2015 proved once again to be an incredible year for music. From established artists like Beck and Death Cab releasing new music to Leon Bridges bringing back memories of Otis, this year provided such a wide spectrum of great tunes.
The criteria I used for coming up with this list is the same as the last two years; amazing songs that I think impacted a lot of folks and unbelievable songs from emerging artists you’ll know like the back of your hand for years to come.
Tame Impala – Let It Happen
“Let It Happen” leads off the list because it sets the stage for one of the best albums of the year in Currents. Tame Impala took a giant leap forward with the release, turning the page from popular stoner-rock band from down under to dare I say it the modern Pink Floyd.
Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian at Best
Continuing with the Aussie theme, Courtney Barnett got so many people’s attention this year it ended with a Grammy nomination for best new artist. That is quite an accomplishment considering she’s up against more mainstream artists that get more promotion dollars from labels. It’s also a great fact to know pure rock and roll is still thriving in this clouded music landscape.
Alabama Shakes – Gimme All Your Love
Last year, I proclaimed that St. Paul and the Broken Bones were gunning for the title of best band out of Alabama and the ‘Shakes were on the ropes. This year I’d like to retract that statement and even call myself an idiot, Alabama Shakes released one of the best albums of this year packed with enough jams to cover a million english muffins. I saw them at ACL and her howl every “gimme all your love!” made the neck on my hair stand up.
Beck – Dreams
If Beck was a stock, you’d be rich if you bought him in let’s say 2010 and sold now. After a consistent work ethic to the stat line of 11 albums in 15 years, Beck decided not to release another album for 6 years until Grammy-winning Morning Phase came out last year. He wanted a more upbeat song to play on tour, and as a result “Dreams” was born. Even though it’s been the only release thus far off his promised 13th upcoming LP.
Beach House – Space Song
This is my favorite song of year, what can I say? The Baltimore based band is addicting and extremely surprising. They released their first album in 3 years with Depression Cherry then followed it right up two months later with Thank Your Lucky Stars. “Space Song” is so good I might camp out the night before their show at the Vic, March 1st.
Leon Bridges – Coming Home
My grandparents haven’t listened to popular music since 1967, but I’m honestly considering buying them this album for Christmas for a nice little blast from the past. As soon as “Coming Home” hits your ears it immediately sends you back in time. You have to tip your cap to him to for capitalizing on refreshing the sound of the oldies and have so many people take notice.
Bully – I Remember
I have always loved the harder side of indie rock. Yes, I love listening to the Shins or Band of Horses; but sometimes turning it up to 11 and air drumming in public is necessary. This is my favorite song of the year to do exactly that to, Alicia Bognanno recalls an old fling while her powerful vocals leave you wanting more when the quick song ends.
Jamie xx – Loud Places
You can’t have a best of article without this man, it would be a sin. Jamie xx used this year to drop his debut album In Colour to critical and commercial acclaim. He teamed up with bandmate, Romy of the XX, to produce the first single that makes you dance even if you try not to.
Lower Dens – To Die in L.A.
There’s something brewing in Baltimore, an infectious rock sound led by the likes of Future Islands, above mentioned Beach House and emerging bands like Lower Dens. They’re up and coming, put on this tune and dive in.
Deerhunter – Snakeskin
Deerhunter is one of those bands that have been around for awhile and continues to put out solid release after solid release,but as Marty would put it “stays just below the surface of the mainstream”. Great riffs over a Bradford Cox narration is a recipe for success and “Snakeskin” is the epitome of that.
Death Cab for Cutie – Little Wanderer
I still imagine every Death Cab song is about Zooey Deschanel and “Little Wanderer” is no different. Everyone wondered what they would sound like after the departure of Chris Walla, and to be honest they destroyed the doubters and bulldozed across the goal line like The Fridge with releasing Kintsugi. Groove to my personal favorite song off the record below.
Sufjan Stevens – Should’ve Known Better
Sometimes the most depressing music is the best, and Sufjan Steven’s Carrie & Lowell might take the title of most depressing album of 2015, an audible expose on his childhood and spoiler alert, it wasn’t the best. “Should’ve Known Better” is depressing for sure, but at least we know Sufjan loves being an uncle.
Tobias Jesso Jr. – How Could You Babe
Tobias Jesso Jr. had the biggest year of his life in 2015. He got famous at the age of 29 for an instrument he didn’t start playing until he was 27. He lived in LA and played in small bands while desperately trying to seek Adele’s attention to help her write songs. She didn’t call him back and he ended up moving back to Vancouver to make one amazingly sad album, Goon. Adele heard this song and others and called him back; Tobias was shocked and helped Adele write 25. Grab some Kleenex and listen to “How Could You Babe”, always good to get the cries out the week before Xmas.
EL VY – Return to the Moon
Keeping up with all of the side projects in the music community is equivalent to a baseball fan knowing the slugging percentage of every player in their farm system. I feel like the release of EL VY’s (The National’s Matt Berninger with Brent Knopf of Menomena) slide under the radar a bit due to it’s November release. Check out them performing “Return to the Moon” on Conan below.
Toro Y Moi – Buffalo
This song rounds out the list because it simply brings the funk. Toro y moi has been a leading surfer of chillwave (think Washed Out, Neon Indian, Panda Bear etc.) for the last 5 years and released his fifth studio album What For? back in April. It looks like the ridiculously-named chillwave is finally reaching the masses as this was Toro’s first album to hit the billboard charts coming in at number 123.
I think it every year but I truly believe 2016 will be in a tough spot to have a better music year than 2015. So much great stuff from so many different angles, here’s to you 2015 musicians who keep on keepin’ on, thanks for a great year.