We’ve made it to last year’s top-albums-of-the-year list (I’ve now carried over my 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 posts). Patience, patience… I will deliver 2016’s list before the new year. But before that happens, for my last throwback, here is 2015’s. Enjoy.
2015 Manny: One of my favourite things is BACK! At the end of each year, I love to recap the music in which I’ve spent countless of hours getting lost in. Whether it be travelling, surfing the web, mowing the lawn, or on the road in the vehicle.
Volunteering at the Winnipeg Folk Festival and heading down to Wisconsin for the inaugural Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival were hands down my musical highlights of the year. Those two weeks yielded unforgettable memories with friends and opened up new discoveries toward influential artists.
I usually include honourable mentions in these posts… however, I believe this is my 6th year doing this, so I might as well go all out and do a TOP 20! You’d think a top 15 would suffice, being 2015 and all, but it’s been an outstanding year of music (as always in our day and age).
With 2015 being a breakthrough year of mass streaming, I can only wish to listen to the endless amount of music that is available to us. That being said, I’m addicted to Spotify and the many musical trails it holds. Thankfully, with its help, I managed to provide a favourite track per artist/group! So let’s get to it!
HERE WE GO:
20. Aero Flynn // Aero Flynn
Read the short essay on the aeroflynn.org homepage, which jump starts with: “It is 2002 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin upstairs in a rented student house and Justin Vernon is in my arms weeping, saying, ‘I just want my band back.'”
19. Jamie xx // In Colour
The musical and rhythmic engine of The xx, Jamie churns out hauntingly atmospheric and chilling electronics in his solo debut release.
18. CHVRCHES // Every Open Eye
This Glasgow trio will impress you by gently smacking you in the face with a mike, beat pad, and synth. Their sophomore album will leave you robotically emotional in the best way possible.
17. Josh Garrels // Home
An orchestral, soulful, singer/songwriting sensation. Home finds a warm place in our hearts. Just listen to the harp in this track and try telling me that it doesn’t.
16. Joel Plaskett // The Park Avenue Sobriety Test
Want to really know what the Canadiana genre means? In The Park Avenue Sobriety Test, Joel Plaskett personally takes you down to his hometown bar and feeds you maritime musical shots until you fall off your barstool.
15. Lord Huron // Strange Trails
Plug in your ear buds for an adventurous day of exploring. A vast forest of trees whips by in a blur as you bike through newly discovered trails… Hopefully they don’t become too strange for you.
14. Gungor // One Wild Life: Soul
Ones to opt for a ‘season pass’ of musical gifts and wonder for their fans and followers, Michael and Lisa Gungor—a husband-and-wife duo—take us on a spiritual journey with the One Wild Life series. Soul is the first voyage of three, with Spirit and Body slated for the new year. Can’t wait.
13. Patrick Watson // Love Songs For Robots
Grooving basslines, soaring riffs, and floating falsettos… Should I say more? Please, just listen to “Bollywood.”
12. Half Moon Run // Sun Leads Me On
Imitating Half Moon Run’s vocal dips, trails, and lifts proves very difficult, yet is extremely rewarding when sung on point. They know a thing or two about a powerful build, might I add.
11. Tame Impala // Currents
Psychedelic, infused pop/rock that makes you strut down the street in bell-bottoms and a shirtless vest. Flick up those shades when you say hi to that pretty person walking by.
10. Oh Wonder // Oh Wonder
Anthony & Josephine make up the subdued, electro-soul duo Oh Wonder. Together, their mission was to write, record, and release a single each month for a year. I’d say they’ve succeeded and surpassed their wildest expectations. By singing powerfully in unison throughout the entire collection, they’ve mesmerized their listeners over the course of 2015 as if by hypnosis; becoming globally viral before their finished product (an aggregate album of singles) even dropped. One more thing to boot: Oh Wonder managed to sell out upcoming tour dates in New York City, Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Los Angeles before ever performing live.
9. JR JR // JR JR
The duo formerly known as Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. recently eclipsed the Dale Earnhardt prefix (to avoid any angry mix-ups between them and the famous NASCAR driver’s fans). Consequently, they’ve blossomed into their own distinctive (more attractive) moniker. Fizzy, galvanizing, electro-soul goodness is only the beginning. Turn up that dial to electrify your Sunday drive with “Break My Fall.” Or if you’d rather relax in the backseat with your headphones on while your driver and front-passenger chat loudly, mellow-out to “James Dean” or “Listening to Outkast, June 23, 2014.”
8. Ben Folds // So There
Ben Folds’ satirical and humorous lyrics meet grandiose, orchestral magnificence… a match made in… well, Ben Folds’ brilliant mind. So There manages to encapsulate bitter love songs within symphonic instrumentation (courtesy of New York City’s classical sextet yMusic) resulting in a creative whirlwind of indie pop/rock and chamber music. Not to mention it concludes with a three-movement piano concerto featuring the Nashville Symphony. Sheer musical GENIUS!
7. Dawes // All Your Favorite Bands
My inner Dawes fanboy was freaking out this Summer when I witnessed the Dawes boys shuffle to their bus backstage at the Winnipeg Folk Fest. Roots rock combined with reflective heart-wrenching lyrics… Raise a glass and empty your lungs! Ahhhh… flip the record and repeat. If you love guitar solos, there are plenty to tickle your fancy in All Your Favorite Bands.
6. Jon Foreman // The Wonderlands: Sunlight, Shadows, Darkness, & Dawn
Jon Foreman, perhaps more known for being Switchfoot’s frontman, wields his acoustic guitar and unique, impactful vocals ever so impressively with life’s meaning and love as his message. The Wonderlands consists of four EPs which were released over the course of 2015; 24 tracks (one for each hour of the day), all individually co-produced by various artists and friends of Jon. This collection definitely deserves a continual listen, he’s got the musical Midas touch!
5. EL VY // Return to the Moon
Matt Berninger of The National has lent his inquisitive baritone vocals to the talented, does-it-all Brent Knopf (of Menomena and Ramona Falls) on this project, which was a decade in the making. Matt’s wit meshes superbly well with Brent’s imaginative arrangements. From angst (“I’m the Man to Be”) to retrospective (“No Time to Crank the Sun”) in a gradual heartbeat, Return to the Moon provides a complete emotional spectrum for you to gauge your present feelings.
4. Fyfe // Control
Under the moniker Fyfe, Paul Dixon has stuck it to the man after being dropped by his previous record label. The UK native, as his album art suggests, paints a complex and intricate canvass of himself in this album. Electronic, choral, and orchestral elements with hip-hop beats make Control an instant favourite. Releasing an acoustic EP of a select few was also a pleasant touch: LISTEN HERE.
3. Sufjan Stevens // Carrie & Lowell
Sufjan has tugged at my heartstrings once again. Returning to his folk roots, this extremely honest, open, and personal record was inspired by the death of his mother. Every time it’s played it has me figuratively bawling in a glass case of emotion. Charming strumming and grainy swells underlie Sufjan’s eccentric lyrics, calming melodies, and oohs and ahhs. Anyone up for some star-gazing?
2. The Staves // If I Was
“The best singers in the world,” exclaims Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who produced and features in The Staves’ captivating If I Was LP. Let Watford’s proud trio of silky smooth, serenading sisters take over your evenings by the fireplace on these frigid winter nights. Enjoy their intensifying builds with a hot cocoa in hand and a cosy blanket nestled up to your chin.
AND MY #1 ALBUM OF 2015 IS…
1. Bear’s Den // Islands (Deluxe)
Ladies and gentlemen, YET ANOTHER GEM out of the United Kingdom. London’s indie folk trio Bear’s Den will swarm your community and invade the hearts of many by way of humble gladness. The result of Islands is exhilarating: brass and banjo please the ears beyond compare. Just listen to “Elysium,” “Think of England,” and “Above the Clouds of Pompeii.” Such complementary instruments to a vocal cornerstone. Keep your ears and eyes wide open for these loveable, bearded men at a venue near you.
I also curated a smaller Favourites of 2015 playlist for the handful of songs I really adored from these spectacular albums. It consists of two songs from each of these 20 albums for a condensed listen (with the exception of The Wonderlands: one from each EP)!
MOST IMPORTANTLY, HAVE A SAFE AND FUN NEW YEAR’S EVE!