So here we are, 2015 is nearly over and once again I'm posting a list of my favorite albums of 2015. Like I always say, these are my favorite, not what I believe to be the best. If there is a bit of overlap, especially since many of my favorites are critically darlings, that's purely coincidental (okay not really). Anyways, 2015 for albums was far superior to 2014. And I could have legitimately made a top 100 albums list but I'm only a little crazy, not a lot. Whatever, let's get down to business.
50. Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz by Miley Cyrus
There is always a WTF album on my lists, and well, let's get this one out the bag. I dug this album. The production is so weird, hell the album in total is weird. It's kinda bold when you get past the somewhat forced drug references. Miley is a total freak but creatively she kinda made this super strange and kinda dope record that I can't believe I like as much as I do. Maybe it's the Flaming Lips that are sneaky the MVP here. Now if it was only half as long...
49. Dopamine by Borns
So first off, Borns is a dude (and spelled in a weird way I don't know how to type). I have a soft spot for men with androgynous voices (think Rhye or Daley). Second, this album is kinda great. It's catchy and is the kind of pop/alternative album that comes along every now and then from an artist that may come and go. It reminds me a lot of Hozier or Gotye. Hopefully this will not be the last I hear from Borns, because I kinda like having him around.
48. Multi-Love by Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Apparently these guys are a rock band, but you could have fooled me. They make a jumble of all sorts of genres, from alternative, r&b, electronic, funk and pop. It's a lot of copy/paste kinda jams. And it all kinda blends really well and the highs, oh the highs. Really glad to have discovered these guys this year and can't wait to hear what's next, I'm pumped.
47. I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler by YACHT
I thought this album would be cooler. Just kidding, it's dope. Listen to it already.
46. What For? by Toro Y Moi
Chazwick doesn't always follow the script and doesn't always release the albums I want. But hey, eventually he releases the album I didn't know I needed. And this one, which is kinda a full on indie pop record isn't always my bag but it's so cheerful and sunny and downright great at times I can't help but be won over.
45. Momentary Masters by Albert Hammond Jr.
So Julian Casablancas isn't the only talented guy in The Strokes. And you can definitely hear the Strokes all over Momentary Masters, but what is old is now fresh again because these are not Strokes songs, they're Albert's, whose voice and lyrics are lighter and more playful and simply a nice change of pace. Maybe on the next proper Strokes record Julian might wanna share the mic a bit. Just a thought.
44. Are You Alone? by Majical Cloudz
Simply put Are You Alone? is a precious album. And I mean that as a compliment. It is so fragile and meek but feels like it could crumble in my hand if I don't handle it with care. And that vulnerability comes across through the wires in your headphones. It's all rather beautiful and very special. Oh and try not to get choked up at least once a song.
43. Compton by Dr. Dre
I'm gonna be honest, I never thought I'd have a Dr. Dre album on my list ever again. I thought we would never see Detox and Dre's best days were a mere memory. Then he scraped that god forsaken album, and made this, and you know what, I wasn't won over immediately but it wore me down. It kinda just works. And Kendrick is the sneaky MVP. Maybe the best part of the album is he follows the 2001 script and limits his lyrical content and lets the role players shine meanwhile overseeing the production even when he's not always the producer. And it just vibes.
42. Kablammo! by Ash
When I was in high school and part of college, I loved Ash. Like no one knew who they were but they made really great punk/pop rock with infectious hooks and teen dreams. And now they are old but my god do they still rock. I didn't even know they were still together and they dropped this out of nowhere and it's like I'm 18 again. What a trip and this isn't just nostalgia. It's a legitimately great LP. This is the kind of record Blink-182 wish they could make at their age.
41. Why Make Sense? by Hot Chip
Wanna groove a bit? Listen to the latest by Hot Chip, a sleek little number which shows these guys can still shake it even after their peers have decided to hang up. I always felt these guys were the British equivalent to the now defunct LCD Soundsystem, so it's nice to see them back (even though they never left). Maybe they need to be a little messy and more inspired, but that's nitpicking when you're this good and got this kinda bounce.
40. Poison Season by Destroyer
I know Dan Bejar from The New Pornographers, as that guy who isn't Carl Newman. But he's had a nice little career as Destroyer and million other projects and on Poison Season he continues to show why he's so prolific. It's indie rock in some sense and baroque pop in another, and a some horns for good measure. Reminds me of a less fanciful Beirut but that's just this album since apparently each record is markedly different than the next. Which is a shame, because I really want to here more of this.
39. The Names by Baio
Sometimes members come out of the shadow of their band and make great music of their own. And I'm not talking about the lead but like the keyboard player (Albert Hammond Jr.) or in this case the bassist. Chris Baio is here to make music that isn't Vampire Weekend and some may actually like it more. I still think Vampire Weekend's stuff is far superior but damn this is amazing too. Keep making them ear worms, I can't get enough.
38. Girls in Peacetime Want To Dance by Belle and Sebastian
Every band needs to make an album to dance to. This is Belle and Sebastian's stab at it and well, surprise surprise, it's rather excellent. And between the songs that can't help but get you moving is just very excellent and sweet indie rock. Oh and song writing too! How novel.
37. Mr. Wonderful by Action Bronson
It's cool to know white people not named Eminem can rap. This, coupled with the pretty good Mac Miller record made me believers this year. But this one excels over that and much of the rap this year simply because Bronson sounds like Ghostface reborn with pale skin. Plus Bronson has healthy sense of humor, which is endearing and charming. Oh and the production is slick and versatile. Dope record.
36. Froot by Marina and the Diamonds
While I don't usually care for pop that isn't Justin Timberlake or Michael Jackson, if pop is done well, I take notice (see Charli XCX last year). This year, the one that caught my ear was by Marina and the Diamonds, which has style as cartoonish as that name. I mean look at the album title for god sake. And the music is a very well done pop because it has a little bit of an exotic feel to it and the girl has pipes. That never hurts. So enjoy some synthy indie pop.
35. AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP by A$AP Rocky
If you are gonna get high to any album this year, this is the one. Now I don't condone that kinda stuff, but I know it when I hear it. Mainly because while the latest by A$AP doesn't have the highs of his previous record, it's a bit more consistent, his voice is much more clear and the album is clearly about something. Drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.
34. Fading Frontier by Deerhunter
I love Deerhunter but I did not like Monomania. I'm glad this isn't Monomania, but something of a return to their older sound. These guys always have a knack for making really gorgeous rock music that never ever settles in a groove, instead just meanders. That way they keep you guessing even within tracks is great, but they aren't improvisors, more like gamblers. I know, it doesn't make sense, but the music is good, I promise.
33. Unbreakable by Janet Jackson
My god it's good to have Janet Jackson back, still with the voice, still with the jams, still with the feels.
32. I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside by Earl Sweatshirt
While it doesn't have the highs of Doris, On Earl's sophomore record he cuts the fat and is much more focused. It might seem at first as a downgrade in terms of guest appearances and production values, but it's more of a strip down to the essentials. He's still a gifted storyteller that just grasps your attention and doesn't let go. Grab your backpack, headphones and bob.
31. The Story of Sonny Boy Slim by Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark can play the guitar with the best of them, so luckily this album full of rock and blues gems isn't just him jamming, because it could have been and that would have been great. Fortunately it's more than that, much more balanced. Hell it's nearly a religious experience, equating playing as prayer. That's what elevates the music and that's why we take the journey with him. Enjoy the ride.
30. Panda Bears Meets The Grim Reaper by Panda Bear
I prefer Lennox with Animal Collective but Panda Bear isn't something you settle for. It's way too good for that. And this might be his best solo work to date. Now how do you describe this music for those uninitiated? No clue. It's experimental pop? Maybe? It's electronic? But not really? It's just really weird and psychedelic? It's an acid trip? Maybe the best way is just to say, it's good stuff. Really good stuff.
29. I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty
Fleet Foxes miss Tillman. You can't lose a talent like that and not have a gaping hole left. But enough about his previous bands, because Tillman is one of the most gifted song writers out there. Every song feels like a short film of sorts, and you can really picture everything, like a great painting or a vivid dream. It's folk rock for the 21st century and it's brass and ballsy and beautiful. Just f*cking beautiful.
28. The Scene Between by The Go! Team
Now here is an album I haven't seen on any best of lists. It's a goddamn shame, because this record is stupid good. The Go! Team has kinda evolved from cheerleader hip-hop/rock into a full on pop group, and are better for it. The best thing they had done lately was "Buy Nothing Today" and this album is basically that songs extended into album for. And I ain't mad. It's unapologetically catchy, sunny and so sweet it'll rot your teeth.
27. The Waterfall by My Morning Jacket
It's a damn shame that this album was as successful or acclaimed as it should have been because it's a return to form for My Morning Jacket, showcasing a lot of what made us all fall in love with them back in the days of Z and It Still Moves. Hopefully this wil lget the recognition it deserves when time does what time does, because it truly is a work of art and some great rock and or roll, which is kind of an endangered species these days.
26. All Possible Futures by Miami Horror
I never heard of Miami Horror before this year, so they might be my personal favorite discovery of 2015, which is weird because they already have a record or two in the books before this. I kinda see them as a mix of Cut Copy and Chromeo, and I ain't mad about that. It's unapologetically cheerful and catchy and very very pop. It almost goes overboard but doesn't quite, just holding enough back to keep things very interesting and not full on pandering. Oh and it's fantastic and will get you dancing before too long.
25. The Epic by Kamasi Washington
Little know fact, well not really, but recently I've been getting into Jazz. So The Epic kinda had perfect timing, mixing inspired covers and new material that truly makes a pill like Jazz which can be hard to swallow go down smooth. Just like the album title suggest, it's epic, a 2 hour experience that is never a slog but an exhilarating experience, full of truly remarkable saxophone fronted music. If I hadn't start listening to Jazz on my own, this would have been the album to suck me in. It's that good.
24. Ratchet by Shamir
I guess you can call this gender bending nu-disco, but Shamir refuses to be labeled. Oh and homeboy got swagger for days giving us a diverse stream of cuts that are so weird, so ridiculous and yet so brilliant. It feels like a blackout weekend in Vegas, which makes sense because Shamir grew up in Northtown and labeled his excellent EP after it. And while I don't care for the town (Las Vegas) itself, if they can bring truly original talents like this out, I think I can let a few things slide.
23. No Cities To Love by Sleater-Kinney
I've never been a big fan of Sleater-Kinney. Not my cup of tea and also they were popular when my music taste where elsewhere. But their glorious return is such a kick in the ass, I can't keep it off the list without being ashamed in myself. It's has a confidence and energy that even the best bands only have wet dreams about. Can't wait till they are grandmas still rocking. They would too.
22. Goon by Tobias Jesso Jr.
Remember Ben Kweller. Wasn't he great? Tobias Jesso Jr. reminds me of Ben Kweller. But he better than Kweller ever was and this is his first record. It's soft and gentle and a pussified Father John Misty in some respects. But the song writing is so good and the sound is so damn near heartbreaking you can't help but being moved (there is a damn song to his baby daughter that will make you tear up). Unless you have no heart? You aren't heartless are you? Are you?!
21. Beauty Behind The Madness by The Weeknd
House of Balloons is still one of the best R&B albums I ever heard, completely mesmerizing and twisted. But it's hardly fodder for mainstream success, so you gotta take the good with the bad. Beauty Behind The Madness is The Weeknd's breakout album, which is a bit watered down and almost at times too mainstream for it's own good but damn does some of the twisted stuff still soaks through and that voice is that that voice, possibly the best right now in the game.
20. Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes
Brittany Howard has a voice like a freight train, and I mean that as the highest compliment. It's like a sledgehammer that will knock you out with it's power. It's the bands ultimate weapon and coupled with their outstanding backing instruments, Alabama Shakes might legitimately be Rocks biggest hope. Their mix of blues, soul and rock is just sublime. And they deserve that Grammy nod.
19. Wildheart by Miguel
Let's just get this out of the way. Miguel is a horny dude and this album just drips sex (it's literally the theme of the album). It's also amazing, and that voice, oh man that voice, it can't be beat. While I will always hold Kaleidoscope Dream in a higher regard, this is a fitting follow up, giving you everything you want from an artist who is following a near classic. He put in the work and it shows, so why can't he enjoy the spoils.
18. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine
To be honest, this is not my kind of music. It isn't what I normally listen to but man oh man, when you make an album so consistently good and so bold and you got a voice like that, how can I leave it off the list? It ultimately won me over and I'm happy it did, because this album is downright amazing. I guess you can call this rock because it rolls you out and leave you on the floor breathing heavily. It's a knockout.
17. Coming Home by Leon Bridges
Coming Home is the best Sam Cooke album in the 21st century. Oh and it's not by Sam Cooke (RIP), instead it's by a throwback crooner by the name of Leon Bridges who hadn't even heard about the musical legend until a few years ago. And now he brought us a throwback album that feels like it could have been record in 1962. Yes it is an awful lot like Raphael Saadiq's recent throwback sound but how can you complain with it's this damn smooth.
16. Caracal by Disclosure
Some people have been giving this album some flak. And it's justifiable in some regards, because this isn't Settle. But it is still one of the best electronic/dance albums out this year and has a ton of great joints with that distinct Disclosure sound. Yes it doesn't really expand much on the sound and it does leave you craving more but sometimes artists make baby steps. I'm patient.
15. The Incredible True Story by Logic
I really liked Logic's previous record, so much that I was actually afriad when I heard he had a new one coming out so soon. My fear were quickly extinguished when I listened to it. While it's missing the personal element of the previous LP, this time he goes with an interesting concept album which once you swallow the pill is great lyrically and production wise as well. Once again Logic proves doubters wrong but delivering a confident album, hands down one of the best rap records out now.
14. Every Open Eye by Chvrches
Polished is often used as a negative when it comes to music. But here I use it as a compliment. Every Open Eye is very polished and fine tuned to near perfection. It's also a pure pop album fronted by a kickass woman who doesn't take sh*t. Good for her and good for the band who have largely avoided the sophomore slump by doing one thing, making music like their freshmen album but better. Yes they aren't anything revelatory and the copy cats might be catching up but they put a little distance between them and the followers with a very strong effort. Kudos.
13. What Went Down by Foals
Sometimes when people complain that rock and roll is dead, I point them to an album that proves otherwise. This year it's, well, this.
12. If You're Reading This It's Too Late by Drake
Technically this is a mixtape but who cares, it's album quality and it's one of the best rap ones this year too. It's not made for radio play and yet it still achieved mainstream success. Yes it's missing the most popular song Drake had this year, but who cares, it is very good at doing what Drake does well, curating his image and delivering his vision and message. Yes Drake isn't for everyone but man, game recognize game.
11. Surf by Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment
This isn't the Chance record we wanted, it was the one we deserved. Mainly because Chance is part of a unique ensemble and the trumpet player of all people gets headline. Go figure and who cares, because this album is brilliantly experimental and overwhelmingly positive. It really is the most unique hip-hop album of the year mainly because it marauds as a jazz-fusion album. I guarantee it will make you smile and I wish there was more music like this that just makes you feel good deep down in your heart and soul.
10. Dornik by Dornik
How good is Dornik? He not only draws comparison to The Weeknd, Frank Ocean and Miguel, but even to the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. That is not faint praise. And he lives up to the hype, delivery a very low key R&B album that throws in a little of retro flavor for good measure. The biggest knock on the album is that it might be a little too chill (it also is missing one of Dornik's best songs inexplicably), but that's why I dig it so much, because it's the perfect soundtrack to a warm summer twilight when the sky is still has a little light left fleeting. So lay down, relax and press play.
9. VEGA INTL. Night School by Neon Indian
For someone who is one of the pioneers of chillwave, on his latest album Alan Palomo has no chill. It's a schizophrenic record that is musically very dense and sonically expansive. Feels like a fever dream at times, and nearly tips over because it's so overwhelming. But it is so so good and so funky and fun. It's one of the best electronic albums of this year or any in memory really.
8. Depression Cherry by Beach House
Beach House make the most melancholy music I've ever heard and it's rather stunning. They have perfected their sound that one wonders where they can go next? Well here apparently, this time experimenting and expanding their sound in new ways. They don't stray far, just little bits here and there, but it's enough to make this album a rather refreshing experience for old fans and a hook for newbies. Oh and that other album they made this year wasn't half bad either, but lets be real, this is the gem.
7. Uptown Special by Mark Ronson
We want the funk, clearly, and on Mark Ronson's new record he does what he does best, give us throwback jams that perfect mix the old school and the new school. Although "Uptown Funk" might have been the breakout track, the MVP on this is actually Tame Impala's Kevin Parker who shows up a few times and of course the 6th man is Mystikal, back from the dead. I was very surprised this wasn't on many more end of the year lists because it really is maybe the funnest record of the year.
6. Art Angels by Grimes
I could never get into Bjork. I just can't make the leap. The furthest I'm willing to go is Grimes, who is damn experimental in her own right. So I'm glad she decided to mix it up a big, combining those big ideas with some big jams. Yes her voice can be Barbie doll precious but it is also truly unique and transcendent, plus she's a weirdo, so that a big plus in my book. And the highlights on this album are truly sublime. My favorite "pop" record of the year by a mile.
5. Summertime '06 by Vince Staples
Figures that the best gangster rap album in ages is actually an anti-gangster rap album. 2015 folks. But seriously, Vince Staples, the former Crip and far and away the best member of Cutthroat Boyz is a revelation. Plus the production is dank and that's a compliment. Man this sh*t bangs, is grimey in a way Clipse never was and showcases some truly vivid storytelling. Staples is a talented orator who really throws you into the deep end of the pool of his deep dark experiences. I was mesmerized on this mixtape and this is even better. Almost any other year this would be the best rap record of the year. Some people have terrible luck.
4. Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
You wanna have a good cry? Listen to the latest by Sufjan Stevens and I promise you, you're gonna cry. The deeply personal album is also a return to form by the indie folk singer, telling the story of his mother's death and his childhood trips to Oregon. It's extremely touching, beautiful and tragic. It truly is a very special record, one that only comes along every blue moon.
3. Currents by Tame Impala
How does a band who is the best psychedelic rock band out there decide to almost completely ditch that for a more synth/electronic sound and actually get better? We may never know. But somehow Tame Impala did it on this record which is just stupid good. Maybe it's just pure talent, a good ear and the balls to take a risk and completely succeed.
2. In Colour by Jamie xx
Gonna say something rather controversial here, so bare with me. In Colour is better than anything the xx have ever done. There, I said it. It's the best electronic/dance record of the year, expansive, diverse and truly sublime. Nice to see Jamie xx ditch the minimalism of his previous work and be truly free as a bird. Fly brother, fly.
1. To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Was it ever really in doubt? To Pimp a Butterfly is maybe the best rap album in a decade, no joke. It's a masterpiece that people will remember for ages. A testament of our time and our lives. And the fact it's so polarizing, that it actually makes some people angry and others cry, just further is a testament of it's brilliance. I don't know if Kendrick can ever follow this up, but I don't care. We got the gold.