|My Favorites of 2015|
Here it is! My favorite 55 albums of 2015! What an amazing year of new releases, seriously the best since I got really into music like 6-10 years ago (depending on if metalcore counts as music or not). Anyway, as I mentioned in the honorable mentions list, I did this a little different than the last few years. Instead of picking a number (top 50, top 100 etc) and filling this list with good albums, I only included the albums that stuck with me throughout the year. Albums that gave me some sort of personal attachment, even if its as simple as "oh yeah I listened to that at 3 am on the drive home from that festival". So nothing here to make me "look cool", just the music that impacted me the most this year.
To Pimp a Butterfly
After GKMC came out I had no idea what type of album Kendrick would make. The answer was such a left turn that I had no clue what to make of TPAB after my first listen the morning it dropped; all I knew what that I needed to play it again. The instrumentation was clearly influenced by K Dot's 2014 collaboration with Flying Lotus, though FlyLo is only credited on the first track. Even the most accessible tracks are saturated in Jazz flourishes. Kendrick's diverse and technical delivery has never been on better display either- just listen to the free-jazz spazz out "For Free?" or drunk-guilt ramblings in "u" for the two extremes. Kendrick has a message to convey on TPAB. It's an album about recognizing the vast amount of very real, very scary bullshit we face on daily basis (some more than others, clearly) and not languishing in, or even adapting to, the turmoil, but making a stand to overcome it. Looking into the eyes of despair and hatred and death and proclaiming "We gon' be alright."
|2||Father John Misty|
I Love You, Honeybear
Father John Misty's lyrics have a magical ability to take these very literal descriptions and specific observations of moments and turn them into something universal. Listen to Bored in the USA during your morning commute and try to not keep driving past your exit till you hit an ocean. Tillman's cynicism shines through some of the most fucked up love songs ever recorded, resulting in the most relate-able lyrics I've ever heard. The album flows perfectly, there isn't a dull moment or skippable track yet everything makes sense out of the album's context as well. Tillman knows love is a fucked up, bullshit biological reflex, but he's happy so why care.
Carrie and Lowell
Sure, most of Sufjan's albums fall under the "folk" category. But none are like this. No kitschy glockenspiels or organ thingys. No stories about Serial Killers, or small towns in Michigan, or driving to Chicago. Just Sufjan, a guitar, minimalist percussion, and a couple subtle synths here and there. The songs are about his mother, a woman he barely knew, and coming to terms with her death. He sung about her before on Michigan's "Romulus", whispering "I was ashamed of her". Now, 12 years later, the shame has been replaced with doubt. He misses her more than he thought he would and doesn't quite know why. He has an adulthood of unanswered questions keeping him up at night but no one can answer them. So he sings.
A more extreme version of Sunbather. By taking the atmospheric stylings of Sunbather and adding more "metal" standards such as chugging riffs and guitar solos, Deafheaven are able to create a more powerful and in-your-face album. But the moments of beauty hit harder as well and it is that juxtaposition of pure force and breathtaking serenity that allows Deafheaven to resonate with a much wider audience than most metal bands. The first single/song didn't hit me as immediately as Dreamhouse, but after many listens to both albums I think this one has the slight advantage even though both are nearly flawless and stand up as individual pieces of art. Saw them last month and they pretty much played the album straight through (with last year's single in the middle) and these songs decimate in a live setting.
In Colour does something really special for a (mostly) electronic album. It has a heart. It reveals itself in peaces until finally stepping back and allowing you to relish in an ephemeral moment of clarity. Almost every song here made my summer playlist.
The beats on this are driving, glitchy, and pack enough bass to rattle your trunk without a sub. But what really sets it apart is the lyrics. Vince Staples is one of best and smartest upcoming artists in any genre. "I hate when you lie I hate the truth too" is one of the best lines of the year, but Vince's commentary on the allure of gang life to a young kid and not knowing who to trust in a system that doesn't care about you is what brings it above (almost) every other rap album.
A Flourish and A Spoil
The best straight forward no bullshit rock album of the year. A nice addition to the Built to Spill/Modest Mouse/Manchester Orchestra lineage of indie-rock.
I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside
"If he ain't dyin' for me, then i ain't ridin' with him". It seems that Earl Sweatshirt found out who his true friends are. The sparse, glitchy production and limited guest verses attest that Earl truly has been "living what he wrote". Lyrically, Earl's rhymes and wordplay stretch further than on Doris while remaining just as (if not more) personal.
I didn't really care for her last album but after seeing her perform at FFF Fest I played this on the drive home and it clicked immediately. Blogs have been quick to point to the pop influence of Art Angles, but, while it's easily described as a left field pop album, this album's true strength lives in Claire's refusal to be typecast. Realiti (album version) is one of the best songs of the year.
What an absolutely stunning album. One of the few albums I put on when I wasn't doing much else and just floored me. Literally- I was cleaning my room and when PPP came on for the first time I lay on the floor and let Beach House wash me away.
I liked it enough when it first came out to put a handful of songs on my playlists, but kinda forgot about the album as whole until I started relistening to stuff to make this list. The songwriting flows in and out of genres but maintains a strong sense of cohesion. I know Miguel likes to think he makes rock music, but this album is much more indebted to RnB, Funk, & Hip hop than anything else.
The best dance-punk/disco-punk album this side of LCD Soundsystem. Even after last year's excellent EP, Shamir's debut blew me away. Future super star in the making. Or at least blog star...
Didn't quite live up to the hype, but Currents is a fantastic progression of the Tame Impala sound. Highlights such as Eventually, The Less I Know the Better, and Let It Happen make it easy to pass through the more skippable tracks (Like the pitched down spoken word sections on Past Life, ugh). These songs all sound great live and everyone should be waiting impatiently for Kevin Parker's next move.
If You're Reading This It's Too Late
Drake has really grown on me his last two releases. I had lukewarm reception to take care and Thank Me Later, but Nothing Was the Same really clicked and this one feels like an instant....don't wanna say classic, but when we look back in a few years I bet this will be one of the defining albums of the "2015 sound". Seriously, the production is so slick and cohesive (I just looked it up and am shocked to see that over 10 people have production credits across the 17 tracks). He might have just been an incredibly popular rapper before this album, but he's a Legend now.
My first venture in the universe of Bjork. Her heartbroken strings blend perfectly with Arca's production.
A beautiful, powerful journey of doubt. Only complaint is that nothing matches the immediate intensity of opening track "Strange Hellos"
|17||Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment|
It's a shame that this album was heralded as Chance (please say) the Rapper's comeback/next move because it really does deserve to be heard on its own terms. With still no word on an official release date, time will tell if Surf becomes a highlight or footnote in Chance's discography.
Are You Alone?
Shadows of pop songs. Incredibly sparse production with hauntingly beautiful lyrics.
b'lieve i'm goin' down...
Much folkier sound than Wakin on a Pretty Daze almost no guitar solos or jam outs on this one, but plenty to keep you engaged. Lyrics can get kinda silly, but somehow they almost always work.
I listened to this 3 hour jazz album straight through twice. If that doesn't earn it spot here, nothing does. The Epic does little to redefine Jazz, but man does it live up the title.
Deerhunter continue their winning streak with this one. A few forgettable moments, but most of Fading Frontier is peak Deerhunter. That melting guitar riff on Breaker is perfect.
Vega Intl. Night School
Coined the term Acid-Pop for this one. These songs are so batshity scatterbrained, but they all groove and are easy to fall into. Great music for tired drives.
|23||The World Is a Beautiful Place...|
Some of the best lyrics of the year. A small but significant improvement over the great Whenever, If Ever in every way.
Future probably had the best year out of any rapper. He had at least 4 of his own projects and seemed to be guested on every other rap album. DS2 is a testament to the power of Future's drugged out dystopia. It's rare for a rap album this long to have a singular voice that stays fresh throughout, but Future is a big enough character to pull it off.
One of the most enthralling debuts of the year. A ton of energy and that general 90's mid-fi vibe on this one.
Such a great indie-pop album. Some serious groove here and an insanely awesome middle section.
At first I was bummed that it wasn't Bomb, but that doesn't give We Cool the credit it deserves. I will say that I can barely listen to Antartico Vespuci without wishing Jeff was the singer, which killed an otherwise pretty solid album for me.
Excellent dark post-punk album. Second half is unstoppable.
Another excellent album from Katie Crutchfield as Waxahatchee. Another departure from the sound of the previous album. Air might be the best Waxahatchee song to date.
Thank Your Lucky Stars
Props to Beach House for releasing two of the years best albums within two months. This one is still growing on me so it ends up down here.
Great low key folk/singersongwriter. Poetic lyrics and great storytelling on this one. Much more powerful than the sparse instrumentation would suggest.
Beautiful, driving electronic album. Kinda reminds me of Immunity by Jon Hopkins- is there a genre to describe this kinda stuff or just electronic music with mutated real world/instrument samples? Whatever it is, this is one of the few albums like this that doesn't just make me wanna listen to Immunity again.
Beauty Behind the Madness
Thought the Weeknd was Finishd after Kiss Land, but glad he was able to prove me wrong. It's crazy how absurdly popular he is right now. Also can't believe he recorded that shitty song with Ed Sheeran. I'll always have a soft spot for House of Ballons, but I don't mind this new pop star version of the Weeknd either.
Wilco cuts way down on the studio bullshit and folksy melodrama and delivers their strongest album in over a decade.
Sound & Color
Pleasantly surprised Alabama Shakes was able to find a way to evolve the song on their debut album while not losing their aesthetic or sounding like a tribute band.
Have You In My Wilderness
Baroque pop written so well you forget about the goofy instrumentation.
|37||Built to Spill|
Not that the last few Built to Spill albums were bad by any means, but this one really felt like a return to their turn of the millennium peak.
sometimes i sit and think, and sometimes i just sit
Thought this was absurdly over hyped, but the highs are great. Other times it feels like good songs with good lyrics, nothing special. But the highlights, like Depreston especially, earn it a spot.
Such a beautiful, abrasive voice that perfectly compliments these songs.
A kinda return of form for Christopher Owens. Very reminiscent of the first Girls albums, but with the better parts of his solo material sprinkled in. Still wish Girls didn't break up, but Owens seems to be able to churn out songs like these easily which will make the suffering a little easier.
One of the few noise-techno albums I've able to get into. Almost everything has this metallic and percussive element to it.
|42||An Autumn For Crippled Children|
The Long Goodbye
Solid blackgaze album that doesn't let either of those main two genre influences overshadow the other.
Much more of a grower than Kaputt, but great songwriting throughout.
Excellent pop-punk album with just the right amount of emotion and self-pity.
So The Flies Don't Come
Milo follows up last year's excellent A Toothpaste Suburb with a short album that tones town the production just enough to shift the focus to his clever wordplay. One of the most intriguing upcoming rappers, along with labelmate Open Mike Eagle.
A$AP puts down the lean and finds himself some acid. A little too long, but lots of good stuff- just like an acid trip.
No Cities to Love
The first Sleater-Kinney to come out since I got into good music, but even with out the anticipation I found plenty to enjoy about No Cities to Love on its own merit.
The Children of the Night
I enjoyed this the first couple times I heard it, but it didn't sink in just how great the songwriting was until I saw them open for Deafheaven and realized I already knew most of the songs. Jammed to this when I was building my studio.
Quite the departure from Title Fight's previous work. Punk-gaze? Shoe-Punk? Saw them live twice and it was cool how they mixed these songs into their set.
White Reaper Does it Again
Straight forward, face-melting garage rock music.
Refreshing to hear one of the Black Hippy guys holding down the corner of the rap game where they introduced themselves. Jay is probably the "most improved" member of the group, which isn't an insult but a testament to his growth and potential.
I Want to Grow Up
One of my favorite albums on paper, but the vocals were mixed really strange and I can only get into this on certain speakers.
Somehow the first Wavves album to not have enough ambition to progress its sound, but a strong selection of garage-pop tracks nonetheless.
Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack U
The sum of its parts. Doesn't strive for much more, which is a shame, but it bangs. No one will make you turn this off at a party. Unless you have lame friends.