Noteworthy 2015 albums by artists who played Vermont

By Tom Huntington

Amid the plethora of “best album” lists that are popping up like holiday decorations, we like to take a slightly different tack in looking back on the year in pop music. What follows is our highly-biased Top 10 list of noteworthy, most obsessed-over albums by non-Vermont-based artists who graced our fair little state with a live performance during 2015 — or will be in 2016 — in order of appearance.

1) Caitlin Canty – Reckless Skyline
Released: Jan. 20 (self-released)
Live in VT: Jan. 24 at West Rutland Town Hall
Who: Vermont native who recently moved from New York City to Nashville, and delivered a gorgeous gem of an album produced by lauded singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault
What they said: “The Vermont native with a casually devastating voice and unshakable poise is bound to be the next great Americana star — except nobody knows it yet,” said the San Francisco Chronicle. “The 12 songs here sound wonderfully lived-in, with Canty’s easy way with folk, blues and country motifs.”

2) Waxahatchee — Ivy Tripp
Released: April 7 (Merge Records)
Live in VT: May 12 at Monkey House (with Girlpool)
Who: Indie-rock band led by standout singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield
What they said: The album “is a warm, emotional, crushingly melodic album,” said Stereogum, “and it does things to your heart that indie rock albums rarely even try to do anymore.”

3) The Decemberists — What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
Released: Jan. 20 (Capitol Records)
Live in VT: July 30 at Shelburne Museum (with Lady Lamb)
Who: Celebrated Portland, Ore.-based indie-folk group
What they said: The Boston Globe called the album one of the band’s “most enjoyable and lively efforts in recent memory,” while Rolling Stone said it “ups the hooks and deepens the emotions,” revealing “a band refreshed, enriching its trademark folk rock with Seventies pop plushness.”

4) Beach House — Depression Cherry
Released: Aug. 28 (Sub Pop Records)
Live in VT: Aug. 20 at Higher Ground
Who: Dreamy Baltimore indie-pop duo featuring Victoria Legrand and Alex Scully, who also released another great album this year, “Thank Your Lucky Stars”
What they said: “Anyone who doesn’t fall for ‘Depression Cherry’s hypnotic splendor probably just isn’t a Beach House fan, or didn’t live with the album long enough,” said Exclaim. “But those who do will recognize this album as the sweeping, grand gesture they’ve been working up to giving us for the last nine years.”

5) Lord Huron — Strange Trails
Released: April 7 (Iamsound Records)
Live in VT: Sept. 22 at Higher Ground
Who: L.A. indie-pop group led by intriguing singer-songwriter Ben Schneider
What we said: “Full of sweeping, cinematic pop tunes, buoyant rhythms and evocative lyrics, ‘Strange Trails’ takes listeners on a captivating journey that becomes richer and more rewarding with every listen – so much so that it’s best to just keep it on repeat and let it transport you to its strangely compelling places.”

6) Modest Mouse — Strangers to Ourselves
Released: March 17 (Epic Records)
Live in VT: Oct. 19 at Memorial Auditorium (sold out)
Who: Crazy good Northwest rock group led by mastermind Isaac Brock
What they said: A.V. Club called it “a comfortably familiar return to the less-than-comfortable mix of weighty lyrics and jittery, crazy-eyed indie rock that’s sustained Modest Mouse’s illustrious career.”

7) Dave Rawlings Machine — Nashville Obsolete
Released: Sept. 18 (Acony Records)
Live in VT: Nov. 12 at Higher Ground
Who: Celebrated Americana singer-songwriters Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch
What they said: Relix called it “another haunting collection of deep folk, simultaneously timeless and incapable of being made by anybody else.”

8) Torres — Sprinter
Released: May 5 (Partisan Records)
Live in VT: Jan. 23, 2016 at Signal Kitchen
Who: Unflinching singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott
What they said: The album is “a remarkable and revealing set of seething songs about faith and the forces that test it,” said NPR. “PJ Harvey is the clearest musical reference point here, but Scott’s clear-eyed stories are her own, elevating her songs to works that recall no one but herself.”

9) Wilco — Star Wars
Released: July 16 (dBpm Records)
Live in VT: Jan. 26, 2016 at Flynn Center (sold out)
Who: Chicago rock band extraordinaire
What they said: A.V. Club called it “a roughhewn, fuzzed-out blast,” while Rolling Stone said it “recaptures the wild freedom that makes them great,” adding: “It’s their most concise, catchy, naturally songful album in at least a decade – the sound of a band reconnecting with the fun of rocking out together in a room.”

10) Kurt Vile — B’lieve I’m Goin Down
Released: Sept. 25 (Matador Records)
Live in VT: Feb. 19, 2016 at Higher Ground
Who: Singular Philadelphia-based, indie-rock singer-songwriter
What they said: The Austin Chronicle said the album “ups the Philadelphian’s creative ante, speckling finger-plucked finesse and Farfisa whimsy into his laid-back blues/folk crunch,” while A.V. Club called it “the purest distillation of Vile’s idiosyncratic style to date.”