Sean’s Top 23 Albums of 2015

Posted: by Sean Gonzalez

The year 2015 opened up a small batch of doors with big opportunities lying far dormant in each journey. I wrote over 150 reviews this year all over the internet and spent as much time focusing on The Alternative and embracing every release with open arms. It was also a year I opened up my ears and began indulging in music that made me feel okay. This was all in part to me taking up arms and deciding to not let depression win. Thank you to anyone who read any piece of work I wrote this year and I cannot wait to continue building from the ground up. Here’s to 2016, but first, let’s look at what massaged my earholes all year long. Bottoms up.

23. Colleen Green – I Want To Grow Up

This is a super late addition to my list, like I am writing this the night before my Top Albums are to be posted. All I have to say is that this record blew my mind. I saw it while editing other top albums and I have to say this album is fantastic. Listen to it.

22. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and I Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop)

This was one album I listened too and had no idea how to talk about it. I still don’t, it’s an experience every time I listen to it and when I am in the right mood I dance, I sing along and sometimes I just sit and stare into the wall. This is an adorably dark album full of upbeats that make the world a bit better for you during its play through.

21. Woozy – Blistered (Exploding In Sound)

Woozy is one of the most unique bands around right now due to their ability to place an amazing amount of genres into a blender of ice and create a delicious and satisfying musical experience. They force invasive, sludgy melodies to mix with transcendental ballads; opposites attract so beautifully.

20. Marriages – Salome (Sargent House)

An amorphous LP envisioned by the gothic pop queen Emma Ruth Rundle. She figures out ways to make guitar parts have huge weight in tracks without smashing your face in with heavy distortion, she just works her magic through effortless compositions that glide into your ears and pump your heart full of blood.

19. Gatherers – Quiet World (Equal Vision Records)

A melodic hardcore album that took a while to settle in with me but once it did it became a heavily repeated composition. The vocals really are beautiful; harsh screams full of emotional gut spilling turmoil that break and bend with the scratchy guitar melodies. Quiet World is one of those albums that keeps you interested through its ability to build beautiful sections of quiet calm before unleashing a frantic and nauseating amount of fury.

18. Hodera – United By Birdcalls (All Sounds) 

Great rock albums have slowly been making a comeback and this year the music community was granted an explosive LP from New Jersey’s Hodera. Lead single “Feel Better” is one of the best anthems I have heard in a long time and written in a catchy flow of conscience. Every song is a journal entry brought to life with vivid instrumentation. 

17. Birds In Row – Personal War (Deathwish) 

Another album that is memorable because of its frantic nature, Personal War rips through riffs and bombastic, syncopated drum patterns. They know how to weave heavy compositions together that offer moods of both reflection and aggression. 

16. Loma Prieta – Self Portrait (Deathwish)

A hardcore album that is both spastic and gorgeous, Self Portrait is the album made by veterans of the industry who finally found the exact amount of noise they were looking for. In between the noise and chaotic progressions are radiant guitar chords that sound as big as a rainbow, shining through a tornado.

15. Meg Myers – Sorry (Atlantic Recordings)

An album full of vivacious and ambitious melodies from a vocalist with a highly infectious and seductive voice. She wants you to fuck her, hate her, love her and she even apologizes for losing the love between you two. What an amazing collection of songs with enough passion and energy to light up anyone’s eyes and bedroom.

14. Chelsea Wolfe – Abyss (Sargent House)

A dark record full of ambitious electronic instruments where Wolfe explodes through the songs with her passionate vocals. She is the queen of gothic pop and her vivid combination of disruptive instrumentation is matched with her focused delivery that swoons every part of your love and throws it into the abyss of gorgeous tonal qualities that Chelsea Wolfe only can create.

13. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye (Glassnote Entertainment)

An impulse decision one sunday morning turned into one of the most twinkly and spacey albums of the year. CHVRCHES blend of pop with a unique dazzle dazzle from Mayberry’s voice make this album a fun spin every time with every song. It’s like meeting someone in your life that makes you smile no matter what happens when you are around.

12. Liza Anne – Two (E. poss)

This singer-songwriter bleeds Americana music with a twist of folk and does it well. She instills every sense of her passion into every moment that you cannot help but feel swept off your feet by her creative writing ability. One of my favorite releases that I stumbled upon randomly and have been beyond thrilled for that happening.

11. Pentimento – I, No Longer (Bad Timing Records)

This has been a band I have believed in for years and I, No Longer is the exact reason I believe in them. An album full of incredibly honest lyrics backed by indie rock grooves with comforting vocals that leaves your existence in tears. Their ability to weave vocal melodies through bright and full chord progressions is just one of the best qualities they have.

10. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (Top Dawg, Aftermath, Interscope)

Probably topping the charts in plenty 2015 lists and rightfully so. To Pimp A Butterfly as an album is important and intelligent while being fun and a journey to dive into each play through. In it’s own way it is as cold and raw as Good Kid, Mad City but more socially diverse in context. I still get fucking amped whenever I hear Wesley’s Theory because of the funk embedded in the beat.

9. alone. – Somewhere In The Sierras (Self Released)

Michael Franzino is my favorite modern day composer. He decided to put as much creative energy as possible in his solo project. It was over ambitious but in the best way possible. Every small detail in this record is important and shows only a fraction of the amount of dedication that went into this record that I’m sure left the writer emotional exhausted and bankrupt. To me, it was worth it.

8. Cult Leader – Lifeless Walk (Deathwish)

2015 was a year where I expanded my musical tastes from almost more pure hardcore and heavy music to rather atmospheric and expansive soundscapes (as this list obviously shows). It does not disregard my love for heavy music however. Lightless Walk is the best heavy release of the year for me. It’s abrasive, full of visceral vocals and incredibly bombastic grooves. 

7. Donovan Wolfington – How To Treat The Ones You Love (Topshelf)

Crushing guitar progressions are met with raw vocals and an even more gnarly approach to creating music. Donovan Wolfington is a the epitome of a group of guys having a great time and soaking in eery available memory of their talent as possible. The way they combine their guitar heavy assault with their raspy and discordant vocal styles help create a beautiful tension in each song. Keep rocking dudes.

6. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle (6131 Records)

Pure serenity drenched in haunting atmospheres from an angelic voice that lathers my emotions up with tear jerking melodies and delicate vocals. I originally had this album somewhere in the late teens of the year but upon listening to her detail her life with such soft catharsis I became addicted. Sprained Ankle is hard not to listen to and forget all your problems, hell forget fucking everything you are doing. Julien Baker, you have my heart and my attention.

5. Sorority Noise – Joy, Departed (Topshelf)

It is actually incredibly weird how closely Joy, Departed’s subject content mirrors the (rather absent) love life of mine in 2015. Your desire to be someone else’s everything shapes a way of life for you that is more pure. That is until it all comes crashing down and then you decide to continue being distracted and reignite your love for being hungover and poisoning everything around you. Not to mention the fact that I feel distant and replaceable and convenient and without a physical lust anymore and entirely unsure on how I perceive myself vs. how I actually am. 

4. Saintseneca – Such Things (Anti-)

Sainseneca is the living and breathing representation of the beauty that is folk music. They are one of the better bands performing in that style around and Such Things proves that. While being a bit louder and more dissonant —thanks to more distorted guitars and thus more vivid and tense melodies — it still offers nothing but pure tranquility. I love smoking and then staring up at the endless sky while listening to this record. Pure, calm, still and full of thought.

3. Hop Along – Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)

I was told from the very day of this release to listen to Painted Shut and it took me about three months before I caved in. I immediately thank everyone who had anything positive to say about this record because they are right. It’s fun, inventive, destructive and reflective. I listen to this record two or three times a week and I love the vocal delivery more and more every single time.

2. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Harmlessness (Epitaph)

When I first heard “I Can Be Afraid Of Anything” I was shocked by how expressive the lyrics were in regards to overcoming depression. Harmlessness was released around the same time I decided to man my own battle stations against myself and fight my demons and in a way this record is the score to that constant struggle. I still fight, but I’m always striving to climb out. 

1. Doe Paoro – After (Anti-)

This record was the one that opened my ears to a wider variety of other music. After is meditative by nature and a sonically radiant album lead by a beautiful set of powerful pipes from Sonia Krietzer. Behind her vivid singing ability are warm synths that seduce you with every pulse, chime or sonic collapse. Spin this record and let Doe Paoro massage your life with ambiance, talent and honest art. Her transparency is one small fraction of her beauty and the rest of it is layered into After