Hendo’s Top 20 Albums of 2015

Posted: by Henderson

Wow, what a year 2015 was. Our first full year with a real life website, and its crazy how fast it has grown. I just wanted to thank everyone who reads our site. We would be nothing without your support. Now for a bunch of albums that you should DEFINITELY check out:

20) Pope – Fiction

Pope features members of Donovan Wolfington so you already know they are going to write jams. Although Pope stray away from the high energy explosiveness of Don Wolf and instead enthrall you in a web of low fi fuzz. When the dark vampiric vocals and grungey riffs cut through the fuzz it wakes me right up. Fiction is a very solid album that has stuck with me throughout the year, and makes for especially good music when you are just trying to chill and zone out.



19) Pet Symmetry – Pets Hounds

It’s hard to say exactly why, but Pet Symmetry has always been my favorite Evan Weiss project. But Pet Symmetry is not just another Weiss project, the band also includes Erik Czaja and Marcus Nuccio from Kittyhawk and Dowsing (2 other excellent emo/indie bands that you should check out if you haven’t already). To be honest, Pet Symmetry is really more of a super group than anything, and all of this talent is on display in Pets Hounds. All of the members went for something different from their other work with this release. The songs are somewhat poppy, semi emotional, vocal driven upbeat indie rock. As with almost all Weiss projects the tracks have a solid driving rhythm section that I am very into. These songs are a good time, and despite the sing along refrains, there is real substance within the lyrics.



18) Spraynard – Mable

Most pop punk / emo can get sappy. Yes, your town is boring. Yes, your ex sucks. It’s really not that big of a deal. Spraynard is a band that completely understands that. They are able to write somewhat simple indie punk tracks about stuff like that without taking themselves too seriously, and yet their songs are still able to relate to the very real emotions brought up by life’s smaller, but still very annoying, problems. Then occasionally they flip the style on its head and write songs about how the small stuff doesn’t matter so enjoy your life and rock out. Sure the instrumentals and vocals are consistently solid, but it is this self-awareness and honesty that really makes Spraynard special in my opinion. I was a fan of them before their breakup and while they were gone I was disheartened that a band that was so smart and so talented never really got the love or traction that they deserved. Thankfully they recently reformed, now draw large crowds, and with Mable proved that they still have the magic.

17) JEFF The Brotherhood – Wasted On The Dream

This album was kind of forgotten because it came out so early in the year (after JEFF were dropped from a major label woohoo), but it is a great one. Wasted On The Dream is a true classic rock album with crazy tight production, yet styled for the 2015. As someone who grew up on old school rock n roll like The Who and Led Zeppelin, it is nice to see that when the style is done correctly it can still produce some jams. JEFF released another album in 2015, but it was this one that really stuck with me due to the solid songwriting and catchy tracks. They cut down on some of the fuzzier instrumentals of other releases and focused on writing tight rock tracks. It worked well, and I would love to see them experiment more in this direction in the future.



16) JANK – Awkward Pop Songs

JANK is a band that doesn’t take themselves seriously at all, yet amaze with their ability. From listening to Awkward Pop Songs, I would think they wrote this album almost completely for fun and then looking upon the finished product, realized WOW this is really fucking good. For instance, the track ‘J A N K !’ starts with “Wakey Wakey Eggs and Bakey” and then breaks down into a slow harmony and the group vocals that exclaim “This issssss a rip offfff of a Titleeeeee Fight Songggg”, which is funny enough, but the thing is it sounds just as sweet as Title Fight! When the band aren’t being silly, they’re writing some of the most dynamic indie/emo songs that came out all year. The offbeat honesty of lines like “If you don’t like Built to Spill than I don’t fuck with you or anyone you know” reminds me of early Spraynard. Occasionally a little screamy, usually emotional, and sporadically hilarious these songs perfectly balance all of these feelings. Making this work is like writing a movie that’s a tearjerker horror comedy. It just doesn’t happen, but here it is: the perfect hybrid. Sure some songs seem like inside jokes we can’t possibly understand (the electronic interlude + Electric Six esque hat song), but I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Also… Weed is tight.



15) Runaway Brother – Mother

After releasing a bunch of great EPs, Runaway Brother left it all on the line with Mother, an emotional and thoughtful indie record that shocks you with its fresh take on the style. Heavily inspired initially by Say Anything, Runaway Brother has now strayed off creating their own (in my opinion superior) style, that is both relatable and charming. Upon each listen I dissect more of the lyrics and gain even more from future listens. There is a lot here. One of our contributors called their music Sci Fi, and it somehow makes sense. This is smart stuff. Sometimes sad, sometimes empowering, sometimes just a good time, these tracks are well written and contain a nice variety that keeps the whole album interesting.



14) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar appears a little lower on my list than he does on other people’s lists. Honestly, I preferred M.A.A.D. City to this latest effort, but that is not to say that this wasn’t the best rap album of 2015. At this point in the history of hip hop there are few MCs writing meaningful lyrics anymore, and Kendrick took a huge leap on this album to go out of his way to write things that are important (the corruption of wealth, the perversion of fame within the black community, police violence, and many more topics), and it’s not just the lyrics that make this album so impressive. There are also classic funk beats, and a nice mix of instrumentals. This thing is as west coast as you’d expect. The songs that hit on this album such as ‘King Kunta’ are modern rap classics. Real rap still lives and in 2015 Kendrick is king.



13) Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool?

Jeff Rosenstock’s We Cool? is a messy emotional punch in the face. Wild and expressive tracks that really hit home and leave you in awe of their energy and honesty. As someone who wasn’t even a big fan of Rosenstock’s previous project Bomb the Music Industry! I was doubly impressed by how tight and electric this songwriting was. Rosenstock tackles tougher feelings like awkward apologies and fear of failure in a way that is relatable and emotive. This is a consistently solid album that will make you think about the stuff that really matters.



12) Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer

Speedy Ortiz write music that mesmerizes with well executed tight rock instrumentals and entrances you with thoughtful lyrics.  Speedy followed up their excellent 2013 album, Major Arcana, with Foil Deer, a poetic, dark, empowering and biting release. The fuzzy guitar driven instrumentals throughout are a show all their own, but the real value is in the scream along lyrics. Hooks like “I’m raising the skate” and “I was the best at being second place” have such an edge, you just have to respect them. While most of the tracks are relatively chill in terms of tempo and volume, there is real energy within the songwriting. These are songs for the outcasts who were secretly the cool ones all along.



11) Woahnows – Understanding And Everything Else

The Woahnows are a band that boom forward with energy and excitement. I’m pretty sure you couldn’t cram more energy into a single indie band. Combine that with some UK flavor and great lyrics and you get a band that’s fun to listen to and tracks that will almost certainly get stuck in your head. There aren’t any bands that sound quite like Woahnows and that uniqueness plus a solid album front to back equals one of the best releases of the year.



10) Colleen Green – I Want To Grow Up

I Want To Grow Up is slacker anthem on top of slacker anthem. Female vocals plus solid riffage throughout make for a nice combo that’ll grab you. These lo-fi tunes lure you into a comfortable relaxation like a day home alone on the couch. Tracks about finding love, and loving TV, losing focus, and growing up, it’s everything a slacker would ever need. You’ll find yourself singing along to yourself and feeling more and more chill by the second. If you’re a slacker introvert, you will relate to this album and feel empowered by it. Originally this was a solo project with a drum machine, but I’ve heard she’s now using live drums (from Casey Weissbuch of Slanted and ex-Diarrhea Planet), which is just even more awesome. Colleen Green is just cool as fuck, so is this album.



9) Hodera – United By Birdcalls

I know I am biased on this one. Hodera released United By Birdcalls on my record label All Sounds, but believe me when I tell you that these are some of the best songs I heard all year. The instant I first heard tracks like ‘Feel Better’ and ‘First Ones To The Party’ I knew we were dealing with something special. Hodera write introspective emotional songs about love and depression packaged in great indie rock instrumentals. Each track feels like something special, and as soon as you find the song that fits your current mood you don’t want to listen to anything else.  



8) Oso Oso – Real Stories of True People Who Kind of Looked Like Monsters

I spent my teenage years stumbling around the suburbs getting too messed up and listening to Brand New, and Oso Oso is a band that sounds exactly how that feels. When lead singer/songwriter Jade’s old band State Lines called it quits, I was worried. But with Oso Oso, he has come back with similar songs but with a more refined style and with improved songwriting skill. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Each of these songs has an emotional heaviness that sinks deep and sticks with you. These songs are relatable and fun to sing along to. It’s an emotional release. Sometimes life sucks, but at least we have Oso Oso.



7) Turnstile – Nonstop Feeling

Hardcore punk was born as a genre that was supposed to shock pop culture with how unique and different it was, yet recently hardcore has fallen into a rut. Band to band, hardcore just all sounds too alike. However, it’s time for Turnstile to buck that trend. This is one of the first hardcore albums in a long time to really turn my head. Nonstop Feeling combines dancey instrumentals with insanely high energy punk and almost hip hop type beats. It’s tough to explain but all I know is as soon as I turn on this music I’m having fun and running around the room screaming the lyrics and breaking everything in sight, and it’s not just one song! You can listen to this album from front to back and then over again and you won’t want to stop going until you collapse in a heap. This band brings the energy like no one else in 2015.



6) Pinegrove – Everything So Far

This album would be even higher on this list if most of these songs hadn’t previously come out in past years. Maybe that is stupid, this album is mind bogglingly good. Evan, lead singer/songwriter of Pinegrove, is likely the best songwriter I have ever met. The dude gets it. The songs are creative, meaningful, fun, poetic and the make you want to sing along. No one sounds like Pinegrove, and I’m not sure that anyone could even if they wanted to. Part country, part emo, part indie rock, part folk, and most of all just Pinegrove. You are going to want to listen to this album again and again and again, until you know every word. Evan’s vocals are just so real and natural and beautiful. This band is about to release a AOTY contender on Run For Cover in 2016 so keep your ears open.



5) Pwr Bttm – Ugly Cherries

Pwr Bttm wrote some of the most incredible indie guitar parts of the entire year. Their songs just rock, and the lyrics are creative and sometimes funny. This two piece don’t take themselves very seriously, and why should any of us? Serious music can be a drag, and this band understands that it’s better to be different and express yourself creatively. Despite all this fun rock, Pwr Bttm are also very important. They aren’t your average hetero male rock band; they sing love songs about guys in an open way that’s refreshing. It’s 2015 people. Let’s fucking rock out like it.



4) Sorority Noise – Joy, Departed

I am a sucker for songs about mental health struggles. You know what, fuck that. I’m not a sucker, I am just the target audience. Mental health is tough to write about or explain, and I can only imagine that it’s harder to put to music. Sorority Noise here wrote some of the best and most honest indie/emo mental health tracks I have ever heard, and with such a complex subject they somehow found ways to keep the songs, fun and empowering. The gorgeous riffs and catchy lyrics throughout only help.



3) Looming – Nailbiter

Looming’s vocals might be the coolest thing that happened in 2015. Jessica Knight’s completely unique vocal style combined with mathy and interwoven emo rock instrumentals make for dynamic and memorable songs. Using a variety of musical styles song to song and dark brooding romantic lyrics make for awesome listens again and again. Most punk music is simple, these songs are not that. This is more Cursive than anything. This album surpassed even my lofty expectations and cemented Looming as a band to watch for the future.



2) Hop Along – Painted Shut

From the first time that I heard this album, I was sure it was an album of the year contender. The lyrics are absolute poetry, the riffs are indie rock at its best, and the songwriting is complex and beautiful. Each song tells an emotional story, and is also a complete jam. Rock out or think deep, you can do both. The vocals are surely a stand out performance, there is real emotion and variety within them. If Hop Along keep getting better and better like this, they are going to be one of the greatest bands of all time, let alone 2015. It’s the kind of music that makes your soul ache and your mind wander. 



1) Donovan Wolfington – How To Treat The Ones You Love

As I listen to each new album and try to evaluate the music, I go through a mental check list. I ask myself: does the album improve on the artist’s past work? does it attempt a variety of musical styles? are the instrumentals tight? are the vocals emotive? are the lyrics meaningful? is the songwriting creative? It is very rare that a single album can achieve all of these things, but a good album can hit at least a few of them. Donovan Wolfington’s How To Treat The Ones You Love is an exception because the answer to each of these questions is YES, YES, YES. Most of the songs on this album are in the traditional Don Wolf style of high energy punk mixed with indie rock songwriting, but each track hits from a slightly different angle. However, some of the tracks attempt things completely new for the band. Instead the band go for all out hardcore punk, or even a semi metal vibe. When I asked the band in a recent interview, why they attempted these leaps toward new genres, their response was basically, we listen to this music, we don’t feel like we have to be constrained to one sound. Just want to play what we love. Perfect answer if you ask me. When I saw these songs live they were fucking incredible. At every turn they nail it. I really couldn’t ask for anything more from this album or from this band. Some of these tracks are slacker chill and others are griping an emotional. Every track is a winner in its own way and I find myself screaming along to every word.


Honorable Mentions:

Marietta – As It Were

Haybaby – Sleepy Kids

The Obsessives – Heck No, Nancy

Adventures – Supersonic Home

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