The Shotgun Seat’s Top 15 Albums of 2015

top albums 2015

#15
Letters to Ghosts
Lucie Silvas
Individual Rankings: #6 – Annie; #10 – Grace

Lucie Silvas is nothing short of a brilliant and she just keeps getting better and better. Letters To Ghosts is the perfect example of this – the release was highly anticipated and certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s both personal and universal with the lyrics are at the forefront of the album making it one of her best yet. – Grace Gundry

#14
Damn Country Music
Tim McGraw
Individual Rankings: #7 – Natalie; #14 – Markus

Tim! Great to have you back! Mr. McGraw’s newest LP is bright and classic, with standout duets featuring his daughter, Gracie (“Here Tonight”), as well as Big & Rich (“California”). It’s totally road-trip friendly, and the overall quality of the songs seems to be a significant step up from his other recent releases. I have one personal request: If nothing else, download “Humble and Kind,” written by Lori McKenna. Tim apparently cried through every recording take, and it’s simply one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. Period. – Natalie Schumann

 

#13
Illinois
Brett Eldredge
Individual Rankings: #8 – Natalie; #11 – Annie

2015 was a big year for Brett Eldredge – “Mean to Me” and Illinois lead “Lose My Mind” hit #1 at country radio, the crooner released his sophomore album, and he closed the year on tour with fellow rising star Thomas Rhett. The release was the perfect second look for the artist, and a fine contribution to the offerings of 2015. – Annie Dineen

 

#12
The First Time
Kelsea Ballerini
Individual Rankings: #5 – Grace; #13 – Christina

It would have been almost impossible to have not heard about the buzz around Kelsea Ballerini in 2015 and with good reason, her debut album is country pop bliss and perfectly filled a void in country radio. Ballerini has been preparing for this release with a collection of some of her strongest music from the past few years and it all comes together impeccably. – GG

 

#11
Angeleno
Sam Outlaw
Individual Rankings: #2 – Natalie

Sam Outlaw is an outsider – it’s all in the name, duh – but he successfully snuck his way onto my favorites list this year. He’s practically a male version of Kacey Musgraves, with songs pairing unconventional lyrics and traditional country sounds (plus a sprinkling of Southwestern vibes). “Love Her for a While” is a happy, harmless personal favorite, and keep your ears open for “Jesus Take the Wheel (And Drive Me to a Bar)” the next time you’re at a honky tonk. He’s talented and honest, so if he’s not on your radar yet, make some room. – NS

 

#10
Blackbirds
Gretchen Peters
Individual Rankings: #5 – Markus; #8 – Annie

Arguably 2015’s most underrated project, Blackbirds is a display of stunning songwriting and intricate vocals. With many tracks touching into a seemingly personal dynamic, one is able to connect with Peters from a lyrical standpoint, while also being able to appreciate the delicate melodies and toned-down production choices. One of the years’ best albums from one of the genre’s best vocalists. – Markus Meyer

 

#9
Jekyll + Hyde
Zac Brown Band
Individual Rankings: #4 – Annie, Christina

Though Jekyll + Hyde was without a doubt ZBB’s most controversial release to date, the group pushed their sonic boundaries, venturing into and blending sonic styles ranging from big band to EDM and asserting themselves on country and rock charts. Though it worked for some and angered others who questioned the decreasing integrity of the genre, artistry and exploration turned out a strong product for the band.  -AD

(Check Out: Zac Brown Band’s ‘Jekyll + Hyde’ is Country Music’s ‘Graceland’)

 

#8
Wild Ones
Kip Moore
Individual Rankings: #5 – Annie; #8 – Christina; #10 – Markus

Wild Ones is far from stone-cold traditional country, and resembles stadium rock more than it does country music. So dock it its points for that, and just appreciate the fact that Kip Moore’s sophomore is an extremely well done project, and one that showcases his skills in imagery and as a vocalist. From the subdued “Comeback Kid”, to the roaring “Girl of the Summer”, to the anthemic “Lipstick”, to the melancholic “Running For You”, every track is done with such proficiency and competency. It may not be traditionally styled, but it is damn good. – MM

(Check Out: Kip Moore Raises the Bar with ‘Wild Ones’)

 

#7
Untamed
Cam
Individual Rankings: #3 – Natalie; #5 – Christina; #7 – Grace; #9 – Annie

In my opinion this was an extremely strong debut album for Cam, touching on many different topics and vibes each song tells the story of who Cam is as an artist and her strong vocal ability is showcased beautifully. – Christina Bosch

(Check Out: Cam’s ‘Untamed’ is a Little Bit of Everything)

 

#6
Something More Than Free
Jason Isbell
Individual Rankings: #1 – Markus; #2 – Annie

It doesn’t hit the emotional peaks of Southeastern, but taken on its own, Something More Than Free is an unquestionably stunning and fully satisfying project. It’s an album that focuses on reflection and lessons learnt heavier than his traditional storytelling, but he does so with just as much ease and proficiency that it’s not even an issue. Each track is constructed with such attention to detail and such care that each one plays a key role on the album, and not a single one leaves the listener wanting more. It’s a lot to take in, but make no doubts, Something More Than Free is nothing short of a masterpiece. – MM

(Check Out: Jason Isbell Blows Away Competition with ‘Something More Than Free’)

#5
Maren Morris EP
Maren Morris
Individual Rankings: #3 – Grace; #4 – Natalie; #6 – Christina

Maren Morris knows who she is, and she also knows y’all might not be friends. But she’s okay with that. This year, she threw on her big-girl boots and artfully stomped her footprints across the Nashville music scene, earning plenty of attention and critical acclaim for her self-titled debut EP. “My Church” is emphatic and confident, and “80s Mercedes” somehow showcases her youth in a very mature way. A personal favorite is “Company You Keep,” a country-pop jam that packs plenty of attitude (a la Kacey Musgraves). She’s going to be big – we’re calling it now. – NS

(Check Out: Review: Maren Morris’ Self-Titled EP)

#4
Start Here
Maddie & Tae
Individual Rankings: #2  – Grace; #7 – Annie; #8 – Markus; #9 – Christina

Maddie & Tae set huge expectations with the monster success and cross-genre virality of their debut “Girl In A Country Song,” and Start Here delivered. The LP was wise, sassy, supportive, and dynamic in all the right ways, and will stand the test of time long past 2016. -AD 

(Check Out: Maddie & Tae Find Their Footing on “Start Here”)

 

#3
Pageant Material
Kacey Musgraves
Individual Rankings: #1 – Grace, Natalie; #3 – Christina; #12 – Markus; #13 – Annie

Kacey Musgraves never fails to disappoint and after the success of Same Trailer Different Park she had a lot to live up to; Pageant Material is relatable, witty and everything you’d expect from a Musgraves album. From “Family is Family” to “Fine”, the album shows variety without being non-cohesive and was a perfect sophomore release. – GG

(Check Out: “Pageant Material” is Sometimes Cheesy, Always Charming)

 

#2
Traveller
Chris Stapleton
Individual Rankings: #2 – Christina; #3 – Annie; #4 – Markus; #5 – Natalie; #8 – Grace

Ah, Chris Stapleton. The release of Traveller, its huge commercial success, and its parlaying of Stapleton into a household name were an enormous win not only for the artist but for talent and artistry in their truest forms.  –AD

(Check Out: Review: Chris Stapleton Shines on Debut Album ‘Traveller’)

#1
Mr. Misunderstood
Eric Church
Individual Rankings: #1 – Annie, Christina; #2 – Markus; #6 – Natalie

Eric Church tops our album list for the second year in a row with this surprise studio album, Mr Misunderstood. The album found Church settled from his raucous Outsiders days in some of his most compelling and personal storytelling to date, for an effort well deserving of our top slot. – AD

(Check Out: Eric Church Digs Deep for Surprise Album: ‘Mr. Misunderstood’)