Words by WASTER Staff
From Courtney Barnett’s quirky songwriting, to Brittany Howard’s soulful howl, to Marissa Paternoster’s relentless shredding, 2015 proved to be the year of rock n’ roll queens. (Fine, the guys did OK this year, too.)
In no particular order, here are some of our favorite records of the year…
“Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit”
[March 23rd, 2015]
Some albums hit you because they sound like nothing you’ve ever heard before: instruments that traditionally don’t pair well put together, unusual song structure, an approach that is unlike anything you’ve heard before. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit isn’t that kind of an album. Barnett takes the same elements that thousands of other bands used this year – and in the past fifty years – and put them together in, more or less, the way you’d expect. Electric guitars, bass, drums, vocals, verses and choruses and sometimes bridges.
But damn it, every bit of this record is put together perfectly. The performances jump out of the speakers and kick you in the chest – Barnett and her band are a finely tuned machine that are equal parts punk an classic rock, but don’t feel like anything other than themselves. The tempo might slow down in parts, but the intensity never does. Barnett is never at a loss for words, sometimes pushing syllables and phrases past the point of comfort to make sure that you get exactly what she’s trying to tell you. Do yourselves a favor and listen. – Brian Salvatore
[July 17th, 2015]
Is it too much to say that from now on, time before July 17, 2015 should be referred to as Pre-Currents? B.C. if you will. No? Great, because that’s how I refer it. The new album from Tame Impala has left that much of an impact on my life as well as the ears and hearts of music fans around the world. That is the day the instant classic album by Aussie-genius and overall megababe Kevin Parker was gifted to us all. The psychedelic rock masterpiece starts off strong with “Let It Happen”, has you floating on a cloud by the fifth song “Eventually”, breaks hearts only two tracks later with “The Less I Know The Better”, has men apologizing to women everywhere with “‘Cause I’m A Man” and ends strong with “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”. The album is filled with fuzzy, soaring guitars, sensual bass lines, uplifting synths, explosive drums, and brilliant lyrics. In less words, it’s 51 minutes of sheer heaven, and feels the same when experienced live at their shows. This is definitely an album the needle on my record player has been burning a hole into for months, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. – Cher Dunn
Triple Crown Records
[October 30th, 2015]
Dealer cuts deep. “It’s a slow burner; a night record,” as is stated by the band on their Facebook page. If Foxing’s debut album, The Albatross reached outward, then Dealer pulls from within. It covers heavy topics from loss and PTSD, to sexual expression and religion. The lows are low and the highs are high, each and every note feels carefully placed in the band’s effort to convey what they felt while writing this record.
Instrumentally this album is immense, reaching from vast soundscapes reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky, while keeping true to the indie-emo facets that compel you to scream the words back at the band as the record plays. Songs like “Night Channels” and “Glass Coughs” nearly lull you to sleep before jarring you back to consciousness with Conor Murphy’s gut-wrenching vocals. Dealer displays a sense of maturity and growth for Foxing, further cementing their role as leaders amongst this booming emo-revival. – Nick Hodgins
“Sound & Color”
[April 21st, 2015]
When success meets you almost out the gate, it’s hard to know where to go next. For Alabama Shakes, the answer is to get weird and embrace the rainbow. Where their debut album Boys & Girls was kept in black and white earthiness, 2015’s Sound & Color turns up the dial on everyone’s technicolor dreams. Like any great album, the more listens, the more layered and fantastically eccentric it becomes. The soulful, gritty and raw, “Don’t Wanna Fight”, demands your attention, where “The Greatest” is a riotous wall of sound. While “Dunes” invites you into the dark with a glass of whiskey, bracing and full of warmth.
Set aside the fact that no one beats Brittany Howard in emotional range, the tunes are perfectly orchestrated to lure you in, use you up, and release you, begging for more. For my fellow comrades who feel like there’s no other way to listen to music, say thank you because you’ve been given a gift. Annoy your friends, wear the record down, and become best friends with the repeat button. Once Sound & Color gets its enigmatic hooks into you, you’re done.- Corinne Casella
The Dead Weather
“Dodge & Burn”
Third Man Records
[September 25th, 2015]
They sit four aside across purple sand, beneath the wreckage of something violent floating into oblivion. Each stares straight ahead except one, who, as fate would have it, guides the rest through the twelve tracks of the Dead Weather’s Dodge and Burn (Third Man Records). Best known for uniting the crackling riffs of his Detroit upbringing with the charming sing-alongs of his home in Nashville, Jack White returns to the drumkit for album three alongside singer Alison Mosshart (the Kills), bassist Jack Lawrence (the Raconteurs, City & Colour) and jack-of-all-trades Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age). Storming through the record’s 42:44 seemingly with a vengeance, the Dead Weather finally get their brand of twisted metal right. Often pulsating with psychedelic fervor (“I Feel Love (Every Million Miles), “Be Still”) and showcasing White’s storytelling prowess (“Three Dollar Hat”) and cementing Mosshart’s rock royalty status as a vocalist (“Impossible Winner,” “Cop and Go”), Dodge and Burn roars across the purple desert with the sun in the distance and orange smoke fading to black. – Bill San Antonio
Father John Misty
“I Love You Honeybear”
[January 1st, 2015]
Father John Misty’s sophomore album, I Love You Honeybear, is built on folk-rock sounds and deeply conversational lyrics. The title track evokes Beatlesesque melodies and weeping guitar, preparing the listener for the scope of his grand and ranging record. J. Tillman goes into crooner mode with the acclaimed “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” his velvet vocals singing over a sweeping, symphonic arrangement paired with “true to the times” lyrics that keep the track from getting too affectionate. Tillman’s lyrics work so well because of their honesty to the point of brutal reality. In “The Ideal Husband,” Tillman admits wrongdoings, in ironic lyrics over nervy rock where “Bored in the USA,” a piano ballad, seems to poke fun at his own first-world problems and mundane loathing that is modern “happiness.” Tillman’s atypical lyricism and highly polished sound makes I Love You, Honeybear an extraordinary album; full of honesty, angst and strength that showcase his abilities songwriter and performer; allowing him to speak directly into the hearts of young music lovers in 2015. – Brittany Norvell
[June 23rd, 2015]
The Omaha supergroup’s first album in thirteen years continues to log their grievances with American life, playing out as a diary of Uncle Sam’s failures and the frustrations that come with them.
In just over 40 minutes, Payola takes listeners on a trip through the land of the free, making pit stops in gun crazed, racially charged, war frothed and currency-driven America.
Having taken thirteen years to hone their skills and mature not only as artists, but political activists, it’s difficult to fault Desaparecidos’ sophomore effort — which is entangled with thrashing guitars, flammable lyrics and brimming with hostility the entire way. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Payola lies in the bleak observation that they’ll probably still have cause to write songs about these same issues in thirteen years time. – Lauren Gill
“The Magic Whip”
[April 28th, 2015]
Has 2015’s influx of synth-pop acts made anyone else yearn for the simpler days, when alternative rock reigned supreme? When music wasn’t really about dancing, but about feeling?
Like a familiar face in a sea of strangers, Blur mended our terracotta hearts with the release of The Magic Whip, the band’s first album in 12 years. Together Damon Albarn’s ever-charming voice, along with Graham Coxon’s fuzzy guitars, Alex James’ chunky basslines, and Dave Rowntree’s many flavors of percussion coaxed us out of our decade-long withdrawal.
The Magic Whip has everything you could want in a rock album – the arena ragers (“Go Out”, “I Broadcast”), the heady floating jams (“Thought I Was a Spaceman”), the feel-good sing-alongs (“Ong Ong”), and even the slow burners (“New World Towers”, “My Terracotta Heart”) for when you needed a breath in between.
When everyone else is hootin’ and hollerin’ about the emo revival, I could really go for a new alt-rock revolution. – Audra Tracy
Don Giovanni Records
[February 24th, 2015]
Screaming Females came roaring back this year in full force with a mighty blend of thunderous rock and electrifying pop-punk. With not a single weak point to be found, each track from Rose Mountain kicks with a thick, blasting sound yet under a surprisingly polished production. However, unlike when most other heavy groups opt for a more refined production, the brash immensity of Screaming Females’ signature sound isn’t toned down at all. Instead, the music here is polished enough so the muscle and the force of the band hits you hard from all angles while still retaining a tight, controlled balance.
Beyond the sound, the songwriting itself here is impeccable. Screaming Females might be at their peak in terms of writing, as the album features many introspective, bare and deceptively complicated melodies and lyrics. Just listen to the track “Hopeless.” It’s simply an honest, well-crafted song that your ear just begs to hear repeatedly. On this track as well as the rest of the entire record, Marissa Paternoster’s slicing and piercing guitar-work and her uniquely multifaceted vocals are nothing short of impressive while the primal drums and bass crash and thud along, each loaded with great venom. Through the personal lyrics, impassioned singing from Paternoster and the satisfyingly taut performance of the band in general, each track leaves the listener feeling like if they just experienced some kind of personal epiphany. You’ll be hard pressed to find another 2015 release that is this heavy and this cathartic. – Keith Hadad
[June 16th, 2015]
Sorority Noise is one of the only good things that Connecticut has ever produced, and Joy, Departed is music for people who grew up listening to Brand New but who are also tired of listening to the same goddamn Brand New songs for the last 10 years. It’s music for people who are trying to get better but who aren’t quite there yet. There are a lot of moments on this record where the lyrics speak the things you’re afraid to admit to yourself (“Art School Wannabe”) but also some moments with lyrics that remind you why you’re working so hard to get better (“Using”). Joy, Departed, with its positive swells and raw confessions, is an honest look into the reality of mental illness, but also clearly illustrates why the band fights back so hard against the stigma surrounding it. – Emilia D’Albero
Need more lists? Check out Our 50 Favorite Songs of 2015…