2015 was a wild ride for music, at least for me. A lot of different music happenings came out, from shows to albums to songs. Here is my blog of some of my favorite music related things in 2015. It’s rather long so I bolded the important parts if you want to skim through it.
Throughout 2015 I made an effort to listen to as many new albums as I could and, although there were still many that I missed, I feel like there were a lot of great album released this year. My tastes in music are weighted more toward the pop/punk end up the spectrum, but these were some of my favorite albums released this year. I’ll start with the honorable mentions first:
Kintsugi by Death Cab For Cutie
Kintsugi is a fun album. It has a lot going for it, from the clever lyricism in “Little Wanderer” to the completely uncharacteristic guitar solo in “Black Sun.” Personally, I like it a lot more than the band’s last couple albums. The line “And I guess it’s not a failure we could help / And we’ll both go on to get lonely with someone else” in “No Room In Frame” is classic DCFC. The front half of the album is completely solid, but it always seemed to lose me toward the end.
Payola by Desaparecidos
This album is my favorite thing that Connor Oberst has done, albeit I’m not much of a fan of most of what he does. “Search the Searches” is upbeat and fun and really nothing like anything I’ve heard of his Bright Eyes material. “Radicalized” feels the same way. The more I listened to this album the more I grew to like it. If there’s anything I learned from this album it’s that Connor Oberst can definitely make a punk record.
The Pale Emperor by Marilyn Manson
The man is weird, completely weird, and he’s still stuck on the most cliché of shock rock tactics like burning bibles apparently, but this album is really cool. “Deep Six” is a hell of a rock song. It bangs hard and comes across really well to even people like me who haven’t listened to the band since the Holy Wood years. “Third Day Of A Seven Day Binge” does a cool blues-y sort of thing that I really dig and the bridge toward the latter half of the song really pulls it all together. This album does a lot right as far as rock albums are concerned, regardless on your opinion of the man himself.
Nerve Endings by Too Close To Touch
Too Close To Touch is a rock band in the same vein as Emarosa, both of which come from Lexington, KY. The opener, “Someday” has an incredibly catchy chorus as well as equally impressive guitar grooves. “Pretty Little Thing” is just as notable for similar reasons. “Restless” does a great job at showcasing the singers pipes; his melodies in this song are really cool. If you’re a fan of Emarosa or Pvris then this is an album you should be checking out.
New Bermuda by Deafheaven
Deafheaven really isn’t what I would call something I normally listen to, but New Bermuda is way cool. It’s like the weird amalgamation of black metal, indie rock, and hair metal guitar solos. You’ll get three minutes of break neck black metal drumming, then you’ll have this soft indie interlude that crescendos into this hair metal guitar solo which of course transitions it right back to where we started with the whole black metal thing. And that’s all happening in the same song. Check out “Luna” and “Baby Blue” because those were my favorites.
Instant Gratification by Dance Gavin Dance
I love Dance Gavin Dance simply because their sound super unique. I’ve been a fan since their first album and it’s been really cool and really weird to see the band go through five different vocalists in six albums, some of which that are mildly consistent and some that are not. “On The Run” is heavy and features some of the best vocals that Jon Mess has done. “Death Of A Strawberry” is really cool because it showcases both the poppy and heavy aspects of the band. I’ll admit that half their lyrics are trash, but musically these guys are incredibly creative. They definitely know how to make a unique album.
I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty
This band is the same as The National to me in the sense that I have to be in the right mood to appreciate them. “Chateu Lobby #4” is a really neat song. The soaring horns accent his voice really well and the whole album just flows incredibly. The somber, clever, “Bored In The USA” is my favorite off the album. Really, the line “Save me, President Jesus” is one of my favorite lyrics this year. This album will be one I will definitely come back to in a couple years to see if I can appreciate it to the level it deserves.
Freedom by Refused
When I first read that Refused was doing a new album and a tour I was ecstatic. This was one of those things that I just never thought was going to happen. “Elektra” came out and it just sounded like Refused. “Francafrique” is so good that I’d even say it’s better than some of the tracks on The Shape of Punk to Come. Yet, you can’t expect the band to come back a decade and a half later and come out with The Shape of Punk to Come 2, because that’s just not what’s going to happen. It’s a really cool album, that’s for sure. Songs like “Servants of Death” and “Thought Is Blood” are enjoyable songs. Just don’t go into Freedom thinking it’s going to shape the next 15 years of punk music, because if you do you’re going to be disappointed.
LOVETAP! by Smallpools
I’ve loved “Dreaming” and “Mason Jar” for a couple years now so putting them on their debut album is honestly cheating a little bit. The whole album is this great synthy indie-pop album that really shined for me. They’re really similar to San Cisco or Walk The Moon in some cases, but honestly I feel like with the right exposure some of their songs could be just as big as “Shut Up and Dance.” Sure, there’s a couple cheesy numbers in there that are a little too 80s sounding, with the title track being the biggest culprit there, but as a whole the album shaped up to be one of my favorite pop records of the year.
Pale Horses by mewithoutYou
mewithoutYou is always one of those bands for me that I know I should just love more than I actually do. They definitely have songs that I do absolutely love; “D-Minor” is up there in my favorites of theirs. Aaron Weiss’ lyrics are on point and live he’s awesome, but something about picking up their albums as home doesn’t spark for me. “Blue Hen” and “Red Cow” are really cool tracks and so is the rest of the album, but it really shaped up to be one of those records that is going to have to grow on me still.
That’s the Spirit by Bring Me the Horizon
This album was one of the biggest surprises for me. BMTH isn’t the scene-core band writing anthems to 15 year old wannabe hardcore kids anymore; they’re a surprisingly legitimate mainstream alternative rock band. Of course, rock is definitely a broad term. “Happy Song” is an entertaining listen, and with that so is “True Friends.” “Down” and “Avalanche” are some of my favorites as well. Lyrically, the album is a bit to be desired, but musically there are some great hooks written here.
Mable by Spraynard
“Applebee’s Bar” is my favorite pop/punk song written this year. If I was doing a top 16 albums of 2015 then Mable would be 16 for sure, but I’m not doing that. Honestly, “Applebee’s Bar” is so good that I feel like the rest of the album doesn’t live up and that might be my biggest problem with it. That sounds like a crazy thing to say, but for me it’s true. I mean, “Buried” is a hell of a song and so is “Pond” and pretty much all the other tracks. Nothing hit me like “Applebee’s Bar” though.
Thrilled by Punchline
Punchline is a weird band. Their brand of pop/punk is different, which is probably why they haven’t broken out as much as they should have. Thrilled is not an exception. Honestly, it sounds like Punchline went and had a baby with Bleachers, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The title track is killer. “Telephone Pole” is really weird but in the same sense I love it. “Green Hills” is probably the best song they’ve written. The way it progresses is incredible. All in all it’s worth at least a listen for sure.
What Went Down by Foals
I’d never listened to Foals before picking this album up. “Birch Tree” is one of my favorite songs all year. “Night Swimmers” is equally as fun. I love the tones on the guitars and the band’s blend of indie rock. The only thing that sort of gets to me is the way the album seems to mush together after a little while. I feel like they’d be a killer band to see live; it makes me wish I’d have caught them on their co-headlining tour with Cage The Elephant.
The Story So Far by The Story So Far
For being named after a New Found Glory song, the band definitely takes a few traits from their namesake, particularly their ability to rewrite the same album over and over. Solid as it is, the only qualms I have with this album is their formulaic way of write. That being said, “Solo” is a banger of a pop/punk song, the drums in “Heavy Gloom” are killer, and the chorus in “Distaste” is one of the best the band has written. If you’re a fan of the more punk side of pop/punk pick this up and give it a listen.
I Am Alive In Everything I Touch by Silverstein
Silverstein is one of my very favorite bands. They know how to stick to what they’re good at while at the same time shaking up the recipe a bit. “Face Of The Earth” reaches easily into the Discovering The Waterfront era sound. “Milestone” is one of the best songs the band has written in years. At the same time, this album was one that was hard to grow on me. I’m hoping this is another one that grows on me a bit more as time goes on.
Those were some of the albums I really liked that I felt needed to be mentioned, even if they weren’t my very favorite albums of the year. There was just so much that I listened to that I needed to at least mention some of those others. Here’s my very favorites of the year:
- Found Away In Far Away Places by August Burns Red
As far as heavy albums go, this one just about takes the cake for me this year. The instrumentals are killer. The guitars rip in ways I didn’t expect, especially for an ABR album. “Ghosts” is an exceptionally heavy song reminiscent of “White Washed” that has its own unique spin on it; maybe that’s just the guest spot by Jeremy McKinnon, but the whole track stands out not just among the album but their discography as a whole.
The vocals on this album are on point. They’re crisp in a way that makes you wonder how Jake Luhrs does it. I was able to catch them live twice this year and the new songs were exceptional. “Majoring In the Minors” features the most strikingly odd bridge the band has written; it reminds me a bit of “First” by The Chariot honestly. The whole album is an incredible journey through sound. If you like this vein of heavy music it’s something to definitely try out.
- How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine
This album was one of the biggest surprises for me this year. I’d never really given Florence + The Machine a listen before picking up this album; I only knew “Shake It Out” because it was on How I Met Your Mother. I put this album in my car on a whim because her show I took my girlfriend to earlier this year in Nashville was honestly really good. After a long drive out to my parents I could officially call myself a fan.
There are so many good songs on this album: “Ship To Wreck” is killer; her vocals are incredible in that song. “What Kind Of Man” is a hell of a song with an anthem of a chorus. “Caught” is just a beautiful song, as well as “St. Jude.” The track that stood out the most to me though was the closer, “Mother.” Sure, when I saw the title scroll across in my car I was hoping it was a really cool Danzig cover, but when the song kicked in and the chorus rang through my speakers I was sold and singing along.
- New Glow by Matt & Kim
This isn’t a terribly popular opinion, but New Glow is easily my favorite Matt & Kim album. It’s just an insanely fun album. The lyrics are silly, for sure, but if you’re looking for intellectual songs then you’re just looking in the wrong place. Comparatively, the line “But stories get better as stories fall apart” in ” World Is Ending” is one of my favorite lyrics this year. I thought it was pretty clever.
The whole album is full of poppy hooks and hip-hop drums driven on electronic beats. The whole album is a sing-along. “Can You Blame Me” and “Get It” are some of the catchiest songs written this year. “Hoodie On” is a polarizing song because you’ll either love it for its simplicity or hate it for its repetitiveness. But then again, I feel whole album develops a distinct hit or miss with people.
- Peripheral Vision by Turnover
I missed three opportunities to see this band this year. They were the opener for like three shows I said I was going to go to and I’m so glad that I was able to catch them this past November. Their live show was captivating and the songs they played off this album made it one that I just had to listen to. I blogged about Peripheral Vision a few weeks ago, and if you want to read it in full you can check it out here. Just know two things: 1. I went to a show to see The Story So Far and came out a fan of Turnover and 2. “New Scream” is incredible.
- Pull The Thorns From Your Heart
I haven’t been able to get into a Senses Fail album since Let It Enfold You. Part of that is because some of their releases haven’t been as good and part of it is because I sort of gave up on there being good new Senses Fail songs after I didn’t really take to Still Searching. Regardless of both of those statements, Pull The Thorns From Your Heart is awesome. It’s like none of the band’s previous discography; vocalist Buddy Nielsen has taken to the band into a more traditional hardcore sound in the vein of like Terror or Expire. They even threw in a few shoegaze-y elements in there, which sounds weird but somehow fits with the album’s tone. I wrote about how surprised I was about this album here if you want to check it out in length.
- Battles by Beautiful Bodies
I discovered Beautiful Bodies when they opened up for Emarosa on their album release show in Nashville last year. What was the most surprising about that whole show was how much energy lead singer Alicia Solombrino had. I caught their set at Warped this year and it proved that that show hadn’t been a fluke. Battles is a really cool rock album. The energy of Solombrino comes across easily in the songs and makes for a variety of interesting songs. “Capture & Release” is an extremely likeable song with an albeit repetitive but well written chorus. “She’s A Blast” is a blast of a rock song, pardon the pun. “Subversive Lover” channels into the more punk side of the band and is easily my favorite song on the record.
I hate hate hate comparing every female-fronted band pop/rock band that plays Warped to Paramore, but really, there is a likeness between the two bands and it isn’t a bad thing at all. This band does it in its own way and has a lot of potential. If Epitaph can promote this band effectively this band will be huge.
- Blurryface by Twenty One Pilots
Speaking of bands getting huge if promoted effectively, holy hell Twenty One Pilots got huge. I remember writing about them a couple years ago when Vessel came out saying the exact same thing. What I like the most about this band is that they crafted 14 songs in an album that all sound completely different. Listening to each of the singles that came out prior to the album was ridiculous because I couldn’t pinpoint what exactly the album was going to sound like. “Tear In My Heart” is awesome. It’s pretty stripped down compared to a lot of the tracks on the album, driven by mostly drums and piano, but it’s that simplicity that really hits it out of the park. The bridge is perfect. Some of vocalist Tyler Joseph’s wording on some of these tracks is odd, but the songs are so likeable that I’m willing to go with it.
There are a lot of songs I like on this album: “Lane Boy”, “Stressed Out”, and “The Judge” just to name a few. “Polarize” is it though. It’s the most pop infused of the albums songs but it’s perfect. It embodies everything this band does right, and they do a lot right. If there’s one thing this band does right its write a pop song.
- American Beauty / American Psycho by Fall Out Boy
And speaking of pop songs, there’s Fall Out Boy. We’re never going to get Take This To Your Grave back. If you can get over that then you can get on board with the sound of the new Fall Out Boy album. AB/AP is full of pop songs; there isn’t anything punk about 99 percent of these songs. The closest thing to punk of this album is the sample of Motley Crue’s song “Too Fast for Love” and even that is stretching it. But here’s the bottom line: none of these are bad things! The bridge in the title track hits hard and fast and is awesome. “Uma Thurman” samples The Munster’s theme. “Irresistible” highlights the incredible ability of Patrick Stump’s soaring vocals, as do “Jet Pack Blues” and really the rest of the album.
What I heard from a lot of people this year is how this is a sell-out album, which is ridiculous. In a 2008 interview Fall Out Boy said that the direction that they wanted to go was to write anthems in the same likeness as AC/DC or Queen; they wanted to be heard at football stadiums and hockey games and in arenas and if you watch the band’s changes since that period of time then the band has done exactly what they said they wanted to. “Centuries” and “Immortals” were heard everywhere and to me, the most respectable part of this band is that they did what they said they wanted to.
- No Closer to Heaven by The Wonder Years
I’ve been listening to The Wonder Years since I caught their set at Warped on whim in 2011 and ever since then their particular brand of lyrical driven, heartbreaking pop/punk has been dominant in my list of best pop/punk bands around. No Closer to Heaven does not make me a liar. The opener “Brothers & Cardinals” is a captivating heavy hitting emotional anthem screaming “We’re no saviors / if we can’t save our brothers.” It’s easily one of my favorite songs on the record. “A Song For Patsy Cline” features some of my favorite lyrics on the record: ” My airbag light’s been on for weeks / And I can feel it mock me. / It’s bittersweet, like laughter through crooked teeth.” It’s simple description like that that you’re either going to love or hate about the band.
The band does some really cool things on this record that sets it apart from their previous releases though. The pre-chorus on “The Bluest Things On Earth” is melodic in the best kind of way and the guest spot from Jason Butler of letlive. on “Stained Glass Ceilings” takes the band to probably the heaviest they’ve ever been. No Closer to Heaven isn’t the best album by The Wonder Years, but man did they put up a good try.
- Too by FIDLAR
I didn’t even listen to FIDLAR until I caught their set at Shaky Knees Music Festival. They opened with “Stoked and Broke” and I was hooked. I listened over and over through their self-titled anticipating Too hoping that it would be just as good and spoiler: it is.
There’s definitely a different feel to it; you can tell Jay Joyce produced it that’s for sure. “40oz. On Repeat” embodies everything this band is, which is just fun punk rock. “Punks” brings back a sound similar to the self-titled, but a lot of the band explored a more polished sound rather than the roughness of their first album. That sounds like a bad thing but it really, really isn’t. “West Coast” is my favorite track off the album. It’s driven on the chorus and it just works. I can’t really explain it a lot better than that because it shouldn’t work. It’s not like anything else on the album but it does and it’s great. “Why Generation” just plain rocks. “Bad Habits” closes the album perfectly. FIDLAR just does a lot of things right on this one and I can’t wait to catch one of their shows again.
- No Cities To Love by Sleater-Kinney
The only reason I listened to this album was because I saw an advertisement for the music video for “A New Wave” that said that the video was a cartoon featuring Tina from Bob’s Burgers. From there I was sold. Not only does “A New Wave” have a kick ass video, it’s a kick ass song as well. This album does so much right. Every one of the songs are interesting and unique in their own way and I’m still kicking myself over missing their show in Cincinnati earlier this month.
I’d never listened or really even heard of Sleater-Kinney prior to this year. I’m really glad I did. Standouts aside from pretty much every track on the album are “Price Tag”, “Gimme Love” and “Bury Our Friends.” Each song is just fun. The whole album is an incredible rock record. “Price Tag” opens it with a bang and it just goes on and on from there. The chorus on “Bury Our Friends” is killer. “Gimme Love” just rocks. It’s awesome. All of it.
- The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us by Beach Slang
This is another band I’m pissed about missing this year. I hadn’t listen to them prior to going to going to Riot Fest and if I knew this album would kick so much ass then I would have fought off my starvation and exhaustion and gotten up from my hotdog lunch in the grass while watching Cypress Hill and moved to Beach Slang immediately. This album is awesome.
I listened to it heavily and blogged about it here if you want to know how I feel in more details, but really, just take my word for it that this album rocks. “Throwaways” starts the album off with one of the best openers this year. “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas” takes off from there with this Replacements-like vibe that’s perfect. And the whole album goes on like that. Just listen to it.
- Back On Top by The Front Bottoms
The title is really clever if you get it. The band is really clever if you get them. I first picked up The Front Bottoms when Revolution 91.7 put “Flashlight” into rotation and I’ve loved them ever since. Back On Top is a transitional album in many ways: First off, it’s their first record on Fueled By Ramen and second, it’s a much more electric effort. They do a lot of different things in numerous songs, from the guitar solo in “Summer Shandy” to the spoken rap in “Historic Cemetery.” But the best part of it all is how much their changes work.
Previous albums were very acoustic driven records and the way the band expands on this sound while adding completely different elements is why I keep coming back to this one. Those reasons aside, I think my favorite track is “Cough It Out.” It’s sounds similar to their previous albums with that electric twinge that twists it enough to make it perfect. There are a lot of good moments that make this album a memorable one; just listen to it, front to bottom.
- Joy, Departed by Sorority Noise
This album was so close to the top for me. There’s only one album that I loved more than this one, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Joy, Departed does so many things right. It’s a perfect new age emo record that is pretty much an instant classic to me. With creative lyrics, interesting instrumentals, and just a effort by everyone involved to make this a fun album, Joy, Departed is easily one of the best albums I’ve listened to all year. I blogged hardcore this year about this album here as well as seeing the band open for Motion City Soundtrack here. Songs like “Using” and “Art School Wannabe” are great pop/punk efforts, while others like “Your Soft Blood” and “Corrigan” are reminiscent of Deja Entendu era Brand New at times. It’s just a great combination of new and classic pop/punk. Read back on my blog about it and just soak in the whole thing.
- Runners In The Nerved World by The Sidekicks
I’ve known this was going to be my album of the year since January when it came out. Sorority Noise came close, but The Sidekicks just killed it with this album. The opener “Hell Is Warm” eases you into it. With simple but profound lyrics like “you grow and then suddenly don’t” the whole album is full of interesting things, like the way every chorus is just infectious. “Everything In Twos” is a prime example of this, as well as “Deer.”
I love every track on this album, from the slow and cryptic “All Things Run” to the upbeat “The Kid Who Broke His Wrist.” My favorite track, and probably my favorite song released this year, is “Jesus Christ Supermalls.” Something about the lyric “who could call me / in the pub I don’t have a signal / and you could love me / when love means simple” just gets to me. It’s a completely different sound to the things I typically listen to, but I think it’s perfect. It’s this perfect combination of alt rock and shoegaze that just works. If there’s one album you listen to off this list, listen to this one.
I made a Spotify playlist of my favorite 50 songs of this year. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.
There were many remarkable shows that I went to this year. I try to go to at least one show a month and maybe that’s a little ambitious for my wallet, but these are experiences that I can keep with me forever. I’m going to list five of my favorite sets at shows this year. A few of them are probably pretty expected.
- FIDLAR at Shaky Knees Music Festival
This set was incredible. I didn’t even have any idea who this band was before I went and saw them and by halfway through the first song I was mesmerized. The crowd went unreal crazy for these guys, which was really impressive for the collection of indie rock hipsters that the festival attendees were mostly made up of. Songs off what I now know were off their self-titled debut were incredible, from the entire crowd chanting “I DRINK CHEAP BEER SO WHAT FUCK YOU” to the numerous amount of stage dives and crowd surfing, this was ridiculous. There aren’t many times where you see a band for the first time and are instantly their biggest fan; this was one of those times.
- Every Time I Die at The End / Riot Fest / Rocketown
I saw Every Time I Die three times this year. The first time was at The End. They only sold 200 tickets because the venue is so small and it was completely packed. Keith Buckley told the crowd that it was their show and that they should take advantage of it, and they did. At one point the crowd rushed the stage and like 20 people stage-dived (stage-dove?) at once. It was ridiculous. I saw a guy wall jump Mario style and land on the crowd. And all of this was just the first time I saw them this year.
At Riot Fest ETID was one of the first bands that day that I knew all of their songs so I was possibly overexcited, but at the same time seeing “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space” there was one of my favorite moments at a show this whole year. Then, at the end of the show Jordan Buckley trashed the entire stage destroying all of their flags and props and knocking everything over.
Rocketown was a surprisingly amazing show. Keith Buckley was out because his wife was having a baby, but one of my favorite frontmen, Jason Butler of letlive. was filling in on vocals. They’ve toured with the band numerous times so it wasn’t a huge stretch for him to front the band. From Jordan Buckley throwing an entire mic stand into the crowd to the ridiculous stage-diving antics of Jason Butler, this show was one of the very best times I’ve ever seen the band. It was incredible the way they were able to put on this great show with a substitute singer. This was a show that I won’t forget.
- Refused at The Masquerade
Speaking of shows I won’t forget, actually being able to see Refused was amazing. I watched the band that influenced the last 15 years of punk music play “New Noise.” That was one of the greatest moments at a show I’ve seen period. Aside from that fact that The Masquerade is a terrible venue and that it was so, so hot outside, the entire band walked out in suits and rocked like I couldn’t believe. They knocked out old hits like “The Deadly Rhythm” and “Worms of the Senses” and it was awesome. The band even played the best songs off their new album Freedom which included “Electra” and ” Françafrique.” This is a show that I probably won’t ever see again and I’m so thankful I was able to catch it.
- Brand New at The Ryman Auditorium
Brand New is my favorite band. I’m obsessed with them so much that a handful of people are probably wondering how this wasn’t my favorite show of this year. This show was incredible. The setlist was perfect; I had been wanting to see “Sealed To Me” ever since the band started playing new songs. It was captivating. I love pretty much every song the band has written, so really any setllist was perfect to me. The inclusion of the rarely heard “Limousine (MS Rebridge)” and “Play Crack the Sky” were awesome. I blogged about how much I loved the show here. There were just so many good things about it, from the rarely expressive speech from Jesse Lacey to the guesting of Andy Hull and Kevin Devine on “Play Crack the Sky” it was just a perfect show. If that’s the last time I ever see Brand New I can still die a happy man.
- System of a Down at Riot Fest Chicago
Riot Fest last year was an exhausting mess of mud and rain in 2014. If the bands hadn’t been so good I would have laid in the hostel the whole time; the weather was that bad. At the end of it I said I wouldn’t go back next year unless System of a Down played next year, which is a pretty absurd statement since the band never tours the United States. Now of course by the time the lineup came out this year I was already set on getting tickets. It was just the most perfect thing in the world when they announced the headlining spot by System of a Down two weeks after I had already bought my tickets.
Their show was a crazy Toxicity heavy set that included almost every song I’d want to see by the band, from the obvious “B.Y.O.B” to the more rare “Prison Song.” The crowd got so riled up that they had to stop the show for a moments to have the crowd push back because the pit got out of control. They even played fucking “Aerials.” Like, when was I ever going to hear that song live? The whole set was incredible. All of it. It was the best thing I saw all year. I’ll probably never see them again but God I’m glad I did.