best of 2015 playlist | part one

Wow. I cannot believe this year will be over in a matter of two days. This sure was a jam packed one, especially for music; so many gigs, so many EPs, so many LPs. I've compiled a (large) list of forty songs from my favourite LPs and EPs that came out during 2015 (one song from each). I've split the massive list into four sets of ten songs that seem to fit more naturally together, but if you prefer listening to one big list, go here. This post will contain the first two parts and the next one will contain parts III and IV. The album name is contiguous to the song and beneath the list I wrote a bit of an album review for every single one I mentioned. Call me crazy, but I had fun wasting my hours away.  //P.S. the songs are ordered by which sound best together, not which are best because I would never be able to choose.

Let Me Get It Out // RUFF | Born Ruffians
It's Too Late // Virgo's Maze | Part Time
Cold Cold Cold // Tell Me I'm Pretty | Cage The Elephant
ILYSB // Make Out | LANY
Riccochet // Use Your Time Wisely | Strange Names
The Right Thing // The Afternoon | James Supercave
Denial // English Graffiti | The Vaccines
Waves // EP I | Sundara Karma

1. RUFF (LP): Okay, so maybe just this one is in order. This is definitely my favourite album of the year (even a contender for my all time favourite). For their fourth LP, Born Ruffians seemed to make a return to their classic sound after the shift heard in the songs from Birthmarks (LP 3). The usual shrills, yelps, and guitar riffs are all ever-present and are conjoined with an even greater level of quirkiness. With song titles like "Yawn Tears", "(Eat Shit) We Did It", and "Fuck Feelings", you'd expect a lack of seriousness, maybe even something bordering inanity, but the lyrics prove otherwise. In fact, they are as abstract as ever. And words that may seem vulgar and out of place in most other situations actually find their home, nestled amongst profound thoughts and prudently sprinkled throughout the album. Much like the rest of the group's material, RUFF is full of happy ardor, but is laced with a delicate web of heavy feeling. A wisp of disappointment and distress trails through the album--"so, you're living the dream/but it don't live up/don't live up" in "Don't Live Up", "yes all I do is try so hard to get better/but see, people like a freak show. They don't want to see a kid grow/go from fucked up to normal" in "& On & On & On", "the crowd was meaningless/the crowd was pitiful/the crowd was nothing like me" in "Shade to Shade". Take the time to read the lyrics, and you'll discover a grand deal of emotion behind each song. Emotion that resonates deep into the wiry energy of Lalonde's voice and, naturally, through every sound emitted. 

Though they keep their signature style, Born Ruffians somehow manage to still reinvent their sound, create interest in the most unexpected places, and fill each crack of every song with complex noises. As I've mentioned before, a great portion of why Born Ruffians are my favourite band is their lack of concern for expectations--they do what they please. They do not succumb to the pressure created by the media. They do not attempt to match their sound to what every other band is creating. Actually, it is hard to even pinpoint groups that are similar. This is why I am always craving more from them. This is why their music is so beautiful to me. (If you missed it, I wrote a little more about Born Ruffians here.)

2. Virgo's Maze (LP): I've been a big fan of Part Time for quite a while now and I was incredibly excited when this gem came out. Their sound easily falls into that of the '80s. Indeed, it's almost as if this LP was lost and forgotten then, but found again in 2015. That might just be why I'm so thrilled with it; I'm surely a sucker for some good '80s tunes. At first listen, the songs may drone on, drowned in synths and overcome with similarities and familiarity--this may partially be due to its length--but with proper attention devoted to the music, the discovery of strange variations surfaces. It was written and recorded over a span of five years, yet the disparities found in the songs somehow coalesce to form something that flows nicely.  "I Saw Her Standing There" is one of my favourites, largely because it sounds like The Beatles were eaten up and spit out by Talking Heads. The entire album is quite obscure and lacks a serious tone (or even theme), but that's what makes it full of whimsy and so precious.

3. Tell Me I'm Pretty (LP): When I began listening to Cage The Elephant again, I was just concluding a relapse of Beatlemania. And they were the perfect substitute. With an undeniable lo-fi, '60s rock vibe, Tell Me I'm Pretty seems to be somewhat of a continuation of previous album, Melophobia. Cage plunges into a Rolling Stones-esque guitar riff in opening track, "Cry Baby" and, for the remaining nine songs, drenches listeners in the retro haze that they have mastered over the years. Though they firmly grip the foundation of Melophobia, this LP seems to possess one major difference--it is much more polished, maybe overtly so. Regardless, Cage stays true to their beloved style and delivers an enjoyable fourth album.

4. Interior Light (LP): I discovered Young Rival rather recently--in 2012 when Stay Young came out--so I often forget that Interior Light is their third LP. All I can say is that they seem to continue growing into something even greater. Their rock n' roll has a rarity to it; just when you think you can point a finger at a similar artist, an abrupt change unfolds and, well, you can't. Each song is saturated in a psychedelic, grungy atmosphere that manages to coat itself in a sense of blissful nostalgia. The album easily sweeps you away on an ear-amusing journey. It is decidedly one of my favourites from the year. I also had the pleasure of catching the boys in concert earlier in December (they toured with Born Ruffians). Their eccentric style certainly transcends through their stage presence. The boys came out in gold sequined garments and sang into microphones adorned with bouquets of faux flowers. And they did a delightful job doing so, too.

5. Make Out (EP): LANY's earlier EP, I Loved You, certainly captured the attention of many listeners with its enchanting stories of teenage romance and catchy '80s/'90s influences, which seep into Make Out to establish their sound. "ILYSB", along with "Bad, Bad, Bad" instantly became my favourites from the EP. With so much love and just two EPs out, they are sure to cultivate much success.

6. Use Your Time Wisely (LP): I hadn't heard of Strange Names until earlier this year when I learned they'd be accompanying Maudlin Strangers on tour. Once I listened to Use Your Time Wisely, I immediately fell in love with the album--another one of my favourites this year. Strange Names craft music doused in nostalgic '80s pop and rock, but shower it in fresh, unlikely perspective. With songs like "Supernatural Silence", the group provides something almost too groovy for rock, molding a sound hard to place in one category. The LP succeeds in pulling you in, and almost forces you to move. On stage, Strange Names seem to possess the propensity to be carefree and crowd-pleasing. Though some in the audience were not familiar with the group's tunes, they could not resist dancing.  

7. The Afternoon (EP): I only recently discovered James Supercave, but I couldn't help putting one from The Afternoon on this list. The four songs that the EP is comprised of rely fairly heavily on an electronic sound, but have enough life in them for listeners to realise the not-so-distant human presence found in the lyrics. The four songs are all easily catchy and leave you grasping for more.

8. English Graffiti (LP): This album is by The Vaccines, a band I'd been following since their first LP came out. Though English Graffiti is only their third album, the band seems to know just what strings to pull. There is not one song that I don't love on this album. It drifts slightly away from The Vaccines' former style, but not enough for it to loose its identity. In fact, the album has something the previous ones tend to lack--true emotion. The boys definitely seem to create something much more personal than ever before, disregarding the expectations of more mainstream acts. Relatable lyrics doubled with generous guitar production and meticulous melodies construct a cohesive piece that is quite likable. The attempt at emotion surely follows them onto the stage. Frontman, Justin, seemed encapsulated by the music he was making and this was a major positive for the audience; the room was filled, to the brim, with happy people. The Vaccines put on one of my favourite gigs of the year.

9. Return to the Moon (LP): Return to the Moon is the first LP that EL VY has put out. The band consists of singer Matt Berninger, from The National, and Brent Knopf, his old friend. Before I go into any detail about the album, I want to say that it is another one of my most favourite LPs of 2015. The album is certainly drowned in Berninger's familiar vocals, but that is about the greatest degree of familiarity present. Everything else--simpler guitar lines, even more personal stories, a dancier quality--is quite a break from the The National's sound; but not enough of one to separate the two completely. Return to the Moon is definitely more upbeat than anything from The National, especially at first listen. However, gloomy subtleties loom underneath many of its songs, working to create an aura of mystery which makes it all the more delightful for the ear to follow. I fell instantly in love with the songs "Sad Case" and "Happiness, Missouri" and their absolutely flawless transition. Both carry an almost ominous ambience and the guitar riffs throughout both capture your interest with ease.

10. EP I (EP, obviously): Sundara Karma put out two EPs this year, as well as the song "Flame"--the song that burrowed into my ears and caused me to keep an eye out for new material. The EP is packed with four songs that are undeniably catchy and almost bursting with sunshine. With strong vocals and, at times, a grungy sound, the band creates something new and refreshing, yet recognizable enough to make them contenders for a quick claim to fame.     

The Magic // Sundogs | Great Mountain Fire
Everything Is Possible // Mothers | Swim Deep 
Sea of the Edge // Space Is Still the Place | The Bright Light Social Hour
Emoticons // Glitterbug | The Wombats
Suicide Saturday // Bashful Creatures | Hippo Campus
Overdose // Overdose EP | Maudlin Strangers
Lately // COIN | COIN
I Don't Need Your Love // Monster Heart | Clones of Clones
The Less I Know The Better // Currents | Tame Impala

11. Sundogs (LP): Sundogs is Great Mountain Fire's third album and with each new LP, they simply keep getting better. Amidst eminent synthesizers and familiar psychedelics, the group keeps their sound consistent with their previous records, but introduces an abundance of variations. This album proves to be a mark of loosely polished maturity for the band. The discrepancies in every song call attention to smooth details and effortless shifts in tempo and sound. Though tied with lucid transitions, songs are suffused with mellow fluctuations that the ear is happily tempted to follow. Sundogs is easily loveable and listenable.

12. Mothers (LP): Swim Deep first captured my affections with their wonderful first album: Where The Heaven Are We. Once I learned that they would be putting out their sophomore album, I abruptly pre-ordered. And, boy, am I glad I did. Instead of being mediocre, as many second albums tend to be, the boys crafted a velvety, 15-song masterpiece. Now, it is quite a bold shift from their previous sound, but still, they retain the magic they created with that first, charming album. Each song is an explosion of the '80s and early '90s, somehow transformed into something completely modern and far-leaning from mainstream. The songs feature slick shifts from the slow and soft to the quick and border-line obnoxious. Every piece of it is well-crafted and intriguing and leaves you with a sense of grand satisfaction. 

13. Space Is Still the Place (LP): This one is another sophomore album, but like Mothers, it does not deliver a single sliver of disappointment. Space Is Still the Place is simply a lush treasure, infused with delectable '70s rock vibes. Quiet synths make way for outrageous, yet smooth guitar riffs and refreshing bass lines. The Bright Light Social Hour takes listeners on a groovy journey with unexpected, modern turns. Transitions between each and every song are consistently flawless, coating the ten songs in a veil of silk. These qualities are amplified in their live performance. The whole set list flows wonderfully and skillfully and without interruption. The entire room reverberates with the incredible noises made and the music pulls you in. The band members are humble, but incredibly able in the manner they handle their instruments with.

14. Glitterbug (LP): Glitterbug is The Wombats' usual rugged, electronic-saturated rock, but with more of a bright and pop-y twist. It seems to tie in with their other two albums perfectly. The LP provides a healthy balance of bold vocals and appealing instrumentals that make it easy to dance and sing along to. This record, like previous albums, is fun, relatable, and catchy, making it an easy listen on any day. Of course, the Wombats bubbly, yet edgy energy trails onto the stage and provides a loose and carefree atmosphere all around. 

15. Bashful Creatures (EP): If there was one word to describe Hippo Campus' songs it would have to be "catchy". No matter what song you listen to, you will have the desire to sing along. The EP is full of light and airy, well-polished tunes. Really perfect for summer road trips and beach days. Their live performance sounds so much like the recording; it's nearly perfect.   

16. Overdose (EP): This is probably my favourite EP of the year. Maudlin Strangers lure listeners in with a darker sound than your typical indie. Lead singer, Hays' vocals seem to drift about the music without being suffocated or underwhelming and are accompanied by the most appealing instrumentals. Listening to the four songs leaves you wishing there was more to digest. And, in concert, the boys are full of vitality and ambition. I must say, it was one of my favourite gigs of the year.

17. COIN (LP): COIN is a band bursting with undeniable fervor and energy. Their self-titled, debut is jam-packed with danceable tunes that sound far from inexperienced. In fact, they sound as established as could be. In addition to this, their style is incomparable to that of any particular bands out there; just strangely refreshing. COIN is meticulously coherent, but varied enough to effortlessly engross listeners and share the band's store of talents. How are they live? Even better than on the recorded album. The entire band beams with love for what they are doing and an infectious type of joy.

18. Monster Heart (LP): I only recently discovered Clones of Clones, but their first LP has easily pulled me in. Monster Heart is full of rather heavy rock influences, with unpredictable twists and turns, pushing it away from otherwise similar tunes. The album shifts tidily from heavier sounds to light-hearted melodies, infused with a slight electronic weight. Each song possesses an ear-catching quality that leaves you wondering what could be coming next.

19. Currents (LP): Well, Currents seems to be some kind of a break from Tame Impala's two previous records. At least in a lyrical sense. Oh, and because of the lack of spotlight on guitar. Despite straying from their usual sound, Tame Impala still (flawlessly) takes the listener on a journey, as in those previous albums. Heavy synths paired with bass and drums construct the greater portions of each song and give the group more of a psychedelic quality than ever before. Currents has to be another one of my major favourites from this year.                        

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