By Gene Axton -

Quick Chord: The best albums of 2015

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Title Fight
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Sufjan Stevens
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    It would be hard to summarize the last year in music using only one word. 2015 was the year of nostalgia; the vinyl revival went mainstream and everybody’s dad was stoked. 2015 was the year of pop-punk; the genre exploded back onto the scene and dominated the Warped Tour lineup. 2015 was the year of the “1989” hangover, culminating in the release of a full album cover of Taylor Swift’s instant pop classic by singer/songwriter Ryan Adams. Music in 2015 was a lot of things, but if I had to summarize it in one word I’d choose ‘refreshing.’ These 10 albums (presented in no particular order) are why.

    “Hyperview” by Title Fight: Title Fight threw the music world a curve ball when the four men from Kingston released “Hyperview” in February. Flashes of their hardcore punk roots still come through in tracks like “Mrahc” and “Rose of Sharon,” but for the most part they’re relegated to the back of the mix even in that pair of songs so the new facets of the Title Fight sound can have room to breathe. “Hypernight” is a highlight of the album’s first half, while the entire side B of “Hyperview” is one can’t-skip listening marathon. Title Fight refuse to ignore the world around them in favor of complacency, and if that sort of mindset produces results like “Hyperview,” I can’t wait to see what it brings about next.

    “Vega INTL. Night School” by Neon Indian: Imagine you are in Brooklyn with a hip friend; the hippest of your friends. Imagine that this hip friend has you out at an unreasonable hour and wants to get their dance on. Imagine you know what that entails and you’re totally up for it, so you let your friend guide you through the night and into a club where the clothes are shiny, the eyes are glassy and the only rule is you can never stop moving. That’s “VEGA INTL. Night School,” and you’re late for class.

    “Tragedy Will Find Us” by Counterparts: Counterparts’ fourth studio album finds the band at their heaviest, the lyrics at their most introspective and the compositions at their most cohesive. “Tragedy Will Find Us” is a focused attack that vocalist Brendan Murphy levels directly at himself, and the poetically nihilistic lyrics are wrapped in an aggressive assault of chugging guitars and double bass that manages to feel fresh in a scene saturated with haircuts, spin kicks and jumps. This is Counterparts at their best; put it on in your car tonight and try to remember that your steering wheel isn’t a punching bag.

    “Carrie & Lowell” by Sufjan Stevens: This album is sad. This album is very sad. That shouldn’t be the only thing you take away from “Carrie & Lowell” though. The 11 tracks within show off Stevens’ skill as a songwriter and, more importantly, a human being who is processing the feelings surrounding the 2002 death of his mother by telling us how impossibly hard they are to process. Comparisons to Elliott Smith are inevitable, but Stevens isn’t trying to channel anyone else with this album; he’s channeling himself, which is what makes this album worth repeat listens despite how impossible the first may be to complete.

    “California Nights” by Best Coast: Bethany Cosentino’s voice could make even the most dreadfully arranged song listenable, but thanks to Cosentino and fellow Best Coast member Bobb Bruno’s songwriting talent, they’ve never had to lean on the vocalist’s amazing performances. “California Nights” continues the band’s trend of solid LPs with 12 guitar-driven tracks that provide the proper punch to supplement Cosentino’s powerful delivery.

    “St. Catherine” by Ducktails: What started as Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanile’s experimental side project has evolved into a full-fledged indie rock band that plays the soundtrack to your next rainy nighttime drive. “St. Catherine” sees Mondanile bring his lyrical content back down to Earth while keeping his instrumental arrangements in the clouds, and the end result is an accessible dream pop album that lends itself to recurrence.

    Honorable Mentions:

    “Harmlessness” by The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die

    “Leavin’ La Vida Loca” by Antarctigo Vespucci

    “Joy, Departed” by Sorority Noise

    “Peripheral Vision” by Turnover

    “Depression Cherry” by Beach House

    “Mable” by Spraynard

    Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts

    Our list includes an ’80s throwback from Neon Indian, another solid Ducktails release and Kingston natives Title Fight

    By Gene Axton

    Title Fight Fight Submitted photo

    Sufjan Stevens Stevens Submitted photo

    Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts