Colin’s Top Albums and EPs Of 2015

Posted: by Colin

1. Better Off – Milk

In a wacky turn of events, my favorite album of the year is entitled Milk and has a picture of a scrumptious peanut butter and jelly sandwich for album art. Surprisingly, the tantalizing display does well to set the mood of the album: it’s straightforward and without a plethora of bells and whistles, but still ends up being delightful. Milk is filled with somber lyrics and weaving hooks that seamlessly transition from track to track. Most notably, the band lets the instrumentation breathe throughout the course of the record, letting the songs gasp for air only to bring them back to life at the last possible second. The atmospheric and lonely ambience generated by this style of songwriting puts the listener in the perfect headspace to be engulfed by Luke Granered’s piercing screams. 

10/10 RIYL: Jimmy Eat World, Moving Mountains

2. The Early November – Imbue

As a long-standing TEN fan, it remains a challenge for me to categorize this album. Just as I was settling in to the post-reunion arena rock sound the band had crafted on In Currents, Imbue is an overwhelming intimate record. While this seems contradictory as this is the first Early November album not to feature an acoustic input, the private setting allows one of the scene’s best vocalists, Ace Enders, to attempt a number of different stylistic approaches ultimately unleashing his incredible vocal range. Take for example, the two songs that put the album to bed, “I Don’t Care” and “Nothing Lasts Forever.” Arguably the two most aggressive and angry songs the group has dreamt up to date, allow the band to function on all cylinders as the screams last longer, the guitars rip louder, and the drums hit heavier than ever before. With each song running at over three and a half minutes, my only quip about imbue is that a short anecdotal song full of experimentation would have been an added bonus. Ultimately, I’m ecstatic this band is still making music. 

9.2/10 RIYL: Transit, Polar Bear Club

3. Third Eye Blind – Dopamine

For good reason, I feel like many fans of the small alternative “music scene” become avid fans of “3EB” in their early twenties. And here I am, somewhat stereotypically, thoroughly enjoying the latest release from the band. If we’re being honest with ourselves, this is a remarkable comeback after how disappointing 2009’s Ursa Major was. Dopamine is everything Ursa Major was not: personable, introspective, and free-spirited. The album is entertaining and lively, but still manages both the time and space for Stephan Jenkins to allude to his past. The one-two-three punch of “Easy Way Out,” “Dopamine” and “Back to Zero” across the first half of the album are inspired by a thumping bass drum and flimsy guitar sounds that end up creating an incredible catchy melody that still carries a reflective tone. Third Eye Blind have struck gold with Dopamine

9/10 RIYL: Cage The Elephant, GroupLove

4. Turnover – Peripheral Vision

There are two schools of thought on the sophomore LP from the Virginia rockers, you’ll find pleasure in consistency, or you’ll fall asleep half way through the damn thing. While I’m willing admit that I’ve never included an album with so little variation so high on an end of the year list, this album deserves every word of praise written about it. Turnover slowly and meticulously tinkered with their sound over a two year period, emerging with a wistfully fantastic formula able to be utilized throughout an entire LP without feeling lethargic or rehashed. Although back-to-back tracks that open the album “Cutting My Fingers Off” and “New Scream” unequivocally appoint Peripheral Vision as having the strongest opening to an album released this year, the band peaks with closer “Intrapersonal”. It’s also a pleasant surprise to see an album released via Run For Cover on my list, as the label had a relatively quiet twelve months compared to years past.    

8.8/10 RIYL: Citizen, Pianos Become The Teeth, Restorations

5. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

Look, I’m sure I’ll eventually dive deep into Courtney Barnett’s back catalog, but for now I’m perfectly content listening to this album for the foreseeable future. After seeing the slew of overwhelmingly positive reviews and general Internet buzz after this album’s release, I decided to buy the vinyl on a whim (something I rarely ever do) in Canada (the 1.3 Canadian Dollars to 1 US Dollar conversion rate was awesome). Inarguably one of the best decisions I made in 2015, Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit is flawless from front to back. It has fast and catchy songs and it has slow and beautiful songs, all while being highly introspective as Barnett finds ways to let her quick, condescending and wordy lyrics slide off her tongue in a rhythmic way.  

8.7/10 RIYL: Oasis, Into It. Over It.

6. Oso Oso – Real Stories of True People Who Kind of Looked Like Monsters

After nearly six months with Jade Lalitri’s self-proclaimed “break-up” album, I can state in full confidence that I still have no idea how to properly sequence the album title when talking about it with friends. Luckily, it’s the only frustrating part about the entire forty-minute punk extravaganza. Singer-songwriter Jade Lalitri (who impressively tracked every instrument on the album aside from percussion) clearly has a giant monkey (actually, a tribe of them) on his back that could only be shaken off through song. With no hesitation in doing so, Lalitiri is unabashedly forthcoming about the past few years of his life, eventually rising from the dust with a chip on his shoulder as he’s finally willing to admit his role in the permanently broken relationship, “I can’t believe I thought I was safe in my most crooked shape, most vulnerable place…and all that time I was hangin’ on your shelf, I was just running away from getting to know myself.” 

8.2/10 RIYL: State Lines, Saves The Day

7. Ace Enders – #Hiraeth

If there was ever a time to describe an album in the form of food or drink, I’m positive it’s the new solo album from Ace Enders. The vast majority of songs on #Hiraeth are comparable to gulping down a sweet, cold glass of orange juice as you watch the sunrise while sitting down at your kitchen table. The songs are crisp and refreshing. More often than not, you’ll find yourself unconsciously humming, pumping your fist, or maybe screaming along with the gigantic choruses. The opener, “Stop Burning Your Eyes In The Sun” has the raw emotion and energy that rivals Enders’ second and most beloved solo album The World We Know, yet is unique as the emotion is channeled in a more optimistic and relaxed way. Because the first four songs are noticeably more rock oriented than the latter five songs, the album doesn’t have that completely cohesive feel we come to expect from Enders. However, “We Are Alive” , “Breaking Bad” and “Speed of Light” are fun pop songs that almost no one will have trouble enjoying. 

8/10 RIYL: Fun, Passion Pit

8. Funeral Advantage – Body Is Dead

Emotional, desperate, and delicate – three words that come to mind when listening to Funeral Advantage’s debut full length. Somewhere between Coldplay, Keane, and The Cure is where the young Boston indie rock outfit lives and thrives, creating songs that are both distant and waning. Similar to Peripheral Vision, the album stays on the straight and narrow throughout its entirety, doing little to deviate from the mean sound. Overall, Funeral Advantage was one of my best discoveries of the year and provided me with a pleasant surprise. I’m shocked this record has not gotten more attention.

7.9/10 RIYL: Turnover, Petal  

9. The Sidekicks – Runners In The Nerved World

The Sidekicks seem tired and rugged on their latest effort. Maybe it’s due to the long Cleveland winters or maybe it’s the countless hours spent driving across country in a van, but one thing is certain: the band end up sounding more resolute and mature than ever before. It’s as if the record as a whole, and particularly “Jesus Christ Super Malls”, “Deer”, and “Century Schoolbook Grown-Ups” serve as a means for vocalist Steve Ciolek’s take on relationships, consumerism, and hopelessness and how these things influence society as a whole. Ultimately, the music ends up complementing what is being preached. This is what makes the album unique, as the lyrics are not compromised for melodic patterns or catchy hooks. By no means is Runners an easy listen, but it’s substantive and one of the most informing releases I’ve heard in 2015. Oh, it also doesn’t hurt that The Sidekicks have produced 2015’s best album artwork. 

7.8/10 RIYL: The Hotelier, Signals Midwest

10. Honorable Mentions (No Order): FIDLAR, Heartless Breakers, Marietta, Mineral Girls, Sleater Kinney, Hop Along, Hodera, Foxing


Best Non-LPs:

Moving Mountains / Prawn Split

Hidden In Plain View EP

All Get Out EP

Dryjacket EP

A Will Away EP

Head North / Microwave Split