Tag Archives: Album Of the Year

The Best of 2015

It’s that time of the year again when I share what I consider the best records of 2016. This list only includes records that I listened to. I listened to almost half the amount of records I usually do in a year, so you’ll have to forgive me if I missed something. It should probably be my favorite records of the year, but we’ll stick with the best.

Honorable Mentions:

Crystal Lewis – Crystal Lewis
Levv – Arrow
Doug Burr – Pale White Dove
Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion
Emery – You Were Never Alone
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
Boysetsfire – Boysetsfire


25. Deafheaven – New Bermuda
a0622773824_10This record could just as easily be higher on the list. Fast and vicious, yet featuring these absolutely beautiful moments that make the musician in me smile. New Bermuda is less lush and more raw than Sunbather, but it also has more musicianship and technical prowess. A great record for the music geek and the metal fan.


24. Strengthen What Remains – Justice Creeps SlowBAI060_1500xJustice Creeps Slow is straight up the heaviest hardcore record I’ve heard since Point of Recognition’s Day of Defeat. Just heavy tough guy hardcore. Not frills, all fight!


23. The Ongoing Concept – Handmade11141205_10152998987894118_318439366170224581_nIf a band says they’re going to make all the instruments for their new record, you’d applaud them and call them crazy. That’s what the Ongoing Concept did for their sophomore record, Handmade. While I thought Handmade was less interesting than Saloon, it’s more consistent and concise. Plus, they make the best of list just because they made their own instruments!


22. Soft Lions – SpellbreakerSoftLions-SpellbreakerSpellbreaker is a great ep. It could just as easily be the soundtrack for a 1950’s zombie beach movie. It’s got punk spirit with the lo-fi indie vibes. A band to pay attention to!


21. Moving Mountains/Prawn – Split EPMM_PRAWN_SPLIT_1024x1024I wasn’t sure we’d ever hear new music from Moving Mountains, so I was super excited when this split was announced. I actually like both of these Moving Mountains tracks more than the bands previous self-titled full-length. And both the songs from Prawn ring of emo’s glory days!


20. Alert 312 – The Upside Eternal12046756_10153750986869529_1768712839276259843_nI find myself seeing this cycle where Alert 312 releases this super creative and innovative eps and their full-lengths don’t seem to have the same punch to my ears. And that was my first impression of The Upside Eternal. I still liked the record, but it just didn’t strike me the same way that Singular Vision did.But upon further listens you hear the intricate layers of sound and the hard work that went into the beats.


19. Ivadell – Maybe TomorrowBCR-052_Cover_1500Maybe Tomorrow has more depth than just another emo revival album. The arrangements are intricately simple. Interesting, but not overly complex. The dynamics on this record are great. When the band wants to sound huge, they’ve left plenty of room for the sound to grow and overwhelm your speakers. An absolutely stunning record.


18. Five Iron Frenzy – Between Pavement and StarsFIF_BTPASMore great music from Five Iron Frenzy on their second go around. B-sides from Engine OF A Million Plots, but most of these songs are good enough to have made the record. I’m really glad Five Iron is back!


17. Zao – Xenophobe/Fear Itselfcover Yes, a 2 song 7″ was good enough to make the top 25. And if these songs are an indicator, Zao’s 2016 full-length will be an album of the year contender. The rawness and insanity from The Fear Is What Keeps Us Here is back and I’m not sure Zao has ever sounded better.


16. Fireflight – InnonaInnovaI’ve always liked Fireflight and their brand of hard rock. But I never thought I would’ve fallen in love with them as a pop group. I said when I reviewed Innova that I thought it had all sorts of commercial radio friendly singles on it, and I still believe it. This should’ve been a huge record for the band.


15. Envy – Atheist’s Corneaenvy2Atheist’s Cornea is a great record that seems to span most of Envy’s career. Less post rock and more of the hardcore sound that was featured early in the band’s career. But Envy provides a sound that is unique to them. Beautiful and chaotic at the same time.


14. Sollunar – The Observatorya2136106054_10I love post rock. And the solo effort of Florida artist Josiah Bibb was a surprise for me. The best post rock record I heard this year.


13. Slow Meadow – Slow Meadow11168915_923398681053340_6452009618947456584_nThe first release on Hammock’s new label is an absolute gem. A beautiful ambient record that you would expect Hammock to release.


12. Eshon Burgundy – The Fear of GodEshon+Burgundy+-+The+Fear+of+GodStraight up gospel rap. Beautiful Eulogy and Daniel Steele’s production just knocks it out of the park. It’s the type of record where the music is so good that you just want an instrumental version. That’s not to take anything away from Burgundy. The verses are strong and I really love his flow on this record.


11. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet and Other DistressGodspeed You! Black Emperor - Asunder, Sweet, and Other DistressI was not a huge fan of GY!BE’s reunion record, ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! It just didn’t strike a chord with me. Not so the case with Asunder. The record had me hook from its first note. The shortest Godspeed record to date, which is sad because it’s my favorite record from the band.


10. Better Off – MilkfolderI already like Better Off a lot. But when you write a record that sounds like Jimmy Eat World and The Promise Ring, you’re speaking my musical love language.


9. Owl City – Mobile OrchestracoverI’m a sucker for Adam Young’s brand of electro-pop. There’s a fun innocence to it and the songs are always super catchy.


8. Haste The Day – CowardCowardHaste the Day’s reunion produced the best of the band’s career. The interplay between Jimmy and Stephen’s vocals are perfect. There are moments where you hear the natural evolution of the band, and also the potential evolution had Jimmy never left.


7. Defeater – AbandonedDefeater - Abandoned (2015)The concept behind Abandoned is so compelling and the way lyrics intertwine between songs makes it a record you have to really pay attention to. It’s a killer hardcore record, but it’s really the lyric concepts and themes that make Abandoned a worthwhile listen.


6. Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Usa2813479087_10A shoegazey punk rock record. Tons of fun. The music feels like Smashing Pumpkins 1979 music video. Reckless and fun.


5. Dustin Kensrue – Carry The Firedustin-kensrue-carry-the-fireCarry The Fire is the post-Thrice record I’d been waiting to hear from Kensrue. Dirty, bluesy rock and roll. Plus we get the catchiest hooks Kensrue’s ever written.


4. J Givens – Fly ExamFlyExamAnother Humble Beast release where the beats are super unique. Unlike The Fear of God, this beats are more minimal and leave a lot of room for Givens unique delivery style. It’s a record I had been waiting for a year to hit shelves and it didn’t disappoint.


3. Josh Garrels – Homeoriginal-coverHome would make the top 25 for Born Again alone. Every time that songs plays, it’s like chicken soup for the soul. I’ve admittedly been a little lukewarm on Garrels, but this record is an absolute thing of beauty. Bluesy and soulful. A wonderful work of love.


2. Bandit – Of LifeBandit-OfLife-CoverWe’re splitting hairs between number 2 and number 1 because both records have been on my turntable constantly since they’ve been released. Of Life is a perfect indie rock record. Another record with terrific dynamic range that creates these beautifully chaotic moments when the songs explode, yet mellow out for Angela Plake’s vocals to shine.


  1. mewithoutYou – Pale Horsesv600_Pale_Horses_CoverPale Horses is epic. mewithoutYou hasn’t abandoned their indie rock tendencies, but they bring back their post-punk fury and explode all over Pale Horses. The lyrics are some of Aaron’s most indistinguishable as he blends multiple themes and ideas in each track. So this creates this abstract work of art that matches the ever shifting nature of the music. I’m glad this version of mewithoutYou is back!




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Top 30 of 2014

Honorable mentions:

Revivalist – Brother EP
Project 86 – Knives To The Future
Flyleaf – Between the Stars
Copeland – Ixora
Jars of Clay – 20
No Punk Influence – Fight Within
House of Heroes – Smoke EP
Jason Barrows – Island Of My Soul
Lexi  Elisha – Rope EP

                                                          30. Bethan – Time Gone By

Bethan’s Time Gone By is everything I love about Velvet Blue Music. It’s a reminder of what made me fall in love with the label and indie music in the first place. Slightly quirky, offbeat, and interesting simple songs with unexpected melodies.

                                                 29. With Increase – Death Is Inevitable

I like hardcore. And I like old school, raw, gritty, dirty hardcore. And that’s what With Increase delivers.

                                                   28. Brooke Fraser – Brutal Romantic

Brutal Romantic is pop music for adults or sophisticated teens. It’s not hooky, bubble gum pop. It’s complicated and well crafted. Each note meticulously placed, creating an album for the casual music fan and music snobs a like.

                                                     27. Demon Hunter – Extremist

After, what I considered, a disappointing outing in True Defiance, Demon Hunter delivers Extremists!  Heavy, fast, melodic. Everything Demon Hunter has done well in the past, all the while continuing to grow and try new things.

                                                           26. Wovenwar – Woverwar

It took a whole for Wovenwar to grow on me. But it finally did. Post As I Lay Dying, the former members have created a metal masterpiece that doesn’t reflect their former self in any way. And that’s probably for the better. Solos galore, great melodies, and a record that breaks the mold of your standard metal fair.

                                                              25. Lakes – Fire Ahead

I’ve never paid Lakes much attention. I wasn’t a Watashi Wa fan, so I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy the indie rock version of that. I was wrong. Fire Ahead has some nice alt-country moments, but it’s mostly, week crafted rock songs. Seth Roberts can craft a tune!

                                             24. Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil – Goliath

 Cue nostalgia and memories of my childhood and my dad. Which is fine by me. I love Steve Taylor and Goliath feels like a throwback rock and roll record! The perfect follow-up to Squint.

                                                         23. Owl City – Ultraviolet

Adam Young just knows how to make great music! There’s not much that Owl City releases that I don’t love and Ultraviolet is no exception.

                                22. Mike Mains & The Branches – Calm Down, Everything Is Fine

Fun, upbeat rock and roll that at times reminds me of Sunny Day Real Estate. That’s what Mike Mains delivered on his band’s sophomore record.

                                                    21. MxPx – The Acoustic Collection

Acoustic versions of songs from my favorite punk band. I think even my wife would enjoy this! It’s on the lost for Doing Time alone. But new takes on songs like Punk Rawk Show, Buildings Tumble, and For Always make this a must have for MxPx fans.

                                                                20. Gideon – Calloused

Gideon has gotten better on every record and Calloused is by far the band’s best record yet. Heavy with great hooks, Calloused is another progression forward and Gideon is fast becoming one of my favorite bands on Facedown.

                                                      19. Propaganda – Crimson Cord

I wasn’t a huge fan of Excellent, but Propaganda hit back hard with Crimson Cord. The album feels looser and more natural. Props lyrics still hit hard and pick at social issues that sometimes hurt, but ultimately are what him such a great artists.

                                                    18. The Overseer – Rest and Let Go

What Underoath was trying to accomplish on Disambiguation, The Overseer has smashed and perfected over two albums. Beautiful melodies and introspective moments, broken by sheer terror and heavy riffs that create a beautiful soundtrack. Heavy music without boarders!

                                                         17. Living Fire – Dead To Sin

I’m not sure I’ve heard a new punk band that I’ve liked this much in a while. Fast, intense, clean, biting. Everything a good punk record should be. Thumper Punk’s best release yet!

                                                         16. Comrades – Safekeeper

Some had accused Comrades of suffering from Russian Circles syndrome. Well the band addressed that on their first official Blood and Ink full-length. The band has incorporated these quiet moments that create this drama and tension when the band explodes. It’s post rock done well but it’s also post rock done differently.

                                                       15. Household – With or Without

Household is a hardcore band that I’d label emo. Not as melodic or feels like the band intentionally created these “emo” moments as The Frailty of Words, but just as affective in conveying a sense pain and emotion. A great album!

                                                          14. Lights – Little Machines

Little Machines doesn’t have the instantaneous charm of Siberia, but it is still a great pop record. There’s a lot of growth. Lyrically, musically, and production wise, Little Machines is a huge step forward! And the only reason it’s not higher on the list is because, well, I expected it to be this good.

                                                              13. Lecrae – Anomaly

2014 was Lecrae’s year! Anomaly was the number 1 album on the billboard charts in it’s first week and Lecrae got to sit in with The Roots on the Tonight Show. And I loved Anomaly. But I just liked Gravity more.

                                                      12. Wolves At The Gate – VxV

A new vocalist, no problem. It might not always seem “innovative” but Wolves At The Gate always delivers quality melodic metalcore.

                                                                   11. Trip Lee – Rise

Trip Lee gave us his best outing with Rise. Great songs with a maturity that sets Lee up to take the next step. This is the first of many big things in store for Trip Lee.

                                                 10. Islander – Violence and Destruction

Is nu-metal back? Probably not. But if it is, Islander would be leading the charge. Great hooks over riffs you’ve probably heard before, but that nostalgia creates a feel good vibe.

                                                         9. Beartooth – Disgusting

Beartooth is the best new metal/metalcore/hardcore/heavy band out there! Their Sick ep last year was nuts and Disgusting takes that intensity and multiplies it. The band also added some great melodic tracks and created the best heavy record of the year!

                                                          8. Kye Kye – Fantasize

It took a while for me t fully embraced Kye Kye’s second LP, but one day it just dawned on me. Fantasize is great! Hook heavy, 80’s inspired synth goodness. It’s not a step back, but a huge step forward and sideways.

                                                           7. SPZRKT – Bonefire

SPZRKT is an artist to keep an eye on. His self-released full-length Bonfire is a downtempo/R&B masterpiece. Great songs and a great new voice! A label needs to pick this man up!

                                                       6. Alert 312 – Singular Vision

Alert 312’s ep was too short in my book. Each track was full of originality and artistry, that only four was not enough! I kept this record on repeat often! Hip-hop and creativity at it’s finest!

                                                         5. Tedashii – Below Paradise

Sometimes great pain produces great art. And that’s what we got from Tedashii. He turned tragedy into one of hip-hops best records this year! The songs are on fire. Filled with pain, questions, and ultimately love. Below Paradise is not a record to skip!

                                           4. Kings Kaleidoscope – Becoming Who We Are

Kings Kaleidoscope have turned worship music on it’s head! There’s nothing stale about Becoming Who We Are. Jazzy, marching band, indie rock in church. It’s amazing music on it’s own, but as worship music, it’s revolutionary. Not that it will ever be played at your church on Sundays.

                                                        3. Twin Forks – Twin Forks

I love Chris Carrabba. What more can I say. It doesn’t matter if it’s Further Seems Forever, Dashboard Confessional, or now, Twin Forks. Carrabba’s new folk act is great! Each track just as catchy as the one before. The hooks get stuck in your head and you want them there! It’s what a pop record should be!

                                                     2. Jackie Hill Perry – The Art of Joy

Welcome to the hip-hop world! Spoken word artist turned emcee, Jackie Hill Perry’s debut is perfect! Hard hitting lyrics, songs of brokenness and hope, great production, interesting features that compliment what Perry is doing perfectly. In a year full of strong hip-hop albums, Perry’s was tops in my book.

                                             1. Number One Gun – This Is All We Know

I was blown away when I heard This Is All We Know at the beginning of the year and I thought it was the start to a great year in music. I expected that this would be a top contender but that something would come along and knock it off the top spot. But nothing did. Every song on This Is All We Know is perfect. I have no complaints. If it took the band breaking up and spending some time apart to create this album, then I’m glad they did! Rock and roll at its finest!

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