Arctic Drones’ 50 Favourite Albums of 2015

It’s that time again! With the year drawn to a close, the team at Arctic Drones is very excited to present our top 50 favourite albums of 2015.

2015 didn’t make choosing favourites easy, which speaks to the strength of the releases we were blessed with this year. While Arctic Drones is committed to helping up-and-coming bands spread their music, and to helping listeners find small, excellent bands they may have otherwise missed, we obviously appreciate good music from established, well-known bands as well. From the return of titans such as GY!BE to new releases from Low, Chelsea Wolfe, Riverside, Caspian and others, narrowing our choices down to 50 was extremely tough. Adding to the selection of great music this year are a number of newcomers determined to shake up the alternative scene.

Our team has also grown significantly, giving everyone a little less room for his/her individual picks. Naturally, there are those who will be disappointed that their personal favourites didn’t make it on the list, especially as it contains quite a few quality releases outside the typical scope of this website. Like always, we encourage readers to leave comments pointing out what they feel we missed, or how they feel about the list overall.

As with last year, we felt it more fitting to name our top 50 in no particular order, so this list is organised alphabetically.

So without further ado, here are our top 50 favourite albums of 2015.

Words by Jonathan Spratling


A SHELTER IN THE DESERT – PEQUEÑAS HIROSHIMAS

Pequeñas Hiroshimas is more like an instrumental story, built by absorbing guitars and excellent piano sections, where each track tells its own tale in the overall plot. 
RELEASE DATE: 21 July 2015
LABEL: Self-released
TAGS: Post-rock, Instrumental, Cinematic, Mexico
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

APPELLATIVE – NOMENCLATURE

An EP full of sonic diversity – loud, punishing guitars met with haunting, ambient soundscapes makes Nomenclature an easy favorite for anyone wanting an instrumentally delicious and seamlessly flowing release. 
RELEASE DATE: 01 April 2015
LABEL: Self-released
TAGS: Post-rock, Progressive rock, Instrumental, Australia
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

APRIL RAIN – LEAVE ME NO LIGHT

April Rain’s “Leave Me No Light” sets a post-rock benchmark and establishes itself as one of the most memorable instrumental rock records to come out of Russia in recent years, which is saying something.
RELEASE DATE: 30 September 2015
LABEL: Self-released
TAGS: Post-rock, Instrumental, Ambient, Russia
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

BETWEEN THE BURIED & ME – COMA ECPLIPTIC

Yet another perfectly honed piece of progressive metal from these titans with leanings towards Dream Theater catchiness too.
RELEASE DATE: 10 July 2015
LABEL: Metal Blade
TAGS: Progressive metal, Technical, Metalcore, United States
MORE INFO: Website // Facebook

BÖIRA – SI DE LA RUNA NAIXÉS

BÖIRA surprise with their unpretentious natural sound, fresh melodies and even the tiny glitches that gives this experience its authentic and enjoyable feeling.
RELEASE DATE: 20 July 2015
LABEL: Self-released
TAGS: Post-rock, Instrumental, Ambient, Spain
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

CASPIAN – DUST & DISQUIET

A watershed moment both professionally and personally for Caspian, a moving ride through a wide range of emotions with a spectacular climax.
RELEASE DATE: 25 September 2015
LABEL: Hobbledehoy Records, Big Scary Monsters, Triple Crown Records
TAGS: Post-rock, Instrumental, Atmospheric, United States
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

CHELSEA WOLFE – ABYSS

A hugely creative, inspiring work of art; drenched in doom and writhing with despair, Abyss far surpasses her previous efforts.
RELEASE DATE: 07 August 2015
LABEL: Sargent House
TAGS: Experimental, Industrial, Neofolk, United States
MORE INFO: Website // Facebook

COHEED AND CAMBRIA – THE COLOR BEFORE THE SUN

Fans worried about the momentary abandonment of the Amory Wars concept, but Coheed prove that great songwriting is great songwriting, regardless of the storyline.
RELEASE DATE: 16 October 2015
LABEL: 300 Entertainment (Atlantic)
TAGS: Progressive rock, Alternative rock, United States
MORE INFO: Website // Facebook

COURTNEY BARNETT – SOMETIMES I SIT AND THINK, AND SOMETIMES I JUST SIT

An astounding debut album that manages to portray the little niggles that twentysomething city dwellers from around the world all fret about in our current times.
RELEASE DATE: 20 March 2015
LABEL: Milk Records!
TAGS: Folk, Indie, Alternative, Australia
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

DEAFHEAVEN – NEW BERMUDA

Deafheaven avoid the “Sunbather” pigeonhole with an album that pays as much tribute to 80s metal as it does to shoegaze.
RELEASE DATE: 02 October 2015
LABEL: ANTI- Records
TAGS: Post-black metal, Atmospheric, Experimental, United States
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

DUMBSAINT – PANORAMA, IN TEN PIECES.

Ominous, heavy, surreal, and ethereal are words that come to mind when thinking of this release, but that doesn’t paint the full picture: Panorama is a unique tempest of horror and creativity that can only truly be understood when experienced, not described. 
RELEASE DATE: 07 August 2015
LABEL: Art As Catharsis
TAGS: Progressive metal, Post-rock, Instrumental, Australia
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

EARTHSIDE – A DREAM IN STATIC

One of the best debuts of the year, a breath of fresh air in the current prog scene.
RELEASE DATE: 23 October 2015
LABEL: Self-released
TAGS: Progressive rock, Progressive metal, Symphonic rock, United States
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

EIDOLA – DEGENERATERRA

One of the most passionate and powerful albums of the year; could any other young band be any more ambitious than they were on this excellent release?
RELEASE DATE: 05 May 2015
LABEL: Blue Swan Records
TAGS: Post-hardcore, Progressive rock, Experimental, United States
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

FOXING – DEALER

Foxing emerge as a mature, decidedly adult-sounding outfit while retaining their youthful indie rock credibility.
RELEASE DATE: 30 October 2015
LABEL: Triple Crown Records
TAGS: Emo, Indie rock, Post-rock, United States
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR – ASUNDER, SWEET AND OTHER DISTRESS

The album that made me finally and truly CLICK with GY!BE, a coherent and impactful injection of experimentalism and unbridled creativity – short and punchy, like a proper vaccine. 
RELEASE DATE: 31 March 2015
LABEL: Constellation Records
TAGS: Post-rock, Drone, Noise, Canada
MORE INFO: Label Web 

HOTEL NEON – HOTEL NEON (REMASTERED)

A remastering of the 2013 release, this title was picked up by record label Home Normal and tirelessly worked over to bring what was already an excellent album to even higher levels. 
RELEASE DATE: 16 January 2015
LABEL: Home Normal
TAGS: Ambient, Drone, Instrumental, United States
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

KAMASI WASHINGTON – THE EPIC

The Californian saxophonist and bandleader brings jazz back into the game with his enormous 3-hour monster of an album.
RELEASE DATE: 05 May 2015
LABEL: Brainfeeder
TAGS: Free Jazz, Improvisation, Bebop, United States
MORE INFO: Website // Facebook

KAUAN – SORNI NAI

KAUAN take us on a long, thrilling search through the cold Ural Mountains following a group of lost hikers, where we experience the interaction of nature and human conscience in the most profound way.
RELEASE DATE: 20 October 2015
LABEL: Blood Music
TAGS: Doom metal, Post-rock, Folk metal, Russia
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

KENDRICK LAMAR – TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY

A painstaking portrait of the underbelly of American society –  this album defined 2015 both musically and politically.
RELEASE DATE: 15 March 2015
LABEL: Top Dawg Entertainment
TAGS: Hip hop, Rap, Fusion, United States
MORE INFO: Website // Facebook

LA CASA AL MARE – THIS ASTRO

One of those instant classics, this debut EP from La Casa Al Mare takes inspiration from the pioneers of shoegaze and achieves a fresh and invigorating new sound from it. 
RELEASE DATE: 01 May 2015
LABEL: Self-released
TAGS: Shoegaze, Dream pop, Psychedelic rock, Italy
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

LOW – ONES AND SIXES

Masters of shoegaze, Low return with another brooding slice of introspection that spirals from a whisper to a shout and leaves you warm with their return to form.
RELEASE DATE: 11 September 2015
LABEL: Sub Pop
TAGS: Slowcore, Shoegaze, Indie, United States
MORE INFO: Website // Facebook

MAN IS NOT A BIRD – SURVIVED THE GREAT FLOOD

Heavy guitars, smashing drums, stunning versatility and furious energy, all combined in a provoking and original album inhabiting the lawless borderland between post-rock, math-rock and shoegaze.
RELEASE DATE: 30 March 2015
LABEL: Splendid Records
TAGS: Post-rock, Math rock, Shoegaze, France
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

MINSK – THE CRASH AND THE DRAW

Minsk return from a six-winter-long hibernation with THE post-metal album of the year. 
RELEASE DATE: 07 April 2015
LABEL: Relapse Records
TAGS: Post-metal, Sludge, Atmospheric, United States
MORE INFO: Bandcamp // Facebook

MOUSE ON THE KEYS – THE FLOWERS OF ROMANCE

Intricate piano, funk-laden keys and an unbelievable drum performance culminate in a hugely impressive album of frenetic experimental jazz.
RELEASE DATE: 15 July 2015
LABEL: Machupicchu Industrias
TAGS: Experimental, Hardcore, Jazz, Japan
MORE INFO: Website // Facebook

NORDMANN – ALARM

With the release of their debut album this year, Nordmann prove themselves to be great musicians by redefining the relationship between jazz and rock music.
RELEASE DATE: 19 February 2015
LABEL: 9000 Records
TAGS: Jazz, Impro, Progressive, Belgium
MORE INFO: Website // Facebook

Continue the list on the next page: 26 – 50 (In alphabetical order)

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