By: Evan "The Real Concert King" Harrison
Here are the top 20 albums of 2015 according to me. No, I haven't listened to every album that came out, but out of everything I was drawn to and listened to these are what I feel were the best. I highly recommend you check out some of the stuff you may not be as familiar with, even if only for a minute or so. I tried to write a little bit about some of the albums explaining why I decided to rank them where I did and my overall feelings on the album itself. I didn't bother giving expert musical critique and analysis because there are other people who can do that much better than I could, so go look up full album reviews if that's what you're looking for. I feel the music can speak for itself, for the most part so that's why I embedded a song or two from each album as well as a link to check the whole thing if you want to give it a spin. This list is just based on how I feel at this time.
Without further ado, I present to you my top albums of 2015!
Honorable Mentions (In no particular order)
David Cook - "Digital Vein" Spotify
Silverstein - "I Am Alive In Everything I Touch" Spotify
CHON - "Grow" Spotify
Baroness - "Purple" Spotify
The American Dollar - "Across the Oceans" Bandcamp
Meg Myers - "Sorry" Spotify
The top 20 albums of 2015
20. Butcher Babies - "Take it Like a Man"
19. Marilyn Manson - "The Pale Emperor"
18. New Years Day - "Malevolence"
17. Kelly Clarkson - "Piece by Piece"
16. Iron Maiden - "Book of Souls"
15. Too Close to Touch - "Nerve Endings"
14. Marriages - "Salome"
Check out: "Southern Eye"
13.5. Scale the Summit - "V"
- Every year there seems to be an album that I completely missed when I was putting together my list. And every year, I cheat and squeeze it in because I can't bear to take any of the albums off the list at this point. I couldn't bear making a list of the top albums of the year and leave out Scale the Summit's masterful fifth album.
13. Halestorm - "Into the Wild Life"
12. Pomegranate Tiger - "Boundless"
- A fantastic instrumental progressive metal album created by ONE person. As if this album needed any more reasons to be impressive.
11. Caspian - "Dust and Disquiet"
- A fantastic album from one of the most underrated bands on this list. This album contains one of the best tracks released by anyone in 2015, Arcs of Command.
Check out: "Arcs of Command" Buy/Stream: Bandcamp
10. Dustin Kensrue - "Carry the Fire"
9. Muse - "Drones"
8. City and Colour - "If I Should Go Before You"
7. I the Mighty - "Connector"
- I the Mighty is a band that has been gaining momentum for the past several years, and deservedly so. With Connector, the band has expanded upon some of the best elements they've been cultivating throughout their career. Like many of the artists on this list, they blend beautiful, flowing melodies with faster, hard-hitting, in-your-face musicality, sometimes within one bridge. Every element of this album is near flawless, from the drums to the lyrics. Mixing elements from pop, rock, metal, hardcore and even a few dancy bits, they create something uniquely their own. One of the things I love most about I the Mighty's music is that it oozes passion. It is impossible to listen to this album and not hear the heart Brent, Blake, Chris and Ian put into these songs. Connector is the album that proved I the Mighty is no longer a 'band on the rise.' They have arrived, and they are a force to be reckoned with.
6. Steven Wilson - "Hand. Cannot. Erase."
- Another resounding accomplishment from one of the greatest musical and artistic minds of our time. Steven Wilson continued down the path of experimentation and exploration with the latest album, but still staying true to himself. The basic concept of the album as explained by Steven is, "it's about a woman growing up, who goes to live in the city, very isolated, and she disappears one day and no one notices." Which is why he brought in female vocalist Ninet Tayeb to help reinforce the perspective, and broaden the sound of the album. This album has less jazz elements than the last SW album, The Raven That Refused to Sing, and some more pop influences than some of his other work, but rest assured there is still plenty of prog to go around. This is the type of album that you can lose yourself in. It's no wonder Hand. Cannot. Erase. has received universal acclaim from critics and fans.
5. Between the Buried and Me - "Coma Ecliptic"
- It's starting to get easy to take Between the Buried and Me's consistent greatness for granted. They have released some of the greatest progressive metal albums of all time over the past decade. Each album bringing a fresh take to the now legendary BTBAM style and sound. Coma Ecliptic is almost a blend of the past two full length albums, 2012's The Parallax II: Future Sequence and 2009's The Great Misdirect...almost. We've come to depend on their remarkable ability to create great music but not get boring and release the same album over and over like some other bands have done. BTBAM have become known for their epic, long tracks (10-15 minutes), and Coma Ecliptic includes a number of songs that would be considered extremely long by most artists' standards, this is the first album since 2005's Alaska to not include a single song that breaks the 10 minute mark.
I particularly love the intro to Memory palace and feel it might be one of the best song intros BTBAM has ever come up with, which is saying a lot. All in all, Coma Ecliptic is another stunning work from a modern musical juggernaut.
4. The Dear Hunter - "Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise"
- The Dear Hunter have been quietly (to some) solidifying their place among the greatest bands of this generation. Act IV undoubtedly proves that. After taking some time to create The Color Spectrum and Migrant, Casey Crescenzo and co. returned to the concept and storyline of the first three Dear Hunter albums. Act IV runs the gamut of emotions from the somber yet powerful Is There Anybody Here? to the (somewhat surprising) dance number, King of Swords (Reversed). Of course the rich soundscape that we have come to know and love from The Dear Hunter's music is back in full force, blending rock elements with string and horn arrangements. It's hard to get bored listening to a TDH album, especially this one, because the songs are so dynamic and diverse. I truly think this album can appeal to almost anyone, even if you don't consider yourself a fan of prog rock, give it a listen and you might be surprised. I also think the album cover is one of the two best album covers of 2015. Just look at how gorgeous it is.
3. ARCHIS - "ARCHIS - EP"
- How did an EP end up on a "Top ALBUMS of the Year" list? Let alone at number three? Well it is a testament to how incredible this EP is. These six songs are so great, I felt like leaving it out of a list of the best releases of the year would be irresponsible. ARCHIS is the new project from Dia Frampton (of Meg & Dia and The Voice season 1 fame) and composer Joseph Trapanese, who has composed scores for films such as The Raid 2, Oblivion, and Straight Outta Compton. The songs ooze passion and drama, lending to a very cinematic feel. Dia has the ability to expertly convey so much emotion with her voice and she puts on a clinic with these songs. It's refreshing to hear pop (for lack of a better term) music in 2015 that includes an orchestra, but that's what ARCHIS is bringing to the table. There are soft, tender moments and there are climactic, powerful moments both of which will leave you with goosebumps or in tears. It's rare for me to listen to this EP and not get chills. Every song on here is a triumph and I am extremely proud of Dia and Joe for crafting such a masterpiece. They should be releasing a follow-up full length album in 2016, so keep a look out for that.
Check out: "Let Me Love"
2. Coheed and Cambria - "The Color Before the Sun"
- I am as surprised as you that this album was not my number one. It is less a criticism of The Color Before the Sun, rather an indication of the greatness of the other album. What Coheed and Cambria have crafted with this album is astonishing. If you're not aware, this was Coheed's first non-concept album, which made many fans nervous. Claudio's approach to songwriting with TCBTS changed a bit as he wrote about personal experiences without masking things in a sci-fi storyline. That lead to a much more approachable and relatable album, being able to discern the meaning and intention of a song a little bit more easily than in past efforts. At first, I wasn't as crazy about this album as I had been with the last double album "The Afterman," feeling like this one was more poppy and radio-friendly and less 'Coheed-y.' While it's not entirely untrue that this song is generally more radio friendly, the essence of what makes Coheed's music so great is still very much present. Songs like Here to Mars, Atlas, The Audience, Eraser and Island are certainly standouts and probably most similar to the Coheed sound we're used to, while still representing a new approach.
I was initially skeptical of the move away from the Amory Wars concept, but now I applaud it. Frontman Claudio Sanchez said that he didn't want to put any restrictions or limitations on Coheed and Cambria and I think the decision to broaden the horizons of the band's creativity was a wise one. This album was, in many ways, a big step forward for them and is proof that they are not afraid to progress, mature and grow as artists. I know they are immensely proud of The Color Before the Sun and they have every right to be, it is a tremendous work of art.
Check out : "Island"
1. Ghost - "Meliora"
- I went back and forth for about two weeks between the top two albums, trying to decide which I would choose as number one. As fantastic as Coheed's latest effort is, Meliora is simply superb. The word I came up with to help describe why this was my top album was "transportive." Listening to this album is such a thorough experience. The thing that first really hooked me on Ghost was seeing their performance and not feeling like I was at a concert, but an actual satanic worship ceremony. That was partly due to the backdrop, costumes, performance, pre-show music, props, etc. But this album is able to do all of that with only the music. Although Ghost's albums are not technically concept albums per se, in that they don't tell an exactly linear story, each has it's own theme. Meliora was created to be a more futuristic work both sonically and thematically. A Nameless Ghoul stated that the overall theme of the album is "the absence of god," and "The lyrics deal with the void that happens when there is no god, when there is no one there to help you...And the band is basically portrayed as the religious party that comes in there with a guiding hand."
The theme is enforced by the album artwork which depicts a "super-urban, metropolitan, pre-apocalyptic, dystopic futuristic" setting. Listening to the songs, you feel as though you are stepping into this world, which is due in large part to the layers within the music. The lyrics are another key element, they are rife with an attention to detail only present in the work of the best, most intelligent lyricists. Reading through lyrics to a Ghost song really helps to give you a better appreciation for the music, and a greater sense for the idea and message behind the song. Many people write off Ghost as simply a band with a gimmick, but they are far more than that. Utilizing their gimmick for more than just theatrics, which there are plenty of, they also make commentary about broader subjects like faith, indoctrination and abuse. Not only are there layers within the soundscape, but within the concept itself. Ghost is one of those bands that can easily go over people's heads if they try to take it at face value.
With Meliora, Ghost has given us an undoubtedly classic album that will be admired for years to come. If you haven't taken the time to at least give it one listen, do yourself a favor and sit down, listen to the music, pay attention to the lyrics and enjoy.
Check out: "Cirice" "Absolution"
And there it was! The top albums of 2015 according to me. What did you agree with? Disagree with? What did I miss? Let me know what you think!