Dan’s Top Albums of 2015

Posted: by Dan

Here is another list from some guy!  You don’t care, I’m not a real journalist or writer, and my vernacular for music terminology/ lingo is very limited.  Regardless, I had fun trying this out.   I didn’t listen to as much new music as I wanted to this year, and my top 3 really are deadlocked and interchangeable depending on the day.  20-4 is loosely ordered.  Here you go!

20) Alex G – Beach Music (Domino)

Philadelphia’s Alex Giannascoli continues his effort of releasing a seemingly endless stream of exceptional, esteemed songs in his debut with Domino.  Being his SEVENTH full-length, there are subtle changes here and there, notably in the production, but for the most part the songs still has the intimate aspect of knowing they were written and recorded in his apartment.  With every effort he puts out, Alex G. proves himself as one of the more brilliant musicians out there today, regardless of whether his fans are mostly from the internet or not.  He will continue to trend up into great things, as it seems he has quite the well of creativity.  I still find it crazy that he isn’t a huge Built to Spill fan.

Favorite tracks: “Bug” , “Kicker”

19) Turnover – Peripheral Vision (Run for Cover)

Even before the change of direction and with the old lineup,  I always felt that Turnover were superior to their colleagues in a saturated pop punk scene.   After changes to the lineup, and an okay album in Magnolia, Turnover overhauled their sound and it paid tremendous dividends.  The former pop punk band took a risk to move in its own direction which resulted in a soothing yet melancholic album that could draw small comparisons to The Cure.  In the end, Peripheral Vision was high-risk, high-reward.

Favorite tracks: “New Scream”, “Dizzy on the Comedown”

18) Pope – Fiction (Community Records)

Has members of Donovan Wolfington but should be seen as great on their own merit.  Distorted, lo-fi jams that vaguely sound like hazy nights of going on a bender with someone between Paul Banks and Alex Kapranos, just to return to a booze-soaked, smoke-filled basement, shutting your sleep-deprived eyes, and just riffing.  I mean all of that in the best way possible.  Many nights ends with this Pope record.

Favorite tracks:  “Animal”, “Let Down”

17) Horrendous – Anareta  (Dark Descent)

I know absolutely nothing about any subsets of metal.  Nothing. Zilch.  I began listening to this album simply because two of my high school classmates who were always good dudes and impressive musicians make up 2/3 of the band.  I still don’t know anything about death metal or however any of it supposed to be addressed, and I know its nothing even close to anything I’ve ever written, butI have listened to this album countless times on its own, appreciating the incredible musicianship put forth.  It has been receiving extremely high praise, and even though my metal repertoire is non-existent,  I can see why these guys are being touted as the real deal.  Plus, its always tight to see good people succeed.

Favorite track: “Ozymandias”

16) Stove – Is Stupider  (Exploding in Sound)

No doubt Ovlov was one of my favorite bands and was an overall outstanding band that I still don’t believe was appreciated as much as I feel they should have been.   When Steve Hartlett decided to pull the plug on Ovlov, he took some remaining material and put it into his new project, Stove.  You could call it a continuation of Ovlov, but Stove lyrics are much more introspective while the riffs and overall guitar work, like Ovlov, recall bands like Dinosaur Jr., Built to Spill, Pavement, and Archers of Loaf.  Where there was a good amount of haze in Ovlov, Stove sounds like its predecessor stepping outside for some fresh air or brief moments of frustrated clarity.

Favorite tracks: “Aged Hype”,  “Lowt-Ide Fins”, “Dumboy”

15) Built to Spill – Untethered Moon       (Warner)

The Indie kings from Boise continue a strong career with their first full-length since 2009.  If you’re a fan of Built to Spill, you know what you can expect.  Doug Marstch remains ever-impressive with his guitar work and solos and a soothing, recognizable voice.  Built to Spill have been at it since the early 90s, so it is great to see them continuing to operate at such a high level.  Their dependable musicianship and modest onstage demeanor (they even set up and sound check their own instruments) have always been appreciated and looks to carry on with the release of this album.

Favorite Tracks: “Never Be the Same”, “So”, “When I’m Blind”

14) Night Birds – Mutiny at Muscle Beach (Fat Wreck)

Energetic hardcore punk with nasally vocals that sound like they’re from a previous era.  I may be totally off, but all I could think about were bands like the Buzzcocks and T.S.O.L.  This was my first real introduction to Night Birds that finally stuck, so I don’t have much to say about this album other than it will make you want to skate or surf and that it’s sick.  I plan on becoming much more familiar with Night Birds because of this album. 

Favorite tracks:  “Mutiny at Muscle Beach”, “Left in the Middle”

13) A$AP Rocky – At. Long. Last. A$AP (A$AP Worldwide/RCA)

A$AP Rocky second studio album (technically) is completely loaded with guests contributors and a whopping 17 tracks, only1 of which is an interlude, which took me back to the not-so-distant past where albums seemingly (I can’t fact-check) had more than 10 songs .  This colorful album has A$AP Rocky working in collaboration with the likes of Danger Mouse, Kanye West, Juicy J, Jim Jonsin and Mark Ronsin for some of the production work, and has a more-than-impressive roster of track guests which include Future, M.I.A., ScHoolboy Q, Kanye West, Mos Def, ROD STEWART, Miguel, and even posthumous bars from UGK’s Pimp C.  While I was a huge fan of every collaboration with Clams Casino in the past, the album thrives on its variety and its guests from the production to the track themselves.  Not to take anything away from him as an individual, I just love assortment of collaborators squeezed into an album.

Favorite Tracks: “Excuse Me”, ”Fine Whine”, “Jukebox Joints”, “Back Home”

12) Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside (Columbia )

Where ALLA flourished on its variety of contributors, IDLSIDGO thrives as a work of the individual. Finally, an album where Earl can showcase his own abilities without any “ODD FUTURE” stuff being hollered in the background.   Mostly written, produced and performed by himself, Earl created a strong record complete with his usual steady flow and beats that seemed to have started as supermarket/elevator music until they were toyed with by a keyboard and a dark mind. His flow also is beginning to show some more emotion, as his frustration is evident in “Grief”.   He has become a better lyricist, using both personal and clever rhymes, removed from the days of heavily utilizing his ability to squeeze word-salad into any timeframes.  

Favorite Tracks:  “Mantra”, “Faucet”, “AM // Radio”

11) Drug Church – Hit Your Head  (No Sleep)

Drug Church’s full-length follow-up to their excellent full-length debut Paul Walker shows instrumental progression while Patrick Kindlon’s gruff delivery remains consistent.  Lyrically, this crop of Drug Church tracks continues their penchant for invoking bleak, dreary, dirty visuals to portray the grimier sides of everyday life.  While the lyrics don’t necessarily glamorize that type of imagery, it is honestly startling how easily you begin to visualize some of these despondent hypothetical scenarios and concerns.   Everything I have written so far may make this seem unappealing, but Drug Church are truly one of the more unique bands around, fitting in with punk, hardcore, and heavy alternative.   While the album is solid, I feel like it isn’t quite “full”.  However, this may simply only be because of Swell, the EP they released earlier in 2015 that I will mention in my short top EPs list.    

Favorite tracks:  “Green Like Me”,  “Aging Jerk”, “Big and Shitty”

10) Turnstile – Nonstop Feeling (Reaper Records)

Where To Pimp a Butterfly is the “funky as hell” album on my list, Turnstile’s debut full-length Nonstop Feeling is the “groovy as hell one”.  While it is a “hardcore” record, it certainly draws elements and influences from outside of hardcore.  One second you hear shades of Rage Against the Machine, the next you hear Brandon Yates mirroring RHCP’s Anthony Kiedes.  I personally cannot stand Anthony Kiedes, let alone most RHCP songs, but when put into a heavier context it works well.  Tracks like “Gravity”, “Drop”, “Blue by You”, and “Love Lasso” add some color to the black (t-shirt) aspects of hardcore.  Building from 2013’s Step 2 Rhythm EP, Turnstile’s introduction of punk, hiphop and alternative sounds into hardcore has been a breath of fresh air, without diluting any of what could make them considered hardcore.  Quietly sitting in my cube at my desk-jockey job blasting Turnstile and Angel Du$t into my headphones with a straight face, wishing to start throwing stuff and partying became a weekly occurrence in 2015, and I have Nonstop Feeling to thank for that.

Favorite tracks: “Gravity” , “Drop”, “Out of Rage”

9) Title Fight – Hyperview  (Anti-)

Floral Green is one of my all-time favorite albums ever.  Since its release, I have listened to that album more than anything else and it isn’t even close.  While I read on several occasions that the Spring Songs EP showed that this is what Title Fight would evolve into next, I still was not expecting it whatsoever.   Much of the heavy types of songs that I enjoy were traded in for different guitar tones and vocal elements that people will attribute to “shoegaze” more often than not. While it is not nearly as appealing to me as Floral Green, it is still an excellent album that flows perfectly.  “Rose of Sharon” and “Trace Me Onto You” display the best of newer and older Title Fight, and although the vocals are hushed, they create a fantastic sound.  Since I don’t have a refined musical vocabulary, the best way it has been described to me is that “it sounds like its underwater.”  Although that is just an opinion, I somewhat agree. While one could take that as a way of calling it the album “muffled”,  I hear it more in relation to the beauty of being underwater and seeing light reflect.   Hyperview adds a fresh, interesting dynamic to their amazing discography that makes listening to them on shuffle or seeing them live even better.  Think “Murder Your Memory” straight into “Shed.”  Since attempting to place specific genres on music nowadays seems to just annoy people more often than not (“pop punk”, “shoegaze”, “emo”), don’t pigeonhole this album as “shoegaze”.  It is very different, but it shows the tremendous growth that Title Fight has gone through, and is even more exciting to see what they evolve into moving forward.  

Favorite tracks: “Rose of Sharon”, “Chlorine”, “Trace Me Onto You”

8) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (distributed by Interscope)

There is nothing I can say about this album that you won’t read a million other times going through everyone’s EOTY lists.  This highly-anticipated follow-up to 2012’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is flat-out funky as hell.  Funk authority George Clinton even had his hand in the album opener “Wesley’s Theory.”   While I feel that I can’t justifiably discuss the overall narratives of the album, Kendrick continues to use his platform to paint social and cultural pictures of the world in which both he and everyone else exists.  I have enjoyed this album most when listening alone, understanding that these lyrics have meaning and letting each track induce thought from a different perspective.  The expectations for this album were sky-high, and Kendrick managed to stay on top, miles above his contemporaries.  I also personally love the production of every track.

Favorite tracks:  “Alright”, “the Blacker the Berry”

7)  Pet Symmetry – Pets Hounds (Asian Man)

Evan Weiss of (insert any of his endless bands) teamed up with members of Dowsing and Kittyhawk to create this pleasant concoction of 10 strong power-pop songs.  While post-Proper Into It. Over It. has moved closer to indie and Stay Ahead of the Weather being on the backburner for the foreseeable future,  Weiss’ poppy songwriting can thrive within Pet Symmetry.  Pets Hounds certainly does not sound like anything most people would expect to hear from a “side project,” as it is just that good.  Erik Czaja and Marcus Nuccio round out the upbeat instrumentals for this charming album.  I had been waiting since July 10, 2013 to hear a recorded version of the song Pet Symmetry opened a house show in Newark, DE with, which became the divine album-closing “Salad Daze (Seein’ Cred).”  Also, +1 for all of the puns in the album title and song titles.

Favorite track: “Salad Daze (Seein’ Cred)”

6) Spraynard – Mable (Jade Tree)

I was glad to hear that Spraynard decided to reconvene and write new music.  However, I was a little curious as to how they would make any changes, if any.  While the fun-loving, goof-off-with-your-friends-in-your-hometown music of Cut and Paste and Funtitled were what made them endearing at first, the Exton Square EP just before their “hiatus” started to show awareness of social issues and some of the not-so-fun aspects of life.  Mable takes a leap forward with matured lyricism, while the production of the album takes Spraynard’s instrumentals to a level that fans have not-yet heard, making them sound a lot louder without taking away from the sound that they have built over the years.  After the amicable departure of Mark Dickinson,  new bassist Jake Guralnik of Virginia’s Hold Tight! has stepped in, and while I honestly have no idea which bassist was present during the writing of this album, you can hear hints of Hold Tight! in “Buried”, “Medicine”, and “Listen to Me.”  I also enjoyed Pat Graham doing some new things vocally, notably in the sweetly somber“Out of Body”, and in the final 45 seconds of “Pond.”  

Favorite tracks: “Pond”, “Buried”

5)  Dogs on Acid – Dogs on Acid  (Jade Tree)

The night of Friday, August 17, 2012, I found myself experiencing the most fun show that I have ever been to, to date.  Sold out at the Church in Philly was Algernon Cadwallader, Joyce Manor, Tigers Jaw, and Kite Party.  It was also the night I learned that Algernon was ending on great terms (Tank’s career + child), but also that I would have to wait to see Peter Helmis and Joe Reinhardt on a stage together.  In 2014, they would enlist Nate Dionne (Snowing, Glocca Morra, Street Smart Cyclist + more) and Nick Tazza (Ape Up!, original drummer of Algernon) to form Dogs on Acid.  After releasing one of the best EPs of 2014, they released the first full-length this year via Jade Tree.  In this self-titled album, this roster built from members of bands with noodling guitars and strained, raspy, shout-y vocals and lyrics, demonstrate that they are more than capable of slowing it down and making a great indie record that recalls Archers of Loaf and Built to Spill.  Peter Helmis exchanges his strained shouts and sometimes-goofy lyrics for smoother vocals (which are wonderful) and darker lyrics, especially seen “Ideal Decanter”, “No Trigger” and “9 Times”.  “The Prick” embodies all of the major differences for Dogs on Acid, as Helmis sings a morose “You hit me so damn hard and I really want to show you the mark” , yet the sunny, surf-y instrumentals make it sounds pleasant.  The dialed-back, stringy chords in the background of the solo are a solid nod to Algernon, but Dogs on Acid as a whole present a mature, refined sound.   If you want an album with slightly bummed out, possibly introspective lyrics with instrumentals that could easily be blasted on sunny summer days , this is perfect. 

Favorite tracks: “The Prick”, “Let the Bombs Fall Off”

4) Winter Break – Winter Break (Lauren Records)

I was extremely bummed out when I heard that one of my absolute favorite( and severely underrated) bands, Summer Vacation, were finished.  Luckily, 3/4 of the Southern California DIY punks stayed together and adopted the moniker “Winter Break.”  While some of Summer Vacation’s elements remain,  Winter Break have developed that sound into something more direct, while trying out some new ones.  “Better Things”, “Yaba”, and “Who’s Watching” provide quick aggression with Mark Chen’s distinct voice to match.  “The First” and album-closer “Marshall” are evidence of trying something new, as the trio slows down and take on some bleak, dreary facets.  The steady, bass-driven “4:49” is another track that shows Winter Break is more than capable of slowing it down and producing great songs.  “Cut the Braid” is my personal favorite from this debut, from the steadily urgent opening-riff and drums, to the slowed bridge about a minute and a half in, until it finally explodes into its “SOMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING” conclusion.  I’m thankful at how quickly after Summer Vacation “disbanded” that Winter Break released this superb punk album.  While they continue to work hard within their DIY scene, I can only hope that they someday find themselves playing shows on the East Coast, or myself experiencing one of their home shows in California.  Do not sleep on this band.

Favorite tracks: “Cut the Braid”, “4:49”

T1) Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (SideOneDummy)

Just like that, I have a new favorite punk trio from Chicago.  Meat Wave completely tore up 2015 with releases of both an excellent EP and this amazing full length.   SideOneDummy made a great decision to sign them, and along with it came a full length of 13 of the best fast, aggressive tracks of 2015.  With an EP, a full length, a great Audiotree Session, and a monster of a set at this year’s Fest that was very well-received, Meat Wave are firing on all cylinders going into 2016 and trending upwards with a momentum that mirrors Chris Sutter’s vocals/guitar work, Joe Gac’s bass, and Ryan Wizniak’s drumming.  

Favorite Tracks:  “Cosmic Zoo”, “Sinkhole”, “The Gay Contempt” 

T1) mewithoutYou – Pale Horses  (Run for Cover)

Philadelphia stalwarts mewithoutYou put out arguably the best album of their fifteen year existence.   Initial consensus showed excitement that they returned to sounds of Catch for Us the Foxes and Brother, Sister, and while that is mostly true, the album really takes elements from their strong, consistent discography.  Aaron Weiss maintains his poetic, somewhat cryptic lyrics and returns to alternating between soft vocals and his forceful shouts, without missing a beat.   Fifteen years into it, and Pale Horses stacks up against fan favorites Catch for Us the Foxes and Brother, Sister.  Here’s to many more years of mewithoutYou.

Favorite track: “Red Cow”

T1) Meat Wave – Delusion Moon (SideOneDummy)

Just like that, I have a new favorite punk trio from Chicago.  Meat Wave completely tore up 2015 with releases of both an excellent EP and this amazing full length.   SideOneDummy made a great decision to sign them, and along with it came a full length of 13 of the best fast, aggressive tracks of 2015.  With an EP, a full length, a great Audiotree Session, and a monster of a set at this year’s Fest that was very well-received, Meat Wave are firing on all cylinders going into 2016 and trending upwards with a momentum that mirrors Chris Sutter’s vocals/guitar work, Joe Gac’s bass, and Ryan Wizniak’s drumming.  

Favorite Tracks:  “Cosmic Zoo”, “Sinkhole”, “The Gay Contempt” 

T1)  Donovan Wolfington – How To Treat the Ones You Love (Topshelf)

Cumulatively, I probably listened to this album more than any other that was released this year.  Even through lineup changes and the hardships that occurred throughout the process of releasing this album, the New Orleans band came out of it all with a relatively eclectic bunch of songs that display their own musical prowess with elements that are reminiscent of Osker and earlier Green Day.  Opener “Ollie North” demonstrates the growth of Donovan Wolfington’s personal sound from their prior EP, whereas the straightforwardly-title “Hxc Punk” throws you a curveball and hits you in the mouth with a fast, heavy track in which Neil Berthier demonstrates that he can belt it out with the best of them.  Following is the meandering “Slow Loris” in which Berthier and co-guitarist/vocalist Matthew Seferian weave vocal duties.   My personal favorite track, “Mosquito”, provides an assault of guitars and shouted vocals that brought me back to early Foo Fighters/The Colour and the Shape-eraFoo Fighters (Yeah, they’re kind of lame now, but those albums are sick).  The distorted “Sadhead” closes the album, with Seferian’s hushed vocals surrounded with instrumentals that are perfect for a night winding down, taking a seat, shutting your eyes and just slowly and softly headbanging yourself into a state of contentedness.  Given how arduous the process of making this album was for the band, it turned out amazing and hopefully they get to continue to enjoy the fruits of their labor into 2016 and beyond.

Favorite Tracks: “Mosquito”, “Hxc Punk”, “Sadhead”

Honorable Mention:


Superheaven – Ours is Chrome (Sideonedummy) Jar was tight.  This is even better, I just didn’t spend enough time listening to it.  Very strong album front-to-back.

Blacklisted – When People Grow, People Go (Deathwish) –  Philadelphia hardcore done well.

Hop Along – Painted Shut (Saddle Creek) – Almost 10 years ago, one of my best friends was raving about “Hop Along, Queen Ansleis”.  I never really listened to any of it.  After all this time, I kept hearing about what is now “Hop Along” and wonder why the hell I didn’t listen until now.