The year 2015 was good for music. It wasn’t great, but it had its share of moments.
There were high-profile releases (some were good; some were overrated). There were a few surprises, too. It was hard to notch it down to just 10 of my favorites. But here they are.
1. “I Love You, Honeybear” by Father John Misty
Josh Tillman, a.k.a. Father John Misty, is the cynical bastard at the bar, overdrinking and overthinking. He says what’s on everyone’s mind, and on his sophomore album, he’s turned his mind to love. It’s a bold disc that cements Tillman’s status as one of the best, if not the best, singer-songwriter of the modern times.
2. “The Agent Intellect” by Protomartyr
Nothing comes easy for this Detroit punk-rock quartet. A relentless tour schedule and three albums in, things don’t seem to be getting any brighter for lead singer Joe Casey and his gang. “The Agent Intellect” pummels you with imagery and doesn’t let up. It’s exactly the prescription rock music needs.
3. “The Waterfall” by My Morning Jacket
Jim James needed to make a good record, a worthy follow-up to the masterpiece “Z,” and he and his band finally did. On “The Waterfall,” the band goes back to the heartbreak and reverb. It’s easily the best thing they’ve done in a decade.
4. “Viet Cong” by Viet Cong
Angular alt-rock from a band whose name might as well be “politically incorrect/will cause controversy” (and it did). This release is seven songs from cold, cooped up Canadians who are putting a mirror to the world. It doesn’t go down easy, but topical relevance was never meant to be all pop glitter. Sometimes, it needs to be all edges, lo-fi and a little ugly.
5. “Star Wars” by Wilco
Jeff Tweedy and the Wilco guys needed to mix it up, and they finally did on their umpteenth album — a surprise release that is easily the band’s best since “A Ghost is Born.” This isn’t the Volkswagon Dad rock they made habitually. This is the weird, alt-country band we’ve always loved.
6. “High” by Royal Headache
Mix The Clash with Motown and you get something like Royal Headache. “High” is a firecracker of a rock ’n’ roll record, made by a band that’s torn at the seams.
7. “English Graffiti” by The Vaccines
This is the record The Strokes have been wanting to make for the past eight-or-so years. “English Graffiti” is an infectiously fun, guitar-addled reminder of how good pop-infected rock can sound.
8. “Sol Invictus” by Faith No More
The reunion of the year — singer Mike Patton and his cohorts tackle everything from breakfast dishes (“Sunny Side Up”) to prescribed problems (“Separation Anxiety”).
9. “b’lieve I’m goin’ down” by Kurt Vile
Kurt Vile is probably the only singer-songwriter out there who can make me roll my eyes one minute then laugh the next. His latest album is a more focused look at his slacker life, and, most of the time, it’s “pretty pimpin.”
10. “Untethered Moon” by Built to Spill
Leave it to Built to Spill to casually make the college rock record I never knew I needed.
“II” by Metz; “Feels Like” by Bully; “Born in the Echoes” by The Chemical Brothers; “Return to the Moon” by El Vy; “The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us” by Beach Slang; “Restless Ones” by Heartless Bastards; “The Magic Whip” by Blur; “Policy” by Will Butler; “Bleeder” by Mutoid Man; “Howl” by Rival Consoles; “Green Lines” by Ultimate Painting; “Purple” by Baroness
Follow Matthew Sigur on Twitter @MatthewSigur.