Top 15 Albums of 2015

Do you like listicles? Because apparently I do. I promise that I won’t do as many of these stupid things this year. Cross my heart.

Okay so remember a couple years ago when I did lists of the top albums and artists that I’d listened to the year before? Well I’m doing it again. Only just with albums this time because it’s so redundant to do both. It works like so:

I pull up my Last.fm page and check the top albums for the last 365 days. Keep in mind that this is only considering tracks that were actually scrobbled. So anything I listened to via the Scrobbler app on my phone or Winamp on my PC. CDs obviously don’t count (not that use those too often), and neither do tracks that were played with Media Player Classic, because I don’t have the Last.fm plugin for that, if there even is one.

So no, the list isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s the best metric that we have. Enjoy.

#1 ~Super Smash Bros for Wii U/3DS Official Soundtrack

In retrospect, it really couldn’t have been anything else. I mean, look at that volume. Three times as many plays as the next in line. Of course, there are a heck of a lot of tracks involved here, so that gives this album a certain unfair disadvantage. We must also take into account that the Smash soundtrack is a collection of fabulous remixes (and some original versions) of many of the most beloved tracks in video gamedom.

Also, the fact that it was pretty much all I listened to during the spring months.

You can imagine that it was nearly impossible for me to choose a favourite, and it’s probably a bit of a shocker that I chose a non-Nintendo track. I was initially going to chose “You Will Know Our Names” but that seemed too obvious, and I wanted to pick a remix. “PAC-MAN’S PARK / BLOCK TOWN” is just so much bouncy fun that I can’t help but give it top billing. The whole soundtrack is phenomenal though, and you can even download it directly from TE!

Just click here and here!

It’s also important to note that this is a small sampling of the music that is actually included in the games. A full track list would probably fill at least ten discs.

#2 ~Picture Show – Neon Trees

I first heard of Neon Trees years ago in a car commercial or something. I don’t really remember what they were selling, but I recalled the track “Animal” when I bought it in Rock Band.

Flash forward to many years later when I’m playing through Saints Row IV and I keep hearing “Teenage Sounds” over and over. It’s one of the twenty-or-so tracks that made it onto my in-game mixtape, so I heard it quite often, and eventually decided that I needed to know where it came from.

Picture Show isn’t necessarily one of my favourite albums ever or anything, but the numbers don’t lie: I’ve listened to it more than (almost) anything else last year. It is really excellent though, and comes in the flavour of easily digestible pop-rock that anyone should be able to enjoy. If nothing else, my dad added it to his Spotify playlist immediately after I played it at one of our weekly card game nights.

#3 ~Warrior – Ke$ha

Yup. That happened.

A bombardment of non-stop Ke$ha back in 2010 managed to crack me and sway my opinion on the glitter-loving singer. I really did get into Animal, though Cannibal was somewhat disappointing. Years later, Warrior has finally found a home in my phone’s music library.

I listened to it once back in 2012 when it was first released, and decided that I didn’t like it.

But one day this summer, I was driving around and heard “Die Young” on the radio and really dug it. I got home and immediately decided to give Warrior another shot.

And now, I can unironically declare that Warrior is one of my favourite albums. Ever. That’s quite a turnaround!

#4 ~Drink, Sing, Live, Love – Versus the World

I had never heard of this band until this year, when I started looking at what previous members of the Ataris were up to. Often, it wasn’t enough to warrant its own Wikipedia page, but Mike Davenport had formed a new band called Versus the World and I bought their album from iTunes sound unheard.

Needless to say, that little gamble worked out well for more. While they haven’t done anything Wikipedia-notable since 2012, I have been keeping this album in constant rotation ever since I bought it. These Bones, in particular, has become one of my favourite songs ever, and it might be nearing the point where it cracks my top 10 tracks on Last.FM.

Drink, Sing, Live, Love is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a punk rock album about life. It’s about being on the road and playing music. It’s about the people and places that you love. It’s about claiming responsibility and being able to say that you gave it your all. A lot of really great songs here, and I’d urge anyone to give it a spin.

#5 ~Savages – Breathe Carolina

  • Plays : 208
  • Tracks : 11
  • Favourite Song : Collide

I really liked Breathe Carolina’s last two albums. Listened to them a whole heck of a lot. You may recall they captured a spot on my top album and artists lists of 2012. Times have not changed, and I’m still diggin’ em.

It’s a bit of an oddity, too, as I’ve never been really into EDM or anything. The electronic-punk-rock vibe definitely resonates with me, but it’s not quite as common on Savages as it may have been in the past.

I can’t really think of much else to say besides “I really like this club music. How odd.”

#6 ~Blue Skies, Broken Hearts – The Ataris

I can’t remember any more, exactly how I discovered the Ataris in the first place. It was either because I was searching for music on one of those old P2P things (probably iMesh) and stumbled on “Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start” and geeked out over it, or I discovered “Song #13” on the Aggressive Inline soundtrack and used that as a launching point.

Regardless, neither one of those songs are on this album. I don’t know why, exactly, Blue Skies is consistently on my phone, but End Is Forever is…. not so much. Both of them were there throughout most of the summer, but I think that Blue Skies ended up so high on this chart because it was my go-to album whenever I went out to do yard work.

Both are great, though! It just happened to be that I listened to one a few times more than the other this year. Well, probably in total, too, as I’ve owned Blue Skies on CD for many, many years, but I only recently gave up the hunt for a physical copy and bought End Is Forever on iTunes.

And that, my friends, is why I will never be able to switch away from iPhones.

#7 ~The Other Side – Tonight Alive

  • Plays : 160
  • Tracks : 12
  • Favourite Song : The Fire

It’s not too often that I get excited about new album releases. Mostly because I don’t really follow any bands close enough to know when they’re doing a thing or whatever. The process used to be that whenever I went to a mall, I’d pop into HMV, look at what they had for any bands I was into at the time, and then maybe once in a while get surprised by a new album.

Tonight Alive is one of the exceptions to this rule. Social media has very kindly provided an easy way to keep a close eye on a band’s news without exerting any effort at all. Though truth be told, I still haven’t bothered to follow many of them. I do follow TA on all the things though, and so I was pretty pumped for The Other Side for the few months before it was released.

Adding to my excitement was the fact that it was releasing just three days before my birthday. It was like Tonight Alive was giving me a terrific early birthday present. Between that, and taking the week off to do nothing but play Eternal Sonata, I was as happy as a boy could be. Yep, my 27th birthday was a pretty darn good one.

#8 ~Screamworks – HIM

What the heck even do I need to say about HIM at this point? I’ve been listening to them since high school and I don’t think that’s ever really going to end. Maybe it’s the Finnish connection, maybe it’s the sorrowful and often macabre lyrics, maybe it’s the heartagram. Who knows?

Anyway, Screamworks was a shock to the system when it came out. Venus Doom, the album that came before it, could not have been more different. The songs were longer and more complex, the tone was darker, the lyrics were as edgy as ever. It truly was a masterpiece. And then Screamworks comes along as it’s basically pop.

No, not really. But it’s as close as HIM has ever gotten. While the songs are still all about love and death, the music is a lot lighter (for the most part), and there are more suspiciously synthetic-sounding instruments in there that one might expect from this band. Anyway, I still think it’s aces.

#9 ~Black Widow – In This Moment

I said last time that I wrote one of these features, that I didn’t really get into In This Moment’s Blood. But I listened to it every once in a while, and eventually I came to understand it. To accept and appreciate it on its own terms. One time I was looking up some lyrics for one of the songs and saw an ad for ITM merch with a design that I hadn’t seen before.

And that’s how I met Black Widow.

It quickly became the dominant album on my phone and on my PC, where I would listen to it over and over and over again. So much so that I even wrote a thing about it, in a time where I’ve mostly given up on actually trying to write about music (note that this article is mainly anecdotes, and barely talking about the actual music).

#10 ~Dancing With a Ghost – Valencia

This is another one of those bands that I got into by way of Saints Row. I forget if it was The Third or IV, but one of them has “Stop Searching” on the soundtrack. It was probably The Third, as I remember getting into The Dear Hunter at the same time, and I’m fairly confident that “In Cauda Venenum” was in that one.

I don’t really know what else to say here. I have no specific Valencia stories. I usually put Dancing With a Ghost on when I’m feeling a little bummed out, as the title track is a good one for lifting my spirits a bit, and the rest flows quite nicely.

Valencia is apparently named after a character in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. I own that novel, but I haven’t read it yet. I really like Vonnegut’s short stories, and have only heard praise for Slaughterhouse-Five, but I have difficulty setting aside time to read.

 

#11 ~NIER: 15 Nightmares + Arrange Tracks – Keiichi Okabe

I wrote a whole lot of words (okay, not that many) about NIER some time ago. You should read it. Now, wait, I mean you should play it. Forget about my crappy article (okay, not that crappy) and just play the stellar game.

As much as I loved NIER, though, I never purchased the DLC. I was led to believe that it really didn’t add anything to the game or story, so I made the executive decision to keep those dollars in my pocket for something more worthy (which likely turned out to be cheeseburgers). I did, however, buy this album that contains all the remixes that were featured in said DLC. The soundtrack to NIER is phenomenal, and the remixes are… well, they’re alright. Really heavy techno-y stuff.

Those are only the first five track though. The rest are beautiful, somber arrangements much more fitting to the source material. It’s glorious stuff, and really hits you right in those feels. The final track is a chiptune medley, and it’s also really great. So great, in fact, that you can even find a link to it right above these three paragraphs.

#12 ~1989 – Taylor Swift

  • Plays : 124
  • Tracks : 16
  • Favourite Song : Wonderland

Whoops.

Guess the cat’s out of the bag now. Yes, it’s true. Over the last couple years, I’ve become quite a Taylor Swift fan. I mean, like, not really,  but I dug on Red and 1989 really resonates with me for some reason. The music is generally uninspired and the lyrics can be dumb as all heck, but there’s some sort of je ne sais quoi that draws me in.

Whatever. It’s no big deal, right? I suppose I can’t pretend to be a music snob anymore, though.

#13 ~Outspoken – For All Those Sleeping

As a fun coincidence, I first started listening to For All Those Sleeping because I really liked their cover of “You Belong With Me” on one of those Punk Goes Pop albums. It was not, however, the impetus for me to give Taylor Swift an honest chance.

Anyway, I listened to a couple of their albums a few years back, but it didn’t really take at the time. 2015 was the magical year of my grievous relationship discontent, and suddenly all of these angry, angry songs started making a lot more sense to me. I found that when I was having a bad day, listening to this album and going for a walk was a great way to blow off steam. That or blasting “Love Isn’t Real” and screeching along in the safety of my basement.

I’m not necessarily proud of the fact that I can relate so closely to some of these songs, but I suppose that at the end of the day, it’s a little bit more “life experience” that I can claim. Which is a good thing, because a sheltered little dork like me doesn’t get a whole lot of that.

#14 ~Fixed at Zero – VersaEmerge

I think that I probably came across VersaEmerge for the first time on one of those Punk Goes albums (possibly more than one), but I didn’t really look into them right away. It wasn’t until I got really, really into Tonight Alive and asked Last.FM about similar bands that I would like that I finally decided that they were worth a look.

I still haven’t really checked into their output aside from this album, but that’s something that I find very difficult for whatever reason. Like, I’ll pick up this new band, listen to an album, and if I really like it, I’ll generally just keep listening to that instead of diving into the rest of their catalogue. I’ve never really thought about it, but I’m sure it’s just be worrying that I might not like the rest of their work, that it might be too different. Or that it might not be different enough. Which is really silly, right?

I often wonder if other people have the same weird little habits that I do.

I should note that Fixed At Zero is VersaEmerge’s only studio album, which sort of renders this whole rant moot. They do have a bunch of EPs, though. So at least there’s something else to look into.

#15 ~The Dear Hunter – Migrant

Can I just not? I really don’t have a story to go along with this one. It’s another band that I discovered through Saints Row: The Third. The song in the game is “In Cauda Venenum” and… sorry, what? I already wrote all of that? In this very article? Whoops!

Well, that song isn’t on this album even. I haven’t listened to that album at all. Just Migrant and The Color Spectrum. And I tell you, if I had written up this article for 2014, The Color Spectrum probably would have taken top billing.

As it is, I’m not sure how Migrant managed to squeak into 15th place. I’d been keeping an eye on the standings since mid-November, and it wasn’t even close. I don’t remember listening to it at all in December, so who even knows what happened. A scribbler glitch? Maybe I unknowingly played it with a butt-dial somehow? Would that still be called a butt-dial? If not, what would it be called?

These questions may never be answered.


Welp, that’s it. Hope you enjoyed the ride. I’ll probably not do this again for a couple years. Probably more. If I do, I’ll just keep it to myself. There won’t be anything to write anyway because I typed out all of the anecdotes that I have in this article and then even made some up to fill the holes. Which ones are real and which ones are invented? I’m not telling. That’s for you to discover!


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