Below are the albums I liked best this year. They are in no order, but they’re the ones I spent the most time with, the ones that resonated the most with me time and again, and the ones I think you should give a listen to/buy if you have some time/money. Where possible I’ve got a full album stream, and for the others I’ve got a video of my favorite track, and for all I’ve got a link for where you can buy it. Hope you discover something new to love. Enjoy!
Sprained Ankle – Julien Baker (buy)
The most immediately affecting and urgent album I heard in 2015, even though it’s quiet and understated throughout. The songs are vulnerable at every turn, full of hope and devastation and strength and brokenness, cutting deeper than any other record I heard this year.
Over and Even – Joan Shelley (buy)
The album that sountracked so many of those cool late summer and early fall mornings, a simple, elegant, beautiful album from start to finish. Shelley has one of the most calming, gorgeous voices in music today, the kind that demands you grab a cup of coffee and sit down and do nothing but enjoy it as it fills the room.
Golden Age – Daniel Martin Moore (buy)
An album that sounds like a crisp, slow Sunday morning. This is the album I had been waiting for Moore to make, that tremendous, golden-hour-tinged voice singing hazy, heartfelt songs about love and life with just a little more pop and push than before.
If I Was – The Staves (buy)
I’m not entirely sure what to say about this album. I’ve been obsessed with it since the spring, listening to it more times than is appropriate and never getting tired of it. Three sisters singing tunes that are sometimes confident, sometimes heartbroken, and at all times beautiful.
Still Talk; Second City – Small Houses (buy)
An album full of stories about people and places, the kind that weaves stories we know even though we aren’t living these specific ones. It’s a record that finds Jeremy Quentin both road weary and invigorated, a songwriter starting to realize his potential and writing some of the best songs he’s ever penned.
Sermon on the Rocks – Josh Ritter (buy)
I’ve talked a lot about this album, but it all boils down to this: it’s so good to have the old Josh Ritter back. Believe me, I LOVED sad, heartbroken Josh (because I was sad and heartbroken, too), but I love that he’s back to writing wordy, complex, fun stories again, the kind that twist and turn and connect in a way only a Josh Ritter story can.
The Narrow Valley – Bryan John Appleby (buy)
I mean sure, I was totally expecting 2015 to be the year I fell in love with a concept album about a big fake earthquake in a small fake town. A tremendously lush and beautiful album from start to finish, Appleby has created something that sounds both timeless and fresh, the kind of concept record meant to be consumed as a whole that we just don’t see nowadays. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting his next record to sound like, and I love it even more because of that.
Sound & Color – Alabama Shakes (buy)
Another thing I wasn’t expecting: Alabama Shakes getting weird and making one of the most exciting, odd and electric albums of the year. It contains all the energy their debut lacked, and it finds Brittany Howard and her band stretching themselves and their sound in all sorts of unexpected ways without even one misstep. This sounds nothing like the band that existed on Boys and Girls, but it sounds like everything I’ve ever wanted them to be.
The Things We Do To Find The People Who Feel Like Us – Beach Slang (buy)
All power chords, feelings and passion, the debut full-length from Beach Slang was everything I had been hoping to find in a record this year. It’s fun and serious and loud and perfect, the sort of album that makes you want to put the windows down and drive as fast as possible in a straight line and think about nothing and everything all at once. It’s a record that both 17 year-old and 32 year-old me can love.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (buy)
Because sometimes one of the best voices in sad bastard music up and shifts gears and makes a rollicking, soul-infused rock and roll record and it works. It’s a record that has a little bit of it all, showcasing Rateliff the Soul Man, Rateliff the Sad Man and every variation of Nathaniel Rateliff between, never once sounding disingenuous or stretched too thin.
These weren’t the only albums I liked, I promise. I liked a whole lot, some you may even like more than the ones I liked best. Here’s a Spotify playlist of all the records I liked that were released in 2015.