Finding an order for the end of year lists often seems like an exercise in futility, but really there were so many great albums and tracks in 2015 it at least deserves a shot. You might disagree with the choices, but do spend some time getting to know these artists. Here you’ll find internationally successful acts alongside debut EPs. That’s okay though. Music is music and we love the good stuff. Please, do us a solid and give the list a share if you like what you hear.
20) Pacific Gold – “Spirit of God”
-I’ve covered Pacific Gold before, so I’ll keep this brief. The song itself is about as comforting as possible. It’s also an incredible place to start a list like this. The folk instrumentation and vocal blending is exceptional on this song. The spiritual dynamic of the group has always been appealing to me and the way they breath new life into old songs brings me joy.
19) Steamboats – “Only My Hope”
-When I reviewed this album I found myself consistently stunned by the vocals on each track. I found “Only My Hope” to be particularly engaging. The song’s structure has almost two distinct entities, including one with gorgeous acapella harmonies while the second half allows strings to join into the fray. It all comes together for a delicate yet invigorating piece of music. It almost defies categorization, but it’s definitely a superb accomplishment.
18) Seryn – “Paths”
-I always underrate Seryn and I don’t know why. Sorry ya’ll. Seryn are superbly talented musicians who can sing, too. The songwriting is always at a high level. I found this 2015 release to be exceptional yet again. “Paths” has an ethereal, lofty feeling that makes me feel all sorts of chills. There’s definitely a lyrical ethos to the track that I try over and over to fully grasp. I just know that the instrumentation and message come together gorgeously. Life is more than shadow shows.
17) Yellow Bellied Sapsuckers – “Kiss Away”
-This is probably the most adorable blues song you’ve ever heard. The acoustic guitar has these wonderful little minor key changes that just tingle in your ears. The lead vocal is crystal clear and utterly believable. The song is sad at its core, but never ceases to make me smile. It’s a slow dancer, too.
16) David Ramirez – “Ball and Chain”
-This isn’t a new song from Ramirez, but it’s the first time he’s released it. One of the things we all love about David Ramirez is that he sings with so much emotion. This song is an expression of the difficult life on the road that songwriters lead. “God bless the man behind the microphone” is the main lyric and it’s absolutely perfectly delivered. Stay for the whole thing… Ramirez makes it worth your while.
15) Joshua Hyslop – “Last Train Home”
-Hyslop is an extremely gifted singer songwriter. Hearing him live, it’s absolutely stunning that he’s a self taught musician. His songwriting is at that “next level” and the feeling he produces with “Last Train Home” gets me every time. It’s one part gospel, a dash of pop, and a whole lot of heart driving the lyrics of a true storyteller. “If it’s all the same to you love, I will take the last train home.” The restlessness evident in the song, not to mention the spiritual wrestling, makes even this top 20 ranking an insult. It’s that good.
14) Davey Allen – “Unto the River’s Side”
-Davey Allen is an example of why we love doing what we do. He’s an incredible artist flying completely under the radar. This song, heavily influenced by 70s rock, has all sorts of sizzle. Allen’s full album has all sorts of blues-influenced tracks, but this one gets listeners moving. Give him a spin.
13) A Yawn Worth Yelling – “Start Somewhere”
-If you don’t like this song, we’re not friends. Seriously we just can’t be. The guitars on this indie rock jam are absolutely to DIE FOR. The high lead vocal reminds me of my love of pop punk from back in the day. Imagine a Maroon 5 sound from their debut days. This track is that. In short, it’s so catchy you’ll need a baseball glove.
12) Zuni Mountain Boys – “It’s Still New York City”
-Zuni Mountain Boys were another of the random finds for me that totally paid off this year. They had several good tracks on their debut EP, but this track “It’s Still New York City” melts me. I know that’s a weird thing to say, but the way it can pull on heart strings is ridiculously wonderful. The harmonies are exceptional. I can’t wait to hear more from them already.
11) Ben Rector – “Crazy”
-My life is crazy; crazy normal. When I first heard that line from Ben Rector I almost cried with “yes, he gets me” feels. Rector’s writing is near and dear to my heart, but this particular song I immediately shared with my wife when I heard it. He captures the everyday joy of life that exists outside of the glitz and glamour of most popular music. It’s also extremely fun to listen to and laugh.