Amason | Sky City
Four Swedish songwriters throw their songwriting skills in a blender, and out comes a sound too big, thick, and moody for any one band-backed songwriter to have mustered alone.
Belle & Sebastian | Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
In 2015, Scottish folk-pop sensation Belle & Sebastian offered up the best album of their epic, 20-year career.
“The Party Line”
Best Coast | California Nights
This is Best Coast’s best album to date, and what separates this album from their previous efforts is how consistent it is: as opposed to having 2-3 killer jams surrounded by mediocre filler, this album is solid front to back, and boasts a rockier, toothier edge than their other albums.
“In My Eyes”
Courtney Barnett | Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit
Catchy, carefree rock with an affinity for pop hooks. Her mile-a-minute vocal delivery adds extra singalong status to the best songs. “Pedestrian at Best” is a top 10 single of the year.
“Pedestrian at Best”
Dan Deacon | Gliss Rifter
It sounds like an acid trip, and yet it’s as accessible as it is musically mindblowing.
“Learning to Relax”
The Decemberists | What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
This is a serious contender for album of the year. “Calvary Captain” alone is worth the price of the record.
Django Django | Born under Saturn
Dance-leaning rock and roll sure to put a little swagger in your day. “Shake and Tremble” is a seriously hot jam.
“Shake and Tremble”
Doug Burr | Pale White Dove
For fans of Ryan Adams. Although, Burr’s album showcases more breadth of genre than Adams himself.
“Never Gonna Be Young Again”
Elle King | Love Stuff
Energetic, brashly confident, in your face folk-rock that electrifies its genre and takes it down every dark and dirty alley so many songwriters don’t think to take it. Wild, vivacious, and terrific.
“Exes and Ohs””
Father John Misty | I Love You Honeybear
I Love You Honeybear is more consistently solid, track to track, and more diverse in sound, track to track than his mega-sensation debut. Downfall is the lyrics can occasionally be grating – their tragic male womanizer blues get old … even if they’re in keeping with his marketing gimmick ladykiller alter-ego, and his poking fun at the culture that loves him because of that persona.
“The Ideal Husband”
Gabrielle Papillon | The Tempest of Old
A perfect, impressive album for anyone into broody, folk-leaning, singer-songwriter music. She both nails the genre, while adding something fresh to it.
“Brother, Throw Down”
Galaxie | Zulu
The biggest, phattest rock and goddamn roll album since you first heard The Black Keys. And it’s twice as cool.
The Heartless Bastards | Restless Ones
Borrowing elements of alt-country, rock, and folk, the band is back with their best, most musically diverse album.
“Gates of Dawn”
The Helio Sequence | Self-titled
An interesting spin on the indie rock genre, soaking it in soundscapes associated with electro-rock.
Hot Chip | Why Make Sense
Their blend of funk and dance is reminiscent of Chromeo, with the difference being Hot Chip lack the corniness Chromeo forces their listeners to embrace and forgive.
Houndmouth | Little Neon Limelight
Their gang-vocal, ultra-catchy, hook-driven breed of Americana sounds like The Lumineers and The Felice Brothers wrote a rock record together.
Jake Xexes Fussell | Self-titled
Fussell is a fine purveyor of simple acoustic blues, filtered through alt-country sensibilities. It’s nothing new, but so bang-on it needn’t knock any walls down.
“Let Me Lose”
Lady Lamb the Beekeeper | After
Every song is doing something different. And “Violet Clementine” is doing something very right. If you’re a songwriter, this album’s range is something to be jealous of.
Laura Marling | Short Film
An amazing guitarist, with an amazing voice. On 2 or 3 of these songs, she dives into some notably rockier material than her previous work.
Limblifter | Pacific Milk
90’s sensation Limblifter played a big hand in what, post-2000, became “indie rock,” but were defunct by the turn of the century. Until their random return this year.
Lord Huron | Strange Trails
Probably the best album of the year so far, and it sounds like nothing you’ve heard a hundred times already.
“Fool for Love”
Lower Dens | Escape from Evil
What if The War on Drugs went all 80s-inspired shoegze on us? It’d sound something like this.
“To Die in L.A”
Marine Dreams | Producer’s Wonderland
If Nick Drake was still alive in today’s musical soundscape, he might sound a little like this gem of an album.
Marriages | Salome
Unique as it is airy, this is a powerfully subdued, emotionally engaging, well-textured batch of songs.
Matthew E. White | Fresh Blood
If you like Bahamas, and a musical experimenter, you’ll like this album.
“Rock and Roll is Cold”
Michael Feuerstack | The Forgettable Truth
The man drops his Snailhouse moniker and suddenly he’s a sensation? Whatever, it’s about time. Feuerstack is the consistent, authentic singer-songwriter – with a penchant for indie rock hooks – that so, so many Canadian artists are trying unsuccessfully to be.
Modest Mouse | Strangers to Ourselves
Pushing 20 years of pushing musical boundaries, they’re just as strong, catchy, and weird as ever. The band is brilliantly mad, if you’re attentive enough to hear the songs from a structural standpoint.
“Lampshades on Fire”
Moon Duo | Shadow of the Sun
Hard, pounding rock that flirts with psychedelica, and never forfeits the catchiness of simplicity for the inaccessibility of wankering off.
My Morning Jacket | The Waterfall
The waterfall captures a sophisticated and experimental songwriter at the peak of his career.
“In Its Infancy”
Of Montreal | Aureate Gloom
These catchy-funk-in-your-face experimental rockers still have the same spunk and untouchably distinct sound that made them what they were from their 1997 start: indie rock pioneers with a great, unpredictable sound.
Quarterbacks | Self-titled
An album of sensitive-guy lyrics paired to softened punk-rock song structures. 19 songs might seem overwhelming if it weren’t for the fact not one song is longer than 1:40. And that’s an intentional trick – each song leaves you wanting more.
Rah Rah | Vessels
On vessels, these radio-friendly indie rock purveyors build on their catchy, upbeat formula for pop-rock gold.
Screaming Females | Rose Mountain
The band name speaks for itself. No screaming, per se, but plenty of attitude and great rock riffs. More than a poor man’s Sleater-Kinney, they bring something genuine enough to their genre.
Siskiyou | Nervous
Nervous combines originality and accessibility too well not to be one of the hip kid favourites of 2015.
Sleater-Kinney | No Cities to Love
The band that is single-handedly credited for starting music’s Riot Grrrl genre emerged from a 10-year hiatus to release their heaviest offering so far.
Subways | Subways are for Sleeping
This year’s most notable offering from UK’s punk-esque rock scene.
“My Heart is Pumping to a Brand New Beat”
The Tallest Man on Earth | Dark Bird is Home
Fans of this Swedish folk sensation will note that this is his first album with a full band backing, taking his sound and songs to new, well-textured, more dynamic heights.
The Go! Team | The Scene Between
Thanks to bands like these, you don’t have to apologize for secretly loving pop music anymore. Artists like these have broken the skeleton of pop music, and rebuilt the way the whole thing works.
Viet Gong | Viet Cong
Industrial post-punk done right, and done in their own, striking way.
Will Butler | Policy
The best solo albums are the ones where the music sounds nothing like the frontman’s band (in this case Arcade Fire). On Policy, Butler busted out a mish-mash of innovative, avant-garde pop rock.