The Best Albums of 2015

The humble opinion of someone who is way to judgmental of music for no valid reason

Matthew Sweeney from The Elwins, performing at QPOP! Music Festival, October 2015

As many of my friends know (God bless their souls), I like to force my music taste upon other people. So I wrote this list of the top 10 albums that came out this past year (in my humble opinion). I do recognize that there is no standard genre to this, nor is there really any musicological format to my analysis of these albums, however I do like to think that I can judge a good album from a really bad one.

A quick disclaimer for those who read a lot of music blogs — this isn’t a real album review or some beautiful written work about my extensive knowledge of the music industry. This is my opinion of some good albums with a brief explanation of why I like it. Don’t expect anything fancy. Maybe I’ll do that later, but I already am in 2016 and haven’t posted this yet, so you get the short version.

So here goes:

10. Muse — Drones

I don’t think I’ve encountered a single person who has heard the new Muse album and hasn’t been in love with it. Much like any of their other albums, it’s jam (get it, jam…as in when you jam with a band? Yeah?) packed full with rock music that ranges from catchy radio tunes, to stadium concert openers and all the way to intricate beautiful pieces that showcase their musical abilities. They probably deserve a much higher ranking on any album review list, however this is based on my personal taste rather than all of the technical aspects that go into rating music. Even with my more mellow indie/alt taste, I can fully appreciate the beauty of this Muse album.

9. Cage the Elephant — Tell me I’m Pretty

To be honest, I haven’t listened to this album as much as I should if I’m posting it on a top 10 albums list, but I don’t care. I have, however, listened to it enough to come up with a favourite song off of it. There’s something just so intriguing about “Cold Cold Cold”. Released on Dec. 18th, it barely qualified for my Top 10 of 2015 list. It made it because it’s everything you would ever want from Cage the Elephant and more. Not only does it embrace the traditional, classic sound of past Cage the Elephant albums, but it incorporates a plethora of different styles throughout. It’s impossible to get bored listening to this album.

8. The Shoes — Chemicals

An unusual find for me, but it became a staple in my playlist after its release in October. Much like the Muse album, it doesn’t find a place in my normal music genres, however this album provided a nice break from the norm. I first fell in love with the work of The Shoes when I came across their video for “Drifted”. It’s worth a watch if you’re obsessed with GIF culture and/or Dawson from Dawson’s Creek crying. Alternatively, if you’re into any genre, you’ll probably find a song on the album that you will enjoy. My personal favourite, aside from “Drifted”, is “Feed the Ghost”. It’s phenomenal for it’s slow tempo hip hop sound.

7. Kalle Mattson — Avalanche

Although there will always be a large spot in my heart dedicated to Kalle Mattson’s 2014 album Someday the Moon Will Be Gold, I can’t say I was disappointed with Avalanche in comparison. Kalle Mattson successfully pairs pop and indie/folk throughout this small, six song EP and then ends with an absolutely heart wrenchingly beautiful piece titled “Baby Blue”. This song hints back a bit more towards his 2014 album which I am so beyond in love with. There is no way you can listen to this album from start to finish and not just want to sit in silence afterwards, revelling in the beauty of his writing. This is the type of album you put on, light a candle and lie on your floor listening to. So go do it.

6. Evening Hymns — Quiet Energies

Speaking of absolutely phenomenal songwriters, Jonas Bonnetta (also the frontman and permanent member of Evening Hymns) adds to my list of top songwriters in the world. What’s even better is that he’s Canadian (because I’m a little patriotic). Evening Hymns is the type of artist you listen to off of youtube and go “yeah, that’s pretty good”, and then you see live and leave speechless. I had the privilege of seeing him twice in the past 3 months and both times I was not even close to being disappointed.

5. Born Ruffians — Ruff

How can you not love songs titled “When Things Get Pointless I Roll Away” and “(Eat Shit) We Did It)”? Doesn’t that just scream “please come listen to this album, it’ll be a little funny”. Not only are all of the members of the Born Ruffians pretty talented, but their songs have some pretty depressing lyrics, but they’re all paired with quite an upbeat guitar sound and driving drums. Not to mention Luke Lalonde’s classic voice. I must say, my personal favourite is “&On &On &On”, but give it a listen because I don’t think I dislike a single song on the entire album. Plus, that album artwork is pretty dope.

4. Yukon Blonde — On Blonde

You can really hear the development of Yukon Blonde between their last album and this one. That synth sound is so phenomenal and the guitar sound is just a little bit more impressive than the last time (not that it was bad the last time). It’s just an enjoyable album to listen to. I have it playing right after my Kalle Mattson CD finishes so I can balance out my emotions a bit more. I absolutely love hearing a band develop its sound. I’m insanely pumped to see what Yukon Blonde has in store for future music endeavours. P.S. they’re doing a headlining tour in the next coming months, pretty phenomenal live. Go check them out if they’re coming by!

3. Vanessa Carlton — Lieberman

I know, this album doesn’t feature “A Thousand Miles” but I guess that’s okay because it’s insanely phenomenal. Compared to the old classics we know and love from Vanessa Carleton, this album took a huge turn. I would barely, if at all, classify this album as pop. You can still hear her classic piano sound throughout the album though — paired with a bit more of a unique voice coming from her. Give “Willow” a listen for some really good piano sounds, but be prepared to not recognize her as Vanessa Carlton.

2. The Elwins — Play for Keeps

Okay, I’ll try to not go on and on and on about how great The Elwins are. Okay, I might a little. These guys put on the best live show I’ve been to. They’re so upbeat and fun. All I want to do is dance and jump around and be excited about life. The album is no different. I have no idea why these guys have less than 10,000 likes on Facebook and are still playing small venues like Clark Hall Pub, but keep your eyes on them because they’re only just beginning. This album is probably a bit higher up on my list than it would be if I was strictly voting off of musicality, but all around they’re pretty great. Musically they’re all extremely talented and work extremely well together as a band, and this album is even better than their last. I’m insanely beyond excited to no end about what these guys are going to do in the future.

1. Bear’s Den — Islands

I almost forgot about this album, not because of how amazing it is, but because I feel like I’ve been listening to it for forever. I honestly thought it was released last year, but alas no. It took the top spot in my heart for 2015. It’s everything I look for in a good album — based on my preference in genre. I can listen to this album whenever. It has beautiful acoustic guitar sounds, the lead singer has a deep, lovely voice that’s just unique enough, there’s amazing harmonies throughout and within all of that it keeps a driving beat throughout the album so that you’re never at a loss of where to go with your ears. It’s easy to listen to, but still beautiful and complex. Also, the music video for “Above the Clouds of Pompeii” is heartbreaking. I gave you a fair warning.

Happy listening and enjoy what 2016 will bring!