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Top 20 Albums of 2015

Alabama Shakes
Sound & Color
The Shakes could’ve followed up 2013 debut Boys & Girls with some safe soulful rock, and no one would’ve complained. Instead the group got trippy and blasted through a recorded set of psychedelic blues rock with experimental touches that revolves around the voice of Brittany Howard. Her killer singing sometimes manages to conjure both Aretha Franklin and Robert Plant in the same song.


Father John Misty
I Love You, Honey Bear
This album is part love letter to a new marriage and part world-weary head-trip confessional, all delivered through Josh Tillman’s wise-ass satirical mind and an expansive freak-folk sound that includes everything from mariachi horns to dashes of electronica.


Dave Rawlings Machine
Nashville Obsolete
The Machine’s sophomore effort is a hypnotic journey through the old-time minds of Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch, highlighted by stellar string work and hauntingly beautiful harmonies.

Leon Bridges
Coming Home
This Texas upstart’s soothing voice revives Sam Cooke’s soulful heyday. Props for the authentic sound around him goes to Bridges’ band and producers, which includes two members of indie rockers White Denim.


James McMurtry
Complicated Game
As the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Larry McMurtry, writing is in the Texas-based McMurtry’s blood. His lyrics have never been more vivid and stunning as he grits through his latest set of literate country rock.


Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield
Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield Sing Elliott Smith
The partnership between Avett and Mayfield delivered a righteous revival of a troubled but brilliant songwriter who left us too soon.


Star Wars
This summer Wilco surprised fans by dropping this unannounced album online for free. It’s a satisfying set with punchy and progressive earworms like “Random Name Generator.”


John Stickley Trio
Lost at Last
Stickley is a western North Carolina-based under-the-radar flatpicking wizard. This dynamic new album with his unorthodox trio (featuring fiddle and drums) takes acoustic string sounds to the outer limits through crafty instrumental compositions.


All A Man Should Do
The Memphis outfit’s latest contains some of the most poignant songwriting to date from front man Ben Nichols, backed by his longtime crew of tattooed alt-country soul rockers. The tune that won’t leave you: “Went Looking for Warren Zevon’s Los Angeles.”


Craig Finn
Faith in the Future
Known best as a rock party ring leader as front man of the Hold Steady, Finn’s latest solo effort digs into some dark emotions as he ruminates on losing his mother and watching the Twin Towers fall with a friend in “Newmyer’s Roof.”


Steve Earle
On his sixteenth album, Earle takes a deep dive into the blues and it’s a perfect complement to his powerful weathered voice.

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Blitzen Trapper
All Across This Land
The seventh album from prolific indie roots-rock outfit Blitzen Trapper, known for occasionally indulging in experimental space country, mellows out and delivers a satisfying set of melodic folk rock, highlighting the earnest songbook of front man Eric Earley.

Warren Haynes
Ashes & Dust
A refreshing change for electric guitar hero Warren Haynes, who dug into his memory bank and wrote some acoustic tunes about growing up in North Carolina, backed by expansive string band Railroad Earth.


The Mountain Goats
Beat the Champ
Front man John Darnielle is still channeling his youthful angst through engaging alt-folk songs. This time it’s done through a creative theme—his lifelong love of pro wrestling.


Beach House
Depression Cherry
The Baltimore duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally created another batch of mesmerizing ethereal rock with their most thought-provoking lyrics to date.98ce1842b01c032eef50b8726fbbfba6.900x900x1

Circles Around the Sun
Interludes for the Dead
Neal Casal, former guitar slinger for Ryan Adams and currently a member of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Hard Working Americans, was asked to compose some instrumental set-break music for the Grateful Dead’s massive Fare Thee Well stadium concerts this past summer. This album compiles the best of those spontaneous psychedelic jams.

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
This Colorado folk singer made an exciting pivot and turned to soul on this rowdy debut with his big band the Night Sweats on the legendary Stax Records.


Kurt Vile
B’lieve I’m Going Down
Philly’s indie rock guitar hero showcased his wide musical taste on his sixth studio effort, blending his fluid finger-picking with banjo, piano, and studio atmospherics, while waxing poetic about self doubt in his Petty drawl.

Chris Stapleton
An accomplished Nashville tunesmith, Stapleton has written hits for huge country stars and was once a member of Grammy-winning bluegrass outfit The SteelDrivers. With Traveller, he’s come into his own as an Americana force, delivering heartfelt tunes with a husky howl.

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear
Skeleton Crew
This mother-and-son duo from Kansas City channels the emotional power of front-porch intimacy with two acoustic guitars and two strong voices.

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