January 2016 is here and it’s that time again when we all take stock of the previous 12 months. Here at tHeARTofla.com we are taking a quick glance back at the albums from 2015 with friends of the site who have shared their picks for the best albums of 2015.
Sufjan Stevens – “Carrie & Lowell” (Asthmatic Kitty Records). Sufjan helps me be all mopey and pewter-sky-wanna-pull-my-hood-up better than most, and he also helps me focus when I’m hunched over my laptop ruining my posture. His 2015 “Carrie & Lowell” is homage to his mother and her passing—so when I want to let out some brine for my mom, he fills that need, as well. Stevens splashes around so deeply in his whispery angst pool, it makes me more inclined to bootstrap my ass into a better, grateful mood.
Owner/Editor of UnsungMelody.Com
High Road Publicity Music Publicist
Elle King – ‘Love Stuff’
It’s rare that a song is nominated for two Grammy’s and actually lives up to the hype nowadays. In the case of “Ex’s & Oh’s”, the recognition is well deserved. As a whole, ‘Love Stuff’ is a breath of fresh air, even though it’s a bit over produced at times. I’ll be the first to admit, I had never heard of Elle King until I found her on Amazon Prime, but since that day, her quirky pop-tinged banjo-laden brand of blues infused pop-rock has become a guilty pleasure. Another fun fact for ya, she’s the daughter of comedian Rob Schneider.
Leon Bridges – ‘Coming Home’
Leon Bridges is a definite throwback to a bygone era of fantastic soul singers. His voice is as smooth as Sam Cooke, his songs as well layered as many Motown hits, but his brilliance lies in his delivery for me. Never aggressive, ultra-cool and a very laid-back style give Leon his own niche in a music landscape that has its share of retro acts. Look no further than his hit single, “Coming Home” to hear and appreciate who he is as an artist.
Buddy Guy – ‘Born to Play Guitar’
With an album title like that, you’d better be able to back it up. No one on earth can throw out that bravado, back up and look humble while doing it like the one and only Buddy Guy. A living National Treasure who has played with just about every great blues musician in history, returns with an album that truly captures his musical essence. From the slow grinding title track, to the ZZ Top inspired (Including an appearance by Billy Gibbons), “Wear You Out”, to the astonishingly beautiful tribute to B.B. King “Flesh and Bone”, this album is captivating and an absolute must for any fan of the blues. No matter how large or small your interest may be.
Frontman of Slaves on Dope
Radio Personality CHOM 97.7
Half Moon Run – “Sun Leads Me on”
I have been a huge supporter of this Montreal band since the beginning, and this 2nd full length album will surely cement them as one of the most important bands of the last 10 years. All it takes is seeing them perform live once, and you will be hooked
Dr. Dre – “Compton”
People were quick to dismiss Dre on this album, but it is a real musician’s record. It needs to be heard from front to back, and will really jump out and grab you on the 5th or 6th listen.
Faith No More – “Invictus”
Sheer Genius, from front to back…..17 years later, and they drop the album of their career.Hands down, the best band in the world
Drummer in Kamakazi Dali
Instructor Stephens’ Music Company
Sometimes, you want what makes you comfortable. What you know and what you know works. To definitively state what my favorite album of 2015 is to state what actually helped me get through 2015. I can appreciate musical talent (New York’s stellar trio Battles) and I love quirkiness (They Might Be Giants’ “Glean” or The Mountain Goats’ “Beat the Champ”), but eventually I found what resonated. The perfect earworm recipe: one teaspoon melody, one tablespoon rhythm, layered with unease and seasoned with random noise. Dawes, Alabama Shakes, and My Morning Jacket did this so, so very well…but the Brits have this on lock. Even when he was effectively second fiddle to his more somehow-more-outlandish brother, Noel Gallagher was the one who kept Oasis relevant. He is unabashedly aping every Beatles trait he can short of his own personal Mahatma, but he’s got it down to a science. Go check out his High Flying Birds project and their ‘Chasing Yesterday’ slab. Spring for the deluxe version, too. Strings, strain and succor. It’s always worked and (hopefully) always will.
Contributer to tHeARTofla.com
Los Angeles, CA
Don Henley – “Cass County”
Known for his wry, caustic wit and astute observations both politically and socially, Don Henley is back after a lengthy absence from the music scene with newest country-accented solo album. “Cass County” is true to form and on par with the legendary singer/songwriter high standards. Themes of regret and acceptance, the passage of time, love’s fading and boom can be found throughout the release always giving substance, dimension and depth to every song. A number of guest appearances pepper this effort with strong several duets with well-known artists including Martina McBride on the “That Old Flame” and Merle Haggard on “The Cost of Living.”
Freelance Project Manager
2015 managed to rock me hard, a few of my picks for heavy tunes from the past year are as follows;
Clutch – “Psychic Warfare”
The bands 11th album offered me a dose of slick, sardonic, brooding power that never seems to fail me when I need some driving riff heavy rock. In heavy rotation in my house was the slowed down vibe of “Our Lady of Electric Light” which really showcased Neil Fallon’s phenomenal vocals perfectly. This band has lost not one percent of their edge with time. The recording didn’t re-write their brand of hard rock, but still proved they are a force to be recognized.
Baroness – “Purple”
Artfully conceived the semi-psychedelic metal of Baroness is heavily saturated in waves of stirring guitars. “Purple” is the sum of the best elements of their previous albums. Strong, stormy, and aggressive laced with a delicate breathtaking after burn. Purple is a more accessible take on “stoner” or “sledge” metal, and is both euphoric and satisfying.
Eagles of Death Metal – “Zipper Down”
If you could smell it – SEX
If you could see it – Grease
If you could touch it – Hot Chrome
If you could taste it – Cream
If it was an attitude – Smirk
If it was an animal – A unicorn with two middle fingers (cause they are rare and badass)
Teenage Time Killers – “GREATEST HITS VOL. 1”
A super group of 33 hardcore musicians including current or former members of bands like Slipknot, My Ruin, The Germs, Foo Fighters, Lamb of God, Clutch, Dead Kennedys, Alkaline Trio, and Fear. The Teenage Time Killers record is an unholy alliance forged of an amalgamation of punk chords and metal fury, offering a full-on sonic assault. The twenty tracks on the album are potent, ferocious and at times poignant. The project offers an unusual chance to experience what happens when musicians at the top of their game team up together without ego just for the love of their craft. And every note on the recording shows it. “GREATEST HITS VOL. 1” cuts deeper to the bone then your usual one off collaboration on a band’s album. They usually come off well, but in the end more has the band’s signature all over it (nothing wrong with that). It’s always great to hear musicians blend and merge styles, attitudes and genres to come up with something new. The album succeeds perfectly in that effort.
Sony BMG/Fieldhouse Music
- “25” by Adele
- “X” by Ed Sheeran
- “American Beauty/American Psycho” by Fall Out Boy
- “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” by Eminen
Artist Development & Management
- The Arcs– Your, Dreamily
- Alabama Shakes– Sound and Color
- JD McPherson– Let the Good Times Roll
- Gary Clark Jr.– Story of Sonny Boy Slim
- Father John Misty– I Love you, Honeybear
- Leon Bridges– Coming Home
- Kendrick Lamar– To Pimp A Butterfly
- Allen Stone– Radius
- The Arcs– The Arcs vs. The Inventors Vol 1
- Son Little– Son Little
- “Link Up & Suede”- EP by Anderson .Paakwith Knxwledge, as NxWorries
- Vintage Trouble– 1 Hopeful Rd.
- Erykah Badu– But you can’t use my phone (mixtape)
NBC Entertainment Marketing; lifestyle ambassador
What a year in music! Personally, 2015 was a year of exploring new sounds, loving the return of artists I already loved, and appreciating the re-imagining of other artists. Hands down my favorite, probably most played album of the year goes to Purity Ring’s “Another Eternity.” The Canadian electro-pop duo soothes your ear with a subdued hip-hop electro sound. The songs are sung with seemingly intangible and airy expression. The lyrics evoke graphic horror like depictions of love and relationships while the music invites you into a space that is disengaging and ethereal.
One of the biggest surprises goes to Nick Jonas, who in my opinion had one of the most overlooked mainstream pop albums of 2015. In my opinion, Nick Jonas’ self-titled album is equally as good or better as Justin Beiber or Selena Gomez’s albums. His debut surprised me as it was a departure from his Jonas Brothers roots. The album was urban, gritty, pop, and real. The production had me thinking I was listening to an indie urban pop artist rather than just a mainstream pop artist. Overall, fun and a great listen time and time again.
Lianne La Havas’ “Blood” makes you want to fall in love all over again. No matter what hurt has happened in the past, her lyrics and voice capture a vivid imagination that paints a soulful Picasso, drawing you back to a love you have always wanted. Her voice became my lullaby several times. The richness in this album is unparalleled. It was such a pleasure to play over and over while allowing her music’s world to invade my world.
As I am always skeptical of a group or artist’s sophomoric debut, I took the plunge with another duo that continues to make sound bombs from across the pond. Disclosure’s “Caracal” is that moody, party, sometimes emo and down tempo, grab a glass of wine music that you want in your life. I wasn’t sure it was possible for Disclosure to bring a more mature and sonically engaging album than their first. Well, their guest appearance lineup did not disappoint from The Weeknd, Miguel, Sam Smith, and Lorde as most notable. This album can be played from waking to sleeping and always give you a lift on that moment. Many times it is my chill getting ready to go out music.
Media Consultant * Publicist
RSP Entertainment Marketing
Don Henley – “Cass County”
I’ve been a fan of Henley for years and I’m also a sucker for a good duets record. He delivers both on “Cass County”. It is unmistakably Don’s voice, but with a decidedly more country feel. I was reminded of some of the deeper cuts on “Building the Perfect Beast.” He tells stories and seems to reflect on his life. There is also a duet with Dolly Parton.
Mary McGuire – “Love Struck”
With no label backing, this CD was partially crowd funded and the rest paid for out of pocket by the artist. It’s a collection of Mary’s experiences traveling the world over the years. The tracks tell stories and it has a real Detroit feel. There are a bunch of heritage Detroit musicians on the CD to go along with Mary’s spot-on vocals. She cut the record at Pearl Sound Studios with renowned producer Chuck Alkazian. That is actually how I became aware of the project. To be fair, I was in the studio and worked on the press for this record, but I did that for a lot of albums and this is the only one on the list. It’s good.
Vintage Trouble – “1 Hopeful Road”
The first time I saw Vintage Trouble on Craig Ferguson 2+ years ago I was hooked and I’ve been following them ever since. They have a huge following in Europe and have been super busy touring in support of some really big names but not putting out anything new. So I flipped when I heard that one of my very favorite former Detroiters, producer extraordinaire Don Was, signed them and was working on the new record. Don did a brilliant job of capturing Vintage Trouble’s frenetic live energy and putting it on “1 Hopeful Road”.
Kacey Musgraves – “Pageant Material”
This one kind of surprised me, but I like her sparkly outfits and the way she shamelessly embraces being girly while singing about being in control of your shit. “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.” That’s a food analogy, right there. She has a great voice and the whole Americana band is full of talent. Their matching Nudie suits are also fantastic.
Foo Fighters – “St. Cecilia”
A free Foo Fighters record. Awesome. Thrown together with a raw, gritty feel while they are on the road touring. Awesomer. The letter from Dave Grohl that accompanied the release; telling the story of being on that particular tour and how this record was made. Awesome-est.
Bonus Single –
Even though it was released in 2014, you have to admit, 2015 was the year we all decided to “Shut Up and Dance.” Seriously, this song was EVERYWHERE and I loved it. I saw the viral YouTube video with the movie scene mash up and it was all over. Every time I heard it after that- volume way up. I travel a lot and logged a ton of time in the car, so I apologize to all of the other drivers on America’s highways, turnpikes and thruways who happened to catch my killer in-car dance moves whenever Walk the Moon came into rotation.
lead singer of The VeeVees
Every year in music proves that Rock and Roll is not dead. Hip Hop is not dead. Punk is not dead. Whoever says that is afraid of the ever changing human experience and probably a narcissist without a sense of humor.
Music genres are like family names. With new blood flow comes new personalities and ambitions, new fashions and tastes, brave new curiosities and new color palates of courage and expression.
Thank God people change, because sometimes they can really suck. The same goes for music. Now, in this ‘fast listening’ culture, the single is so hawt right now. Singles certainly serve a purpose for top 40 ‘artists’, fickle listeners and industry folk but hot albums are few and far between. When they enter your life though? It’s like ‘yo, leave me the f*ck alone, I’m popping this <insert vice abused responsibly> to myself, dissolving into the sound waves, and will be forever never the same!’
My favorite albums of 2015 hold up mirrors to my soul. They encourage creativity in my own song writing as a rock n roll artist and even my self-awareness as a person. Our favorite albums do that, don’t they? For masturbators of the mind, that’s why we love them so much.
The artists listed below achieved such a beautiful balance of the following elements:
POETRY, PUNK, EXPERIMENTATION, ROCK N ROLL INSTRUMENTATION, SOUL SEARCHING NARRATIVE, & ORIGINALITY
Get into it!
- Alabama Shakes – “Sound & Color”
- Kid Cudi – “Speedin’ Bullet to Heaven”
- Action Bronson – “Mr. Wonderful”
- Kendrick Lamar – “To Pimp a Butterfly”
- Thunderbitch – “Thunderbitch”
Musician, Singer, Actor
“Sound and Color” by Alabama Shakes is my favorite album of the 2015. It’s pure sonic brilliance. Of course, Brittany is a fantastic singer, but this record is more than just a voice. It’s a complete piece of art. It’s an emotional journey. “Sound and Color” isn’t confined to a single genre and it isn’t stamped with a timely sound that will fade as trends change. The production of the record is timeless – as is the songwriting and performances. My Spotify ‘Year in Review’ told me I listened to this album 107 times this year. That sounds about right.
Member of After 7 (RnB Trio)
Manager | Partner Haven Management
It may sound like I’m jumping on the bandwagon by saying my favorite album of 2015 is “25” by Adele. However, I feel the same way as the general public feels about her. Adele has incredible sensibilities as a communicator with her strong yet venerable delivery. Every song is complete in its story. “25” is musically produced to what I’d consider perfection and is easily set apart from the over-practiced, three-focus track, eight-filler albums that are normally released. “25” is easy to listen too, but very thought provoking. Definitely my favorite this year.