Best of 2015: The Album List

By Ben Tipple

There’s been some disagreements. We’ve banged our heads against walls, and against other heads. Chairs have been thrown. Tables flipped. There’s been tears. Oh, so many tears. But we’ve got there, we’ve arrived at our best albums of the year. And boy, do we love albums (and lists).

It’s been another great year, as seen in our final run down of the top 25 full-length albums of 2015. (We’ve actually added a sneaky 26th, because why not?) We love these records, and think you do/should/would too. Keep those eyes peeled too, because we’ll be posting our Punktastic Tips for 2016 in the new year.

Honorable Mention: Baroness – ‘Purple’

Baroness may have made their comeback late in 2015, but it would be almost criminal not to give ‘Purple’ an honourable mention in our end of year round up. They have made a triumphant return after the tragic bus accident that almost called time on their career. Far more melodic, but no less powerful than any other Baroness release, ‘Purple’ is the most important of album of their lives. [Glen Bushell]

#25: The Winter Passing – ‘A Different Space Of Mind’

The Winter Passing’s debut is a melodic emo masterpiece; accomplished and well thought out, whilst maintaining an irresistible rawness. With hints of The Get Up Kids to intrigue older listeners, whilst inevitable comparisons with Tigers Jaw will entice a younger generation, this album has something for every fan of catchy choruses, thoughtful lyrics and male-female dual vocals. Pay attention to this young band, they’re going to have a great 2016. [Conor Mackie]

#24: Ceremony – ‘The L Shaped Man’

As with every Ceremony album, you should always expect the unexpected. Even so, no one could have foreseen the stylistic shift they took this time. Focusing on a more new-wave, post-punk style to soundtrack their torrid tales of love loss, it is a world away from anything they have done before. Their aesthetic is what unmistakably makes ‘The L-Shaped Man’ a Ceremony record, and one that is a heart-wrenching masterpiece. [Glen Bushell]

#23: Tellison – ‘Hope Fading Nightly’

Our review of Hope Fading Nightly, the third album from perpetual also-rans Tellison, fell victim to the worst case of gushing since the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Which is apt, presented with a record this slick. ‘Hope Fading Nightly’ is the sad looking stranger in the bar nursing his second bottle of wine while holding court on the finer points of Russian literature. The soundtrack to simultaneously accepting, mourning and celebrating one’s position in life, marinaded in understated production and incredible choruses. [Rob Barbour]

#22: Pet Symmetry – ‘Pets Hounds’

If the band name, album title or tracks imply that ‘Pets Hounds’ is novelty, this couldn’t be further from the truth. For what is, in essence, a side-project, Pet Symmetry sees some of the best material the band members have released. Formed of two members of Dowsing and Evan Weiss of Into It. Over It. fame, ‘Pets Hounds’ sounds exactly like those outfits running at each other head first, and the result is obviously brilliant. Perfect emo tinged pop, and absolutely an essential album.
[Ben Tipple]

#21: Nai Harvest – ‘Hairball’

While some of Nai Harvest’s contemporaries have gone down a more experimental route, the Sheffield duo rounded out their sound, and made a very special record with ‘Hairball’. More refined than their previous work, they moved away being pigeonholed into a saturated emo scene. If the spirit of brit-pop and the attitude of punk found out they could work together, this is exactly how it would sound. [Glen Bushell]

#20: FIDLAR – ‘Too’

FIDLAR have pretty much carved out their own form of sassy, conversational punk and turned it into one of 2015’s best albums. There’s a lot of self-deprecating humour here, bobbing around in a sorry pool of alcohol and tears, and when you realise the volume of sorrow hidden behind the jokes and the almost mocking tone, ‘Too’ suddenly reveals another, more harrowing layer. The band explore their very serious, grave experiences with heroin within ‘Too’, and while at face value it’s full of pop-punky tunes, there’s a lot more weight to it. That impact stays with you long after the first listen, and FIDLAR should be really proud of their latest release. [Sam Kanal]

#19: Bully – ‘Feels Like’

Another debut on the list, Bully’s ‘Feel Like’ is dirty, fast, snotty, gritty garage-punk that will make you feel like one of the cool kids who used to smoke round the back of school and wear leather jackets. Written, recorded and produced by guitarist and vocalist Alicia Bognanno, this record grabs you by the scruff of the neck and pulls you out of your bed and shows you the time of your life, pouring whiskey down your throat and shoving cigarettes into your mouth. If you like snotty and energetic punk, then you’ll love this. [Conor Mackie]

#18: Failure – ‘The Heart Is A Monster’

Seventeen years is a long time for any band to be away. Especially when their legacy is as highly regarded as that of Failure’s. There was still a fire burning, and the chemistry of the band remained strong; bringing ‘The Heart Is a Monster’ to life. Rather than replicate the past, the driving, bass-heavy rhythms and ethereal space rock ambiance of the album see a rejuvenated Failure pick up where they left off on ‘Fantastic Planet’ in 1996. [Glen Bushell]

#17: Brawlers – ‘Romantic Errors Of Our Youth’

Brawlers have been bubbling under the surface for a few years in the build up to the release of their debut full-length, ‘Romantic Errors Of Our Youth’. In that time they have managed to hone their upbeat style, resulting in this being easily the best British party record of the year. Masters of storytelling, the record is simple yet immensely engaging. ‘Romantic Errors Of Our Youth’ has undoubtedly brought smiles to many faces since its release earlier in the year, including ours. And that’s on every listen. Repeatedly.
[Ben Tipple]

#16: Spraynard – ‘Mable’

There are difficult third albums and then there’s ‘Mable’. I was devastated when Spraynard broke up in 2012, a year after releasing ‘Funtitled’, and I approached their reunion with trepidation. It’s shorter, more pessimistic and didn’t grab me on first listen. The hooks and misery were there but where was the sense of hope? Then a personal crisis showed me that we can’t always be young and looking towards the future. I realised that Spraynard are growing up and, in doing so, are creating perfect songs that match their/my changing ideals. [Ashley Partridge]

#15: The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – ‘Harmlessness’

While TWIABP have always been prolific (to say the least) it was their 2013 album ‘Whenever, If Ever’ that stands out the most. It meant they had big shoes to fill when putting together a follow up, but they proved they are no one-trick pony. More vast and expansive than its predecessor, and showing a far more accomplished song writing ability, ‘Harmlessness’ was the poignant and important album it always threatened to be. [Glen Bushell]

#14: Neck Deep – ‘Life’s Not Out To Get You’

‘Life’s Not Out To Get You’ is not only a pop punk album, but the definitive pop punk album of this side of the decade. On this Jeremy McKinnon produced, sophomore album, Neck Deep have found their space in the scene and it’s at the very forefront. With massive tunes like ‘Can’t Kick Up The Roots’ and ‘Gold Steps’ and the delicate ‘December’, they’ve proven themselves as the premier UK pop punk band, with a live show to match. This album and this band are special. Generic Pop Punk? Definitely not. [Adam Rosario]

#13: Beach Slang – ‘The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us’

It has been almost impossible to ignore Beach Slang this year, and it would have been a mistake to do so. ‘The Things We Do…’ expands on their Replacements-meets-Jawbreaker melodic punk, and lyrically takes their storytelling to a new poetic level. Every song reads like a coming of age diary entry; giving the album a sense of hopeful romanticism, and making Beach Slang’s debut album something entirely unforgettable. [Glen Bushell]

#12: Bad Cop / Bad Cop – ‘Not Sorry’

Bad Cop / Bad Cop’s debut record demands your attention through sheer diversity of talent. They filter pop, punk and some alt-country through a hazy California sunbeam while singing lyrics that are by no means superficial. If it can get the attention of NOFX’s Fat Mike, then it’s more than worthy of your time. [Ashley Partridge]

#11: Hop Along – ‘Painted Shut’

In 2012 ‘Get Disowned’ sat perfectly in the lap of the independent market, so of course Hop Along’s move to Saddle Creek Records was the right choice, put your best foot forward and all that. ‘Painted Shut’ is the alternative folk-rock outfit’s third full-length release and as easy as it is to say this album is outstandingly accomplished, this has always been the case. What separates this release and puts it into our top albums of 2015 is how charming it is. While Frances Quinlan has never failed to lyrically amuse and musically dazzle, ‘Painted Shut’ tells a poetic story with support from friendly and fierce instrumentation. [Max Gayler]

#10: Great Cynics – ‘I Feel Weird’

‘I Feel Weird’ is a record you can put on anywhere and be confident that everyone will enjoy it. This bouncy, grunge-inspired-pop masterpiece has the ability to cheerily uplift the lowest of moods. Anthems such as ‘Everyone’s A Little Bit Weird’ and ‘Want You Around’ have that youthful exuberance that could perfectly accompany sun and ice cream fuelled beach trips. The record offers a showcase of the band’s sound, displaying multiple instrumental and vocal talents. This creates enough variety that the album is worthy of being played on repeat for at least a week after the first listen. [Alex Hall]

#09: Hindsights – ‘Cold Walls / Cloudy Eyes’

‘Cold Walls/Cloudy Eyes’ is constantly on the cusp of heartbreak. This album isn’t a pretentious act celebrating sadness; it’s an honest, realistic, and heartfelt exploration of mental illness. For any person who has ever experienced this, the difficulties of medication and recovery, this album is relatable both lyrically and in its virtuosity. This brilliant and emotionally crippling album, released less than a year ago, makes the band’s recent split devastating for everyone who had such a personal and spiritual connection to both the band and their records. [Alex Hall]

#08: Foxing – ‘Dealer’

In 2015, ‘Dealer’ saw Foxing take a leap into the experimental, and boy did it pay off. It’s harrowing, haunting yet absolutely stunning. It resonates in its beauty, drawing the listener in again and again with its unexpected twists and turns, instrumental moments and sudden audible assaults. Both ethereal and grounded, it’s the type of record to simply get lost in. We’ve spent much of the latter part of 2015 doing just that.
[Ben Tipple]

#07: Crooks – ‘Are We All The Same Distance Apart’

British post-hardcore has been crying out for a new leader and this year we found just that, in Cheltenham 5-piece Crooks. ‘Are We All the Same Distance Apart’ packs as big an emotional punch as a sonic one, never letting up on energy, passion and raw talent from start to finish. If your insides are dead enough to be immune to front-man Josh Roger’s emotionally charged vocals and lyrics, the frenzied, ever changing drum patterns will move you on sheer power alone. Crooks announced themselves in spectacular fashion with this album and something tells us they’re only just getting started. [Mark Johnson]

#06: Turnover – ‘Peripheral Vision’

Steadily progressing through every release, ‘Peripheral Vision’ saw Turnover finally come into their own. Replacing teenage angst with adult growing pains, and swapping overdriven power chords for shimmering melodies and hazy reverb, Turnover remained concise and to the point. With heart-on-sleeve lyrics, and little time for metaphor, they created one of the most warm and inviting albums on this year’s list. [Glen Bushell]

#05: Coheed & Cambria – ‘The Color Before The Sun’

There were those of us who saw 2012/13’s staggered ‘Afterman’ double album as a return to form for the New York pop-prog outfit, following the disappointing ‘Year of the Black Rainbow. We were wrong. ‘The Color Before the Sun’ brings back the massive choruses and deceptively complex song structures that made us fall in love with Coheed in the first place, and its live recording process and abandonment of the Amory Wars storyline results in the creative energy of a band revitalised. Their best work in many years. [Rob Barbour]

#04: Turnstile – ‘Nonstop Feeling’

It’s not easy for a hardcore band to be original in this day and age, and for the most part, bands want to keep the genre unsullied. Turnstile raised the bar for hardcore albums in 2015 with ‘Non Stop Feeling’ by daring to be different. Bringing melodic elements of punk and alternative rock, they retained the classic vibe of Bad Brains and Inside Out – pushing the genre onto a path that hasn’t been taken for years. [Glen Bushell]

#03: Deafheaven – ‘New Bermuda’

Following a critically acclaimed album like 2013’s ‘Sunbather’ is no easy feat; However, Deafheaven not only managed it, but bettered it with ‘New Bermuda’. Eschewing what people thought they were going to do, they didn’t go softer, they didn’t go more shoegaze – they did the exact opposite. From hypnotic blast beats through glorious post-metal ambience, ‘New Bermuda’ is a beautifully terrifying experience. [Glen Bushell]

#02: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – ‘Blossom’

Britain’s angriest man is back doing what he’s best at; telling it as it is. After Pure Love, Carter disappeared for nearly a full year, before surprise announcing his new project. ‘Rotten’ is the sound of a hungry, wide eyed honest punk who knows the world’s troubles. The punishing riffs of ‘Juggernaut’ & ‘Fangs’ and the croons of ‘I Hate You’ perfectly marry his previous two projects into this hybrid. One of the best albums of this year? Undoubtably. A career highlight? Almost a certainty. Frank Carter is back and he’s back to his best. [Adam Rosario]

#01: The Wonder Years – ‘No Closer To Heaven’

The Wonder Years had a lot to live up to with ‘No Closer To Heaven’. ‘The Greatest Generation’ had already seen them blur the lines between the alternative and widespread acclaim, finding itself on a variety of end of year lists far outstretching their previously niche market. Fortunately ‘No Closer To Heaven’ gives us so much more.

There was a status doing the online rounds when the record saw the light of day, depicting this as The Wonder Years at their most distraught. It simplified their continued downward spiral in theme and pace, and it was completely right. ‘No Closer To Heaven’ is their saddest record. At times it’s absolutely gut-wrenching. And it’s what The Wonder Years were clearly destined to be.

The Wonder Years have cemented themselves as the voice of the pained, and with ‘No Closer To Heaven’ hit the nail on the head. It also contains some of their best material to date. Lead single ‘Cardinals’ remains without doubt one of the top 5 tracks of the year. That moment when Jason Aalon Butler unexpectedly explodes into ‘Stained Glass Ceilings’ is the biggest release of pent-up aggression any record we’ve heard this year has achieved. And then it all ends on the subtle and understated title-track; a bold move indeed.

If The Wonder Years were born to be sad, being sad with them in 2015 has made us unequivocally happy. [Ben Tipple]