FEATURE: Our 10 Favorite Albums Of 2015

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After more than half a decade in music we at Haulix have finally decided to join in on the ‘Best Of’ conversations that happen each and every year around this time. We are in the unique position of having access to a lot of great music, far more than most could ever consume in a single calendar year, and we never take that opportunity for granted. We knew when we started this blog that we would likely begin to share our favorites at some point down the line, and after discovering a variety of albums we felt strongly about over the last several months we figured December 2015 was as good a time as any to join the conversation on who had the best records of the year.

Now, just like with any list, our picks for the best records of 2015 are fairly subjective. No two members on our team have the same taste in music, but we all do our best to keep an open mind whenever someone comes into work with an album they demand we hear. Not every recommended release is a hit, but the ones that are end up being played on repeat for weeks, if not months, while we work. Those same records often become something our staff enjoys outside of the office, as well as the motivation behind the concerts they choose to attend. If music is indeed our life, and we certainly claim that is true, then the records that follow could very well be considered the soundtrack to the last year of our company. These are the records that motivated us, celebrated with us, and helped us focus whenever we fell on hard time. These albums were, and continue to be, an extension of our team, and we hope one or more can make a positive impact on your life as well.

So please, take a little time away from work and whatever chores await you at home to browse our picks for the best albums of 2015. We have included buy links, stream links, and even embedded some of our favorite songs so you have a better idea why each release made this list. If you love something, or even if you hate everything, please leave a comment or tweet us your thoughts. We’d love to read about your favorite records as well, so don’t be afraid to share links to any lists or columns you may have posted. We’ll read as many as we can.

10. Pentimento – I, No Longer (Buy / Stream)

The kings of heartbreaking indie punk, Pentimento truly outdid themselves with their Sophomore release. Exploring the end of a relationship, as well as the journey to rediscovering yourself that often follows, this Bad Timing Records release was on repeat in our offices throughout September, October, and November.

9. Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool? (Buy / Stream)

The longer you work in music, the more you begin to appreciate storytellers who write songs about their adventures in the industry. We Cool? is a collection of stories and memories from the mind of Jeff Rosenstock littered with imagery and encounters that should ring familiar to any music professional. SideOneDummy, the label behind the release, has always been a source of unabashed punk music, but something about this particular album feels extra special. If you can make it through “You, In Weird Cities” without dancing in your seat or reminiscing about journeys from yesteryear you are a far stronger person than any one of us.

8. Parkway Drive – Ire (Buy / Stream)

One of only two heavy releases to make this list, Ire marked a bold step forward for Australian metalcore favorite Parkway Drive. The band’s last few releases have been riddled with growing pains, but none of that appears present on this release. Parkway have finally transitioned from their metal roots into a far more rock-driven sound that, coupled with the brute strength of vocalist Winston McCall, delivers a knockout blow to anyone listening. If this record doesn’t get your blood flowing in the morning, you might be dead.

7. Chris Stapleton – Traveler (Buy / Stream)

Stapleton pretty much stole the Country Music Awards back in November with this release, which helped to further establish the legendary songwriter’s presence as a solo artist, but we have been following his efforts for the better part of 2015. Traveller is a collection of songs like no other released this year, blending covers and originals to create a portrait of a life in music, as well as the sacrifices required to maintain it. We have no idea where Stapleton will take his career in the years to come, but right now the sky is the limit.

6. Future – DS2 (Buy / Stream)

We honestly thought we would have more hip-hop releases on this list than this LP, but when it came time to rank the records that left the biggest impression on our team Future was the only rapper to make the cut. DS2 arrived like a nuclear bomb at the height of summer, bursting with street anthems and potential radio hits to spare. There is not a single song on this record or its extended deluxe edition that we would recommend someone skip. Front to back, back to front, everything about this release is worthwhile. 

5. One Direction – Made In The AM (Buy / Stream)

By now you have no doubt heard the rumors that One Direction will likely be going on hiatus in early 2016. If this is true, then Made In The AM is likely the last new material we will hear from the group for quite some time, if not the last record they ever release. That scenario places a lot of pressure on AM to be something special, and thankfully for us Directioners the group has delivered what could very well be the catchiest and most diverse release in their history. If we never see another new album from 1D, at least Made In The AM will be around to provide us with great hooks, wonderful melodies, and a sense of endless youth that is far too rare in music today.

4. Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material (Buy / Stream)

Have you ever discovered an artists after they already had a few albums or big singles and wanted to kick yourself for not hopping on their bandwagon sooner? This scenario perfectly summarizes how we felt after hearing Pageant Material for the first time earlier this year. Musgraves is a country artist first and foremost, but this record flirts with the world of pop so often it’s a damn shame that Top 40 hasn’t picked up the singles. In a time where it seems every artist, regardless of genre, is trying to cash in on the same handful of trends again and again, Musgraves is carving a path entirely her own that is only growing more and more exciting with time.

3. Stray From The Path – Subliminal Criminals (Buy / Stream)

Some albums are great because they comfort you when your sad or otherwise feeling down. Other records are great because they bring a sense of joy or boundless love into your life. Still other records, such as Subliminal Criminals, hit home because they touch on topics that are important to you while relaying the aggression and frustration you feel towards them. Stray From The Path have never been a band to bite their tongue when it came to discussing any topic, but on this release they truly deliver a no holds barred take on life in the alternative music scene, as well as the world at large. 

2. Drew Holcomb And The Neighbors – Medicine (Buy / Stream)

It should be considered a crime that Drew Holcomb And The Neighbors continue to fly under the national radar year after year. Some call their music adult contemporary, but we respectfully choose to disagree. The sound Drew Holcomb and his bandmates produce is a perfect combination of American folk and classic country, with just a dash of rock. Medicine, the album they released in January of this year, feel like something Tom Petty might have released thirty years prior, and we mean that in the best possible way. The entire records plays like scenes from a life lived to the fullest extent, with dream chasing and romance around every corner. If you need a road trip record for your holiday travels, this should be it.

1. Leon Bridges – Coming Home (Buy / Stream)

We are not awarding anyone an ‘Artist Of The Year’ title, but if we were Leon Bridges would also be found at the top of that list. Having risen through the underground ranks to become an international sensation in under a year’s time, Bridges spent the majority of 2015 criss-crossing the globe on an endless promotional tour for Coming Home that found him wining over crowds of every size. When you hear the record, it’s not hard to understand why this has all happened so quickly for the twenty-something. Bridges channels the sound and look of Sam Cooke through a classic Motown sound that makes for catchy, often quite simplistic music that is perfect for dancing, mixtapes, radio play, and everything else in between. Coming Home is a timeless record in an age where most art is considered almost immediately disposable, and it’s only the first step of what we hope will be a very long and creative career for Leon Bridges. If you only listen to one album on this list, please make it Coming Home

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.