30. NEON INDIAN- VEGA INTL NIGHT SCHOOL
Third full length album by one of the founders of the late-oughts chillwave movement is a tribute to late night hedonism- clubbing, fun & sex. Neon Indian is Alan Palomo and he takes his inspiration from late seventies/early eighties disco, R&B, funk, reggae & synth pop, crafting his most danceable, upbeat music to date. While Neon Indian’s past releases were druggy sounding headphone albums, “Vega Intl” sounds like to soundtrack to a night out on the town. Though “Slumlord”, “Annie” & “Smut!” all standout as highlights, the album plays best as a whole and like Chaz Bundick and Ariel Pink, Palomo has proven that he’s yet another artist in a much maligned earlier movement who is here to stay.
Buy Vega Intl. Night School Amazon
Buy Slumlord Amazon
Buy Annie Amazon
29. TITUS ANDRONICUS- THE MOST LAMENTABLE TRAGEDY
In an age where the single track trumps the full album, where streaming rules over buying, New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus doubles down and goes the complete opposite route, releasing a 29 song, 93 minute rock opera double album. This is not a perfect album. There are a few short blasts of energetic punk that really don’t translate into songs and one song towards the very end is just plain bad, but there is plenty here to love. Lead single “Dimed Out” and “Fatal Flaw” are two standouts that rank amongst the best the group has ever done and the album really hits its stride with two Pogues covers- “Come On Siobhan” and “Pair Of Brown Eyes”. Chief singer and songwriter Patrick Stickles comes off pissed off, and self-effacing but self-aware touching on mental illness, depression, self-loathing and general misanthropy as well as drug and alcohol abuse. The album is grouped into five different sections, which makes it a bit easier to swallow due to its epic length. Titus is an intellectual blue collar group, like a punk rock Springsteen mixed with the Hold Steady. Their popularity probably has a low ceiling but they have definitely an extremely rabid if small fanbase. It’s not the easiest most accessible music but due to their passion, smarts, indie rock ethos and ambition, they are the only band that matters to a few.
Buy The Most Lamentable Tragedy Amazon
Buy Fatal Flaw Amazon
Buy Dimed Out Amazon
28. EMPRESS OF- ME
“Me” is the stellar full-length debut of Empress Of, the alias of Lorely Rodriquez. She has been all but known outside of hipster circles but “Me” delivers an accessible combination of pop, indie rock and R&B which will hopefully help change that in a hurry. “Me” is a concept album with poignant lyrics about a doomed romance from its inception to its demise- it hits on both the high and low water marks and can be equally sexy and utterly heartbreaking. Rodriquez is quirky, experimental and lyrically raw and detailed without sacrificing the tightness of her songs. Every track is between 2 ½ and 4 minutes long and each makes an impact. “Make Up”, “Standard” and “How Do You Do It” are three of the highlights but the whole album is a worthwhile listen. Empress Of is one of the best new artists I’ve heard in 2015.
Buy Me Amazon
Buy Make Up Amazon
Buy How Do You Do It Amazon
27. CHVRCHES- EVERY OPEN EYE
“Every Open Eye” takes Chvrches sound further away from Purity Ring- influenced indie synth-pop and toward anthemic, radio-ready straight up synth pop. Chvrches 2013 debut “The Bones Of What You Believe” was justly celebrated and commercially successful, containing memorable singles like “Recover” and “The Mother We Share”. “Every Open Eye” has at least a handful of tracks you could picture on the radio- namely “Make Them Gold”, “Keep You On My Side”, the “Just Can’t Get Enough” aping “Clearest Blue” and the best two of the lot “Leave A Trace” and “Neverending Circles”. After a near perfect first half of the album the second half begins to lag a bit particularly when lead vocalist Lauren Mayberry cedes lead vocals to one of her bandmates. But this is a group headed in the right direction. Their next trick will be to write a record a whole album full of great tracks. If they are able to pull this off we’ll have a true classic on our hands.
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Buy Never Ending Circles Amazon
Buy Leave A Trace Amazon
26. KACEY MUSGRAVES- PAGEANT MATERIAL
“Pageant Material” is the follow-up album to the much celebrated, grammy award winning, 2013 debut album “Same Trailer Different Park” that took the country world by storm. Musgraves is both damn talented and just plain likable. “Pageant Material” is filled with relaxed, well-crafted songs with simple instrumentation, sweetly sung and expertly written. Musgraves is great at clever turns of phrases that feel both familiar and unique. She provides details to her songs and characters, which flesh them out without reporting to typical Nashville cheesiness. She comes off as small town and relatable but fun and open-minded. Lead single “Biscuits” was an early favorite but less obvious tracks like the extremely sweet “Late To The Party” and “Cup Of Tea” sink is after multiple listens. “Pageant Material” may not be getting the attention of her debut but it’s just as good of an album and should solidify Musgraves status as one of the best young stars in country with massive crossover potential to anyone who favors great singing and songwriting.
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Buy Late To The Party Amazon
Buy Cup Of Tea Amazon
25. VIET CONG- VIET CONG
“Viet Cong” is the self-titled debut album by a band whose half of its members made up the pretty great Calgary band Women. And Viet Cong will no longer be going by its current moniker due to the name upsetting too many people over the past year. New band name is TBD. “Viet Cong” the album was released early last winter and is a perfect to play during this bleak season filled with short, dark days and harsh weather. The album starts off slowly with an atonal dirge called “Newspaper Spoons” which may not be pleasing to the ears but sets the tone of the album. With the next track “Pointless Experience” the album starts to take off and never lets up until the seventh and last track- the eleven minute “Death”. At times Viet Cong sound like Wolf Parade, but are more experimental and atonal. Or the Danish punk band Iceage, but less tight and with longer songs. And despite their penchant for droning the majority of the tracks are filled with hooks- you may just need to wait a few minutes to hear them. Tracks “Continental Shelf”, “March Of Progress”, “Bunker Buster” and “Silhouettes” are all standouts making the first track mostly a head fake in leading off a pretty great album.
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Buy Continental Shelf Amazon
Buy Silhouettes Amazon
24. NATALIE PRASS- NATALIE PRASS
Natalie Prass is a Berklee College of Music dropout and current Nashville resident who delivers an extremely solid debut album filled with throwback blue-eyed soul dipping into both the sounds of the 1970’s Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter scene as well as the well-produced, fussed over soul of they heyday of Atlantic Records. Prass’s singing is warm and understated. Her songs are extremely well crafted with up to three dozen musicians collaborating on them. Elegant strings and plentiful horns with not a synth sound within earshot are all courtesy of the house band from Richmond’s Spacebomb Records, also Prass’s record label. Though “Natalie Prass” is consistently very good two tracks “My Baby Don’t Understand Me” and “Why Don’t You Believe In Me” especially bear special attention. Both are among the best songs of the year in my opinion and can be added to the pantheon of great breakup tunes.
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Buy Why Don’t You Believe In Me Amazon
Buy My Baby Don’t Understand Me Amazon
23. CARLY RAE JEPSEN- E*MO*TION
“E*Mo*tion” is the critical smash pop album of the year but that has not translated to sales numbers or heavy airplay for Carly Rae Jepsen. Jepsen may not possess much star quality herself, which may be what’s stopping these great songs from more sales and airplay but they deserve to be heard and anyone who is a fan of well produced, melodic pop should love them too. I thought the pre-album lead single “I Really Like You” was a bit overrated but much of the remainder of “E*Mo*tion” is filled with greatness. Jepsen, who is known as a one hit wonder after releasing “Call Me Maybe”, one of the most popular radio hits of this decade, wanted to take the focus away from another huge smash single and concentrate on delivering a classic pop album filled with quality songs from start to finish. 2nd single, “All That”, an 80’s synth inspired ballad is one such gem and lead track “Run Away With Me” is pure pop perfection and is one of the best pop songs of the year. Why isn’t it all over the radio?? Album tracks like “Boy Problems”, “Warm Blood” and “Let’s Get Lost” help round out “E*Mo*Tion” providing the album with depth and showing it as much more than a collection of hot singles and filler like many pop albums. Hopefully the rest of the world will catch on to “E*Mo*tion” so that is becomes more than the cult classic that could already be its destiny.
Buy E·MO·TION (Deluxe) Amazon
Buy Run Away With Me Amazon
Buy All That Amazon
22. MY MORNING JACKET- THE WATERFALL
It’s hard to believe that Kentucky natives My Morning Jacket have been touring and recording for over 15 years now. In that time they have carved out a niche as not only one of the finest working live acts in rock music, but also as the one band who can truly bridge any gap between indie rock and the jam band circuit. With “Waterfall” MMJ ditches the uneven experimental sound of “Circuital” and “Evil Urges” toward a more middle of the road sound giving them their most consistently good album 2005’s “Z”. “Waterfall” is a break-up album and is therefore mellower and more introspective than their normal output. Some of the best moments on the album to me are beautiful acoustic tracks like “Get The Point” and “Only Memories Remain”, but with a mighty voice like Jim James’ there are also soaring epics like lead single “Big Decisions” and “Believe (Nobody Knows)”. Well into their second decade My Morning Jacket have managed to keep their music both interesting and quality while continuing to grow their fanbase rather than rely on past glories.
Buy The Waterfall Amazon
Buy Get The Point Amazon
Buy Compound Fracture Amazon
21. TWERPS- RANGE ANXIETY
Twerps are a little known indie-rock band from Australia whose sound is a total throwback to eighties jangle-pop, back when alternative or indie music was just known as college rock. Though Twerps are bringing nothing new to the table their songs on “Range Anxiety” are fantastic with “Back To You”, “I Don’t Mind” and “Simple Feelings” being the best among many other highlights. If you like and miss the sound of early R.E.M. or lesser known bands like the Go-Betweens and the Clean, Twerps are the band for you.
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Buy Simple Feelings Amazon
BuyI Don’t Mind Amazon