Artist: Out of the Grey Album: A Little Light Left Year: 2015 Grade: B
In Brief: While it’s quite different from the glossy, catchy and quirky pop tunes of their 90s heyday, Out of the Grey has created a mellow and mostly acoustic record that feels authentic to who they are now. It’s not so much a comeback as it is a welcome visit from old friends you haven’t seen in ages.
Artist: Flint Eastwood Album: Small Victories EP Year: 2015 Grade: A-
In Brief: Flint Eastwood fits nicely among some of the other female-fronted dance-pop and electronica artists that I listen to, who emphasize wit and songcraft above mere sex appeal in their quest to get their music heard.
I don’t like a lot of hodgepodge in my year-end lists of favorite albums. But sometimes the good songs don’t end up on full-length LPs, or else they do and I just don’t discover them in time to put them on that year’s list. This is where all of that stuff goes.
Artist: Timbre Album: Sun & Moon Year: 2015 Grade: B
In Brief: A double album with intricate, harp-driven baroque pop compositions on one side and several lengthy classical pieces on the other certainly asks a lot of the listener, but Timbre has a foot firmly planted in both worlds and she clearly had no shortage of inspiration when exploring the relationship between the two. I may never fully understand this album, but I really appreciate the inherent beauty and interconnectedness of it all.
In Brief: Lauryn is an intriguing singer/songwriter with a gift for sprawling, thoughtful, and slightly whimsical baroque pop arrangements. This album’s only real flaw is a few excessively bloated tracks that create the illusion of the album having more content than it actually does.
Artist: Andrew Peterson Album: The Burning Edge of Dawn Year: 2015 Grade: B
In Brief: While not as bold of a musical statement as Light For the Lost Boy, it’s one of Peterson’s most honest and transparent records yet, a confessional and comforting work to help you get through those “dark nights of the soul”.
Artist: Guy Garvey Album: Courting the Squall Year: 2015 Grade: B
In Brief: At times it may as well just be a new Elbow record, but since Elbow paints a little bit outside of their previously established lines with every album, I don’t consider it to be a bad thing for their lead singer to do some more of that on his own. The combination of loud, brash, up-tempo numbers and velvety ballads makes the flow a bit choppier than it would be on an Elbow record, but there’s a lot of strength in the diversity as well.
Artist: Josh Ritter Album: Sermon on the Rocks Year: 2015 Grade: B
In Brief: A much more diverse, playful, foreboding, swaggery, fantastical, pretty much everything (except boring and mopey!) album than The Beast in Its Tracks. I’m unsure how much of this record is fact and how much is fiction, and since Ritter is so good at the fiction, that’s just the way I like it.
Artist: Coldplay Album: A Head Full of Dreams Year: 2015 Grade: B-
In Brief: An enjoyably upbeat, albeit overly mushy and commercialized, record that I’d be willing to accept as a decent swansong if Coldplay actually followed through on their threat to call it quits after seven albums.
Here’s the cream of the crop, folks – the list of albums that captivated me most in the year 2015. While some of these picks are likely about as predictable as the likelihood of a YouTube comments section devolving into a vicious political flamewar, there are a few cases here where I genuinely surprised myself by falling in love with an artist or even a genre that I had previously decided was “just not my thing”. I hope the music that comes out in 2016 challenges me in similar ways.