MIMA's Favorite Albums of 2015
It is that time of year again. As 2016 approaches, we like to look back at the highlights of 2015. As music-lovers, we decided the best way for MIMA to commemorate the year is with a collection of our favorite albums. Music is subjective. It is about emotions. It is sounds put together in a way that makes us feel something. These are our favorite albums because they each made us, as individuals, feel something.
Raury exhibits grandiose in all facets of his character and his music. This album shifts our perspective inward and allows us to observe our community, individualism, and purpose as an autumn leaf might see the ground, with detached interest and graceful maturity.
At only nineteen, Raury is creating art nothing shy of profound. His style transcends descriptors as All We Need fuses genre and episodically evolves as if the music itself were a growing organism. Raury leads a movement of conscious youth with incredible ambition to take the modern music industry in a positive and necessary direction.
This album follows the story of the lead singer Josh Ramsay's hard times over the last several years since their last album release. From the opening song "Astoria" to the closer "End of an Era" you are taken on an emotional journey of happiness to sadness to sassiness. The bands 80's inspired theme brings you back to the days of the Goonies and Back to the Future from the full length songs to the instrumental interludes that make you feel like you're listening to a full length movie soundtrack. Although I may be slightly bias of the band this is definitely a great album and the bands best work to date and I highly recommend it to anyone who truly enjoys well written music.
Though the album is only a week or so old, Troye Sivan’s debut is already one of my favorite albums of the year. Breathy vocals supported by understated hip hop beats, Blue Neighbourhood sounds very much of its time; Sivan references buying e-cigarettes in “For Him.” and brags about his Saint Laurent coat on “Cool.” Throughout the album, the twenty-year-old touches on many coming-of-age subjects, from the dizzying effects of love on “Wild” to the desire to run away from responsibilities on “Youth.” Most poignant of the tracks is the revealing “Heaven,” where Sivan pours out his frustrations about his coming out and if he’ll ever see the pearly gates. An atmospheric album full of heavy themes, Blue Neighbourhood is a must-listen for anyone navigating the terrifying terrain between adolescence and adulthood.
Standout tracks: “Wild,” “Talk Me Down,” “Heaven,”, “Lost Boy,” and “Suburbia.”
- TJ Lövell
The Chainsmokers released an EP called Bouquet. It has 5 amazing songs on it that sets them apart as far as producers are concerned. Everyone called them a one hit wonder when the released "#Selfie," but they proved everyone to be insanely wrong. Their break through song, Roses ft. ROZES is a sound unlike any other, and every mix they release shoes they can go from deep house to club trap with ease. Bouquet was really their way of proving they are major players in the EDM world, and I have no doubt Drew and Alex will be considered amongst other top DJs in no time.
The second album from Tremonti, created by Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge, is one of the best albums that I have heard in 2015. This albums kicks off with the first song “Radical Change” and it doesn’t fall off at any point. Every song has the classic Mark Tremonti style to it and they get stuck in your head easily. You can listen to this album over and over again and it will never get old. You’ll find yourself singing the chorus of a song in some of the most random places, most notably the song “Sympathy”. Also the guitar riffs that Tremonti brings to this record will get stuck in your head and you’ll never be able to forget them especially on songs like “Cauterize”, “Another Heart”, and “Flying Monkeys” but all of them are amazing as Mark Tremonti is a gifted guitar player. Truly a great album and recommended listen to all.
This band has always been in my top favorites and has never disappointed me. Kevin Parker is truly an inspiration to music in my eyes considering he writes and records all of Tame Impalas music. Literally every instrument you hear on any album was him. For his shows he had found people that are good enough to play along with him while he signs, plays the guitar, and makes his magic. This band brings a new age psychedelic feel to their sound and are very focused on the keyboard and guitar within their music. Kevin has such an intriguing unique voice that adds to his sound perfectly. This album in particular was very 80's esque to me. It starts off with "Let It Happen" and he kicked it off right because it’s the most popular song on the album and one of my favorites. He tells stories through his lyrics and a good representation of that would be "The Less I Know The Better" and "Yes I'm Changing" which are both great songs. I think this last album has made their fan base grow even more because even though a few of his songs have been in movies "The Less I Know The Better" was the song behind Apple's new commercial. This entire album has a feel good vibe to it and honestly I would recommend this band to anyone. I was so happy I got to see the live last summer!
Hamilton is the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Miranda; playwright, lyricist, rapper, and composer. He brings rap, hip hop, and R&B to musical theatre to tell the story of our “ten dollar Founding Father” Alexander Hamilton. The concept sounds impossible, which only makes the project more amazing. Miranda contributes his inspiration to how obviously Hamilton’s life lends itself to hip hop: he spoke in thought-out, rap-like paragraphs; he was the stereotypical womanizer; he settled his disagreements with gun duals. My favorite aspect of the musical is that it takes the history out of the books. No one knew what would happen; it was the great American Experiment. The Founding Fathers were real people with real emotions, real lives, real weaknesses. The King of England (Jonathan Groff) adds his two cents with three sassy numbers, in the style of 1960s British-invasion pop, as if America was his lover and not a revolting, young nation. Rather than focus on a boring play-by-play of the revolution, Miranda tells Hamilton’s story through his rivalry with Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.), his closeness to George Washington (Christopher Jackson), and his relationships with his wife, her sister, and his married mistress. To make the history, and musical theatre, even more approachable, many of the songs could musically pass as stand-alone single on the pop, hip hop, or R&B charts. One of my favorite songs of the soundtrack “Satisfied” is a perfect example of this; the sister and maid of honor (Renee Elise Goldsberry) of Hamilton’s bride confesses her love for him to the audience. If that doesn’t make history relevant and approachable, I don’t know what would.
This euphoric pop quartet from West Virginia released their second LP on Run For Cover records. After their self-titled EP; Magnolia, their first LP; and Blue Dream being the second EP, they finally found their unique sound to help them stand out. Going where most Run For Cover bands are going, they fuse this new psychedelic rock sound with pop emo lyrics to create a unique and catchy album. One of the more underrated albums of the year, but expect to hear big things from these guys in the future.
Best known as the frontman for Dance Gavin Dance, Tilian Pearson indulges in the pop-world with his 2nd full length album Perfect Enemy. The album starts out with a mellow track "True" which includes perfectly in-tune falsettos accompanied by soft piano and acoustic guitar. "Satellite" is arguably the best track on the album with an ear-pleasing melody and verses that really compliment the catchy chorus. More songs like "Tug of War," "Heartfelt," "All I Ever Do," and "Future Friends," showcase Tilian's different styles and incredible vocal range.
Chicago based pop punk trio has recently released (soon to be on Spotify) their third EP as 7MIH and the first with the current members. These new songs show much growth and maturity since first starting the band with just Timmy Rasmussen, now lead guitarist. Side Effects is ground-breaking and will see a lot of attention from the pop punk community. Timmy Rasmussen, Alex Rogers, and Justin Mondzak have poured their hearts and emotions into the lyrics to give a glimpse into the last year of their lives. The album starts out with "Ways I Shouldn't Be" which begins with a slow melody that then turns into a rock vibe hooking the listeners. Following is their first single "I'm Okay" and "I Melt With You" that bring in gang vocals and really starts to showcase their talent as a group. For a strong transition to the finish is the title track, "Side Effects" that comes in with sick bass lines and catchy lyrics. Finally is the second single and last song, "Fireworks". This is the perfect ending to an EP that really takes you on a journey and is sure to leave you wanting more. 7 Minutes in Heaven has come a long way from the beginning and is definitely a band you need to know.
- Miranda Vandelier
The legend of Björk continues on the musician’s ninth album, Vulnicura. Born out of the destruction of her thirteen-year relationship with avant-garde artist Matthew Barney, the lyrics were written several months before and after the breakup and are considerably more personal than most of Björk’s discography; the Icelandic singer’s healing process is chronicled through emotional lines such as, “Is there a place / where I can pay respects / for the death of my family?” and, “We aim at peeling off / dead layers of loveless love.” She revisits the production of her fourth album, Homogenic, by marrying experimental electronic sounds with lush strings, which express the singer-songwriter’s anguish when she can’t find the words to do so. The album’s ten-minute centerpiece, “Black Lake”, perfectly exemplifies this: it begins with a fifteen-piece orchestra before incorporating hard-hitting beats to further illustrate the tension already displayed in the song’s lyrics. Although it may not be the singer-songwriter’s best album, Vulnicura is easily her darkest and most emotionally daring and is the record anyone going through heartbreak desperately needs.
Standout tracks: “Lionsong”, “History of Touches”, “Black Lake”, “Notget”, and “Atom Dance”.
Released just short of five years after the release of the highly successful album 21, Adele’s new album, 25, is breaking through to ears in mass amounts while breaking massive records. According to Nielsen Music, the first single off the album, “Hello,” sold 1.11 million downloads in one week, breaking the record for most downloads of a song in one week in the United States. If you don’t subconsciously think “It’s me…” every time someone says, “hello,” you’re lying. The best way to describe Adele’s music is powerful, enticing, and inspiring. Her music is not marketed to a niche audience. This would be a risky thing for the majority of artists, but Adele’s music seems to attract dedicated listeners of all demographics. Her theme of struggling relationships is widely relatable. I recommend the album 25 to anyone looking for classy, bold, relatable and timeless music.
The Front Bottoms managed to top their last albums by putting out a catchy, hook-filled indie album that gets stuck in your head all day. You can listen to it on repeat and never get sick of it. "2YL" and "Laugh Til I Cry" are the stand out tracks, but they're all great.
- Jake Trethaway
This album revolutionized their sound. Back when albums such as I Hate My Friends and My Grandma vs. Pneumonia were released, they had a super raspy and a "recorded in a basement" feel- which wasn't a bad thing. As their career has progressed after a few more albums such as their self-titled album and "Talon of the Hawk" Fueled by Ramen picked them up. Mirroring a sound from their Rose EP, this album sounds professionally recorded and quite cleaned up. While some people miss the rawness of their past, this album is earning them the respect they deserve. Oh, and they put on a badass live show.
This is Tyler and Josh’s second full length album with Fueled by Ramen, and it is nothing short of a musical masterpiece. They incorporate a mix of so many genres including rock, hip hop, rap, and even reggae. This album is making their fan base grow incredibly and even giving them spots on the radio. The second track on the album, “Stressed Out” is one that almost every college student can relate to. The tracks are super catchy, even the band can’t stop listening to it.
Sufjan is always on point when it comes to laying down some great and emotional music, but this album tops anything he's done to date. Sufjan strips away most of his production for a very barebones sound that is equal parts haunting and beautiful. The album is a deeply personal look into Sufjan dealing with the passing of his mother in 2012. As we move through each song, we feel Sufjan's grief, regret, acceptance, and hope. The hushed strings are a perfect backdrop to let Sufjan's expert lyricism shine. It's a deeply affecting album, and it's not one to be missed.
- Gabriel Aikins
On the surface, it may sound like a neo soul, pop album, but I think it reminds us that music is timeless. You can always take something old and make it new again with a little imagination. Leon takes us back to the 1960s, but keeps us grounded right here in the present all the while. Maybe we aren't so far from where we once were, for better or for worse.
While on yet another (extremely painful) hiatus with The Killers, Flowers has released his second solo album. The Desired Effect has proven to be much stronger than his first album, Flamingo. After just a few listens, the songs become stuck in your head and refuse to leave (I’m not complaining). It’s a well-done pop album with character and a unique sound that isn’t commonly found in today’s pop albums. Several of the songs, most noting "Lonely Town," make you want to get up and dance around the room. The piano lines, hand claps, finger snaps and overall catchy beats can’t stop you from joining in yourself. The album begins with the brassy "Dreams Come True" and suddenly the song reminds you that if a boy hanging out in Las Vegas responds to a wanted ad about starting a band (later to be known as The Killers) that eventually turns into a chart-topping world-wide phenomenon, your wildest dreams can become a reality as well.
It's one of the most purely fun rap albums of the last few years. The first song on the album, "Trap Queen" was one of the biggest songs of the year, and the album gets better from there. Fetty has an incredibly unique sing-song voice and delivery, making every song on the album move and breath. There is only one guest on the entire album, so Fetty does most of the heavy lifting through the 20 songs on the album, and doesn't falter at any point. The emotion and inflection he puts on his voice is masterful. At one point in the album, he starts 3 songs in a row with an ad-lib of "Yeahhh baby," but the way he delivers it each time matches the different feel and sound of each song. The production is top notch, and every song comes together to create a strong comprehensive listening experience without becoming monotonous. If you want a great album that's a ton of fun to listen to, Fetty Wap's debut is the album for you.
- Gabriel Aikins
A lot of great albums have been released even in the past couple months. But for country music, Brett Eldredge's album Illinois is great from song 1-12. He brings his soulful voice to country but has a little bit of Motown and rock vibes on a couple of the songs. His upbeat songs can make you dance and sing along, but he still can slow it down and make you think and reminisce. He also continues to tell stories, which seems to be rare in country music today.
These guys haven't had a real break since they entered this industry when they were about 15. Limited family time, limited life outside of the fans and the industry. This time has been a curse and a blessing to them. They've all become more involved with song writing, production and composition, and I've listened to them grow as artists. This was their opportunity to show that they have grown and are musicians, not your cookie cutter 1990s boyband. After losing one member, they still continued to produce and move forward as a quartet and I think that losing Zayn, who was said to be the strongest singer of them all, gave them each a great opportunity to show off their own voices and prove that they are all very talented. I also believe that this album was a great way to say goodbye to their fans before they went on this Hiatus/break/whatever. The album is fun, but it also truly tells stories. I think the best example of this is in the song “Write A Song.” It honestly sounds like they are speaking to the fans, thanking them for all of their support (neurotic as some of them may be), and telling them that this hiatus is something they need, but they will never leave the band behind, totally.
I think, going through everything that they have, this album completely encompasses everything they have wanted One Direction to become, and I think this break is something they truly deserve.
- Tori Pizzuto
The bands 5th studio album in 5 years and wow, what a difference a few years can make. The band that was once dancing around on the beach reminding you of “What Makes You Beautiful” is now causing trouble up in hotel rooms and giving their ex's a taste of their own medicine. Regardless of being down a member, 1D has provided us with yet another boy band masterpiece that has shown growth and maturity in not only their vocals but also their lyrics. The album shifts around, successfully experimenting with funky vibes with "Olivia" and "What A Feeling" along with some acoustic folk sounds in "I Want To Write You A Song." But you can't forget to mention how good they are at going back to their roots in their pop ballad "Drag Me Down" which is a song that will follow you wherever you go and the lyrics will never leave your prefrontal cortex. Complete radio gold. One Direction is a band that does not need to dance in the middle of a ring of fire or have rain pour on them on stage to have an unforgettable performance. Just their phenomenal harmonizing voices and dazzling good looks is enough to sell out world tours and win Artist Of The Year in a country they are not even from. While they leave us with this album as they head into hiatus in 2016, we can only hope and pray that they enjoy their break but also return to us quickly, and as a whole.
One of my favorite bands from Grand Rapids put out an album that I can and have listened through multiple times in a sitting. Songs you can sing along with, scream with your all your friends, and shout when you're driving home alone. Driven, indie-punk/emo songs that sound like you're in the room with the band. Feelings and moods permeate the record, but leaves room for you to imprint your own experiences onto.
My sophomore year in MIMA, Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers played Autumn aLive. That night, I fell in love with everything about them. Despite what the name might suggest, this wasn’t Joe Hertler and a backing band; it was a group of artists working together to create wonderful music and at the same time, working the stage in a way that was entertaining but still personal. That was back in 2013. A couple years later, the magic I saw on stage was recorded and released as Terra Incognita. As recent college-graduates, the band covers topics we can all relate to (love, student debt). The music is young, indie, fresh, American. At the same time, the Rainbow Seekers pull from many old musical elements: funk, Motown, folk. “Future Talk” straight from the disco era. “Trying to Break Your Heart” is a quick doo wop tune, completely a capella. Each style comes together to make Terra Incognita timeless. My favorite song is Here Be Dragons. It is complicated but soothing. It’s driving down a misty mountain road. It’s about growing up calm. I have had “Here Be Dragons” and the rest of Terra Incognita have been on repeat for months; it is probably my most-listened to album of the year.
- Andrea Harthorn
This is Kip Moore's long awaited sophomore album. Each song tells a story that everyone can relate to. His rugged vocals mixed with the smooth instrumentals is a perfect combination. It is a country album mixed with a little rock and roll.
-Leaha Van Putten