By Jason. While there was so much good music to choose from in 2015, three albums came out of nowhere to dominate my listening for the year. I enjoyed the hell out of this year’s releases from some familiar artists, like Josh Ritter’s Sermon On The Rocks, Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free, The Dead Weather’s Dodge And Burn, and Noah Gundersen’s Carry The Ghost. But I expected to. The three albums that really got to me, however, were from artists with which I had no prior connection.
1. Pops Staples – Don’t Lose This
2. Turnstile – Nonstop Feeling
3. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – The Night Creeper
4. Josh Ritter – Sermon On The Rocks
5. Adele – 25
6. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
7. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
8. Noah Gundersen – Carry The Ghost
9. The Dead Weather – Dodge And Burn
10. FIDLAR – Too
First among the group is Pops Staples’s posthumous release, Don’t Lose This. Once again, my favorite album of the year reaches back to a simpler but powerful musical past. Don’t Lose This is a gospel blues master work pieced together from unfinished 1999 tracks. Pops’s subtle, clean arrangements pull the listener into the album from the first track, “Somebody Was Watching.” By the middle, you’ve settled in to receive the wisdom of a man whose lyrics and voice capture gospel blues so well: tender truth simply delivered. “Friendship” is a great example. If you’re like me and you haven’t mined the work of Pops Staples or the Staple Singers, this is a great place to start.
Pops Staples – “Friendship”
There’s no possible way to transition between Pops Staples and my second album of the year, Turnstile’s Nonstop Feeling. In fact, it is this type of whipsaw segue that made me like the album so much. I first listened to Turnstile after I had gorged on artists like Ritter and Gundersen for months. Turnstile, on the other hand, is a hardcore punk band from Baltimore and Nonstop Feeling is their first studio album. Their sound is a juggernaut combination of the weirdest sort, borrowing heavily from Rage Against The Machine and the Beastie Boys while adding in a wild mix of 311 and metal. The outro of their opening track, “Gravity,” (listen at 2:31), could easily be confused with old school Metallica. The mix of influences was guarantee enough that I would give the album of a try. Simultaneously derivative and original, it broke through the rest of the year with such a force that I kept going back to it.
Turnstile – “Gravity”
Lastly, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats blew me away with The Night Creeper. I had no idea any band was still pursuing the original heavy metal sound. Uncle Acid aren’t just emulating; they are committed to the roots of Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper, vintage recording equipment and all. For a kid to grow up in the late 80s and early 90s as a fan of metal giants like Sabbath, you knew you missed the prime years of so many amazing bands; you could only imagine what it must have been like when albums like Black Sabbath and Paranoid were released. Uncle Acid, in 2015, was such a shot out of nowhere in the most enjoyable way that it brought me as close as modern music can to being a teenager in the early 70s.
Above, you can see the remainder of my top ten for the year. Adding to the other notes on Adele’s 25, I hope to see the album dominate much of early 2016, especially the radio stations my wife insists we listen to on our morning drives to work. If “When We Were Young,” “Love In The Dark,” “Million Years Ago,” and “All I Ask” can have as much circulation as “Hello,” I may just survive the commute.