As we are getting close to closing out the year, I wanted to share what albums I’ve loved from 2015. I was surprised to see a lot of music make it to me for the first time this year; some old, some new, some forgotten — it’s been very refreshing.
I selected these albums based on their original release within 2015, and I didn’t want to pick any re-released, remastered, or “best-of” albums. I’m also not picking anything that is new-to-me this year, but more on that later.
Top 5 Albums of 2015
Picking a set of 5, let alone ranking them, was a tough task for me. I initially had a list of 20, and paired it down from there; I was also not going to rank them, but during the course of listening and writing, it became clear that I had some favorites and a clear favorite.
1. Steve Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Steven Wilson has had a prolific career as a solo artist,composer, engineer and producer; he is the most well know for being the frontman for Porcupine Tree. In so many ways, the artistry that he creates in his music defines the progressive genre that I love today. He can do so many things from the creation to the production; he owns the whole stack and is involved at every level, which shows through in his success.
As is a progressive music tradition, this is a concept album; one unique element is that it is told from a female perspective features several wonderful artists on the album, including Ninet Tayeb adding the female voice and the great Marco Minnemann on drums. The music itself has everything from jazz to light, airy music, from heavy rock riffs to pop rock hooks, odd time signatures, classic instruments, synthesizers — it really covers so much ground.
I have been so impressed with this solo album, which is a tremendous addition to his already amazing body of work. My only problem is that I found it late in the year, and it hasn’t been played enough in my ears.
This is without doubt my hands-down favorite album of the year.
2. Muse – Drones
The power trio that is Muse gets back to their rock roots with Drones. This continues their concept album tradition of the last few releases. But unlike their last two albums, this album hits harder and has resonated with me much more.
I think one of the most relatable aspects of this for me is wrestling the feeling of being a human drone. Working a nine-to-five can make you feel that way, and it’s important to break free. Every time I hear this album, it reminds me to keep doing things to not fall into that mode.
Of all the Muse albums, this is my favorite — it’s phenomenal album from top to bottom.
3. God Is an Astronaut – Helios / Erebus
I never knew God Is an Astronaut existed before I heard them as the weather segment on the Welcome to Night Vale podcast. They have been around for years, and they are known for their instrumental progressive sound.
This album has gotten me through many days at work going through large Excel documents and standards. It’s a great album to use for the backing track of your day.
4. Puscifer – Money Shot
I’m not sure that I’ve ever disliked a single thing that Maynard James Keenan has ever done. About the only thing I could complain about MJK is that there isn’t a new Tool album yet, but hopefully that will be soon.
This album showcases the multi-faceted band and continues to push their sound, which sounds like it came directly out of the Grand Canyon itself – vast, mysterious, jagged, and magnificent. The whole band sounds settled, driven, and confident. The harmonies from MJK and Corina Round are powerful and amazing, while simultaneously haunting and melancholy. Their voices aren’t just lyrics, but emotion that plays like another layered instrument.
5. Chvrches – Every Open Eye
I got hooked on this album from the release of the first single, Leave A Trace. The emotionally complex lyrics fit well with the band’s post-EDM, multi-layered sound. The pulse of the music ranges from elation to chill to quiet reflection.
Lauren’s vocals sound confident and resilient, unwavering in the confrontation of her own emotions. It’s almost as if she uses the music to bounce through her thoughts and come out better on the other side.
The band’s vocals and driving beats propel this album to be what I think is their best to date.
Here are some other albums that I really like, but at the end of the day, don’t make it into my top 5 for various reasons:
Elle King – Love Stuff
Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi
Mumford & Sons – Wilder Mind
Of Monsters and Men – Beneath The Skin
Coheed & Cambria – The Color Before the Sun
Silversun Pickups – Better Nature
Mutemath – Vitals
John Williams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Reflection on Music
Looking back at this past year in music, I have had a wide range of things that I have enjoyed. My musical tastes have changed over the years; but another huge part of it has been Apple Music. The service is it allowed me to add a bunch of new albums to try and expand my musical knowledge (even from years prior to this one).
I’ve learned more about some amazing artists, and have been able to get their music with ease. I’ve been able to get more back-catalogs of some of the artists I’ve known for years. I’ve tried new, popular music artists on the top charts like The Weeknd and Elle King; and I’ve listened to Hall of Fame legends like Miles Davis and The Beach Boys.
Apple Music has several features that are really great; one wonderful feature I particularly like allows users to create their own shared playlists. Creating them is very easy, and if you enjoy sharing music you like with others, it is a simple way to do so. I have included playlists that have the albums listed above:
When I first started writing this, I thought it would be good to share my favorite albums from this year. What I didn’t realize is that Apple Music had a profound impact on me this year, especially the last quarter of it. It has opened my ears to new types of music I would have previously shied away from. If I want to listen to something, I can; but I don’t have to keep it or regret my purchase.
Personally, this year has been a great year of music for me. I cannot wait to see what music, old or new, captures me in 2016.