This year is considered in some ways the ‘comeback’ year. So many artists from Kendrick to Madonna to Modest Mouse to Blur to Adele to Coldplay’s return to happiness…it certainly seemed as if there was another big named artist rotating the comeback spotlight every other week in 2015.
There were also some “underdog” music artists who came up to claim the throne–and most certainly succeeded–including Mark Ronson (yes, I consider Mark Ronson an underdog) Tame Impala, and Major Lazer, all of whom finally broke into mainstream territory this year and got the credit they most certainly deserve.
While all of these music moments and elements were epic and awesome, 2015 seemed to have a kind of lull in terms of quality life changing records (sorry, ’25’), but I somehow managed to succeed in picking out ten of my favorite albums of the year, and you can dive headphones first them into all of them below.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds/’Chasing Yesterday’ Of all the comeback albums this year (Blur, Fratellis, Decembrists, Modest Mouse, Ezra Furman, Chris Cornell, Chemical Bros, Madonna) this album is the one that everyone kept talking about. It is arguably the most soulful Noel has sounded. The production shines, it feels warm, and it is just cool. We also didn’t know Noel was going to do another album, so that was a nice surprise in itself. It’s better than his debut, and has only put Noel on the map as the most respectable member of such a dysfunctional band…as well as the biggest side project since.
Courtney Barnett/’Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit’This album is a sobering wake up call. I’m sure you’ve heard of her by now but you haven’t actually given her album a spin. Coming up out of the indie forest, Courtney Barnett put reality back into songs. In it’s quirk as well as bare bones instrumentation “Sometimes I sit…” is just so poignant to today’s too-disconnected-to-what’s-in-front-of-us world. Where the production is the same throughout, the songs themselves are not…twisting and turning from lazy ballads into punk rock to country to mid 90s alt. If you pay attention to the lyrics and her whit, you’re sure to love this album.
Daniel Johns/’Talk’ This Aussie came out of left field, having been known for fronting grunge band Silverchair back in the day. 8 years of silence from die hard fans, Dan teased us all with being featured on some hip hop and then BAM…an album of 15 songs. “TALK” is unusual yet genuine, strange yet familiar, dark yet danceable, and every bit of an underdog/shadow to American radio and culture. Having mPhaze on production credits helps as the RnB / Funk grooves don’t disappoint. “TALK” pushes boundaries that a Justin Timberlake album could never (well…okay…maybe it could…which is where a lot of the influence seems to come from). This is one of those albums that get more and more rewarding with each listen. With lots of ear candy to keep you listening, it is sexy, beautiful, and modern. Have a listen.
Adam Lambert/’The Original High’ The adult/mature/heartbroken Adam Lambert I can actually get behind. This album is a tasty combination of folk, country, dance, pop, RnB, and EDM. While focusing on his core audience, it also intensely focuses on the “song’. Each one is perfectly written, with many collaborations, but it’s the theme throughout that keeps me listening. It’s just a great pop album with heartfelt emotion spread throughout.
Mark Ronson/’Uptown Special’ Bruno Mars overshadowed this album entirely. Released at the beginning of winter it really didn’t gain traction till the summer…which really is what I consider it…a seasonal album you put on during the first rainfall in April until the first rainfall in September. It creates a strange distant nostalgia and takes you on a journey throughout the city from the good parts to the bad parts from the beginning of the day to the end of the season. Ronson packed his influences in on every single song, combining lots, even featuring some of them (Stevie Wonder anyone?). This is sure to break in the lists and gain some awards.
Mutemath/’Vitals’Coming in at the tail end of 2015, “Vitals” is a welcome return by a band who not enough people know of. Ditching most of the guitar, soul, and funk found on their last album, “Vitals” brings back the cool soft-synths and feel-good-vibes that made us fall in love with them in the first place. A little more dance, a little happier, this album not only comes out of left field for MuteMath fans but for a year so dominated by EDM and Indie Rock.
Mumford & Sons/’Wilder Mind’ So I think the M&S craze has worn down a bit. Too mainstream to be “groundbreaking” or “cool anymore. Diehard fans hated the direction they took on this album, likening to their arch nemesis Coldplay. But the reality of it is, this album really was overlooked just based on the fact they were Mumford and Sons. More of a melancholy vibe, laden with seas of keyboards and chimes in the background…this is the album the band themselves always wanted to make. I consider it one of the best of the year. This is everything I hoped Coldplay would go back to (that’s a sad reality that won’t happen). Nontheless, Mumford picked up the challenge, picked up their electric guitars, and rocked the fuck out. More introspective, more in the gut, more focused on London, this is country heavy rock band finally showed us their roots…and their dreams.
Modest Mouse/’Strangers to Ourselves’ Arguably everyone has listened to their “The Moon and Antarctica” album or knows a song from it. “Strangers to Ourselves” was a welcome surprise return to how amazing, strange, and otherworldly Modest Mouse is. It grows with repeated listens, is everything we’ve come to know and love about the band. There’s just not a bad song on it. The production makes the band sound heavier…though it could also be the amount of musicians on stage. They are a bit more driven by rock this time around. After a short few year hiatus, Mouse fans weren’t sure what to expect next. This is a welcome come back. Definitely check this album out.
D’Angelo/’Black Messiah’ Coming in at the end of December 2014, this album just didn’t get enough love. A welcome return by D’Angelo, and the album that inspired Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece “To Pimp A Butterfly”, “Black Messiah” is, at its core, one long piece of music. It is a musical journey that demands repeated listens, genre hopping, at times twisting and turning. And when the album is done, your head goes WTF did I just hear? Classy, nostalgic, and yet unplaceable, ‘Black Messiah’ demands your attention.
Chris Cornell/’Higher Truth‘Every single one of the songs are epic, heartbreaking, beautiful. While I have qualms with the actual production of this album, I still hear the performances shine. With the sheer volume of material packed onto this album, this deserves a spot on this list. Well done, Mr. Cornell.
Sufjan Stevens/’Carrie & Lowell’
A very delicate album full of ballads and stripped down to minimal arrangements. Stevens’ writing is harrowing and heartbreaking as ever through the use of characters and driven by their stories.
Coming out at the tail end of 2015, this album was very much anticipated by Le1f fans, having been and up and coming artist for a few years. The second half of this album is pure gold, innovative and interesting for hip hop and EDM. It is a game changer for a new genre that only Le1f is leading currently.
Hot Chip/’Why Make Sense?’
This is such a great album bridging indie electronic funk, deep house, weirdness, nerd rock, everything all in one.