In addition to my favorite songs of the year, I also made a brief list of my top ten albums of the year (many of which you probably could have guessed based on the amount of times some specific bands showed up in the top songs list). This is a very wordy posting so reader beware, this is mainly intended for alternative music junkies like myself.
- Dark Bird Is Home by The Tallest Man On Earth
- The Tallest Man On Earth is the only artist whom I’ve ever loved at least half the songs on every single album that he’s ever made. After making 4 albums and 2 EP’s completely solo, his debut in using a full band behind him was nothing short of fantastic. I also think the amount that he swears in this album is an interesting to note, as he swears very little if at all on his previous albums, yet he drops an F bomb in several songs off this album which likely shows his ability to express emotions he struggled with in the past (he’s a pretty depressed dude in his early work and seems much happier in recent interviews). I’d pay stupid amounts of money to see this guy live if he ever came around…just such a pure talent.
- Coming Home by Leon Bridges
- Through an incredibly rare style of music in terms of what is typically produced these days, Leon hit home with this vintage themed album. The title track Coming home is an instant classic, but every other song can grow on its listeners pretty seamlessly. The soul Leon sings with is so captivating it makes you feel like you could be down in Louisiana singing along him. Leon Bridges is also on tour right now, so I highly suggest you get tickets if you can afford them because he is a treat to see live.
- TwelveFour by The Paper Kites
- Twelvefour was an unexpected late edition to the list, with a great deal of music junkies including myself saying “The Paper Kites came out with a new album this year? I don’t remember that…” The album has a soothing mix of songs, as it includes several traditional simple folky songs that are what we’d expect of the paper kites, as well as some new style songs that sound eerily similar to the style of The War On Drugs but with a singer that has a more universally likable voice. This album is a great example of how a band should progress from album to album without putting out rehashed versions of their past music and instead push their boundaries for the sake of creativity and innovation that the fans demand.
- Goon by Tobias Jesso Jr.
- Tobias Jesso Jr’s debut album has been compared style-wise to early work of Paul McCartney and other solo legends with his incredibly simple but equally comforting singer-songwriter piano style. This album allowed Tobias to be sought out by other famous songwriters, most notably Adele, whom he helped write several songs on her most recent album.
- Classics by She & Him
- I’ve heard from several music junkies that I’m biased in liking this album because I love Zooey Deschanel and her voice, but I frankly couldn’t care less. Every song in this album is a cover of an old (and often generally unknown) song from decades ago. Zooey’s voice is perfect for this style of music, while her partner M. Ward (if you dont know him, look him up, his solo work is great in its own regard) compliments her really well.
- Little Neon Limelight by Houndmouth
- Houndmouth is one of those folky bands that I love and advocate for that no one has ever heard of. They have just enough southern twang in their songs without sounding like a country band, and they keep things interesting by having each one of their band members sing at least one song on the album. The male vocal lead Matt Myers reveals a lot of his struggle in growing up and figuring out how he wanted to live his life through powerful poetic lyrics in songs like “For No One” and “Darlin.”
- Currents by Tame Impala
- I didn’t used to be a fan of Tame Impala before this album, but they really roped me in after this complete record. Sometimes you’ll flip through every song on an album and say each song sounds pretty similar, but that’s far from the truth with Currents. The songs are a bit weird but at the same time unique and catchy, using various instrumental styles in each song to make them hard to compare to any other band out there today.
- Blurryface by Twenty One Pilots
- Twenty One Pilots’ notoriety blew up with Blurryface after they gained some initial popularity with Vessel years ago, but that also brought a lot more criticism (as fame typically does for any band). Still, I thoroughly enjoyed where they went with this album, as they have some songs that sound like they’re off the old album like “We Don’t Beleive What’s On TV” and “Goner”, while also having some progressively newer and wildly original songs that define Twenty One Pilots as a musical duo like “Stressed Out,” “Ride” and “Tear in my Heart”
- Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes
- Brittany Howard Continues to impress with Alabama Shakes’ newest album Sound & Color. After all, it wasn’t nominated for the Album of the Year at the Grammy’s for no reason. Not much is needed to say in terms of the magic that is Brittany Howard’s voice, but it is interesting to note how Alabama Shakes added a futuristic sound to several of the tracks on the album that showed the band’s ability to stray towards abnormality while still producing award winning music.
- Savage Hills Ballroom by Youth Lagoon
- Youth Lagoon has always been one of these artists that was understandably critically acclaimed by alternative publications, but I just was never that into them. Savage Hills Ballroom was by far the most surprising album to make this list, as I had no expectation for it to be impressive at all. Youth Lagoon’s ability to tell a complete collective story with Savage Hills Ballroom is amazing, all the while inviting some seriously unexpected emotional instrumentals to several tracks. In more recent news, the lead singer and founder of the band Trevor Powers announced last week that he is disbanding Youth Lagoon and pursing something new after the bands final tour this spring.
Disclaimer: The release date of these songs is based on when the album they were apart of was released. Some songs were introduced on SoundCloud or as singles before 2015, but I am basing this list of the official album release date.
Maybe a bit outside of what you normally would listen to, but Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment’s album “Surf” is pretty legit: http://www.donnietrumpet.com/home
Surf was actually one of the first outside of my list specifically for that reason. Chance made some serious strides not only with the culmination of musical styles with that album, but with his distribution method in making the entire album free despite its inevitable popularity. It definitely was a special album, it just unfortunately was one of the first off the list mostly because its not my genre of choice. Thanks Alex!
Also as a side note, some of the band members who were a part of The Social Experiment went on after helping to create Surf to form a separate band called Marrow who released their first studio album “The Gold Standard” last September…just some food for thought!