Around July of this year as I started looking towards my year-end list I remember thinking that it was going to be really hard for me to pick my year end top 10. I was just so jazzed and overwhelmed by the amount of great releases this year that I had no idea where I was going to start. As the year has gone on, however, a few records really propelled themselves into the forefront of my consciousness. The opposite happened as well with albums like All Time Low’s Future Hearts and Fall Out Boy’s American Beauty American Psycho being strong early contenders but, not holding much staying power, fell flat out of the list.
I am really proud of this list. It feels diverse, but sticks to my roots. There are two female artists, including one country record. Three of the bands on my list I had never heard a single song from before these albums. I can’t promise you’ll like them all, I can’t even promise you’ll like one of them. I can promise you that they are all damn good records, whether you like them or not.
Honorable Mentions: No Closer To Heaven-The Wonder Years; To Pimp A Butterfly-Kendrick Lamar.
10. Pale Horses-mewithoutYou
Favorite Track: D-Minor
9. Afraid of Ghosts-Butch Walker
Favorite Track: Still Drunk
8. Pageant Material-Kacey Musgraves
Favorite Track: Late To The Party
7. Positive Songs For Negative People-Frank Turner
Favorite Track: Get Better
6. I, No Longer- Pentimento
Favorite Track: Stuck Forever
5. Imbue- The Early November
The Early November have always been a fascinating band to me. After releasing an emo/pop-punk gem that would be emulated for years to come in 2003, followed by a triple disc concept record spanning alt/indie rock, acoustic, and experimental story-telling, the band took a lengthy hiatus. They caught their alt-rock stride with 2012 reunion album In Currents, but on Imbue they’ve perfected it. Soaring choruses like “Better This Way” and “I Don’t Care” set up great moments like the soft flowing melodies of “Harmony” and the retrospective energy of my personal favorite “Boxing Timelines”. The record is a must listen for fans of catchy alt-rock with great vocals and some great guitar tones.
Favorite Track: Boxing Timelines
What is there to say about this album that has not already been said? 25 sold 3.4 million records during its debut week (which comes out to about 337 records per minute), then sold another million in week two (making it the first ever to have multiples week of million+ sales). The songwriting is utterly stunning, from the ballad vibes of lead single “Hello” and “When We Were Young” to the catchy pop choruses in “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” and “Water On The Bridge”. Her voice is not to be matched anywhere on, or probably off, this earth. If you haven’t listened yet, stop reading this and go listen, because you are probably the only person alive who hasn’t heard it yet.
Favorite Track: When We Were Young
- Peripheral Vision-Turnover
I had heard a bit of buzz online about Turnover’s debut Magnolia but had never gotten around to checking it out. So, when I started hearing things about their sophomore effort Peripheral Vision, I knew that I could not sleep on this one; and boy am I glad. Peripheral Vision has some of the best sounding guitar tones I have heard in quite some time. This, paired with the serene tone of the vocals, give the songs almost an other-worldly quality. The lyrics are both brilliant and relatable. Lines like “I’m craving that new scream/lusting for more than just old dreams” hit me at just the right time in my life, putting words to unnamed thoughts. Another song named after a drug I’d been taking for back problems spoke to sleepless nights of pain that weighed heavily on both me and my wife, “i know you’re probably exhausted/’cause i haven’t slept a wink in a week.” Peripheral Vision is both soothing and enthralling, an absolute listen.
Favorite Track: New Scream
2.Kintsugi-Death Cab For Cutie
When the princes of emo announced their eighth studio album, I did not color myself very excited. Being a fan of a majority of the band’s catalog, I found 2011’s Codes and Keys to be utterly abysmal. Thematically, sonically, and lyrically I found the album to be a massive letdown. How could a band so beloved as Death Cab betray us in this way? But from the first notes of Kintsugi’s lead single “Black Sun”, I knew this record was going to be much more up my alley. The album’s title comes from a Japanese art form that involves using pieces of broken pottery to create something beautiful and new. Could there be a more fitting image for this record? Written in the wake of frontman Ben Gibbard’s divorce from indie-beloved Zooey Deschanel, and with founding member/key songwriter Chris Walla announcing his departure mid recording process, Kintsugi is truly beauty from the mess. The opening lyrics of “No Room In Frame” introduce this new era of the band to us as Gibbard searches for who he once was: “I don’t know where to begin/There’s too many things that I can’t remember/I disappeared like a trend”. In my eyes, he and the rest of the band have re-discovered they’re identity and I am excited for who they are going to become.
Favorite Track: The Ghosts of Beverly Drive
1.Harmlessness-The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die
If someone were to ask me to explain to them everything I love about music, I would point them to Harmlessness. A lot of people have been calling it ‘the best emo record of 2015’, and I don’t think thats fair for two reasons. First, it is the best record of 2015, emo or not. Secondly, I think it would be doing a disservice to the listener to classify it as emo. Yes, there are strong elements of emo, but if you listen closer there is so much more. “January 10, 2014” is a prime example, sweeping through moments of emo, punk, indie, and post-rock in one five and a half minute track. TWIABP simply does not conform to the typical tropes of being a band. It is hard to be an everyday band when you claim 10 members, 7 of which contribute vocals as well as their instruments. One of my favorite things about Harmlessness is the journey it takes the listener on with each spin (or stream) of the record. With 13 songs clocking in at just under an hour, it could easily make for an exhausting listen. Instead, there is not one moment that leaves me waiting or looking at my watch. It ebbs and flows more beautifully than probably any record I can think of. Moments range from being acoustically intimate to sprawling and grandiose. Everything I could say about this record would just be doing it an injustice. I am not a good writer, and this is SUCH a good record; one that I truly was not expecting to impact me the way it has.
Favorite Track: January 10, 2014
So happy holidays, and here’s to even better music in 2016.