris Colgan – Assistant Marketing Director
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly: This album is a hip hop masterpiece lyrically and musically that is just as much fun as it is dark and introspective. As Kendrick “merges jazz fusion with the trap music” which he stated on his Black Friday track, he tackles dark topics such as survivors guilt, depression, self-hatred, poverty, and racism while also reminding us to love ourselves and that it is important to enjoy and appreciate every beautiful part of life. He even shows his sense of humor at points through skits and videos. To Pimp a Butterfly has the jazz, it has that Compton G Funk (including a feature from Uncle Snoop that sounds like it could be from 1996), it has raw emotion in its lyrics and Kendrick’s delivery, it has an introspective poem revealed throughout, it even has an awkwardly long interview with Tupac Shakur at the end; and it is hands down the best album of 2015.
Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear: Josh Tillman is an angry, witty, ironic, and melancholy man who can make absolutely anything sound lush and pretty. Including the phrases “I obliged later on when you begged me to choke you” and “Gets down more often than a blow up doll”. This album is a sharp pessimistic man’s outlook on the life he lives, and it is raw genius.
Earl Sweatshirt, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album By Earl Sweatshirt.: This album probably shouldn’t be #3, but Earl Sweatshirt is without a doubt my favorite lyricist of this generation and I obsess over him. This album is 30 minutes long, it is bitter, it is depressing, but it is honest with itself. These are the feelings of a 90 year old man trapped in a 22 year old’s body, and while it is incredibly dark it is just such an addicting album to me. It makes me feel better about bad things that happen, in the simplest terms.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Multi-Love: Can’t Keep Checking My Phone is one of the best songs of this year, and this album’s production is off the freakin’ wall. When I walk around campus and listen to this album I feel like I’m dreaming.
Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color: The instrumentation on this album is beautiful, the lyrics are amazing and passionate, and Brittany Howard’s voice can be described as “A Cannon Being Shot Out Of a Cannon” (credit to Joel Atkinson). The jams are so real.
Vince Staples, Summertime ’06: Vince Staples is the funniest dude in hip hop, and his double album debut featured some raw lyricism, Sprite Endorsements, and Clams Casino production. I have been waiting for an album from Vince Staples since I heard his feature on Earl Sweatshirt’s ghastly and uncomfortable “epaR”, his voice is so dope and his bars are so genuine. He also samples Future’s “Covered n Money” for a hook on this album and it is incredible.
Tame Impala, Currents: Kevin Parker turned down his guitar amps and turned up his synthesizers on this album to create a dreamy synth filled psychedelic wonderland. Some of the best electronic production of the year, and this was a great year for such thangs
Shamir, Ratchet: This album sounds like Prince fronting LCD Soundsystem (also credit to Joel, he is funnier than me), it is incredibly catchy and fun. Ratchet is one of those albums that will make you dance when you don’t even want to dance.
Jamie XX, In Colour: A diverse electronic experience, Jamie xx is one of the best record producers out right now. Has an incredible song with Young Thug that was the soundtrack to a feel good summer!
Future, DS2 : Future has been a musical workhorse this year, and DS2 was a dark, codeine drenched trip through Future’s demonic, vice-filled, yet luxurious lifestyle.
HONORABLE MENTIONS GO TO BEACH HOUSE (TWICE), BUGATTI BIEBS, ESKIMEAUX, THUGGER, AND VIET CONG
Onna Jaeger – Public Affairs Intern
Tame Impala, Currents: Currents was the soundtrack to one of the most memorable summers, of course it had to be top on the list. Kevin Parker taking us on another magical journey with bass lines that make shake your hips. Each track brings you to a new stage in the spectrum of feels, with Eventually tearing my heart apart but sewing it back together by the end.
Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color: Sound and Color spun me around and held me tight. Brittany Howard’s voice needs it’s own adjective. This album is a journey of love and loss that I found myself coming back to frequently this year.
Leon Bridges, Coming Home: I’m a sucker for the soul revival movement. At 25 years old, Leon Bridges sounds like he should be singing with Sam Cooke & Otis. This album got mixed reviews, but the smooth grooves and mix of instruments kept me coming back for more. Super keen to see what’s in store for Bridges in the future.
HOMESHAKE, Midnight Snack: THAT KEYBOARD THOUGH?? Kinda fell in love with Peter Sagar (and all of Mac’s band members) when I saw them play in 2013. The tracks on Midnight Snack are super drowsy but the R&B influence is so real.. and so groovy. Homeshake is definitely an acquired sound, as my dad referred to the song “Real Love” as ‘the whiniest thing he’s ever heard’.
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly: Because, well, obviously. His tracks spit truth about the history of systematic inequalities, with beats that still make you want to get up and shake somethin’.
Seoul, I Become a Shade: The first time I ever heard Seoul was in Montreal this summer. There’s definitely something special about hearing music you dig for the for the first time live. Seoul combined dreamy with groovy to make sounds that made my ears smile.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Multi Love: Grooooves! I feel giddy whenever this album is played. I’m a big fan of UMO in general, but this album is so upbeat while still holding onto the soulful psychedelic sound.
Beach House, Depression Cherry: This album is spacier and dreamier than past Beach House albums which is why I dig it so much. Also, it was a beautiful, euphoric watching them play Levitation live this summer in New Haven. Victoria Legrand has such a strong presence.
Bread Pilot, Bread Pilot: This band is composed of some of my closest friends. The songs on this album have been playing in my head after their live shows for months, so when it was finally released I was stoked to share them with friends far and wide. Ain’t nothin like some surrealist lyrics and psychedelic sound.
Neon Indian,Vegas Intl. Night School: I dig Alan Palomo’s use of cheesy, groovy, 80’s tracks. Palomo used the tropical trendy beats in a unique and tasteful way. This album kept me dancin’ throughout the year.
Joel Atkinson – Staff Member
Jessica Pratt, On Your Own Love Again: Some of the most gorgeous, melancholic, psychedelic folk I have ever heard. The 2nd half in particular is stunning. This record will stick with you for a long, long time.
Beach House, Depression Cherry/Thank Your Lucky Stars: Cheating, I know, but I don’t care! DC is dense, euphoric, and emotionally overwhelming keyboard heavy pop, while TYLS is cold, messy, angry….keyboard heavy pop.
Outfit, Slowness: UK’s “Try us if you think Hot Chip is too goofy” embrace meandering song structures, ala late period Talk Talk. Atmospheric, moody, synthy.
Destroyer, Poison Season: As Dan Bejar followed the masterpiece that is Rubies with the knotty, dense Trouble in Dreams, he follows the titanic Kaputt with this beastly mess. 70s car chase theme music? Orchestral flourishes? SPRINGSTEEEEEN? Bow down, y’all.
Stealing Sheep, Not Real: Utterly original, menacing, mechanical, polyrhythmic pop with queasy three part harmonies, hints of Middle Eastern music, 80s pop, creepy British folk, etc.
Martin Courtney, Many Moons: Real Estate singer strikes out on his own and boy, does he like 70s soft rock. So do I! Produced by Woods’ Jarvis Taverniere to give it that “sittin’ on the porch, drinkin’ a lite beer” feeling.
Roman A Clef, Abandonware: Members of Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Ice Choir and A Sunny Day In Glasgow make a shameless Prefab Sprout tribute album. “Cheesy” 80s sophisticated pop with hooks galore.
Travis Bretzer, Waxing Romantic: The cynical view is that this is 2nd rate Mac DeMarco, but the soft focus production by producer wiz Jorge Elbrecht and interesting chord changes make for some great “last dance on prom night” moments.
Young Guv, Ripe 4 Luv: 32 minutes of RIPPIN’ power pop. That’s it.
Jack + Eliza, Gentle Warnings: Minimal, drumless electric guitar Brill Building pop with great boy/girl harmonies. This one snuck up on me.
Amy Orlomoski – Staff Member
Feinberg Brothers, Feinberg Brothers (Cabinwood Music)
Patrick and Rourke Feinberg are teenage brothers from Long Island who like their Bluegrass traditional. Backed by their dad, Ronnie, on guitar as well as Bluegrass veterans, Terry McGill on banjo and Pete Elegant on bass, this is the first recording made by this band
Feller & Hill, I Firmly Promise You (Tommy Hillpicker Records)
The duo features Bluegrass veterans Tom Feller and Chris Hill performing bunches of fine gospel songs.
Gibson Brothers, Brotherhood (Rounder)
For years, the award-winning Gibsons have been talking about this album they were going to record of songs taken from the catalogs of other brother duos. 2015 finally saw the release of this dandy record which features zero songs written by these fine songwriters, but instead, there are lots of numbers originally recorded by brother acts like the Monroe Brothers, the Everly Brothers, Jim & Jesse, the Glaser Brothers, and more. Outstanding.
Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, Country Grass (Pinecastle)
Lorraine and her band are joined on this album by a host of country music stars including Eddy Raven, Lee Greenwood, the Kentucky Headhunters, and John Conlee. Enjoyable, especially if you miss the country music of the 1970s and 1980s.
Kathy Kallick Band, Foxhounds (Live Oak Records)
This brand-new recording just arrived at WHUS, and while I’ve only heard two songs from it, I know the rest of the songs recorded by this California-based band just have to be good. Can’t wait to listen to the whole CD!
Mark Kuykendall, Bobby Hicks & Asheville Bluegrass, Down Memory Lane (Rebel)
The debut recording from a North Carolina band featuring a living legend on the fiddle, Bobby Hicks.
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, In Session (Mountain Home)
Speaking of living legends in the world of Bluegrass, how about Doyle Lawson? This Bluegrass Hall of Famer released a terrific recording with the latest edition of Quicksilver in early 2015, and the record is now nominated in the category of “Best Bluegrass Album” for the 2016 Grammy Awards.
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, It’s About Tyme (Break A String Productions)
Springfield Exit, That Was Then (Patuxent Music)
Linda Lay is the primary lead vocalist of this country-sounding band that includes three former Johnson Mountain Boys as members.
Volume Five, Voices (Mountain Fever Records)
Safe to say that this band gets better with every recording. This is their fifth record.
Nathan Nye – Staff Member
Cool Dad, Cool Dad: Tom Nagy is one of my favorite lyricists of all life and is able to capture the feelings we all face getting older without being cheesy. Self Hate Team might just be one of my all time favorite songs and I was glad to see it remastered for this release. Also, please for the love of dogs see them live.
Bread Pilot, Bread Pilot: While I did help record this album, Bread Pilot is easily the most underrated band and are some of the tightest musicians I’ve ever had the experience of touring and working with. They know how to harmonize, write a tune, and layer sounds in a way that is new and exciting.
Deerhunter, Fading Frontier: Much more accessible than Deerhunter’s previous album without sounding like a washed out shoegaze album. There’s also a stronger electronic presence in this album which is used as a nice seasoning to the record.
The Garden, Haha: This album is seriously messed up in the best way possible. Drawing from drum and bass, post punk, and cringe worthy real world dialogue, The Garden killed it with this full length album.
Alex G, Beach Music: Alex G is known for his ability to conjure up nostalgia with all of his records, but this one takes the cake. His ability to shift his vocal style through various effects on this record separates the album’s listening experience from the live performance experience and sounds like nothing you have ever heard before while giving a nod to North Pacific bands we know and love.
Fraternal Twin, Skin Gets Hot: This album is dark, light, cold, and warm. It’s a beautiful piece of work. An album that paints a pretty distinct picture in your head when you close your eyes.
Violent Femmes, Happy New Year: Violent Femmes is one of my favorite bands of all time so naturally I’d get excited when a new EP is released. For the first album in 17 years, they pick up right where they left off with 4 brand new songs. Raw and flamboyant vocals, punchy bass, and the Horns of Dilemma all contribute to make a record that sounds older than I.
Cop, Render: These dudes can perform. Greg’s ability to work a crowd, Dan’s violent guitar playing, and Andrew’s rock solid bass playing all come together to create absolute chaos in basements throughout the land. This record has a lot more clarity than their first release and packs just as much punch.
Modest Mouse, Strangers To Ourselves: While I haven’t fallen in love with many of the newer Modest Mouse albums, this album is definitely a step in the right direction. While this album retains a lot of the aesthetics of newer Modest Mouse albums, it does seem as though it draws from the band’s past with songs like Coyotes and The Tortoise and the Tourist. Isaac Brock also said that the band would try to release and album as soon as legally possible following this release, which leads me to believe that the band wants to get an album out for the people who like the pop side of the band to compliment the band’s more recent commercial success. With some really good tracks on this record, it’s a really positive look into the future of Modest Mouse.
Amphibious Man, Witch Hips: These dudes add new members every year and make every Halloween, well, Halloween. Super spooky, super kooky, definitely full of rock n roll.
Sean Henry, It’s All About Me: From the dude that brought your High Pop and Boy Crush, Sean’s first solo release is something to note. On the surface, Sean’s sound may sound simple, but once a listener commits their ears to the listening experience, they will find that Sean might be one of the most talented and musical lofi artists around.
Arthur Shea, Arthur’s First: For anybody into recording aesthetic, Arthur Shea’s new record is by far one of the most interesting. While having lots of lofi qualities, this album shouldn’t fool you. Arthur’s ability to find sonic warmth through cheap keyboards, drum machines, and analog recording equipment contributes to a very successful 2015 release. Highly recommend.
Notable Singles/Things to look for in 2016
- Joy Again, Looking Out For You: A great single for what will be a great album. I was able to visit the studio they recorded the single in and got to hear some of the leaks.
- Mom Pop + Co, Untitled: Mom Pop + Co. is the band that will save CT music. Eric Carney is not only a firm believer in the house show but his raw vocal style and strong backing members bring back feelings of 2010 every time I hear them. Can’t wait to hear their full length.
Scotty Duval – Staff Member
Ben Folds – So There
Folds strays from his typical style and energy just a little bit on this one, with the help of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Some songs are funny, some are serious, and there’s an impressive three movement concerto at the end (with Folds killin’ it on the piano) that’s reminiscent of some of the greats and shows off Ben Folds’ full musical prowess.
Papadosio – Extras in a Movie
It’s dance rock, it’s electronic, it’s acoustic pop, it’s psychedelic jam rock, Papadosio stuffs many different genres into their new album. Each track is unique and the band members are supremely talented on their instruments. And it shows, the album boasts an impressive 17 tracks and is entertaining and interesting the entire way through.
Coheed and Cambria, The Color before the Sun: Only a recent discovery for me (meaning, like, a week ago), these guys know how to rock. The album is an interesting mixture of progressive rock and modern pop-rock, showing clear influences of everywhere from Rush to Thirty Seconds To Mars. The powerful vocals and odd but interesting lyrics of Claudio Sanchez make for an entertaining listen and a fantastic album.
CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye: When that synth riff of the first track “Never Ending Circles” started, I knew I was in for a treat. With the entrancing vocals of Lauren Mayberry and catchy synth riffs that sound very mainstream pop but also not mainstream pop at all at the same time, Every Open Eye is an album that is catchy, ear-pleasing, synth-y, synth-y goodness.
Caravan Palace, <|o_o|> (aka Robot Face): The french electro swing group is back with their perfectly crafted blend of modern dance music and old time-y dance music. This time, their sound seems to have expanded out not only to more electronic genres, but more jazz ones as well. With upbeat club bangers like “Lone Digger” and more chill out grooves like “Midnight”, Caravan Palace is on top of their game with this release.
Grimes – Artangels: While many people don’t like Grimes’ new stretch into pop territory, I think she can write a great catchy pop tune. Sporting her always genre-bending mix of various electronic styles, quirky voice and unique lyrical stylings and guest artists (including a Taiwanese rapper), Grimes has put out one hell of an album.
City and Colour, If I Should Go Before You: This album is a wonderful medley of Dallas Green’s excellent vocals and songwriting. There’s some laid-back indie folk songs and some straight up blues rock (but a little more hipster). Also, I’ll give props to anyone that can put slide guitars in two separate songs and not make me gag. Joking aside, there’s strong creativity and musicianship on this album that shows all the way through.
Umphrey’s McGee, The London Session: The band that I’ve always pegged as “the most underrated/underplayed rock band of our time” has a brand new album that’s packed with lots of good stuff. There’s rehashed versions of older songs, a few fan favorites that haven’t made it to a studio album yet, and an appropriate Bealtes cover at the end, as it was recorded in the Abbey Road studios in London. What’s more impressive than the songs themselves is that the whole thing was recorded in a single day.
The Dear Hunter, Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise: The fourth album is a six-part concept album series, Corey Crescenzo withholds none of his creative talents on this one. This album has everything, from catchy pop-rock ballads to a heavy progressive rock 9 minute long epic to political commentary, the new and long awaited entry is captivating, both heavy and light, lyrically thought-provoking and lots of fun to listen to.
Public Service Broadcasting, The Race for Space: Gotta thank the two dudes over at the Hello Internet podcast for this recommendation. Hailing from England, PSB is an art rock band with an intriguing premise. In the place of vocals, there are clips from various old new stories, public service announcements, movies, and whatever else the band finds meaning in. The instrumental backing, or rather, the actual song part, thematically matches the clips. This album happens to focus on a particular theme- the Space Race between the US and the USSR. Every song is so well done and fun but also artistically beautiful. “Gagarin” is probably my favorite. Taking translations of Yuri Gagarin’s (the first man in space) transmissions while in space along with various news clippings about the event set to an upbeat and fun funk song to fit it. The album is perhaps one of the most creative and interesting things I’ve ever heard and goes down as my best album of the year.
Kevin Korza – Staff Member
Pentatonix, Pentatonix: In addition to doing stuff at WHUS, I also work at 96.5 TIC-FM and every Sunday I play The Daly Download with Carson Daily where he counts down the weeks top 30 popular songs. Pentatonix’s Can’t Sleep Love is always on the list and I thought I’d give the album a listen. Overall it’s a great listen to, with not only great vocals but also great instrumentals. In my opinion, what really stands out with this album is the vocals!
Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion: It doesn’t come more poppy than this. Carly Rae Jepsen is known for Call Me Maybe but there are songs on this album that really distinguish her from the normal pop artist. Run Away With Me start off with a bagpipe-ish sound and it’s really unique. This album is just a great listen to!
Revival, Selena Gomez: Although in the past I really wasn’t a fan of Selena Gomez, Revival changed that! She partnered with A$AP Rocky on this album and produced something unique.
Smoke + Mirrors, Imagine Dragons: So Imagine Dragons it’s not funny! Album after album, they make beautiful stuff! The vocals really stood out.
I Love You, Honeybear, Father John Misty: Played on New Spins and I just enjoyed listening to the album. The combination of the vocals and acoustic sounding parts of the album really sounded unique and stood out from other popular albums.
25, Adele: Beautiful Adele, that is all. Not really. Whatever Adele releases is a masterpiece. There’s just something about her voice that really makes her songs memorable.
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, Florence + The Machine: SUPER UNIQUE SOUNDING and very Florence + The Machine-ish (and that’s a good thing). The vocals were extremely powerful and it just put you in a great mood whenever you listened to the album.
Depression Cherry, Beach House: Beach House has takes us all by storm! Depression Cherry’s vocals and instrumental sections mesh perfectly.
Generation, De Lux: While tuning into New Spins during the Summer, De Lux would play from time to time and I really enjoyed tuning in. Overall it’s a unique sounding album. I like the futuristic instrumental sounds of Living in an Open Place.
Little Neon Limelight, Houndmouth: All the songs on this album are amazing! They not only sound great but also have great lyrics. I saw Houndmouth live at Toad’s Place and they are AMAZING live! They really deserve number 1 (in my opinion)
Shaine Scarminach – Staff Member
Ava Luna, Infinite House: A second coming of the largely-forgotten No Wave encounter with funk and soul. This album suggests what the early-2000s art rock revival could have been: more unassuming; less pretentious. Or maybe those are just the stakes for this lazy critic.
Broken Water, Wrought: Amid all the fluff covering similar ground (then and now), it’s nice to know the real thing still exists. Given that “ephemeral” might be the music word of the moment, we would do well to seize the opportunity to watch a band grow, change, and remain.
Courtney Barnett, Sometime I Sit and Think, and Sometime I Just Sit: There are many words to describe Australia: a country, a continent, a group of islands. This album has its own bunch of words, most of them worthwhile. No one does good lyrics these days anyway.
Destruction Unit, Negative Feedback Resistor: Although a long time holdout and still a skeptical observer, I will admit to being swayed. The live show still fails to fully translate on record but that’s true for the best of them. I will give it to these guys, even if the use of words like “psychedelic” and “Arizona” in 2015 make me want to roll the eyes right out of my head.
Jack J, Thirstin’ b/w Atmosphère: Not an album but the most grooving and moving record I heard all year. Can you Jack?
Julia Holter, Have You in My Wilderness: I’m not sure if this album reminds me of the artful side of 1960s baroque pop or the kind of millennial muzak used to sell electronics, but the songs sure stick in your ear.
Oneohtrix Point Never, Garden of Delete: As the thrill seekers of the world seem to tell us, the body feels most alive when faced with death. This album conveys somethings similar, resting as it does on the precipice of human embodiment about to plunge into digital dust. As software eats the world, someone records the sound.
Radioactivity, Silent Kill: For my money, the undisputed champion of punk for the new millennium. Even if you can’t get on board, you have to appreciate a band (and an album) that sloughs off its opponents without a second thought. A silent kill indeed.
Royal Headache, High: Some bands succeed through sheer force of will. This is one of them. While it may lack for novelty, this album simply can’t be denied. In this case, the music feels fresh and new despite itself (we could file the latest Sheer Mag EP and Coneheads album here as well).
Viet Cong, Viet Cong: The best of what post-punk could be: a topological equation that stretched and bent the surface of rock ‘n’ roll into something strange and new. Simultaneously cloudy and clear, textured and smooth, dark and bright. A triumph regardless of the controversy surrounding their name.
Helen Stec – Staff Member
Wilco, Star Wars: Wilco is my favorite band of all-time, and they make dad-rock cool. The unexpected release of Star Wars this summer was one of the highlights of my year and exceeded all my expectations. Like a fine wine or cheese, Jeff Tweedy and his songwriting only get better with age.
Bill Ryder-Jones, West Kirby County Primary: Bill Ryder-Jones gets pretty dark in his third album, and goes electric. West Kirby County Primary is thoughtful, troubled, moving, and my go-to rainy day album.
Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear: I’ve always been a huge Fleet Foxes fan, and though I was skeptical of FJM at first, I’m pretty sure he’s managed to surpass them in my heart. J. Tillman is so cynical yet open-hearted and I Love You, Honeybear perfectly reflects this.
Jamie xx, In Colour: Somehow Jamie xx managed to create an album that’s both expansive and intimate. It’s “hip” music that actually makes you feel something.
Tame Impala, Currents: When you listen to this album, you can tell that it was nitpicked and fussed-over before it was released. Lead singer and songwriter Kevin Parker is a perfectionist whose efforts totally paid off.
Grimes, Art Angels: Not sure what to say besides that Grimes has hit an artistic renaissance in her music career. With this album she’s managed to create her own delightfully weird and catchy version of pop.
Joanna Newsom, Divers: Joanna Newsom is a goddess with a harp. Her songs are like haunting short stories and always carefully constructed to seem a lot less fine-tuned than they actually are.
Kurt Vile, B’lieve I’m Goin Down: This album is definitely one of Kurt Vile’s darker ones, with a little bit of banjo. While Vile’s writing has gotten more sophisticated time, the best part of this album is its humor.
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment, Surf: I love this album because it’s full of love. It’s also full of hope, and I guarantee it can brighten up anyone’s darkest days.
Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color: Sound & Color is strange and unexpected, especially after the Alabama Shakes’ first album. Brittany Howard’s voice is especially powerful and emotive this time around, and her lyrics are profound and captivating.
Chad Pope – Staff Member
Father John Misty, I Love You Honeybear: The biggest and boldest statement of 2015. A consistent narrative, lyrically unmatched. J. Tillman sings with conviction and force. I personally believe his persona as FJM is not a persona but rather a device Tillman uses to not be in trouble for how much an ass he really is. Oh, and the music is good too.
Joanna Newsom, Divers: Novel. More accessible than her previous records, but still the most complex on this list. Still rewarding after hundreds of listens as there is little to no repetition in her song structures. Harp is still the centerpiece but has incorporated numerous other instruments to fill out her arrangements.
Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell: Sad. Like really sad. I dig sad music.
Speedy Ortiz, Foil Deer: I feel my relationship to Speedy’s music is different than most people’s. I didn’t get into Major Arcana and always felt I was missing something that everyone else “got.” When Foil Deer came around I dismissed it for months. Over the summer it lived in my car and became one of the albums I listened to the most. A definite grower.
Joan Shelley, Over and Even: Beautiful, soft, and delicate folk music. She’s the only artist making a return appearance from my 2014 list. I hope her work remains prolific.
Monk Parker, How the Spark Loves the Tinder: Easily the most cohesive record on this list. It’s somber, dark, weird, and majestic.
Natalie Prass, Natalie Prass: I’ve always been into Matthew E. White’s brand of southern ‘70s soul. He founded the Spacebomb label and studio and his house band plays behind Prass’s pristine voice. I imagine these songs live in either a fairy tale or a swanky jazz club. Heartbreak has never sounded so pretty.
Laura Marling, Short Movie: Laura Marling never fails to make a wonderful country folk album. And now she’s gone electric, and I’m into it.
Faith Healer, Cosmic Troubles: Rock music derived from the 1960’s when all rock music was good.
Tica Douglas, Joey: Tica Douglas has a unique voice with a tinge of sadness. As previously stated, I dig sad music. I also gravitate towards female singer-songwriters.
Michelle Woodhouse – Staff Member
HOMESHAKE – Midnight Snack: Pete Sagar has given us laid-back beats, drowsy synths and his gentle falsetto in his second project as solo artist HOMESHAKE. You might slide into a mellowed out oblivion with this album – especially with the tracks “Give It To Me” and “Midnight Snack”.
Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon: Lana doesn’t disappoint with this album. Her elegant voice floats dreamily through the tracks with her typical sultry darkness setting the tone on top of longing strings and punctuated beats. Do not skip: High by the Beach
Petite Noir – La Vie Est Belle/Life is Beautiful: This is Yannick Ilunga’s debut album as Petite Noir and his sound is all over this place in a way that brings the album together. Drums and horns are the staple to this record along with his incredibly unique voice that is capable of dropping from a gentle falsetto to a deep baritone. Favorite track: Chess
Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss: This album is harrowing and eerie and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The dark energy exerts a somewhat disturbing power, characterized heavily by her haunting voice and the sound distortions. The entire record is quite an experience.
Alison Wonderland – Run: Despite mixed reviews in the EDM world when her debut album dropped, this is still one of my favorites of the year. This Australian DJ and producer features her own vocals on many tracks and elicits an overall upbeat energy despite dark lyrical elements. “U Don’t Know” featuring Wayne Coyne is definitely one of the best tracks.
Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin Down: Kurt Vile’s delivery sets the tone for each song in this laid back, folky album. His calming voice croons gently over guitar heavy tracks with piano and banjo emerging at times. Favorite track: Wild Imagination
Ought – Sun Coming Down: This album is stiff, anxious, and tense in the best way. When cranked loud the energy is incredible and euphoric. Check out: Beautiful Blue Sky, Celebration
FKA Twigs – M3LL155X: This EP is raw, spacy, and honest with surreal elements sprinkled throughout. Each track has its own allure and all together presents a powerful questioning about different aspects of identity. Favorite track: Glass and Patron.
Alex G – Beach Music: This album is intriguing, sweet, haunting, ambiguous and satisfying. The intricacy of the sound mixed with his breathy suspended vocals makes for a great experience. Favorite tracks: Salt, Kicker
Alina Baraz & Galimatias – Urban Flora EP: This EP debuts the wonderful partnership of singer Alina Baraz and producer Galimatias. The EP is sultry and easy with Baraz’s smooth voice simmering over Galimatias’s slow, drawn out beats. Check out: Can I, Fantasy
See you next December with the top albums of 2016 list!
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