It’s been an interesting year for me as a music fan. I’ve attended some amazing concerts and spent my commute to my first official full-time job jamming to some awesome music. But I once again feel that in the age of the digital single, the art of the album is disappearing. This year, I’m focusing on the five albums that got the most airplay in my life in 2015. There was plenty of other good music, but I don’t want to feature albums that have only two or three songs I enjoy. Be sure to see the honorable mentions at the end of the post for some albums that I enjoyed, but that didn’t quite make the cut.
5. Stories by Avicii. I’m just starting to find my way into the shallow end of the EDM genre. Avicii’s breakout single a few years ago, “Wake Me Up,” was probably my most legitimate introduction, and it’s remained definitive of the style of EDM I enjoy—on the pop edge, with strong featured vocals. Thus, Stories was a natural choice for my first EDM album. I love the upbeat tempo, strong grooves, and electronic melodies. But I also enjoy that the style isn’t exactly predictable. No song really sounds the same and many of them borrow heavily from other genres. “Pure Grinding” is one of my favorite jams of the year—and my go-to car dance song.
Favorite Tracks: Pure Grinding; Broken Arrows; Trouble; Talk to Myself; Waiting for Love.
4. VHS by X Ambassadors. You never know what to expect from a band you find through a Jeep commercial, but in this case, looking up the song paid off big time. While that song—”Renegades”—is the lightest and most pop-friendly track on X Ambassadors’ debut album, the rest of the lineup creates one of my favorite rock records I’ve heard in a few years. X Ambassadors has an Imagine Dragons vibe, but tinged with a little more grit, soul, and rock (and maybe a little less “alt” and creativity). I have to say, though, that this album would have been much better without the annoying interludes. I can get on board with a tasteful interlude that ties an album together, but not a series of them that distract from the music, especially when the music is so good.
Favorite Tracks: Unsteady; Hang On; Renegades; Nervous; Low Life; Loveless.
3. JUST KIDS by Mat Kearney. Mat Kearney has been one of my favorite artists for several years now. In 2015, I saw him perform live not once, but twice—and I had the privilege of meeting Mat (who is a humble, awesome, genuine guy) in person! I might be a little biased, but I do really love this record. As I said in my full length review, JUST KIDS continues “Mat’s unique style that blends together infectious pop hooks, hip hop beats, singer/songwriter sensibilities, and spoken word delivery. He’s not afraid to be creative and just have fun making music that is personal, relatable, and a delight to the ears. JUST KIDS is all those things and more.” I would recommend the Deluxe edition, as the two bonus songs are excellent additions to the record.
Favorite Tracks: One Black Sheep; Heartbeat; Heartbreak Dreamer; Moving On; Just Kids; Air I Breathe (Deluxe Edition).
2. When I Was Younger by Colony House.
While this debut album was actually released in 2014, I didn’t discover it until 2015 (my blog, my rules)—and it has been one of my musical constants for the year. Colony House offers a collection of songs brimming with bright yet ambient alternative rock—and there isn’t a weak track in the bunch. Some pure rock n’ roll shows up on several songs, balanced by a few ethereal moments that might take your breath away (see “Lose Control”). The lyrics are thoughtful, poignant, and quite relevant to where I find myself these days. This album is honestly the perfect catharsis for my millennial, Jesus-loving soul. If you try it out, I would recommend multiple listens before you make your final judgment. This is definitely a record that grows on you. Bonus points: Two of the band members are the sons of CCM royalty Steven Curtis Chapman. Bonus bonus points: Colony House was on the Tour de Compadres early in 2015, so I got to experience their great live show alongside the likes of NEEDTOBREATHE, Ben Rector, and Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors.
Favorite Tracks: Lose Control; Waiting for My Time to Come; Glorious; Moving Forward; Keep On Keeping On.
1. Blurryface by Twenty One Pilots.
Twenty One Pilots is taking the young music scene by storm, and rightfully so. Their style bleeds across multiple genres and mixes them in a unique and electrifying way. Their lyrics are poignant and poetic—something of a rare find these days. Blurryface wins the top spot on my list this year because I’ve listened to it consistently since it was released; I feel like I related to it the most out of any album this year; it is one of the most brilliant concept albums I’ve heard; and because its blend of energy, creativity, and vulnerability make it deserve to be in first place. As I wrote in my full review, “Blurryface is not for the faint of heart or the lazy of mind.”
Favorite Tracks: The Judge, Ride, Fairly Local, Tear In My Heart, Goner.
- Brand New by Ben Rector
- I love Ben Rector. This was a good record, but not as complete as The Walking in Between. Standout Tracks: Fear, Brand New.
- Kids These Days by Judah and the Lion
- This is another 2014 debut album I greatly enjoyed in 2015. These guys have a fun, unique sound and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future. Standout Tracks: Rich Kids, Kickin’ The Leaves.
- Mansion by NF
- NF is a rising Christian hip hop artist with great beats and poignant lyrics. I loved his EP last year, and his full-length album added some good tracks to that repertoire. Standout Tracks: Mansion, Motivated.
- Wild Eyes by Matthew Mayfield
- I was kind of disappointed in my favorite singer/songwriter/rocker’s latest album, to be honest. He’s been one of the most consistently excellent underdog artists I’ve ever known. But there are still some great songs on this record. Standout Tracks: Wild Eyes, Ride Away.
- Wanted on Voyage by George Ezra
- I’m just starting to listen to this album by this young guy with the voice of an old soul. But from what I’ve heard over a few play-throughs, it should definitely be on this list. Standout Tracks: Budapest, Blame It On Me.
- Built by Titan
- Pretty sure this guy has yet to produce a song I don’t love. I just wish he’d come out with an album already! Technically, he released an EP this year, but it contained singles I already knew. Standout Tracks: Breaking Free, Air.