2015 was a special year in music—and not just because I released my own album.
2013 turned out to be a banner year. We had excellent albums by Iron Chic (which is one of my ten favorites ever), Speedy Ortiz, Ovlov, Mike Krol, Mansions, Dog Party, Grouplove, Surfer Blood, Arcade Fire, Travis, Yo La Tengo, and more. In comparison, 2014 felt a bit weak. Among full-length releases, together PANGEA and The Rentals were my favorites, but that’s because I missed five great ones (by PUP, LVL UP, Hurry, GRMLN, and Happy Diving) until this year. But one thing that did come out of 2014 was two incredible Beach Slang EPs (Speedy Ortiz also had an excellent EP).
Beach Slang rode that wild haze into 2015 and released their debut full-length in October. My expecations were high. I figured it would be my album of the year. It did not disappoint.
This isn’t to take anything from Mike Krol. In any normal year, his third record (Turkey) could have easily taken the top slot. But for me, Beach Slang has become bigger than the music.
Coming in third was an unkown band from the UK called War Waves. This is probably the best album you’ve never heard. You should rectify that.
Here are my favorite albums (and EPs… and singles… and compilation/live albums) of the year.
Full Length Albums
- Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us This is more than an album. This is more than a band. Beach Slang is a period in my life. Everything about them—the content, the execution, the demeanor—resonates more deeply than any other band has in a very long time.
- Mike Krol – Turkey In any typical year, this is the album of the year. Krol’s first album for Merge Records, this a garage rock masterpiece gives him three elite albums in a row. So what if they only total 52 minutes?
- War Waves – War Waves Sometimes a band randomly follows me on Twitter. Sometimes I listen. Rarely am I blown away. This album hooked me right away and has been my go-to when I need a break from the garage/punk that dominates the list this year.
- Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool? This one climbed the list steadily all year before settling in at #4. What’s wonderful about this record is the way Rosenstock’s unrelenting energy is captured. A few of the best tracks of the year are on this one.
- Choke Up – Black Coffee, Bad Habits Not too many “emo” records have grabbed me lately (although War Waves could qualify). This one certainly did. Seeing them live only reinforced how great this relatively unknown Boston act is.
- Colleen Green – I Want To Grow Up This was the first album I heard in 2015 that I knew would make it to this list. I wanted to like her previous work more than I did, but the full band (and some excellent power-pop songwriting) takes it to a new level.
- Stove – Is Stupider This was the last album to make it onto the list—and boy did it climb. This is the solo project of Ovlov’s frontman Steve Hartlett. Ovlov made one of the best records of 2013 and this one is a perfect follow-up.
- Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer My favorite Speedy Ortiz is a noisy Speedy Ortiz and they play that part a bit less on this album. This album is very smart in a year that I’m not looking for smart music, but there’s still enough of the messy Speedy Ortiz to make me love it.
- Worriers – Imaginary Life I discovered Worriers through Beach Slang (and saw them live with Beach Slang last month). Fast, loud, political punk rock. “Yes All Cops” is one of the tracks of the year.
- Best Coast – California Nights I hadn’t gotten into Best Coast’s previous releases, but the simplicity of this one (both the lyrics and Bobb Bruno’s lead guitar lines) made this one a hit for me.
- FIDLAR – Too “West Coast” is one of the best tracks of the year and this album has some other gems, too. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m too old to be listening to this album, though.
- Soda Bomb – Wanna Jam? These guys are a goddamn mess and I love that about them. Picture FIDLAR and Ovlov getting super drunk, jamming together, and recording the first 26 minutes of the encounter.
- Donovan Wolfington – How To Treat The Ones You Love A very dynamic album… it’s hard to come up with a comparison (maybe Violent Soho). I even like it when they go off on the deep end (for tracks like “Locust”).
- Antarctigo Vespucci – Leavin’ La Vida Loca This is another Jeff Rosenstock album (pairing up with Chris Farren of Fake Problems) that I only recently discovered. I can’t help but think this ranking will look too low in a couple months.
- Dog Party – Vol. 4 Any mention of Dog Party usually starts with their ages (sisters aged 19 and 17). This is already their fourth album together and, for me, it’s their second as a legitimate, fine-tuned punk-pop powerhouse.
- White Reaper – White Reaper Does It Again Great fuzzy garage rock sound from Beach Slang’s labelmates.
- Metz – II Years ago, Unsane was my go-to band for over-the-top heaviness. Now it’s Metz.
- All Dogs – Kicking Every Day “That Kind of Girl” is one of the best songs of the year. I heavily anticipated this one and it was… quite solid. I wanted more songs like “That Kind of Girl” though.
- Saintseneca – Such Things Maryn from All Dogs is also in Saintseneca (she also released a solid solo album). This album shows the depth of this list—I think I like this record better than Saintseneca’s 2014 release, but I have it ranked much lower.
- Yo La Tengo – Stuff Like That There Yo La Tengo is now thirty years old. While I don’t listen to them as often as I once did, I still love that they’re putting out records.
- toyGuitar – In This Mess Kind of King Tuff/White Reaper sounding garage fuzz. Simple and enjoyable.
- Desaparecidos – Payola I was eagerly awaiting this one. It was a good record, but I suppose this ranking means it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
- Wavves – V This album basically sounds like the boy version of Best Coast. Not a complaint.
- Dogs On Acid – Dogs On Acid Can any Dog Band be bad? It took me a little while to take them seriously, but I found myself going back to this one a lot.
- Dilly Dally – Sore The best Hole music since Live Through This.
EPs (3 to 6 tracks)
The Iron Chic, Beach Slang, and Slutever EPs are not on Spotify, so they’re not included in the playlist below.
- See Through Dresses – End of Days A very dynamic release from a band I found out about from a James Alex (Beach Slang) interview.
- Iron Chic – Ys These guys are perfect. Everything they do is perfect. If this had a couple more songs, it would have been #1.
- Beach Slang – Here, I Made This For You Beach Slang recorded a bunch of covers and boy is it good.
- together PANGEA – The Phage I was really anticipating this one after Badillac was one of the best records of 2014. It was good, but I don’t listen to it as much as I thought I would.
- Rozwell Kid – Good Graphics This band has a wonderful sound. Great technical guitar playing—which isn’t usually something I’m looking for.
- LVL UP – Three Songs Also heavily anticipated after a fantastic 2014 release. The variety of sounds on their full length was huge and that stays true here.
- Jacuzzi Boys – Happy Damage Hooray for fuzzy garage pop/punk.
- Slutever – Almost Famous I mean, they’re called Slutever.
Singles (1 to 2 tracks)
- SWMRS — Miley/Uncool This goddamn song. One the year’s best.
- Happy Diving – So Bunted/My Zone Before Stove released their album, I thought Happy Diving would be the perfect answer to the breakup of Ovlov. Now I get two Ovlovs.
- Iron Chic (split with Low Culture) – L’esprit de L’escalier/Subhumanoid Meltdown A couple more great songs from a band that only puts out great songs.
Live/Compilation (not eligible for album list)
- Mogwai – Central Belters (compilation) Compliation and live albums don’t count on my end of year lists. If they did, then Mogwai’s Special Moves would be the greatest album of all time.
- Archers of Loaf – Curse of the Loaf (live) So great to see them back at it—espcially since I missed them in their prime.