Let’s Do This: Best Rock Albums of the Year

jordanalbumsThis article really needs no explanation, other than that I’ve helpfully included a few key tracks after my (brief) blurbs about each album. It’s been an excellent year for rock music, although I am of the opinion that if you know where to look, every year can be an excellent one for music (except, of course, for 1988). Enjoy! I know I did!

15. Wilco – Star Wars

This very well may be the only thing called “Star Wars” that I experience this year, and I’m more or less okay with that. Jeff Tweedy and company have never sounded younger and more vital.

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Must Listen: “Random Name Generator,” “Taste the Ceiling”

14. Hop Along – Painted Shut

Frances Quinlan’s voice is a unique object that not everyone is going to love right away. Give it time. It can be shiver-inducing.

Must Listen: “I Saw My Twin,” “The Knock”

13. Beach House – Depression Cherry

Beach House’s syrupy drones aren’t for the casual listener. You have to bathe in them. Beware: You won’t want to leave.

Must Listen: “10:37”

12. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit 

Despite the superfluous Oxford comma in the title of the album (which literally keeps me awake at night), Barnett delivers the driest, wryest set of guitar songs since Stephen Malkmus burst onto the scene 25 years ago (or Lou Reed 25 years before that). Keep an eye on this one.

Must Listen: “Pedestrian at Best,” “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party,” “Debbie Downer”

11. Tobias Jesso, Jr – Goon

This collection of gorgeous (mostly) piano-driven songs somehow shines brighter upon repeated listens. Truly a treat from start to finish.

Must Listen: “The Wait,” “How Could You Babe”

10. Mac McCaughan – Non-Believers

The lead singer of the long-running punk band Superchunk trades guitar licks for moody synths and lost 80’s movie soundtracks on his latest solo release. Atmospheric and catchy, but still rocks when the situation calls for it.

Must Listen: “Box Batteries,” “Real Darkness”

9. Deerhunter – Fading Frontier

Though the true breadth of this group’s massive stylistic wheelhouse is on full display here, the album never approaches epic, bloated length. Rather, each song offers a radically different facet of the group. Yet, it never feel disjointed.

Must Listen: “Snake Skin,” “Carrion”

8. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

Kate Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee is a backward-nodding collection of hummable indie pop in the tradition of great groups like Blake Babies and the Sundays. Crutchfield’s girlish, melodic voice is deceptively strong, attacking both acoustic ditties and electro pop opuses with vigor.

Must Listen: “Under a Rock,” “La Loose.”

7. Desaparecidos – Payola

The polarizing nature of Conor Oberst the person applies to his many musical outlets. If you don’t like his emotive, cracked-leather voice, you’re not going to like anything that features him, whether it be Bright Eyes or the long-dormant hardcore punk outlet he fronts here. If you can get past the teenage emotion and superficially political sloganeering, there’s actually a great record underneath. Just don’t imagine the excessively-scarved gentleman singing.

Must Listen: “Te Amo Camila Vallejo,” “City on the Hill”

6. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

Isbell’s voice cuts through an atmosphere like a single coil of smoke. His years as a touring act are apparent, as are his many regrets and indiscretions. Such is rock.

Must Listen: “How To Forget,” “The Life You Chose”

5. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

Josh Tillman’s self-conscious, rambling, hilarious and frequently bizarre folk project is equally front-loaded with both lyrical throw-away jokes and grand proclamations. Wrap the whole mess in a smooth, lush production, and suddenly I Love You, Honeybear is one of the most enjoyable listens of the year. Definitely one to experience with lyric sheet in hand.

Must Listen: “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins), “Holy Shit”

4. Colleen Green – I Want to Grow Up

Sludge-rock, dance-pop, and a bunch of other hyphenated shit had a baby and it grew up to be Colleen Green. This collection of juicy, substantial tracks never lets up with the hooks for even a second.

Must Listen: “Deeper Than Love,” “Things That Are Bad for Me (Parts 1 & 2)

3. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style

Ramshackle and garage-y indie rock songs with shout-along choruses and a firm commitment to a lo-fi aesthetic? Where do I sign up?

Must Listen: “The Drum, ” “Something Soon”

2. Viet Cong -Viet Cong

This full-length debut from the Calgary group combines the catchy and rhythmic  elements of post punk/new wave (think Joy Division and Talking Heads) with the  structural experiments common to  krautrock and artier stuff (Faust, Pere Ubu, etc). It may take a few listens to really get you going, but Viet Cong has delivered one of the most challenging and rewarding records of 2015. Too bad they’ll allegedly be changing their name soon. Hopefully it will be to something less historically loaded, like “The Taliban.” Actually, that’s an awesome name for a band. You’d better not steal my idea! 

Must Listen: “March of Progress,” “Continental  Shelf”

1. Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter

Adorable, caustic, and mercifully brief, Joanna  Gruesome delivers a noisy collection of twee songs that set up shop in the deep recesses of your brain. From the needle-shaking yelp of “Last Year” to the creepy coda of “Hey!  I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend,” the Welsh quintet’s latest effort is near-perfect by my estimation. That it clocks in at just under 35 minutes is bonus.

Must Listen: “Last Year,” “There is No Function Stacey.”

See y’all next year! But not literally, as I will be  writing a few articles before then. You know what I mean.


3 comments to “Let’s Do This: Best Rock Albums of the Year”
  1. This is a great list. I really need to give Car Seat Headrest a listen. It’s the one album that I’ve seen in many lists that I know nothing about.

  2. So so so happy to see Hop Along on your list! I fucking LOVE that album. It makes me feel like I’m in my early 20s again. I really need to see them live next time they tour here.

    I liked the Mac McCaughan album, but I prefer the louder/aggressive Superchunk sound.

  3. Pingback: Let’s Get Litigious: This Just Happened! | Rocknuts

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