2015 was an excellent year for music. There were so many great albums that it was hard to narrow down my favorites. This list is not really a countdown to the best album of the year, just a list of albums that I loved for various reasons. I am breaking the list into two parts (this will just be numbers 20-11). Enjoy.
20. Strangers To Ourselves- Modest Mouse
After a long hiatus, Modest Mouse returned with a sprawling and uneven record that nonetheless reminded everybody how they became such a big name in the indie rock scene. Strangers To Ourselves shares a lot of structural similarities to 2000’s Moon and Antarctica, but suffers from a weak middle section chalked full of songs that feel like B-sides. Despite that problem, Strangers To Ourselves contains some great Modest Mouse songs and is a welcome return from the classic band.
19. No No No- Beirut
Beirut’s lead singer and song-writers Zach Condon experienced a creative breakdown after the band’s last album and took some time to clear his head and get back in the game. No No No feels like a pallet cleanser. It does not feature the bombast or borrowed European musical themes of earlier albums, but is still an enjoyable album from the indie folk band. Hopefully the next album seems Condon stretching his creativity back into his usual array of sounds.
18. Weirdo Shrine- La Luz
La Luz is one of the best bands in the surf-rock revival scene but remains criminally underrated. Weirdo Shrine is the group’s second album and sees them expanding their sound into more spacey and psychedelic regions. La Luz proves on this album that they are one of the most interesting surf rock bands in the modern era, but unfortunately Weirdo Shrine was not the big hit that the band needed.
17. Strange Trails- Lord Huron
Sounding like a more country tinged Fleet Foxes, Lord Huron is one of the few modern bands capable of accurately capturing the landscapes and vistas of the American West in musical form. Like their earlier work, Strange Trails combines a variety of folk, country and indie rock influences to create a beautiful canvas of the West that is perfect for driving on long car trips.
16. Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance- Belle and Sebastian
Eclectic is the best word to describe the newest album from these indie rock stalwarts. For this album, Belle and Sebastian decided to embrace electronic Europop, and odd choice for the whispery Glasgow band. Shockingly, the new sound works really well. Of course, Belle and Sebastian also include a few songs more in line with their old discography. Girls In Peacetime lacks a unifying sound, but the shear breadth of the music that Belle and Sebastian put in the record make it an interesting listen.
15. White Men Are Black Men Too- Young Fathers
This year had a variety of debut albums from new bands. One of the most interesting was Young Fathers’s debut. The English band combines a variety of styles ranging from R & B and hip/hop to electronic and indie rock. Mixing all of those styles with a trendy lo-fi production gives White Men Are Black Men Too the feel of an early TV On The Radio album. Young Fathers do not shy away from political topics and uncomfortable lyric choices, which makes their album that much more exciting.
14. Painted Shut- Hop Along
Hop Along’s second album catapulted them into the indie rock spotlight. Lead by Frances Quinlan’s strange raspy voice, Hop Along crafts a set of scruffy, energetic rock songs on Painted Shut. Quinlan’s vocals take some getting used to, but they are perfect for the emotionally raw lyrics that she is belting out. The rest of the band can be lackluster at times, but Quinlan carries to group to success.
13. Every Open Eye- CHVRCHES
In 2013 CHVRCHES energized the synth pop scene with their thrilling The Bones Of What You Believe. This year they returned with the highly anticipated Every Open Eye. On first listen, this album feels pretty similar to the 2013 album, almost to a fault. However, deeper listening reveals that CHVRCHES is slowly maturing in their song writing, branching off into more emotionally honest subjects and exploring more interesting synth work. But, just like the last album, Every Open Eye is a lot of fun.
12. Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper- Panda Bear
Panda Bear is one of the most talented and influential musicians of the past decade. Most people are aware of his work with the group Animal Collective but he also has a strong solo career. This album sees Panda Bear at his best, crafting psychedelic electronic pop songs that showcase his substantial musical ability. Listening to the album with headphones is a treat since the production features a variety of interesting twists and sounds.
11. Currents- Tame Impala
For this album Tame Impala totally embraced their electronic side, crafting a set of songs that sound like Michael Jackson hits sung by John Lennon. Like the Panda Bear album, Currents really succeeds do its production, wrapping every song in a blissful atmosphere and electronic flourishes. Currents alienated some fans of the band who were expecting a more rock oriented album, but if the album is just analyzed on its own it is clearly an excellent slab of music.