Welcome to a very special edition of Music Monday––my (hopefully annual) “favorite albums of the year” post. 😀
In my opinion, 2015 was one of the best years for music in a long time. So many of my favorite bands released new albums, and there were many awesome debuts as well. It was really hard to pick a top 10 (and equally challenging to decide how to order them). But after a lot of thought, here it is … my top 10 favorite albums of 2015!
#10: The Paper Kites – twelvefour
Since their formation in 2010, The Paper Kites have consistently been creating beautiful music. Their latest album, twelvefour, is no exception. If you’re wondering about the meaning of the title, it’s because every song on the album was written between the hours of 12 a.m. and 4 a.m.––the concept being that window of time is when we are at our most vulnerable mental state, and therefore able to create our best work. The execution of this concept works perfectly: twelvefour is mesmerizing and ethereal, with its softly pulsing rhythms, drifting vocals, and thought-provoking lyrics.
Favorite Track: “Electric Indigo”
#9: BOY – We Were Here
Despite their misleading name, BOY consists of two wonderfully talented women, Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glass. They released their first album, Mutual Friends, in 2011, and it quickly found a special place in my heart. (Several tracks on it, such as “Drive Darling” and “July”, never fail to bring tears to my eyes.) We Were Here definitely lives up to its predecessor––it has the same beautiful vocals and heart-warming lyrics that made me fall in love with the Swiss-German duo in the first place. But it also feels like a bold step forward––it feels a bit more epic and confident than their debut, while still maintaining a trademark sound. With only 9 tracks, it’s a fairly short album, but it still packs a powerful, emotional punch.
Favorite Track: “We Were Here”
#8: Joywave – How Do You Feel Now?
How Do You Feel Now? is Joywave’s first full-length album, and it’s a solid debut with a lot of variety. Some tracks, like “Now” and “Feels Like a Lie” are more upbeat, while tracks such as “Destruction” and “Tongues” have a harder edge to them. But they’re all tied together by an intriguing and unique sound––an interesting blend of rock and electro-pop. This album was a pleasant surprise for me when I first listened to it, since I’d only heard a few tracks from the band previously. It’s a great album, and I’m excited to see what Joywave does next.
Favorite Track: “Destruction”
#7: Nate Ruess – Grand Romantic
You may know Nate Ruess from his pop band fun., or maybe from his former indie rock band The Format––but this year, Ruess released his first solo album. There are definitely touches of his previous music ventures in Grand Romantic, but it also has a very theatrical sound that sets it apart. As always, Ruess displays his wide range of talent––from his electrifying energy (“AhHa”, “Great Big Storm”, “You Light My Fire”) to his more tender side (“Nothing Without Love”, “Moment”). Some of the slower songs on the album (such as “Take It Back” and “It Only Gets Much Worse”) are less memorable in my opinion, although they’re still pretty. But otherwise, this is an album full of life, energy, and emotion, and I enjoy it immensely.
Favorite Track: “Nothing Without Love”
#6: Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface
For some reason, I only listened to this album a couple of times when it first came out––but more recently, I’ve found myself listening to it on repeat and falling in love with it more and more every time I listen to it. Something I’ve always admired about Twenty One Pilots is their innovative blending of genres––rock, pop, hip-hop, rap, reggae, alternative … Some of their songs sound like three songs rolled into one. And I love it. With their distinct sound, crazy energy, and honest lyrics (and adorable faces––I mean, just look at them!) it’s no wonder they’ve built up such a huge cult following over the past few years. Blurryface, the duo’s fourth studio album, may be their best achievement yet.
Favorite Track: “Tear In My Heart”
#5: Misterwives – Our Own House
When I was lucky enough to see Misterwives perform at Boston Calling this past September, there was a point where lead singer Mandy Lee literally did push-ups on the stage while yelling, “DO YOU EVER THINK SOCIETY’S STANDARDS FOR WOMEN AND MEN ARE TOTAL FUCKING BULLSHIT?!?!” … And yeah, that basically captures the essence of Our Own House, the indie pop band’s debut studio album. It’s bold, it’s insanely energetic, and it’s empowering. You may have heard the popular single “Reflections”, and the band displays the same high energy on tracks like “Best I Can Do” and title track “Our Own House”. They also demonstrate a more emotional side on powerful ballads like “Coffins” and “Queens”. But perhaps their boldest moves are tracks like “Hurricane” and “Not Your Way”––which encourage the defiance of societal norms, and inspire listeners to rebel against injustice. Nearly every track on this album is gold, and it’s all tied together by Lee’s incredible vocals and the band’s uplifting, big-band sound.
Favorite Track: “Hurricane”
#4: Halsey – BADLANDS
Well … call me basic, but I love this album. Halsey (otherwise known as Ashley Frangipane) is literally an overnight success. The day after she uploaded her single “Ghost” to Soundcloud, she met with five different record labels. In less than a year, she has managed to draw in thousands of devoted fans. “I will never be anything but honest,” the bio on her website reads. “I write songs about sex and being sad.” That boldness and honesty shines through on BADLANDS––a concept album based on the idea of a post-apocalyptic metropolis surrounded by wasteland. It’s the type of dark pop that’s been popularized by artists like Lorde and Lana Del Rey, but with its own unique twist. I love the narrative quality of it, how there are cool dystopian vibes to songs like “Gasoline” and “Castle”. It also includes several catchy belt-it-out songs (especially “New Americana”) that convey empowering themes of freedom and independence. It’s a really solid pop album and a promising debut.
Favorite Track: “Castle”
#3: Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
I am a huge, huge fan of Florence. I became obsessed with her first album, Lungs, when I was in high school––and honestly, few albums have topped it for me since then. I loved her second album, Ceremonials, almost as much. I have to say: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is not my favorite album of hers––but I still love it (obviously, since it’s #3 on this list). I kind of miss the usual dark, cinematic quality that has been a staple of her music for so long. However, I appreciate that she tried a new style on this album. She shows more of a rock-‘n’-roll edge on guitar-heavy tracks like “What Kind of Man”––yet she also shows a lighter and more optimistic side of herself in upbeat songs like “Third Eye”, belting out the uplifting lyrics, “You don’t have to be a ghost / here amongst the living / You are flesh and blood / You deserve to be loved / and you deserve what you are given”. Considering her first two albums were pretty doom-and-gloom, it’s nice to see a happier side of Florence. But for fans of her old work, there are still songs like “Queen of Peace” and “Delilah” that still hold her trademark dark-fairytale vibe. And as always, her voice is incredible and her lyrics are inspiring.
Favorite Track: “Third Eye”
#2 – Of Monsters and Men – Beneath The Skin
When Of Monsters and Men released their first album (My Head Is An Animal) in 2012, it became an instant favorite of mine. I eagerly awaited their second album for three years, and Beneath The Skin does not disappoint––in fact, it might even be stronger than their debut. The Icelandic band has really honed their sound into something utterly beautiful and haunting. The title is very fitting, since something about this album truly does get under my skin. It evokes mental images of dark fantasy worlds and childhood fears. Maybe it’s the ethereal vocals and all the big drums, but listening to Beneath The Skin makes me feel as if I’m being chased by something shadowy through a foggy forest. It’s delightfully creepy––but more than that, it’s just really dang gorgeous.
Favorite Track: “Black Water”
AND MY FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR IS …
#1: CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
I had so much trouble choosing an order for my top 10 albums of the year, but I knew from the start that Every Open Eye was going to be #1. This is, without a doubt, my favorite album of the year. I’ve been a fan of CHVRCHES since they released their first song, and their first album (The Bones of What You Believe) is one of my absolute favorites. So of course, I was excited to see what the Scottish synthpop trio would do next. The day Every Open Eye came out, I listened to it on repeat pretty much all day––by the time I saw CHVRCHES perform at Boston Calling the next night (and they were INCREDIBLE), I had just about memorized every song already. In the two months since then, my love for this album has only grown. I’ve listened to it countless times by now, and every time I feel just as excited as that first time I heard it.
Everything about this album is just electrifying. From the first thrilling notes of “Never Ending Circles” to the empowering last song “Bow Down,” I’m utterly invested. In between, you’ll find everything from the edgy “Clearest Blue” and “Leave a Trace”, to the sweetly inspirational “Make Them Gold”, to upbeat dance tracks like “Empty Threat”, to more slow-burning songs like “Downside of Me” and “Afterglow”. All throughout, the catchy beats and Lauren Mayberry’s pure voice turn every song glittery and magical. This album is amazing, and it fills my heart with rainbows.
Favorite Track: “Clearest Blue”
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I thought this was an amazing year for music, and there were so many albums I wanted to include in my favorites list, but there are a bunch that didn’t quite make it into my top 10. I wanted to list some of them just to acknowledge that I like and appreciate them nevertheless:
Bronze Radio Return – Light Me Up
The Decemberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi
Marina & the Diamonds – FROOT
The Mowgli’s – Kids in Love
Elle King – Love Stuff
Boy & Bear – Limit of Love
Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors
Passion Pit – Kindred
Thus, I bring my “Favorite Albums of 2015” post to a close. What a year of amazing music, and I can’t wait to see what favorite new artists and albums 2016 has in store!
If you want to hear more of my favorite songs of the year, you can check out my Best of 2015 playlist on Spotify. 🙂
How about you guys? What were your favorite albums of the year?