In 2015, bigger music trends featured broad, conceptual albums that sonically illustrated vivid worlds. The year also saw no shortage of singers with soul and songs with heart. From global blockbusters to local heroes, here is a look at what caught our ear and a glimpse at what were excited for in 2016:
John Calvin Abney
Genres: singer-songwriter, alternative country
Released: Jan. 20, 2015
Abney has become one of local musics more prolific recording artists. Since November, he has churned out three projects, the most memorable being full-length Better Luck, which is both focused and personal.
Let the Good Times Roll
Released: Feb. 9, 2015
Roll, indeed. Few projects went down as smoothly in 2015 as McPhersons celebrated sophomore solo album. Built on natural progression and flow, Let the Good Times Roll harkens back to another time, but it couldnt sound more alive or fresh. With a runtime of just over 30 minutes, listeners likely stacked up heavy replay numbers on this release.
To Pimp a Butterfly
Released: March 16, 2015
If your taste in rap music involves trap beats only or gangster porn for white youths, maybe look elsewhere. If youre open to a funky, soulful, jarringly introspective and meticulously plotted journey through modern times as a black entertainer, this is the record of a lifetime.
Carrie & Lowell
Genre: indie folk
Released: March 31, 2015
Stevens strips down his sound to a raw, emotional core. The death of a close family member or friend is often counted as an emotional turning point in someones life. Artistically approaching the subject, however, is sometimes seen as easy, a critical layup. Theres nothing easy about Carrie & Lowell. Its recommended for anyone with a heart.
Theres Still Time For Us to Die
Genres: pop, psychedelic, folk
Released: April 1, 2015
Do good things come to those who wait? Apparently so. After years as a regional live-show darling, Deerpeople released its long-awaited debut, Theres Still Time For Us to Die. Its loud yet graceful and oh so familiar for the bands strong following.
Beat the Champ
The Mountain Goats
Genre: indie rock
Released: April 7, 2015
Mountain Goats mastermind John Darnielle takes indie rock and folk into a new arena entirely: the fantastic world of professional wrestling. Its an odd merger at first glance, but its actually a wonder more people have not tapped into wrestlings romanticized and gritty lore.
High on Tulsa Heat
Released: April 21, 2015
Its fitting that this record deals with Oklahoma themes because it plays in spots like a modern-day musical version of True Grit. Fantastic lyricist Moreland was the personification of the states ideal sound and soul last year.
Released: May 5, 2015
The Epic truly lives up to its name. Its three discs and nearly three-hour runtime might leave some intimidated by the daunting task of climbing this musical, mostly wordless mountain. Do not be afraid. There are few more rewarding listens from 2015. Washington breathes new life into an old but beautiful sound.
The Horror of Trespass
Genre: dream pop, shoegaze
Released: May 16, 2015
Put on The Horror of Trespass and float away to a world made of guitars and dreams. Personal favorites include the more aggressive Fake and throwback Arc of Descent. Highlights also include three brief instrumental tracks that go a long way in establishing Power Pyramids distant planet.
Genres: rock, pop
Released: July 31, 2015
This 15-minute EP is brief, but it delivers. The four-song offering features its fair share of catchy earworms, including the infectious title track and equally upbeat Making a Man. Ripple Green and lead vocalist Joel Parks set the bar high for an eventual full-length project.
Released: Aug. 7, 2015
2015 will be remembered in hip-hop as the year the West Coast came back. Rap fans have been waiting since 1999s 2001 for Dre to follow up with now-infamous Detox. The legendary producer has since canceled that project, but this guest-heavy tribute to his hometown does more than suffice in its absence.
Genres: neo-soul, hip-hop
Released: Oct. 1, 2015
If debut release Decorous represents what Bowlsey can be, Elder is everything they ought to be. The five-song EP perfectly balances a more uniform sound with the trademark variety and range that makes the band great.
Genres: chamber folk, avant-garde
Released: Oct. 23, 2015
Newsom crafts a beautiful and diverse soundscape on her fourth studio album. A quest to outrun time, death and loss of love, Divers swings from the contemplation of folk music to the rage of heavy metal.
Genres: rock, rockabilly
Released: Nov. 14, 2015
Attitude. Moxie. Emotion. Forté parlays a background of church performances into soulful-but-rugged, from-the-gut rock n roll. Listeners will be drawn in by Fortes voice but will stay for lyricism full of heart.
Genres: pop, soul
Released: Nov. 20, 2015
Hello, Adele. America hears you loud and clear, and they would like to remind you that they still love you a lot. Despite a quiet, almost four-year hiatus and a sharp denial to streaming services like Spotify, the songstress third LP took the world by force with golden vocals and stories that tug at your insides.
Release date: Nov. 20, 2015
Maybe you have not heard of experimental producer Arca. But if youve heard recent, off-kilter sounds from Kanye West, Bjork or FKA Twigs, theres a good chance you already love or hate him. Mutant is a gripping, unorthodox kick in the pants.
Almost as exciting as an albums release is the anticipation of said release, especially for the worlds more elusive artists: the tour announcement, the album art reveal, the first single release. Many such moments will happen in 2016. Heres a short list of whos expected to catch ears in the coming year:
Perhaps taking cues from recent enlightened efforts by acts like Kendrick Lamar and Lupe Fiasco, the Oklahoma City rapper promises a deeper, more reflective full-length release in 2016. Jabee has the potential to create Oklahomas defining rap project to date.
Justin Vernon might be prepping the indie folk bands triumphant return. The 2011 release Bon Iver, Bon Iver captured a Grammy. Many fans are eager to see how the group follows up its critically adored sophomore release, especially after it began playing live again in 2015.
Vocalist Chelsey Cope joins drummer Billy Reid, bassist Michael Bewley and guitarist Chavez Soliz to form Elms. Like its namesake, it is rooted and earthy. The single Savages, released New Years Day 2015, particularly whetted pallets for what is to come.
Will we really see a new Modest Mouse record in 2016? The band took its sweet time to release its 2015 project, Strangers to Ourselves. The album marked the acts first release since 2007s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. And what would a follow-up to the latest release sound like? Frontman Isaac Brock has said much of what will be the next album was recorded at the same time as Strangers, so can we expect more of the same?
Theres never a dull moment with Mr. West. His music has recently become a must-listen commodity, as much for its otherworldly sideshow idiosyncrasy than the genius he has displayed in past projects. Most notably, the rapper and husband to Kim Kardashian clocked studio time with none other than Sir Paul McCartney. Whatever the new year brings, fans can bet that West will transform it into an event.
Print headline: Pause, rewind, 2015 was a high-fidelity year for soul-rousing, foot-stomping music, and 2016 might end up being even better.