50. Silversun Pickups- Better Nature
If there’s one band following the most in the footsteps of The Smashing Pumpkins it’s the Silversun Pickups. Brian Aubert’s whimsical Billy Corgan-esque vocals dance around guitars jagged like shards of glass shimmering with a metallic gloss of keyboards resulting in an album that could fit in with the alt-’90s crowd as well as the throng of contemporary guitar bands.
49. Radkey- Dark Black Makeup
Whether you like it or not hard rock and heavy metal are mainly Caucasian-dominated genres. Then a trio of African-American brothers come along (From St. Joseph, Missouri?) and make such a revitalizing racket that it can’t be ignored. Their debut album Dark Black Makeup is an angst-filled lighting rod of bare-bones garage rock shot through a street punk aesthetic. Girls, guitars, amps. Youth and young manhood.
48. The Decemberists- What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World
Following the early 2011 release of the phenomenal The King is Dead the future of The Decemberists remained uncertain. After a hiatus lasting over four years they’ve returned with the sprawling What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World that builds on their ever-blossoming pop sensibilities and weaves them through their rich, worldly literate tales. The only thing The Decemberists need to be concerned about is maybe taking less time between records.
47. The Waterboys- Modern Blues
Folk-rock stalwarts The Waterboys return with 2015’s Modern Blues. Though they’ve been around for more than 30 years this is an energetic and enthusiastic reaffirmation of their core strengths culminating in the driving finale of the 10-minute “Long Strange Golden Road.”
46. Jeff Lynne’s ELO- Alone In The Universe
Jeff Lynne hasn’t released an album under the Electric Light Orchestra name since 2001’s Zoom. It’s follow up (Now under the moniker “Jeff Lynne’s ELO”) Alone In The Universe arrives 14 years later and Lynne shows no signs of rust as he sings with a clarity that percolated throughout the band’s high points in the ‘70s and with Lynne behind the control booth the production quality is unsurprisingly immaculate.
45. Titus Andronicus- The Most Lamentable Tragedy
Titus Andronicus are no strangers to ambitious albums. Their 2010 breakthrough The Monitor was an epic based around the Civil War with a punk rock ethos. The Most Lamentable Tragedy looks inward at the instability of the human condition that can be equal parts thrilling and unnerving.
44. Ivan & Alyosha- It’s All Just Pretend
Ivan & Alyosha’s debut record All The Times We Had established them in the realm of a delicate yet powerful celestial sound. Their follow up It’s All Just Pretend displays their effortless prowess for an aching majestic catharsis that few bands can seemingly achieve. Bigger stages and brighter stardom look to be on the horizon for this Seattle quintet.
43. The Winery Dogs- Hot Streak
The Winery Dogs’ sophomore record Hot Streak sees the band remain on just that, a hot streak. The power trio super group consisting of the rhythm section of bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Mike Portnoy are rocksteady behind the star of the show singer/guitarist Richie Kotzen whose ageless wail and formidable guitar chops make you wish this gem was unearthed decades earlier.
42. Clutch- Psychic Warfare
Veteran stoner metal band Clutch have been building a steady, loyal following for the past 20+ years. Psychic Warfare is another sturdy, muscular statement built on chugging guitars and Neil Fallon’s husky snarl. You can look at it as a loose concept album of the inner turmoil one is constantly raging against… or you can just prep the bong and let the headbanging commence.
41. Ryan Bingham- Fear And Saturday Night
Ryan Bingham is known in many circles solely for his Oscar-winning song “The Weary Kind” he penned for the 2009 film Crazy Heart. Bingham however has been on a creative tear in the country world similar to the legendary Highwaymen’s blue-collared work ethic. Bingham’s fifth album Fear And Saturday Night continues that trajectory blending wounded warmth and a dogged, whiskey-logged restlessness befitting of its title.
40. Florence + The Machine- How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Florence Welch is a championed siren with the world at her finger tips. Her gigantic anthems translate effortlessly to the massive stages Florence + The Machine now inhabit. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful may be their most commanding effort yet erupting out of the gate with four instant powerhouse classics “Ship To Wreck,” “What Kind of Man,” the title track, and “Queen of Peace” that are worth the price of admission alone.
39. Foals- What Went Down
If Foals’ ambitions continue to be as big as their sound, they’ll be conquering the globe in no time. What Went Down builds off their previous work, expanding their sonic palate into something that can’t be categorized. Waves of metallic riffs, longing, soaring vocals, anthems for the sea and air. Foals’ grandeur ensures they’ll be a force to be reckoned with for years, if not decades to come.
38. Motorhead- Bad Magic
You always know what you’re going to get with a Motorhead album. An indestructible, incomparable snarling document of heavy metal. Bad Magic is another reliable, sweaty, blaring triumph right up to the closing cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil” which feels even more menacing with Lemmy Kilmister’s maniacal rattling growl powering the engine. Sadly, this will be the last Motorhead studio album released as the legendary front-man Lemmy passed away tragically at the end of 2015 due to cancer. Motorhead fans can at least take solace in the fact that Lemmy & crew went out like an ace of spades with a fitting coda in Bad Magic.
37. Brandon Flowers- The Desired Effect
Say what you will about Brandon Flowers but he’s a very passionate man who refuses to rest on the laurels of The Killers. His 2nd solo record The Desired Effect has the similar pageantry of previous albums from The Killers but there’s a glossy hubris that radiates from it all. Most couldn’t pull that off but Flowers makes it seem charming.
36. Wolf Alice- My Love Is Cool
Beginning as a buzz band Wolf Alice more than lived up to the hype with one of the best debut albums of 2015 in My Love Is Cool. A blast of ’90s alt-rock, powered by vixen Ellie Rowsell, she’s fearless as the front-woman roaring and raging through this infectious set of songs. A preview of bigger things comes in the gem “You’re A Germ.”
35. White Reaper- White Reaper Does It Again
Sometimes a breath of fresh air can be something as simple as stripping everything back to basics. White Reaper does just that on their debut record White Reaper Does It Again sounding like they’re plugging into their amps in a garage for the first time and banging out a glorious racket of over-driven electric organs and switchblade guitars. There are no frills with this album, just the way White Reaper likes it.
34. Modest Mouse- Strangers To Ourselves
Eight years is a lifetime in the music business but that’s the length of time it’s taken for Modest Mouse to release a follow up to their 2007 We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank. Strangers To Ourselves is a re-introduction for most to a band that once conquered the indie-rock scene with their 2004 anthem “Float On” and they have retained their innate ability to make quirky music with catchy hooks as evidenced by cuts like “Lampshades on Fire,” “The Ground Walks, With Time In A Box,” and “Coyotes.”
33. Ruby The Hatchet- Valley Of The Snake
Front-woman Jillian Taylor leads her marauding outfit Ruby The Hatchet straight into the boys club of heavy metal taking no prisoners. Valley Of The Snake is a lumbering Goliath full of Sabbath-worthy pillaging riffs, demonic organs, and Taylor’s haunting, soul-enchanting vocal. This is a beast the shan’t be tamed for awhile.
32. Neil Young + Promise of the Real- The Monsanto Years
There’s one thing Neil Young can never be accused of and that’s being complacent. His latest affair The Monsanto Years is an all-out assault on big corporate farming and GMOs. Young finds himself a new backing band in the Promise of the Real lead by Willie Nelson’s sons Micah and Lukas. The unlikely pairing has a delightfully ragged and sloppy charm, similar to synergetic magic he’s had in the past with Crazy Horse with the crown jewel being the squalling tirade of “Big Box” which can stand up alongside some of Neil’s best epic jams.
31. Lady Lamb- After
Aly Spaltro aka Lady Lamb is more than just a pretty face on the indie-rock scene. Her formidable guitar chops and her even more impressive lyrical prowess make her a force to be reckoned with. Her album After is a buoyant affair on the surface that cuts much deeper in an introspective manner embracing personal moments both painful and pleasurable.
30. Ike Reilly- Born On Fire
Look for the crossroads of Americana and you may end up in Libertyville, Illinois with the voice of Libertyville belonging to be singer/songwriter Ike Reilly. He’s by no means a fresh face, getting his start in 1992. With a blue-collar relentlessness he’s been working away under the radar for nearly a quarter of a century. That all could change with his latest release Born On Fire blending a gritty Springsteen “every man” ethos with Reilly’s tense sandpaper croon akin to some of Dylan’s more gripping moments. Reilly may finally be pulling out of Libertyville to win.
29. Editors- In Dream
Editors continue to be one of the more fascinating paradoxes in music. Their sonic blueprint is steeped in profound melancholy yet their big yearning sound can fill arenas. In Dream is a total immersion of the senses, you look no further than the album cover itself as to how it will make you feel.
28. Frank Turner- Positive Songs For Negative People
Positive Songs For Negative People is Frank Turner’s oddest album yet. No, he’s not doing anything necessarily groundbreaking or dropping a punk rock version of Kid A, but he actually seems… happy? If not that he at least seems content. The rave-ups are still present but there’s an underlying sense of optimism that has seemingly evaded his roster of damaged characters over the years. Turner has finally realized he can smile every now and then and still be a poet for the punks.
27. Craig Finn- Faith In The Future
Craig Finn’s 2nd solo album Faith In The Future has the streetwise elation of The Hold Steady but on a more personal level. Finn’s downtrodden protagonists keep us fully invested throughout which is a testament to the peerless altruistic craft that goes into Finn’s lyrical detail. At many times it feels like a direct conversation with Finn himself, splitting a case over stories of old never-ending nights stating, “Well, at least we made it out alive.”
26. Mikal Cronin- MCIII
Once a hired gun for musical wunderkind Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin has emerged as a force to be reckoned with. On his third album MCIII he continues his evolution with a cocktail of garage rock nuggets and lush indie pop beauty. As good as MCIII is this feels like it could be just the tip of iceberg for Cronin’s potential.
25. The Arcs- Yours, Dreamily,
Dan Auerbach may as well be given the nickname King Midas because everything he touches turns to gold. From his unstoppable force with Patrick Carney in The Black Keys, to his wizardry in the production booth, and now on side projects like The Arcs. Yours, Dreamily, is a bluesy, boozy prowler that will keep us in the deep end with Auerbach.
24. Built to Spill- Untethered Moon
Built to Spill is built to last. Formed in 1992 they’ve never really broke through the glass ceiling to mainstream success but they’ve sustained a dedicated fan base. Their latest album Untethered Moon is another sturdy statement of jangling, ridged guitars and Doug Martsch’s snarling voice battling for attention. Closer “When I’m Blind” is a tangled cacophonous brier of a six-string workout not unlike some of Wilco’s best lengthy jams.
23. Courtney Barnett- Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
Australian spitfire Courtney Barnett was undoubtedly the rookie of the year in 2015. There was no debut record better than Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. A boldly literate document turning some of the most mundane moments of everyday life into an ebullient, gripping exposition.
22. Lord Huron- Strange Trails
Lord Huron have become masters of the lush, opulent soundscapes that populate their albums. Strange Trails continues that trajectory, better served with starry nights in the wide open country. If there was a sound for the hopeless romantic internally, this full-bodied supernova would be it.
21. Of Monsters And Men- Beneath The Skin
The Icelandic equivalent of Arcade Fire, Of Monsters And Men are less interested in living in the shadows of their Canadian peers and more focused on conquering the world themselves. Beneath The Skin strikes on the same gorgeous chords as their debut My Head Is An Animal but the breadth of their sophomore album is arguably even more ambitious. The dueling lead vocals of Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson steer them to a horizon that looks brighter with each new album.
20. Blitzen Trapper- All Across This Land
Blitzen Trapper have a tireless work ethic, cranking out albums and relentless road-dog touring. It’s fitting then that their eighth album in 12 years is titled All Across This Land. Their best work since their 2008 breakthrough Furr with the artful country skronk of Wilco and Grateful Dead melded with the piston-firing aesthetic of Springsteen.
19. Tame Impala- Currents
There’s no getting around it, the future of psychedelic music is Tame Impala. Their boundary-expanding visions burrow to a bizarre fulcrum in Currents. It’s an alien alchemy of disco shiver synths and wormhole guitars leaving in its wake a nebulous euphoria that’s impossible to stop.
18. Alabama Shakes- Sound & Color
How do you shake off the “buzz band” stigma from your debut album? Make your sophomore record far superior than the predecessor. That’s exactly what the Alabama Shakes accomplish on Sound & Color. A medley of neo-soul and arabesque charm tethered to the sweat-dripping gristle of southern-fried Rock & Roll. There’s no buzz here anymore, just staying power.
17. Destroyer- Poison Season
Dan Bejar is a proven workhorse with multiple musical outfits but none more prolific or better than Destroyer. His tenth studio album under that moniker Poison Season is arguably his best yet. Swelling with the urban chamber pop of early ’70s Springsteen, Bowie, and Lou Reed makes it one of the best nocturnal requiems in recent memory.
16. Desaparecidos- Payola
After 13 years, songwriting luminary Conor Oberst resurrected his hyper-charged punk rock outfit Desaparecidos. As expected, Payola is a scathing indictment of institutions in general, reaching anyone willing to listen. Galvanizing with its relentless fusillade of thrashing guitars and Oberst’s howling is so visceral you can almost taste the blood in your throat.
15. Jeff The Brotherhood- Wasted On The Dream
That moment of clarity through the weed cloud and the cerebral haze can seem transcendent. That pocket of lucidity seems to be where Jeff The Brotherhood’s Wasted On The Dream is birthed from. From the primordial power sludge of tracks like “Melting Place” to the Weezer-styled power pop of “Karaoke, TN” this sibling duo has made a big creative leap, whether they’re comfortable with it or not.
14. Sufjan Stevens- Carrie & Lowell
Of all of the albums in 2015 there was none more devastating and gorgeous than Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell. Written as a paean of sorts to his severely troubled mother Carrie and loving stepfather Lowell, Stevens lays his soul bare and the results are astounding. Delicately sparse yet radiating with a deep elegance, look no further than the haunting pulchritude of “John My Beloved.” It’s not hyperbole to say that this is Sufjan Stevens’ greatest achievement yet.
13. Josh Ritter- Sermon On The Rocks
The underlying themes of Josh Ritter’s Sermon On The Rocks obviously involve ample amounts of prophecy and preaching. The difference between Ritter and most of his peers though is rather than the presage of fire and brimstone he’s able to deliver his homily with tenderness, accentuating the light even in some of the darkest places. Ritter being the eternal optimist, it’s hard not to imagine him grinning and smiling even while writing some of the more scornful songs on Sermon.
12. William Elliott Whitmore- Radium Death
William Elliott Whitmore is an old soul. His gruff, earthy voice and musical stylings often come off as antiquated while still remaining authentic. His latest output Radium Death is his most electrified effort yet combining his standard burnt-out porch songs with a roadhouse boogie that breathes some life into the dust bowl of Whitmore’s heart.
11. Jason Isbell- Something More Than Free
Anyone practicing in the art of Americana music in 2015 had no choice but to take a backseat to Jason Isbell. More than any other singer/songwriter Isbell has his finger on the pulse of the western frontier. On his brilliant album Something More Than Free he culls tales of heartache and despair from the marrow of America. Isbell’s blue-collar grit and anywheretown lost souls on tracks like “24 Frames,” “How to Forget,” “Children of Children,” “The Life You Chose,” and “Speed Trap Town” fortify his place as one of the greatest storytellers of the 21st century.
10. Iron Maiden- The Book Of Souls
Although not necessarily a comeback album, Iron Maiden’s 92-minute juggernaut The Book Of Souls is impressive on multiple levels. Front-man Bruce Dickinson battled through a tumor found on his tongue during recording but you’d hardly know it as he is in full God of thunder wailing mode. Not only that but the breadth of this heavy metal rhapsody is their best since 1984’s Powerslave with epic pummeling atom-smashers like the eight-minute “If Eternity Should Fail,” the 13+ minute “The Red And The Black,” and the 10+minute title track. The real opus here though is the 18-minute closer “Empire Of The Clouds.” Their longest song ever, it’s an unimpeachable odyssey concocted from Dickinson’s masterful mind that feels like an expansive victory lap for the band. If anything The Book Of Souls refortifies Iron Maiden as one of the greatest metal bands ever, worthy of being in the same breath of Black Sabbath and Metallica. Up the irons.
9. Gary Clark Jr.- The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim
The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim is the full realization of Gary Clark Jr. as a velvet gunslinger. What is that exactly? He’s carved out his own niche as a genuine guitar hero for the 21st century but it goes beyond that. His pith is one that’s also budding with the sensuality of soul and R&B. An amalgam that intersects somewhere between Albert King, The Black Keys, Prince, and Marvin Gaye. Sonny Boy is furnished with scalding guitar breaks, waterfall riffs, and collages of wah-wah torrents all bathed in Clark’s sumptuous and exquisite vocal delivery. Clark has found the precise melting point temperature, especially on the delectable murder ballad “Cold Blooded.”
8. Dawes- All Your Favorite Bands
Dawes had an exceptional debut with 2009’s North Hills and followed that with one of the better sophomore efforts in recent memory with 2011’s Nothing Is Wrong. Stories Don’t End followed and while it was still a sturdy output it felt a bit stilted and restrained. Dawes remedy that on All Your Favorite Bands, loosening their chains with their most expressive, freewheelin’ album to date. Meant to capture the spirit of their live shows the quartet careen and propel each other forward with sincerity and symbiosis like a quest for the sunrise on a cross country adventure. The honeyed Laurel Canyon harmonies of Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith remain but it’s in Taylor’s poignant, earnest, and at times blistering guitar playing that the true hallmark lies. Whether Dawes remains entirely intact is uncertain but if they keep making music this good they’ll keep being one of our favorite bands.
7. Mumford & Sons- Wilder Mind
Mumford & Sons have enjoyed one of the quickest ascents to Rock & Roll hierarchy ever. Their debut Sigh No More was an instant classic followed by the equally powerful Babel, striking while the iron was hot. Despite the prodigious success they opted to veer away from supposed complacency. For their third album Wilder Mind they sought the production assistance of James Ford and The National’s Aaron Dessner. While their sonic palate expands to include electrified nocturnal guitars and U2-sized luminous skyline soundscapes it’s not as big of a departure from their previous sound as it may seem. It’s the one inescapable quality that bridges their first three albums, the grand crescendo of bombastic arena-ready majesty. Mumford & Sons have become a big stage band that requires a robust sound. It’s something they should embrace not evade.
6. Wilco- Star Wars
Wilco has stated in the past that they would always love us and it also seems like they are determined to never let us down either. Despite a title like Star Wars and kitsch kitten artwork it’s another vital chapter in their nearly unblemished back catalog. Simplistic in nature while still preserving the undeniable extraterrestrial Wilco touchstones it’s like they’re plugging into their amps in a garage on Mars. Off-kilter, awkwardly-tuned guitars spiral and carve through numbers like “Random Name Generator,” “Pickled Ginger,” “Cold Slope,” and “King of You” while they incorporate some of their dreary-eyed Americana pop on “Taste The Ceiling” and “Magnetized” with subtle flourishes of computer code dissonance percolating underneath the surface. The centerpiece however is the crackling static of “You Satellite,” a slow-burner conjuring imagery of shuttle fuselage floating out in the ambiance of space as an outro of jagged guitar shards beam one last transmission back to earth before finally going dark. Star Wars strips back some of the more ostentatious yearnings they may have had on previous records and it equates to their most jarring and boldest statement since 21st century landmark Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
5. The Tallest Man on Earth- Dark Bird Is Home
Swedish singer/songwriter Kristian Matsson aka The Tallest Man On Earth is one of the best lyricists on the planet. He’s drawn a rightful comparison to early Bob Dylan due to the integrity and potency of his lyrical prowess as well as his stripped back predominantly acoustic approach. It may be the essence of his fourth album Dark Bird Is Home though that Matsson shares the deepest kindred spirit connection with Dylan. The anguish and despair of divorce drove Dylan to create his masterpiece Blood On The Tracks and out the dissolution of Matsson’s marriage comes Dark Bird. While the subject matter may devote itself to despondency, this is Matsson’s realization of a more fully formed opulent palate musically. Full band arrangements augment many of the songs and bring a certain added vigor and potency to give a grieving Matsson extra shoulders to lean on. The quintessence though remains Matsson’s lifeblood pouring out in a deluge of poetic mastery. It’s an innate and vicarious heartbreak we’ve all experienced on some scale. However deep the sorrow burrows though Matsson seems determined to endure as he mutters in the closing moments, “But this is not the end no, this is fine.”
4. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds- Chasing Yesterday
Following his departure from brit-pop titan Oasis it’s now irrefutable that Noel Gallagher accounted for almost the entirety of its creative driving engine. While his long-time rival (And brother too!) Liam Gallagher’s post-Oasis career has taken a major nosedive into irrelevance, Noel continues to travel the magniloquent path leading to his 2nd album under the Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds moniker Chasing Yesterday. On the surface it’s not as inclined on an orchestral scale as its predecessor NGHFB’s self-titled 2011 effort but to say this is “Stripped down” would be a misstep. Most other acts would consider this their grand symphonic statement but making music this euphonious is 2nd nature to Noel. Highlights are bountiful including the midnight ferry ride of opener “Riverman” with its twilight sax solo, the chiming disco of “In the Heat of the Moment,” the Bowie-esque “The Girl with X-Ray Eyes,” stampeding Definitely Maybe-styled rockers “Lock All The Doors” and “You Know We Can’t Go Back,” and the hypnotic “The Right Stuff.” Noel saves his best stop-the-clocks song for last though with closer “The Ballad of The Mighty I” as he sounds as if he’s singing from atop a cumulonimbus equipped with a Gibson, a tall stack of Marshall amps, and his soaring voice raining down upon us. Noel was once quoted as saying, “What inspires me to write music? It’s just what I do. And I’m fucking brilliant at it.” Better take that as gospel.
3. My Morning Jacket- The Waterfall
Not that they really needed a spiritual awakening or a momentous epiphany of any kind but My Morning Jacket have never played by anybody else’s rule book or guidelines. The band convened at the Panoramic House, a secluded hilltop mansion to which front-man Jim James raved, “There was nobody for miles and miles, like a deserted paradise. At night, it was like you were inside the sky, the stars right next to your head.” Out of these sessions The Waterfall was born, their best album since their 2005 groundbreaking moment of Z. “Believe (Nobody Knows)” and “Compound Fracture” is the best one-two punch to open a record in 2015, the former being a pivotal positive jam with guitars echoing off a mountain’s summit as James howls out his life-affirming clarion call while the latter saunters with a seismic funk with James upping his vocal register to his shape-shifting falsetto. They also incorporate more psychedelic whorls and hypnotic tendrils than any other album on standouts such as “Like A River,” “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall),” and “Spring (Among The Living).” The most exultant of a sound as they’ve ever had with “Big Decisions” clashes with the ominous Arabic-tinted lurching marauder “Tropics (Erase Traces)” bleeding into soothing closer “Only Memory Remains.” A psalm of acceptance and pressing on, even paying tribute to their time spent at the Panoramic House where they seem to have found whatever they were looking for. If Z’s elemental attachment was of the ocean, sounding submerged and aquatic, despite its H2O-inclined title, The Waterfall is an album of the skies, inspiring and sweeping with eyes to the horizon. James stated that it felt like the band was “Inside the sky” back on that California coast and somehow they were able to transmit that into art. My Morning Jacket still aren’t done sketching their ethereal American frontier.
2. Father John Misty- I Love You, Honeybear
Father John Misty’s sophomore album I Love You, Honeybear can blow anyone away with the force of a category five hurricane that chooses to listen to it. It’s a decadent yet delectable expedition into the perverse, capricious, and even benevolent brain of one Josh Tillman. The record at times plays more like Tillman spouting satirical stand-up comedy as a philharmonic props him up from behind and holds his cocktail when necessary. The schmaltz runneth over on the opening title track, a provocative laudation to his wife (“Mascara, blood, ash and cum on the Rorschach sheets where we made love”) of whom Honeybear is structured around as a loose concept album. The carnal ecstasy continues in “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)” as he croons, “I wanna take you in the kitchen/ Lift up your wedding dress someone was probably murdered in” followed by Tillman lamenting the flaccid incompatibility of modern technology, dry-humping his way through the electro-tinged “True Affection.” The maudlin solipsism in “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow” rests its exhausted head on the bar, before Tillman gets behind the wheel totally sloshed and navigates recklessly through “The Ideal Husband.” He goes into lounge-lizard mode in the world-weary, self-deprecating “Bored In The USA” delivering some of the most hilarious lines in monologue mode (“How many people arise and think,/ ‘Oh good, the stranger’s body’s still here, our arrangement hasn’t changed'”) while strings swirl about. The global-catastrophe, meta-mind-fuck of “Holy Shit” gives way to the surprisingly saccharine coda of “I Went To The Store One Day” where he states he doesn’t want to die in a hospital bed but rather “Save the Big One for the last time we make love.” Honeybear is as invasive as it is romantic and affectionate. Tillman lets you peek through the blinds for this masterpiece running through the gamut of emotions with him.
1. Muse- Drones
Rock & Roll often thrives when it remembers that the music and the enterprise was meant to be a spectacle. Muse have never been a band to dismiss their garish ambitions, proudly leading the syndicate of Sci-Fi infused apocalyptic hard rock/heavy metal. They never truly went away but 2012’s The 2nd Law was a bit of a stumble (Although underrated ultimately) breaking their string of four sensational records from Origin Of Symmetry through The Resistance. They rectify any sort of past transgressions with 2015’s return to glory Drones, their best album since 2006’s watershed mark Black Holes and Revelations. It’s a high-octane steamrolling leviathan of a concept album regarding the dehumanization of modern warfare with the aggressive advances in drone technology drawing inspiration from singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy after he read the book Predators: The CIA’s Drone War on al Qaeda by Dartmouth professor Brian Glyn Williams. The narrative follows an unnamed protagonist thrown through a gauntlet of physical and psychological manipulation. Many bands would shy away from such a monstrosity but Muse embrace it and to create such a behemoth they seek out legendary producer Robert “Mutt” Lange. The mammoth sound is instantaneous in the sheer torque and pummeling crunch of “Psycho” and Dominic Howard’s drums provide a gargantuan yet crisp thump. “Mercy” is a pulsating stadium-sized ballad worthy of “Starlight” comparisons, the vamping “Reapers” is a side-winder missile strike with Bellamy’s most scorching fret work ever while “The Handler” and “Defector” are raucous pile-driving bruisers. The Dire Straits “Brothers in Arms”-styled “Aftermath” sets up “The Globalist,” their most formidable and daunting track to date. A 10-minute saga that coagulates all of Muse’s virtues into an unparalleled dystopian rock opera. The closing title track is an inauspicious oratorio of Bellamy’s layered voice scanning the wasteland wreckage only to find the inevitable truth of death and decay. Drones proves to be Muse’s most industrious album yet, and that’s saying a lot. An Orwellian colossus, rife with paranoia for paranoid times.