Highly subjective as always, with some effort of objectivity. This year, I’m most thankful for pop music, which may finally be living up to its full potential, becoming a new kind of sanctuary. Punk music told us to fight back against our own self-doubts and against everyone else who wrongs us and the people around us. The realization that art is getting better because reality is getting worse? Well, regardless -- this year was the year of the album for me, and as such it will be the first year I begin my tradition of purchasing my top three albums on vinyl. I’m still waiting for Rihanna to show up.
1. The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven
It’s been years since I teared up hearing a new album for the first time, and probably never since I burst into hysterics at how good it continued to be. It seemed like everyone held a sliver of doubt that no album could reach beyond The Greatest Generation but The Wonder Years proved that the boundaries of their own music can be pushed further and further still. The subject matter of Soupy’s lyrics may have changed, but the core spirit remains the same - it’s all heart, all the way through. It blends personal and political the way very few artists can. And it’s always fifty steps forward between albums, which reminds me of all the successful bands who planted roots in pop punk and went on to become music legends beyond the genre itself. So honestly, at this point...I’ll be damned if this band doesn’t last forever. I don’t even care that I got on the bandwagon three years after the first album - I’m just glad I’m here now. Oh, and I fucking lost it at “You In January”.
2. Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface
Blurryface showcases a beautiful production, a true feat for their sophomore album, and the only album on this list that feels interesting and varied, yet musically and conceptually consistent. It’s also a good sign when you know the album will live on within the context of its own conceptual era. Sometimes I hesitate around hype, but man, if you give your loyalty or attention to any artist this year, it’s Twenty One Pilots.
3. Adele – 25
2015 is the year that we got Adele back. I’d like to think that Adele is the one pop artist of this century that transcends all boundaries of fan demographics -- despite the fact that there is nothing truly controversial about Adele, her music is so good that it seems to reach listeners of all ages and genres. Adele is one of the few artists that still brings coolness to genuine, heartfelt music. I’d think that all anyone does is cry to Adele’s music, but it turns out that you can dance to it too.
4. Troye Sivan – Blue Neighborhood
Troye’s debut album is the latest release to be included on this list, and therefore the one that has been on repeat since its release. I can’t quite pinpoint one reason why I love this album so much, besides the fact that it is so damn catchy and so well-produced. If there’s anything that will continue to separate Troye from other young pop artists, it’s his immediate lyrical maturity. Blue Neighborhood is one of those albums where I think, “why didn’t this album before?” -- but I’m glad it does now.
5. Neck Deep – Life’s Not Out to Get You
God, why is this album so fucking good? It’s your tongue-in-cheek self-esteem rollercoaster in musical form. The comparisons to Blink 182 are not unwarranted, which may explain why I fell deep into the pop-punk black hole this year. My favorite thing became starting the record from the last song, “Rock Bottom”, because when Ben Barlow sings “resurrect and start again”, all I can think is yes, I do want to start this goddamn record over...and over...and over again.
6. Halsey – Badlands
Maybe it was a wild ride watching Halsey transform from before this debut to after, but it seems that Badlands will forever serve as evidence that Halsey deserves this success. I recall seeing reviews noting Badlands as “overproduced”, naturally. But I’m so thankful that a pop artist and a pop record like this exist, indulgent and unfiltered all the same.
7. Desaparecidos – Payola
After over a decade on hiatus, Desaparecidos doesn’t rest on Payola -- a 14-song record that is as punk as you can get. Despite the 13-year gap, Payola still feels like a natural follow-up to Read Music, Speak Spanish.
8. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
Another band that returned from hiatus 10 years since their last record. While I didn’t spin No Cities To Love as often as all the other albums on this list, 2015 wouldn’t have been the same without this album and the return of Sleater-Kinney. It cemented my place as a fan, and I’m glad to finally be part of the club.
9. Frank Turner – Positive Songs for Negative People
I agree with the artist sentiment that the most recent record should be better than the last, and Frank accomplishes just that with PSFNP. Produced by Butch Walker, it’s a stronger record than Tape Deck Heart - and above all, it’s good to hear him on the side of triumph. Overall, a record I can’t help but enjoy over and over again. Glad to have caught Frank and the Sleeping Souls on this tour for this record -- a show that easily entered my top three shows of all time.
10. The Story So Far – s/t
Look, I’m late on the bandwagon but 2015 should be known as the year I came to terms with how much I love The Story So Far (which is a-fucking-lot). Part of that admission is knowing I’d be remiss if I didn’t include it on the list. I could get into the whys, but the conclusion is that the music just speaks for itself. The change to Drop D tuning could explain why this self-titled doesn’t hit as hard as previous records, but the fact is that I still had it on replay for days, and weeks, and months, and always will.
Other 2015 Releases I Loved & Listened To OftenAlessia Cara – Know-It-All
Christine and The Queens - s/t
Chvrches - Every Open Eye
Citizen – Everybody is Going to Heaven
Drake – If You’re Reading This…
Fall Out Boy – American Beauty/American Psycho
Florence + The Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
The Front Bottoms – Back On Top
Grimes – Art Angels
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
Motion City Soundtrack – Panic Stations
noWhere - Hell Knows I’m Miserable Now
Skinny Lister - Down on Deptford Broadway
Superheaven - Ours is Chrome
Turnover - Peripheral Vision
The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness
Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp
The Wombats - Glitterbug