#15 Jarrod Alonge – Beating A Dead Horse:
It feels weird to put a parody artist in a best of the year list, but Jarrod Alonge deserves it. Jarrod Alonge is a shrewd businessman, in the space of 2 years he went from a guy uploading videos to youtube in his garage to being an iconic figure in the Pop-punk/Post-hardcore/Metalcore/Hardcore scene. He’s been on Warped Tour, various sketches involving established members of the scene and amusing interviews with genre heavyweights. Through all of that his parody album Beating A Dead Horse stands as the shining moment in his short career, functioning as a summary of every major trend in the scene over the past 5 years Jarrod’s eye for subculture is incredible and perhaps most importantly his parodies are actually funny. This isn’t some Weird Al clone with songs about food or…Songs about food (no really, go back and listen to Weird Al, dude has a fucking eating disorder). He perfectly captures the genres he clearly loves but isn’t above mocking; whether it’s the hilarious teen angst on Pop-punk Pizza Party, the cringe inducing 2 Freaky 4 Da Club, the sheer ridiculousness of deathcore parody Misogyneric or the master piece of the album Hey Jarrod, What’s that Song Again? A stand out track that creates a medley of nearly every hit in the scene since 2006. Jarrod earned this spot.
#14 Make Them Suffer – Old Souls:
Back in 2012 Make Them Suffer dropped Neverbloom, a flash in the pan deathcore album that wore out its welcome so fast you’d have thought it was a Nicki Minaj single. Old Souls takes the few things that worked on Neverbloom and combines them with a set of new ideas that sees Make Them Suffer carve out a significantly more impressive niche in the Australian Hardcore scene. I’ve seen the word Symphonic Hardcore thrown around and while I don’t necessarily think including keys and strings immediately qualifies a band to be considered “Symphonic” it’s still the best thing I can think to call the Perth sextet. Old Souls is an enjoyable and open album that does away with faux-death metal tropes in place of a band that actually sounds natural. The album itself doesn’t relent and is probably the best heavy release to come out of Perth since First Light to My Death Bed. Make Them Suffer will likely become a major player in the Australian heavy scene in the near future.
#13 Miguel – Wildheart:
Miguel was also a secondary member of the PBR&B scene to me, he wasn’t as melodically interesting as The Weeknd, he lacked the cheesy confidence of Drake and well no one touches Frank Ocean when it comes to pure artistic ability, but with Wildheart, Miguel looks to establish himself as his own artist, he’s no longer content with being a Weeknd/Usher hybrid, this time around he’s borrowing just as heavily from the atmospheric song composition of Flying Lotus as he is your typical R&B singer. Wildheart sees Miguel growing as a vocalist, he’s no longer reliant on hooks to move units. Wildheart may not be as immediate as its predecessor but what it does achieve is a musical equivalent of sculpture focusing as much on the surrounding aspects of the sound as it does the centrepiece. Miguel has begun to step out into his own territory and it can only be hoped that he continues to do so.
#12 Man Overboard – Heavy Love:
I like Man Overboard, if you were to ask the scene they belong to I probably like them too much. For many people it probably seems odd that I’ve enjoyed all four of Man Overboard’s full length albums but only enjoyed the first album produced by The Story So Far. Yes Man Overboard have made minimal changes to their sound since their debut, it doesn’t matter though, you don’t listen to Man Overboard for leaps and bounds in musical territory, you listen to Man Overboard because you want to hear two grown men write cheesy as fuck love songs that seem way too juvenile for guys in their mid-20’s. Heavy Love works because it doesn’t care if you want it to be a mature album of reflection, life has given Man Overboard lemons and they’ve squeezed the juice directly into their eyes then proceeded to record the tears immediately after. Heavy Love is exactly what is says on the box a series of over the top love songs for people to get sad about.
#11 Periphery – Juggernaut: Alpha/Juggernaut: Omega:
Periphery have had a bumpy ride over the years, the djent hype train came and went so quickly you could be forgiven for missing it, when the band burst onto the scene back in 2010 their debut was so overloaded with hype that you couldn’t help but be let down; this band was supposed to be the next Dream Theater after all. For me personally if Periphery had been the next Dream Theater that would’ve meant they’d be the most effective sleeping pill on the planet, so I for one was glad that didn’t happen. Still, the band’s 2012 release was a bloated mess that couldn’t figure out what the hell it wanted to do, fast forward to 2015 and finally Periphery has acknowledged the very problem that bogged their previous work down; can’t decide if you’re a mellowed out progressive rock band or a totes br00tal djent group? Make two albums and segregate the two styles so that neither drags the other down. The result was a fantastic double album that finally achieved the lofty goals set out for the band 5 years ago, Juggernaut is exactly that; a colossal collection of music with Alpha exploring Periphery’s melodic side and Omega bringing the crushing polyrhythms that made lead guitarist Misha Mansoor so popular in the first place, check it out.
#10 Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly:
Most people will likely have this album higher in their list, but I’m pretty comfortable putting it at number ten; if I’m completely honest Good Kid M.A.A.d City was a better album than To Pimp A Butterfly. Yes his new release sees Kendrick expand his overall sound, embracing a number of jazz and blues concepts and intertwining them into his unique brand of hip-hop. It’s a much more consistent release than its predecessor but in saying that it also never achieves the highs of Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe or Poetic Justice. Granted To Pimp A Butterfly is still an incredible release, the singular flow of the album may be off putting to the casual listener but for those more familiar with alternative rock the idea of an album that functions as a single continuous piece of art will be incredibly welcome. Lamar achieves a number of effective progressions with this album and should be commended for evolving so effectively as an artist in such a short amount of time.
#9 Future-Dirty Sprite 2:
Future has evolved in the exact opposite way of most hip-hop artists; traditionally artists drop their early mixtapes and/or albums with a degree of unique artistry that sets them apart, only to increasingly dumb down their style in favour of increased commercial appeal. Don’t believe me? Eminem, Gucci Mane, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, etc. Every one of those guys ditched their original appeal in favour of making money, Future has taken the opposite route, his first two albums had a huge amount of mainstream appeal dropping multiple singles and throwing his name into the rotating mix of club mainstays occupied by the likes of Nicki Minaj and Drake. With DS2 Future ditches just about every pop sensibility he has and it works fantastically. The album’s dirty production helps establish the darkness of Future’s lyrics switching the sugary sweetness of earlier releases for a burned out man no longer indulging in the good life but instead waking up to the shallowness of the world he’s surrounded himself with. Future has achieved more in this single album than the five years’ worth of release prior.
#8 Northlane -Node:
Switching vocalists can be an impossible hurdle for a lot of bands, Adrian Fitipaldes left a massive hole in Northlane’s sound when he announced his decision to leave the band, citing increasing vocal issues due in part to the band’s excessive touring. Marcus Bridge could’ve crashed and burned quite spectacularly had he tried to fill Fitipaldes’ shoes, instead Bridge and the band opted to push Northlane in a different direction; while still incorporating the heavy metalcore aspect of their original sound, Node sees Northlane engage in a more melodic album with clean vocals easily dominating the majority of tracks, Bridge’s limited harsh range is still used effectively and he clearly has a better ear for vocal arrangements than his predecessor. Of particular note is the ability of the band to craft a sound specifically to their new vocalist, no longer doing their best to incorporate djent breakdowns into their sound, Node see’s Northlane expand ever outward in progressive metal territory and we’re all better for it.
#7 While She Sleeps-Brainwashed:
Sheffield, England has provided the world with some damn good metalcore over the years, while the most notable act to come from the region is undoubtedly Bring Me The Horizon, their most impressive act is definitely While She Sleeps. Their 2012 debut This Is The Six set the ground work for the band, powerful melodic metalcore with an emphasis on catchy gang shouts and moderately technical guitar leads, Brainwashed is much the same only bigger, bolder and better. Brainwashed see’s the band produce a much fuller, more aggressive sound that brings the band’s aggression to the forefront, the albums 45 minute run time is crammed with mosh heavy tunes that showcase an improved sense of songwriting, soaring leads, enjoyable solos and the best vocal performance of Laurence Taylor’s career. It’s clear to see that Brainwashed is yet another step forward in While She Sleeps quest to become the future of British metalcore.
#6 Knuckle Puck – Copacetic:
I used to hate Knuckle Puck. When they first appeared with a slew of EP’s the band struck me as yet another pop-punk band following in the footsteps of The Wonder Years, much like their colleagues in Real Friends, Knuckle Puck completely changed the game when they dropped their first full length; Copacetic fixes everything wrong with the bands original sound. In place of 2 minutes of snore inducing power chords and incessant wailing, Copacetic finds the band embracing mid-west emo; extending songs so that they actually get a chance to say something and engaging the listener in an emotional conversation that actually means something beyond “this party sucks and nobody here listens to Swans”. Knuckle Puck has the chance to become something more and Copacetic is a realisation of that fact, hopefully they continue what they’ve started here.
#5 The Wonder Years -No Closer to Heaven:
Last year The Hotelier released an incredible emotional rollercoaster by the name of Home, Like Noplace Is There. This year The Wonder Years released that same album only more pop-punkish. Don’t take that the wrong way, No Closer to Heaven isn’t ripping off The Hotelier but the similarities between the two albums are worth noting. As has become the standard with The Wonder Years releases since 2010’s The Upsides, No Closer to Heaven serves as a commentary on the life of Daniel Campbell and his attempts to understand how and why the world is the way it is. Littered with enjoyable tunes that see the band shift further towards indie-rock from their pop-punk roots, No Closer to Heaven is a fantastic release that cements the band’s position as one of the best bands currently making music.
#4 Drake-If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late:
Drake dropped this mixtape out of nowhere, it had no promotion, no pre-release singles, nothing. Yet somehow it managed to be the first album this year to hit platinum status. This is a new Drake we’re seeing here; Noah “40” Shebib is almost nowhere to be found here, his features have been whittled down to 3 tracks and the pristine layered production on Nothing Was The Same is now replaced with a minimalist set up allowing Drake to dominate the sound. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is what a mixtape should be, an artist working with a variety of producers and stepping outside their comfort zone; while we can likely expect Drake to drop the long awaited View From The 6 sometime next year this mixtape serves as a teaser to it, showcasing a Drake who’s moved beyond the instant pop-hits that littered his 2010 release Take Care and while he may be remembered in 2015 for Hotline Bling and the associated vines that cropped up in response to his dance moves, it’s worth noting that If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late: is his best release in his career so far.
#3 Dance Gavin Dance-Instant Gratification:
Fuck Jonny Craig. Yeah I said it, fuck Jonny Craig. If you’re wondering what he has to do with this album? Nothing and thank god for that. Dance Gavin Dance has cycled through three clean vocalists over their career, two of them were absolutely fantastic and one of them was a grossly overrated fiend of a person who now pumps out the same song twelve times a year in a band called Slaves (For the record the idea of a 5-man band made up of White American males being called Slaves bothers me a little). Instead of Craig, DGD is now fronted by Tillian Pearson, who first joined the band for their 2013 release Acceptance Speech. Instant Gratification builds on its predecessor and features Pearson in a much more comfortable position within the band, no longer trying to live up to his overhyped predecessor and instead doing what DGD’s other clean vocalist Kurt Travis did bac in 2009-2010, Pearson introduces his own style and flair to DGD’s established sound helping them make the most entertaining, accessible and enjoyable album in their nine year career. Everything here is on point and if you need an experimental post-hardcore album to get you through the day, this is it.
#2 The Weeknd-Beauty Behind The Madness:
My hopes were not what I would call high going into this album. The Weeknd burst onto the scene in 2011 with three mixtapes that shook up the entire R&B world. In 2013 his first studio full length Kiss Land was very much a miss. Unable to blend his earlier style with a more mainstream oriented pop-approach Kiss Land faltered all over the place and in turn was far less successful than many had assumed it would be. Beauty Behind The Madness corrects all of these issues; The Weeknd embraces pop to the fullest extent this time around, his vocal melodies ooze throughout the album providing lush ear candy at every chance. Non-hip hop features with the likes of Lana Del Ray and Ed Sheeran help flesh out the album, and tracks like Real Life, Losers and lead single I Can’t Feel My Face show off this new side of The Weeknd like never before. The album stand out comes in the form of closing track Angel, it’s highly reminiscent of an 80’s power ballad only this seems far more genuine, Abel Tesfaye has spent the majority of his career being the guy who’d write songs about convincing girls to drop ecstasy and join him in his hotel room, but on Angel we’re seeing that same person a little more grown up and desiring something more meaningful and permanent. The Weeknd has achieved pop stardom with this album and deserves all the commendation he has received for it.
#1 Stories-The Youth To Become:
I love Underoath, if Underoath released an album this year it’d have been number one. Underoath didn’t release an album this year, but they may as well have; Stories started off as a generic djent-metalcore band in Australia brining absolutely nothing worthwhile to the table. Today Stories might as well be crowned the best band in Australian post-hardcore, The Youth To Become showcases a style of music that many have imitated but few have succeeded in producing. Joining the likes of Hopesfall, Underoath and Oceana, Stories debut is a spaced out, atmospheric Hardcore album that flows seamlessly from dissonance to melody and back again. This is heavy, this is catchy and this is awesome. No other band in heavy music or alternative music in general comes close to this album, the Underoath comparisons are worth mentioning, but honestly if more bands in the post-hardcore scene acknowledged the work put in by groups like Underoath and Thursday to move the genre away from tired breakdowns and awful production, the genre wouldn’t be the laughing stock it is today. Stories have done the seemingly impossible and the only place to go from here is upward.
2015 Honourable Mentions:
Citizen – Everybody is Going To Heaven
Bring Me The Horizon – That’s The Spirit
Coheed & Cambria – The Color Before The Sun
Four Year Strong – Four Year Strong
Major Lazer – Peace is the Mission