Top Ten of 2015 — Day 6
Written by Zac Djamoos
1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Sufjan Stevens was a name I’d been familiar with for a while, but no one I’d ever heard anything from until this year. The only reason I ever ended up finally listening was all the praise – when you see something essentially unanimously hailed as perfect, you’re going to wonder why. Thankfully, I gave it a listen, and the hype was totally deserved. Even as someone rarely drawn to folky or acoustic-based music, it’s hard to deny the power behind these songs. Carrie & Lowell is beautiful, passionate, moving, however else you might describe music you like. Even having never lost a parent, I could feel Stevens’ loss in every word. That’s not an easy thing to do.
2. The Money Pit – The Money Pit
This was really the year that I fell in love with Gatsbys American Dream, so I’m glad I didn’t have to wait too long for this. It was so close to my number one spot that really this and Carrie could’ve been switched, but I gave the number one spot to that album for the sake of the lyrics being among the best of the year. The two really couldn’t be further apart in terms of sound though – The Money Pit is likely the most fun album I’ve heard all year, as well as one of the catchiest. It shouldn’t be, given the verbosity of it all, but somehow it is. And it makes for maybe my favorite offering from these guys. It’s easily my favorite debut of the year and they’ve definitely got my attention.
3. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
The biggest surprise of the year for me, Julien Baker’s debut is astounding. For a 19-year-old’s first album to be this good? Damn. Sprained Ankle is every bit as delicate lyrically as it is musically – Baker’s songwriting ability is light years ahead of most artists a decade older than her. But even putting her age aside, Sprained Ankle is a great album that stands up to nearly every other singer-songwriter release of the year. I wonder what she’ll be doing at 29.
4. mewithoutYou – Pale Horses
This is probably mwY’s most immediate release. It definitely was for me. A perfect mix of their post-hardcore tendencies and the more laid-back sounds they’ve been toying with recently, it adds up to what feels like retrospective while at the same time feeling completely fresh. Added to this is Aaron Weiss’ best lyrical output yet, which is quite the feat, given he’s probably the best lyricist in this scene.
5. The Sidekicks – Runners in the Nerved World
I generally have the tendency to overrate albums when I first hear them, like I’m sure most people do. I get consumed and excited by the newness. Runners wasn’t one of those albums for me. Yeah, I liked it. A lot. But as the year went on it generally fell out of rotation for me. When I revisited it more this fall, I really connected with it. Besides having my favorite song of the year (“Jesus Christ Supermalls”), it’s full of other extremely fun, bright rock songs and some of Steven Ciolek’s best lyrics to date. It’s proof that The Sidekicks are one of the most underrated (and unique) bands in the scene.
6. Better Off – Milk
Better Off successfully refined all the positive qualities of 2011’s (I Think) I’m Leaving into 2015’s most impressive pop-punk record. Carrying a similar feeling to the pop-punk scene of ten years ago, but still feeling fresh in a way few bands in the genre can pull off now, Milk was a great balance of new and familiar. The band’s future seems a bit up in the air at the moment, but if they’re done after this, I can’t think of a better swansong.
7. Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool?
Many were torn up when Rosenstock’s band Bomb the Music Industry! broke up after releasing their best record. But we were lucky, because this year we got the ideal follow up, We Cool? A going even further in the direction that Vacation paved, Rosenstock’s sophomore solo effort is full of his greatest music yet, including “I’m Serious I’m Sorry,” the best song he’s ever written. It’s really cool.
8. all dogs – Kicking Every Day
One of the first things that drew me to all dogs was the vocals – they’re incredible. But once I got over them, I stayed for their warm Midwestern indie rock. Seeming spiritual successors to PS Eliot (I’m still waiting on a reunion), all dogs delivered with some of the catchiest, most personal indie songs of the year – including “Sunday Morning,” which I’ve listened to without fail every Sunday morning since.
9. Spraynard – Mable
Maybe the only “true pop-punk” album on my list, Mable is the kind of pop-punk album you don’t even want to call pop-punk. It’s anything but the shallow, derivative, pizza party pop-punk dominating the genre now. Leaning arguably more towards the latter half of the genre’s name, Mable is all fast chords, gritty vocals, and socially aware lyricism. It’s what pop-punk should be.
10. Petal – Shame
I missed out on the chance to catch a cheap local Petal show (with Spencer Radcliffe too!!!!!) earlier this year because I got into a fight with the kid who was going to drive me. I made an enormous mistake. Petal’s backing band features members of Tigers Jaw, which should be about all the convincing you need if you don’t already like Petal. But if it’s not, then give “Tommy” a listen for three minutes of the year’s best emo-inflected poppy indie rock goodness. Then listen to the rest of Shame.