Ask anyone who knows me to list my favorite things and somewhere between “Sports, watching Notre Dame lose, and fake leg jokes” you’ll find music. It’s one of the most important aspects of my life and every year I try to list the best albums/musical acts of the year. This year I wanted to do it a little bigger. Here’s what I listened to in 2015.
Best discoveries of 2015:
- George Ezra
George Ezra was the most important music discovery of the year for me. His laid-back style, masterful lyrics, old-folk feel blended with modern mixing captured me from the first note I heard of “Budapest.” Yes, Ezra’s album “Wanted On Voyage” was released in 2014 but I didn’t even know he existed until I was sitting in my hotel room in London, England in June and Ezra’s song came on. I can’t recall an artist I never heard of before resonate with me that quickly.
- Tyler Ward
YouTube star Tyler Ward caught my attention with his acoustic cover of Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance” and four hours later I had listened to nearly every song (both cover and original) he had on his YouTube page. Ward also posted a powerful video near the end of the year chronicling his battle with alcoholism – something I certainly never would’ve expected out of him. Ward is uber talented and I sincerely hope he achieves great success. Either way, I really enjoyed his music this year.
- Walk The Moon
Back in February I was browsing YouTube and stumbled upon a tune that had barely 50,000 views called “Shut Up And Dance.” I sent it immediately to my sister who replied “Meh, it’s Ok.” I then sent it to three or four other friends of mine who had virtually the same reaction. I told every single one of them “This will be the Song of the Summer.” Some of theme agreed with me while others scoffed at the idea. 154 million YouTube hits later I think I was right. I’m proud to declare to all my friends I discovered Walk The Moon first. (More on Walk The Moon in the Albums section).
- James Bay and Vance Joy
I put James Bay and Vance Joy in the same musical category. Even though they’re styles are pretty different they both elicit the same reaction and feeling out of me – and both positive. I have to be in a particular mood to listen to Bay and Joy but when that mood strikes it’s perfect music.
fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff’s solo project Bleachers resonated with me in a big way this year. When I first heard his big single “I Wanna Get Better” my first reaction was “this is … interesting.” But after listening to the song several times I realized the true size and scope of the song (and the band’s other tracks, as well) and something about it sucked me in every time. Each track they’ve put out is very poppy, is rich in sound, and has deep lyrical meaning. I have a feeling this band is going to grow on me more over time.
My Favorite Albums of 2015
“Purpose” – Justin Bieber
I’m not a Belieber. Until I heard “Purpose” and The Biebs pumped out banger after banger. I’m really excited to see where he goes musically as he gets older. If it’s anything like this album it’s a great direction.
“Made In The AM” – One Direction
It’s my least favorite One Direction album but it still had memorable tracks that will likely grow on me over time.
“Threat To Survival” – Shinedown
Shinedown changed their sound in 2015 going with more backing tracks, some sampled beats, and pop choruses rather than their down-and-dirty rock sound of albums past. It was a good change, however, and Shinedown is beginning to expand a bit.
#10 – “Smoke + Mirrors” – Imagine Dragons
I’m not a big Imagine Dragons fan but I’m a big fan of their production and “Smoke + Mirrors” is “big.” Each song feels like an epic. Imagine Dragons has always had a way of not exactly captivating me with lyrics but with their big sound and feel instead. Every song “feels” important.
#9 – “Dark Before Dawn” – Breaking Benjamin
My late middle school, early high school days are soundtracked by Breaking Benjamin and acts like them; angst-ridden, hard rock music that over time eventually faded away for me. “Dark Before Dawn” was a revisit to those days. It felt like “old school” Breaking Benjamin. The guitar riffs are memorable, though not as memorable as their early work, and the lyrics are a throwback to the “We Are Not Alone” days.
#8 – “.5 The Gray Chapter” – Slipknot
My first album on the list that’s actually from 2014. Yes, this is a list of “2015 music” but I classify music not according to when it was released, rather when I discovered them/when they became important to me. Slipknot’s “.5 The Gray Chapter” is brutal. The riffs are gnarly with a bit of a departure from the palm muting “grumble” feel and more towards a shred feel, the drums are heavy (long-time drummer Joey Jordison is gone), and singer Corey Taylor has changed his scream again in favor of a more “understandable” and melodic tone. By his own admittance this album was more harmonic than anything the band has done prior and it’s produced terrific results. I was never as big of a Slipknot fan as I am right now – even in my “teenage angst” days.
#7 – “Everybody Wants” – The Struts
Part Queen, part Rolling Stones, and part The Ramones, The Struts’ debut album “Everybody Wants” is fantastic. It’s a throwback to the heyday of good-‘ol rock-n-roll of the 1960s and 1970s with heavier guitars and gritty lyrics. I love nearly every song on this album from their hit “Could Have Been Me” to “Put Your Money On Me” and “Kiss This” – it’s a great rock-n-roll album.
#6 – “Wilder Mind” – Mumford and Sons
The two biggest “holy shit they went electric?!?!?” moments in music history are when Bob Dylan did it in the 1965, and when Mumford and Sons did it in 2015. This album is awesome. “The Wolf” might be my favorite song of 2015 and the album is littered with great tunes. Though they shocked the world departing from their “folk” sound, I think this electric rock feel is exactly what Mumford and Sons needed.
#5 – “Blurryface” – twenty one pilots
twenty one pilots is weird. But it’s a feel-good incredible weird. I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard “Tear In My Heart” – their most popular song on the album. Much like I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard “Holding On To You” – perhaps their biggest song ever. When a band is able to do that to you, it’s something powerful. I think what I love the most about twenty one pilots is how original, different, creative, lyrical, and just “wild” their music is yet it can hold itself together bordering right between “chaotic circus music” and “lyrical genius.” I can’t wait to see what else is in store for this band.
#4 – “Panic Stations” – Motion City Soundtrack
Motion City Soundtrack might be the “Band of the Year” winner for me because of how important their music has been to me overall, but specifically how important they’ve been for me in 2015 – capped with their album “Panic Stations.” I’ve always marveled at how MCS can write some of the most depressing, self-critical lyrics and magically combine it with the happiest pop-punk instrumentals you’ll ever hear. This time they flipped the bill a bit. The instrumentals are a bit harder and darker than in albums past while the lyrics tell a predominately positive story. It works perfectly. From “It’s A Pleasure To Meet You” to “I Can Feel You” and “Lose Control” it’s a very solid album.
#3 – “Talking Is Hard” – Walk The Moon
This album is pop cocaine. Every single song makes you want to jump out of your chair and shut up and dance (pun intended). There’s uplifting songs like “Work This Body”, songs about acceptance like “Different Colors”, and love songs such as “Aquaman”. This album has everything. And it’s done in a catchy way.
#2 – “Around The World And Back” – State Champs
This album kicks ass. Plain and simple. Go and get it. Now.
#1 – “Wanted On Voyage” – George Ezra
2015 was the Year of the Ezra for me. Yes, this album came out halfway through 2014. But George didn’t hit my eardrums for the first time until midway through 2015. I was hooked from the first note of “Budapest.” I nearly cried during “It’s Just My Skin.” I felt like a badass during “Did You Hear The Rain?” I was the guy in the song “Leaving It Up To You.” I feel exactly how George feels on “Listen To The Man.” I feel pure joy when I hear “Cassie O’.” Every single song is brilliant. The lyrics, the odd-yet-always-interesting sound, the feelings each song elicit, and his unique voice combine for a truly fulfilling musical experience. Oh, and George is only 21-years-old. Wow. What a talent.
My Top Songs of 2015 (In No Particular Order)
“Shut Up And Dance” – Walk the Moon
“Budapest” – George Ezra
“Leaving It Up To You” – George Ezra
“The Wolf” – Mumford and Sons
“Secrets” – State Champs
“All You Are Is History” – State Champs
“Tear In My Heart” – twenty one pilots
“It’s A Pleasure To Meet You” – Motion City Soundtrack
“I Wanna Get Better” – Bleachers
“Sorry” – Justin Bieber
“Blame It On Me” – George Ezra
“Homegrown” – Zac Brown Band
“Scars” – Alesso
“TKO” – Motion City Soundtrack
“Could Have Been Me” – The Struts
“Energy” – Drake
“I’m So Sorry” – Imagine Dragons
“The Devil In I” – Slipknot
“Perfect” – One Direction
“Geronimo” – Sheppard
“Dashes” – Tyler Ward
“Better” – Tyler Ward
“Gold” – Imagine Dragons
“Friction” – Imagine Dragons
“Cheerleader” – OMI
“Hold Back The River” – James Bay
“Riptide” – Vance Joy
“Cut The Cord” – Shinedown