2015 will be a better year from music than 2014. It's not even close. I can make a top 50 albums list right now and it would be better than all of last year's. And there are still great music on the horizon. So here, at the basic halfway point of the year, it's time to delve into what's good. And there is so much good.
Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper by Panda Bear, Another Eternity by Purity Ring, What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World by The Decemberists, The Album About Nothing by Wale, Rebel Heart by Madonna, Sour Soul by BadBadNotGood, Cherry Bomb by Tyler The Creator, American Beauty/American Psycho by Fall Out Boy, What For? by Toro Y Moi, and Kintsugi by Death Cab for Cutie
25. The Desired Effect by Brandon Flowers
Brandon Flowers is not a cool dude. The first Killers album was though, and then they left all that behind with diminishing returns. And so Flowers goes solo for a second time and fully embraces his inner dork. And he must really like Genesis because he's made a surprisingly delicious and guilty pleasure album for the ages. Or at least this year.
24. Why Make Sense? by Hot Chip
You wanna get down? You could do worse, much worse, than groove to the latest by Hot Chip. It's summertime, let's party.
23. Tetsuo & Youth by Lupe Fiasco
I have unrealistic expectations of Lupe. He dropped 2 pretty great albums and I truly felt he had a classic album somewhere inside him. Then he sh*t the bed with not one but two stinkers. Is this a return to form? Hardly. It's focused and there is actual substance, but it's bloated to say the least and every song is way too long. But it has so many moments that I suddenly find myself with hope once again in Lupe. Just cut the hair bro.
22. Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance by Belle & Sebastian
Good indie albums aren't hard to find. But it's a pleasant surprise when a group you stopped listening to ages ago releases something that inspires you go to back to their catalog. Never change.
21. Goon by Tobias Jesso Jr.
This is best Ben Kweller album ever. Oh, it's not a Ben Kweller album? Still really good though.
20. The Scene Between by The Go! Team
Long gone are the days of The Go! Team's mix of cheerleader chants and old school hip-hop vibe. The Go! Team was always a mess, but a loud, interesting, sonically infused mess. Here they clean up their sound, become something a bit sunnier and more mainstream, without sacrificing quality. Did you like "Buy Nothing Today" off their last record? Then you are gonna love this sh*t. I sure did.
19. Froot by Marina and The Diamonds
Marina feels an awfully lot more exotic than Welsh. An she feels way too polished and confident for an indie pop act. Call her an enigma and call this album a puzzle. I don't know why I dig it, but I do. Maybe it's just something really stupid simple. It's really well done pop, without insulting my taste buds.
18. Mr. Wonderful by Action Bronson
Action Bronson is the white Ghostface with the panicked flow and the same impeccable taste in beats (this might be the best produced rap album out this year). Plus he earns major points for having a sense of humor and some soul, which is increasingly rare in rap these days. And what we have here is just a flat out good rap album from the unlikeliest of sources. Word word.
17. No Cities to Love by Sleater-Kinney
The girls are back, and it's good to hear them. The album is basically one long slow motion punch in the face. It's dialed up to 10 and never let's up. Not really my style but damn game recognize game.
16. Coming Home by Leon Bridges
Leon Bridges just dropped a retro soul/R&B album that will undoubtable draw comparisons to Sam Cooke. But I think the more apt comparison is Raphael Saadiq, whose throwback The Way I See It is still one of my favorite R&B albums ever. Does this come close? No, but it's slick and quick and best of all, real smooth.
15. I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside by Earl Sweatshirt
While it might not him me like the previous album, Earl Sweatshirt and his emo musings and dark storytelling is still beyond captivating. He makes headphone rap better than anyone else and probably currently owns the throne as the best core Odd Future member on the block.
14. Wildheart by Miguel
On this previous LP, Kaleidoscope Dream, Miguel released an expertly crafted R&B album, one of the best in ages. It worked, really really well, mainly because of his silky smooth voice. On Wildheart, there is a bit more experimentation and broadening of sound. It works. Mostly. I still prefer the previous record but when homeboy makes music like this, I'm just being petty.
13. I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty
Mixing modern rock sentiments with folk, the former Fleet Foxes drummer kinda hits it out the park. Deeply personal and a little bit twisted, the album rewards those who listen carefully for the little gems buried underneath the folk rock blanket.
12. Ratchet by Shamir
Shamir has an androgynous sound that I just can't explain, and with him he brings a dark disco straight out of the shady corners of Vegas. It's a bit moody and kinda funky and downright catchy. Is this pop? Disco? Funk? Something else? I don't know. I just know is that it's my jam.
11 AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP by A$AP Rocky
Hazy. That's what it was like after the first listen to A$AP's latest. More focused and defined than his last, it might not necessarily be better, but the drug fueled trip is worth the price of admission. Just let go and press play.
10. Surf by Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment
Surf is so infectiously sunny, you can't help but smile ear to ear the whole way. It's hard to categories, but I guess this is a fusion record. It's a little bit rap, little bit hip-hop, little bit jazz, little bit funk, little bit pop, little bit world. But what it is a lot of is good. So good, with the perfect balance of Chance, who seems to know he's best in small bursts. Oh and now you have a favorite trumpet player, which is nice.
9. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine
Vocal artillery. That's the only way to describe the powerhouse that is the latest Florence + The Machine record. It's impeccably crafted, magnificently produced and tailor made to fill stadiums. It might not be my favorite record, but damn is it not one of the best albums out easy. You gotta appreciate the work.
8. Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes
Brittany Howard's voice is like a freight train. And the band weilds it like a sledgehammer, as it's maybe the best weapon any current band has in their arsenal. But it's not all about that voice. The talent and skill around her is top notch and musical musing of the Alabama Shakes seriously rule. Long live the queen.
7. Uptown Special by Mark Ronson
Is there anyone who is cooler than Mark Ronson? I mean yes, obviously, and he's kinda a big dork. But the music, it's just cool as the polar bear's toenails. Mixing throwback sounds with modern hip sensibilities better than anyone else in the game, he know's exactly what he's doing. And nobody tops his stuff. How come not everyone lines up to work with this guy leaves me flabbergasted. You literally really can't do any better.
6. Summertime '06 by Vince Staples
Vince Staples is such a story teller and this LP continues in the vain of this masterful EP Hell Can Wait. It's the best gangster rap album in years by being more than a gangster rap album. It's grimey, it's abrasive and it's downright fascinating. The production feels like the natural selection of any rap in recent memory and while it's a bit long and it doesn't always hit, when it does, it bangs.
5. The Waterfall by My Morning Jacket
Easily my favorite My Morning Jacket record since Z, sometimes all you need is a good old fashioned rock record that just nails it. While sonically ambitious, it's nothing you haven't heard before. Yet what it does well, it does really well. And it's best to follow the title and let the music just wash over you. Copacetic.
4. If You're Reading This It's Too Late by Drake
Technically it's a mixtape, but damn if it's not better than most legit LPs. Now Drake is not for everyone, but you gotta recognize that he has a distinct style, and what he does, he does really really well. Is he genuine? Hardly, but really what rappers are anymore? He's focused, determined and the tracks are slick and urgent. It's really remarkable stuff. Just image how good the actual album is gonna be. Scary.
3. Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
It took tragedy for Sufjan to return to his folk roots, where he always fit best, seamlessly mixing the old and new. Inspired by his mother's death and in turn his childhood memories growing up, we get maybe his most personal album and arguably his best. It's damn near a masterpiece. Ten years ago we got Illinois, one of my favorite albums of all-time. And now I have Carrie & Lowell. So if I have to wait another decade for yet another classic, I will, because damn it'll be worth it.
2. In Colours by Jamie xx
The xx are the kings of minimalism. And Jamie xx is the engineer, often using the bare minimum of instrumentals to elicit strong and downright shattering emotions. And yet you feel that homebody is dying to break out, to feel the pure freedom of music without arbitrary (and self imposed) limits. Which is why when he does expand his sound and sonically goes buckwild, we get this diamond in the rough. A mix of instrumentals (well instrumentals with vocal accompaniment) and downright boogie down productions, one feels like Jamie xx really is coming out of his shell on this record, and we should all be greatful. It's f*cking splendid and maybe the best stuff both members of The xx have ever been a part of.
1. To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
What is there to say that hasn't already been. So I'll be brief. This is one of the best rap albums I have ever heard and maybe one of the best off all-time.