By Chris Anderson
Well…here we are, another year gone. No landmark year, that’s for sure, but there was no shortage of groundbreaking albums to get me going. As always, this list is far from complete but it’s a fair sample. Without further adieu…
My Top 15 of ‘15
Every so often an album appears that must be heard to be believed. Kid A, Sgt. Pepper, Dark Side Of The Moon, you get the idea. Conceived as an art installation, at Artisphere in Arlington VA, Beauty Pill’s first album in over a decade is an exercise in sound that stands completely on its own, totally unlike anything else out there. One of the freshest and most original albums I have ever heard in my life. The moment I heard this I knew it would top my list. Thanks again to Rev for introducing me to this album.
Battling for the top spot is the latest from The Dear Hunter, who return to their six-act concept work after a couple of brilliant distractions. One of the few concept pieces that does not get swallowed by itself, every song on this album is carefully crafted and instantly memorable. A phenomenal piece of work, this may go down as one of my favorite albums of all time.
One of my favorite discoveries of this year, the four girls of Katzenjammer possess the musical knowledge of an entire record store, playing dozens of instruments and singing, writing songs in a most eclectic array of styles. Their third album loses some of their gypsy circus vibe but it’s perhaps stronger for it. Every song is a work of art, a breath of fresh air. I cannot overestimate my love for this band.
Steven Wilson continues his hiatus from Porcupine Tree with his fourth solo album, a solid mix of concise, catchy, cleverly-arranged songs and complex mini-epics. There is a bit more light on this album than in his recent work and that is a good thing. Wilson continues to earn his title as King of Prog.
Del Ray’s own Dave Ihmels gives us this electro-folk masterpiece, a beautiful tug of war between dark and light, with some truly memorable songs. “Sulamith” is hands down the best track I have heard from anyone all year.
Seattle’s seminal garage rockers released their first album in 49 years without skipping a beat. This is one of the rawest, most brutal garage records to ever come out, one of the truest examples of rock & roll that has ever been. The fact that these dudes are in their 70s proves that rock & roll knows no age.
Thanks to his work with Great Big Sea, Alan Doyle put Newfoundland on the map. His second solo album finds him working through ten beautiful slices of his hometown of St. John’s. Marrying folk, pop, and traditional Newfoundland music, and armed with a set of perfectly written, uplifting, catchy songs, this is the next best thing to actually being on George Street.
Josh Ritter continues to bring the joy on his ninth album, a set of folk and folk-rock tunes that stand at the top of his enormous heap of amazing works. A classic and literate sort of songwriter, this album fines Ritter challenging Dylan & Springsteen more than ever.
Fresh off last year’s successful Nickel Creek reunion, mandolin wizard Chris Thile reconvenes with his prog-grass side project for their fourth album, one that finds them pushing the boundaries of bluegrass farther than it’s ever been.
On their sixth full-length release, The Grip Weeds get a bit louder and continue down their path of writing solid, distinct slices of 60’s influenced garage-psych and some of the best power-pop New Jersey has ever produced. This band deserves to be bigger.
The last survivor of Madchester keeps growing on their 12th album, the first after the death of drummer Jon Brookes. They rise above the loss by getting experimental on an album of mellow, electro-soul-pop songs that instantly soothe your soul and become familiar. Quite removed from their classic sound but they pull it off.
Riot grrrl legends reunite after a decade and pick up right where they left off, delivering the best album of their career. Corin has lost none of her wail, Carrie sounds better than ever, and Janet is still so damn cool. Welcome back!
On their second album with third singer Ted Leonard, Spock’s Beard continues to up their game, releasing one of their best albums, and remaining one of the best prog bands our country has ever had to offer. “Bennett Built A Time Machine” is proof enough of that.
On the seventh album by Bloomington, Indiana’s best export since Mellencamp, dark roots-folk is fed through the Beatles’ Revolver album and the result is a timeless, moody record, perfect listening for whenever you need to be surrounded by something awesome.
The indie world’s answer to Foghat continues with this set of ten brand-new classic rock hits, sure to make you daydream of crusin’ down the strip in sometime, 1970-whenever. There’s an extra dash of Springsteen in some of these songs. I approve.
There’s more. There is always more, including fantastic albums by Alabama Shakes, A-ha, Tame Impala, The Charlatans, Ricked Wicky, Keith Richards, Jonny Grave, Father John Misty, and so on. What’s in store for next year? Let’s wait and see…
Lastly, we must bid farewell to those who left us too soon: Chris Squire, Ornette Coleman, Ben E. King, Scott Weiland, and the great BB King. Play forever.