The Best of 2015 Music: From the Pop Waves to Indie Raves

Pop Artist of the Year: Taylor Swift

Whether she was assuring a paramour their coupling would never go out “Style”, reeling over the betrayal of a close friend in “Bad Blood” or experiencing her “Wildest Dreams”, Taylor Swift was reigning supreme as the hits off her 2014 smash record ‘1989’, kept rolling in. Swift’s chart topping singles each gleamed with a distinct sonic luster, demonstrating her knack for trying on different genres with equal success.

All of the aforementioned singles were easy to recognize as probable-hits the minute they were heard and if you’ve perused the album only lightly, you can probably tell that’s the case for all of the songs on ‘1989’.

Despite it not being an album year, 2015 was still a huge year for Swift. She entertained the masses on her sold-out tour, kept fans riveted in anticipation of her next cinema quality music video, released 3 top 10-charting singles and closed out the year with 7 Grammy nominations.

It is safe to say she has the Midas touch and with “Out of the Woods” debuting at the beginning of the year and a Grammy win for Album of the Year already under her belt, 2016 looks primed to continue her winning streak.

Dreamiest Single: “Fifty Trees” - Tom Mitchell

“'Fifty Trees' is one of those dreamy ditties that instantaneously lifts a mood, calms a soul and quiets a busy mind. Sweeping in its simplicity and eloquent in its lyricism, it’s a dazzling tune that speaks with a flower power contentment that’s serene.” Read a full review here

Best Inspirational Single: “Dream Big” - Hellena

“Grecian born and UK-based singer/songwriter Hellena’s single ‘Dream Big’ does just that by featuring exotic instrumentation that combines touches of R&B, pop, and soul." Read a full review here

Best Retro Rock Tune: “Crocodile” - Thomas McConnell

“…an infectious and stylistically retro tune that’s faded vocals add a texture of rock fervor. Bringing to mind the upbeat spirit of the 60’s, the application of rhythmic background claps adds a cheerful dynamism to the proceedings.” Read a full review here

Best Synthpop Ballad: “Pirates” - Nina Yasmineh

Singer/songwriter Nina Yasmineh creates another spectacular synthpop/indie folk confection with “Pirates”, a single brooding with hypnotic melodicism, and a sophisticated lyrical direction that keeps its listeners’ ears finely tuned.

Best 2014 Holdover/Love Song: “Like I Can” - Sam Smith

How on earth this beguiling love song didn’t crack Billboard’s Top 10 will remain one of the greatest musical mysteries of our time. “Like I Can” debuted at the end of 2014 and for whatever reason went relatively unnoticed in comparison to Smith’s breakout hits “Stay with Me” and “Not the Only One”.

Given that “Like I Can” is every bit as sensational as they are, the reason for its absence from equal recognition is confounding. Complete with an unmistakably catchy hook, Smith confirms he has an array of hits up his sleeve.

Most Rollicking Album: ‘Feel Good’ - The Wild Young Hearts

TWYH return with ‘Feel Good’, a record filled with the rambunctious lyricism and west coast finesse that continues to define their signature brand of spunky musicality. The themes of love, romantic angst and self-reflection have zoomed into focus with a graduated level of confidence this go around.” Read a full review here

Best “We’re Back” Single: “Watch Me Fall” - Puppet Rebellion

Puppet Rebellion demonstrated their capacity for resilience; re-emerging in 2015 with new frontman Oliver Davies and releasing their first single under the new configuration with “Watch Me Fall”. A high voltage number filled the group's signature passion, Puppet Rebellion gave every indication they still know how to pull their musical strings.

Best Indie Alt-Rock EP: ‘Three’ - Mos. Bros.

Twin brothers, Will and Bobby, released their sensational debut EP ‘Three” in spring 2015. It’s a known fact that you only need three legs to support a table and the Mos. Bros. proved you only need 3 songs to drive across the point of one’s musical abilities. “Devil’s Lullaby”, “The Getaway” and “Better Days” are tranquil evidence of a duo with genuine writing ability and splendid musicality.

Best Synthpop Single: “Radical” - Isola

Isola exemplarily illustrated how to correctly leverage the tricky synth-pop genre with their deliriously addictive single “Radical”, a captivating number that’s retro flair infuses heaps of modern influence to strong effect. A song you cannot limit yourself to listening to only once, the replay power of “Radical” is off the charts.

Most Optimistic Single: “Light and Sound” - Polar Bears Can Dance

A zealously upbeat single which springs forth with a gleeful sensibility that sizzles from beginning to end, Polar Bears Can Dance made a dazzling impression with this joyous wonder.

Breakout Indie Group: Pentatonix

You’re not alone if the first time you heard this talented group was over Christmas with their phenomenal cover of “The Little Drummer Boy”. Pentatonix is an a cappella group that puts the showy" in their show choir sound by blending pop, R&B, soul, and morsels of several other genres into their unique sound. The group got their start on the NBC talent show “The Sing-Off” and 2015 verified they’re anything but a reality show one-off.

Best Cover: "Paint It Black" - Ciara

Ciara covered The Rolling Stone classic for "The Last Witch Hunter" soundtrack and the result was an edgy, exotic arrangement that breathed marvelous new life into the original as Ciara's sultry vocals brought a fresh dynamic air to the rock staple.

Best Album: '25' - Adele

When Adele returned from her 3-year sabbatical she greeted fans with one knowing word; “Hello”, and just like that the world was rightfully restored to its sense of Adele-fueled awe. The good news for fans is that “Hello” is not the only outstanding song on her return album. ‘25’ contains a myriad of them, glorious offerings to quell broken hearts, restore faith in love and to reminisce and commiserate the highs and lows of growing up.

There’s not a single song on ‘25’ in which the incredible songstress doesn’t sound as though she’s pouring every ounce of life force into it and it is, as always, astonishing to behold. 

While her vocals have always been unparalleled, the lyrics that comprise the songs of ‘25’ are equally as stirring. There is a refinement and maturity that shines throughout each entry, elevating the album to an outstanding level of achievement.

There’s the enthusiastically rhythmic “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”, the soul rousing “River Lea”, the breezy throwback aura of “Lay Me Down” and “Why Do You Love Me”, the tear-jerking ballad mastery of “All I Ask”, “Love in the Dark” and “Can’t Let Go” and the motherhood anthem “Sweetest Devotion”, to keep your ears busy. 

Adele is one of the few artists who truly lives up to the hype and that's why the magic of '25' will continue being felt for years to come.

Best Instrumental Cover: “Hallelujah” - Lindsey Stirling

Stirling put a seasonal touch on the Leonard Cohen classic with a violin led instrumentation that recalled the beauty of Jeff Buckley’s beloved cover, whilst reminding listeners of the unbelievable resilience of Cohen’s original work to be interpreted time and again to exhilarating consequence.

Most Pop-tacular Single: “Thinking Out Loud” - Midwave ft. Mina Tobias

An 80’s era flavoring and driving electro beat put Midwave on 2015's map of rising indie talent to watch out for. Featuring a beyond delightful horn solo towards the end and a terrific guest vocal performance from Mina Tobias, “Thinking Out Loud” had its listeners singing out loud.

Most Romantic Songs: “Photograph” and “Thinking Out Loud” - Ed Sheeran

Sheeran hit the romantic sweet spot with a double dose of lovelier than lovely, love songs – the heartwarming “Photograph” and “Thinking Out Loud”.

Most Atmospheric Single: “Forgetful” - Static in Verona

One of the most impressive aspect’s of Static in Verona is that there is only one member of the band: Rob Merz. Intricate vocal layering and soaring melodies give Static in Verona the epic sensation of numerous musicians’ talent being rolled into one and “Forgetful” is a leading example of Merz’s staggering talent.

Best Americana Offering: “Outside” - Ian Roland

A folksy treasure, “Outside” tells of a conversation between father and son. The first verse coming from the son’s perspective as he asks to venture outside of his childhood instilled walls.

The second verse contains the father’s response; replete with metaphorically reasoned concerns and counsel. Lyrically rhymed to perfection and with a storytelling flourish that speaks with allegorical grandeur, “Outside” is a musical think piece of nuanced proportions.

Best Indie Music Video: “Popping Sherbet” - No One Sun

No One Sun consistently manages to walk the thin line between pop and rock to super results and their 2015 single “Popping Sherbet” was no exception.

Perhaps a rockier bent tune than some of their others, “Popping Sherbet” is quintessential Sun – very fun. Supporting the single is an insanely brilliant music video featuring LEGOs animated in apparent stop motion.

Best Electro Indie Track: “Le Future” - Noiiises

Swiss singer/songwriter Noiiises gave listeners an aural treat with the exhilarating “Le Future”; a futuristically pulsating electro number that pushed Noiiises into a rewarding frontier.

Best Duet: “Marvin Gaye” - Charlie Puth and Meghan Trainor

Cleverly playing on and paying homage to Marvin Gaye and his legendary single “Let’s Get it On”, Puth and Trainor’s voices mingled together with seamless clarity in a nice tribute to Gaye that avoided “blurred lines”. 

Most Transcendental Album: ‘I Melt, I Howl’ - Billy Shaddox

Shaddox’s smooth vocals imbue radiant energy into a 70’s style, soft rock album that’s effervescently mellow and utterly divine. “Fireflies”, “Feels Like Home”, “Golden Coast” and “My Hands Don’t Lie” are only a few of the highlights in his follow-up to the stellar ‘Golden Fate’.

Best Indie Blues Offerings: “Detroit Drive” and “Jekyll and a Hound” - Eliza Neals

From her 2015 album 'Breaking and Entering', "Detroit Drive" and "Jekyll and a Hound" showcase Neals' distinct personality and gift for vibrant lyricism. While the former is a great blues song for cruising, the theatrically spirited “Jekyll and a Hound” is a prime display of Neals’ ability to meld a dark lyrical narrative with a complimentary tune.

Best Faith-Based Single: “I Believe” - The Updraft Imperative

From the land down under, Aussie Christian groove band Updraft Imperative inspired listeners to explore their faith with this intrepid single from their album ‘Chair’.

Best Indie Country Song: “Big Sky Country” - Sofia Talvik

Gorgeous vocals, lyrics, and instrumentation punctuate a musical love letter to the western United States in the title track of Swedish singer/songwriter Sofia Talvik’s 2015 album.

Best Country Song: “Girl Crush” - Little Big Town

There have been plenty of love songs, breakup anthems, and stay-away-from-my-significant-other admonitions and that’s part of what makes Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” so refreshing. It’s none of those things.

A sort of play on the lyrical wormhole Dolly Parton opened with “Jolene”. Little Big Town does not beg the other woman to walk away in "Girl Crush", though the song similarly works to describe the protagonist's rival in great, admiring detail.

The story of a scorned lover expressing her desire to take on the skin of the “other woman” with a poignantly descriptive and intimately imagined lyricism that is made all the more memorable by the group’s phenomenally emotive vocals.

Grooviest Single: “It’s Alright (For You & Me)” - The Everglows

Brit pop band The Everglows were at their groovy best in 2015 with their 60’s influenced single “It’s Alright (For You & Me)”.

Best Indie Folk Single: “Beach” - Axel Flovent

It’s the quiet swell of the chorus in “Beach” that accents this magnificent folk song, another number you can listen to repeatedly without growing bored.

Best Soundtrack: 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

When it came to tackling the sonic companion to the blockbuster movie, the soundtrack settled on a combination of old school classics from Frank Sinatra and The Rolling Stones.

While classics like Bruce Springsteen's “I’m on Fire” and Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” received the cover treatment by Awolnation and Annie Lennox, respectively, with each artist offering a brilliant spin on their original counterparts.

Supplying the album’s best new bits were The Wknd (“Earned It”, “Where You Belong”), Ellie Goulding (“Love Me Like You Do”), Skyler Grey (“I Know You”) and Vaults (“One Last Night”).

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