Before you read this list, know that I am a girl with bangs and a poetry degree that hangs out at rock shows and writes about music for a living, so my approach to year end lists is expectedly sentimental. In fact, you may recognize me as the slightly maudlin one on the site that uses "Like," for dramatic pause and consistently urges you to "stream this track or die unfulfilled."
When I find a new song I reaaaaally love, it's hard not to force someone to sit down and listen to it with me 20 times on repeat. As you can imagine, that happened a lot this year given the return of my favorite band Sleater-Kinney, countless break-through indie records, and a shit load of Phil Spector-sized guitar pop. The best part of this job is that I only write about the music that I actually want to write about, because I believe in it and think you should, too. That said, here's my objectively correct list of the music that thoroughly ripped in 2015.
BEST ROCK RECORD
SLEATER-KINNEY - NO CITIES TO LOVE
After this year's litany of 90s band reunions, S-K could've easily coasted on their legacy and dropped a cliche reunion album like everybody else. But that is not at all the case. Instead, the iconic Portland trio delivered No Cities to Love, a perfectly nuanced rock record of fresh material that proves how Sleater-Kinney can come back just as strong after a ten year hiatus and still be the best band in the world. Sorry not sorry.
BEST INDIE ALBUM
CAR SEAT HEADREST - TEENS OF STYLE
I've written about this record extensively for Noisey because I'm completely obsessed with it. Will Toldeo's freaky genuis lo-fi is up there with Robert Pollard and Lou Barlow's. This collection of alternative bedroom pop (the first of an upcoming series) goes from hallucinations of entering divine castles to jarring gen-X references ala "I fell in love with Michael Stipe" and let's "talk about Raymond Carver." Like, did I fall asleep and wake up in the Noah Baumbach movie? This is some emotionally complicated, English major, indie rock that reminds you (me) of lonely nights crying in freshman dorms to Bee Thousand.
BEST PUNK RECORD - CHILDBIRTH, WOMEN'S RIGHTS
Seattle's feminist punk scene is multiplying as members of its best bands form side-projects that roll the strongest parts of each into something completely different. Case in point: Childbirth, the supergroup with members of Chastity Belt, Tacocat, and Pony Time. Always one for subversive feminism, Julia Shapioro continues to churn out cultural critiques of the patriarchy through two to three minute punk songs. All grit and guitars, Childbirth's record Women's Rights leave no "problematic" stone unturned, indluding Tindr, tech bros, Best Coast, and babies.
BEST ALBUM BY A SINGER/SONGWRITER - TORRES, SPRINTER
Mackenzie Scott a.k.a. TORRES is a new force to be reckoned with. Her spellbinding folk rock has led to more than a few PJ Harvey comparisons. Makes sense considering Harvey's longtime collaborator Rob Ellis produced her record. Regardless, Scott's voice is absolutely massive and has full emotional range that goes from reverance to rage when she slams down on a distortion pedal. She released her grunge-inflected sophomore record Sprinter earlier this year, an album that was critically lauded yet tragically overlooked.
MOST PROMISING EP - SHEER MAG, II
Sheer Mag could be the future of rock and roll. I truly believe that this is the only band that can finally pull guitar rock out of its nostalgic 90s rut and make the classic seventies sound relevant again. The Philly quintet have only released two EPs but they're a critics' fave that have single-handedly brought Thin Lizzy back into the blogosphere in a way that's (finally) unironic.
BEST FILM SOUNDTRACK - Heaven Knows What
Behold: two and half hours of classical symphonies remixed into crashing, intense, emotional techno. Like, Vivaldi as interpretted by Headhunters. Plus it's all set to artsy long-shorts of NYC heroin addicts shooting up and making out.
BEST POP COVER
Mitski - Fireproof (One Direction)
First of all, Mitski's 2014 record Bury Me at Make Out Creek is my favorite album of 2015 and that's because I listened to it every damn day of the year. It is a folk rock masterpiece that is just as much a collection of brilliant poetry as it is a blistering guitar record. But since it came out last fall (sigh), I had to forgoe it for the list. However, her flawless cover of "Fireproof" by One Direction that she released online is dare I say better than the original (RIP Zayn).
BEST POP RECORD - ONE DIRECTION, MADE IN THE AM
I know for a fact that I am the only Noisey staffer with a year end list that even mentions One Direction, but it's a cross I'll gladly bear. I admittedly saw no appeal in this band until I embarked on an article that exposed the complicated psychology behind 1D's 21-40 year old fan base. Reasons behind the adult fandom included relief from emotional abuse, trauma, struggles with intimacy, and coping with death. It became clear to me that poptimism is much more than just a hash tag and a serious and enlightening mental practice. Also, there is so much Fleetwood Mac to this album that anyone who has ever loved Rumours can surely see a little bit of Lindsey Buckingham in Harry Styles.
BEST BOX SET - Roy Orbison, The MGM Years
Pop's original sad boy finally gets the royal treatment he deserves with this absurdly perfect box set. Here, in one place, are remastered versions of every aching, crooning, gut-wrenched classic since the dark angel first started dying his hair black and shopping his demos to Sun Records in the 50s.
BEST VIDEO - Father John Misty - "I Love you, Honeybear"
As obnoxious as I find Father John Misty, I do really enjoy the video for "I Love You, Honeybear." Something about lying with your lover in a bed of Rorschach sheets while a gas leak slowly seeps through your Victorian mansion and kills you seems like an extremely chill way to die, but maybe that's just me.
Palehound - Dry Food
Peach Kelli Pop - III
Colleen Green - I Want to Grow Up
Wax Idols - American Tragic
Spray Paint - Punters on a Barge
Royal Headache - High
Khing Khan and the BBQ Show - Bad News Boys