Best Albums of 2015
There are literally a thousand options to choose from here, so if your favorite album didn’t make the list, don’t worry. This is really a combination of my favorite albums, mixed with what a lot of other people and critics seem to be saying, and hopefully I’ve put some unique artists on the list. Things will definitely be left out, but that being said, here it is:
10. To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar
I didn’t particularly take to this album, but it absolutely deserves to be on this list. An important, urgent piece of work, this album is groundbreaking in how it cries at the desperate state of humanity with such poignant lyrics, but still manages to be a highly entertaining, engaging piece. Best songs: Alright, i, King Kunta, For Sale? – Interlude.
9. My Love is Cool, Wolf Alice
Exhilarating, beautiful, and haunting all in one, Wolf Alice’s debut album has been a bit forgotten since being released in June, but that doesn’t stop it from being a completely engaging listen. There’s a fresh sound that can only be found on a band’s first album, but this stands out from other debuts this year due the fact that it manages to be all over the place and singular at the same time. Best songs: Bros, Moaning Lisa Smile, Freazy, Turn to Dust.
8. VEGA Intl. Night School, Neon Indian
Neon Indian’s most complex album to date—and his first album since 2011—this at first seems a very chaotic listen, but levels out into an incredibly infectious, synth-heavy listen. More glitzy and focused on one-man-show Alan Palomo’s voice than his previous outings, this is possibly the catchiest album on the list and well worth a listen. Best songs: Slumlord, C'est La Vie (Say the Casualties!), Annie, Dear Skorpio Magazine.
7. No Cities to Love, Sleater-Kinney
Their first album in ten years, this is one heck of a return. Sleek, loud, and unflinchingly feminist, this 33-minute album is a powerful anthem and a welcome return for the Olympia, Washington-based band. It’s an album that demands to be listened to, and I have no problem with that. Best songs: Surface Envy, Bury Our Friends, A New Wave.
6. Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens
Somewhat of a comeback for the Detroit-based singer-songwriter, Carrie & Lowell was written in the memory of Stevens’ late mother, Carrie, and chronicles a life of mental illness and substance abuse. Thus, the album is mournful and reflective, with Stevens’ voice almost ghostly in appearance. The lyrics are poignant and sad, but all the more beautiful for it. Best songs: Fourth of July, The Only Thing, Should Have Known Better, Carrie & Lowell.
5. Honeymoon, Lana Del Rey
Sweeping, retro, and harkening back to Hollywood’s golden age, Honeymoon is a bit less sad than its predecessor, Ultraviolence, but even more stunning. Del Rey’s voice is more evocative than ever, crooning of love, abuse, loneliness, and fame. She continues to play up her bad-girl persona here, but manages to achingly pitiful and modernly feminist as well. Best songs: Salvatore, Religion, High By the Beach, The Blackest Day, Music to Watch Boys To.
4. Currents, Tame Impala
While not Tame Impala’s strongest album, Currents has grown on me since being released in July and is still absolutely one of the best albums of the year. Much more synth-heavy than one-man-wonder Kevin Parker’s earlier work, he described it as his attempt at pop music, but I don’t think it’s classifiable. Part alternative, part pop, and part electronic, it’s a clean-cut, glossy, but thoroughly entertaining ride. Best songs: Let It Happen, Disciples, The Less I Know the Better, Reality In Motion, Nangs.
3. Art Angels, Grimes
Released without much press, Art Angels was somewhat of a surprise to many people, but one of the best ones of the year. Fun, edgy, and purposefully bizarre, Grimes—the stage name for Canadian artist Claire Boucher has created a groundbreaking album that bursts through the confines of its genre to be something else entirely. At times piercing, at times operatic, and always entertaining and catchy, Boucher’s lyrics preach independence and self-confidence in continually inventive ways. Best songs: Flesh without Blood, Realiti, Belly of the Beat, Life in the Vivid Dream.
2. Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, Courtney Barnett
Released back in March, the Australian singer-songwriter’s second album is a pure delight. Full of tongue-in-cheek lyrics and often rhyming, Barnett has created a fresh, cohesive album that bursts with creativity. It’s not really about much, but that doesn’t matter: it’s the most fun I’ve ever had listening to somebody’s millennial-fueled existential crisis. Best songs: Elevator Operator, Kim’s Caravan, An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York), Dead Fox, Boxing Day Blues.
1. Thank Your Lucky Stars, Beach House
I could have easily put the Baltimore duo’s other 2015 release, Depression Cherry, on this list, but short of having two of their albums on here, I’ll just say this: that album is dreamy, hazy, and autumnal, but this one—dropped in its entirety with no publicity, hardly two months later, is even better. Darker and more political, with a clearer sound and focus, Victoria Legrand’s vocals are hauntingly beautiful and Alex Scally backs her up with a newfound edginess. If you haven’t started listening to them by now, you might want to change that. Best songs: One Thing, Somewhere Tonight, Majorette, The Traveller.
Notable omissions: How Big, How Blue How Beautiful, Florence + the Machine; Vulnicura, Björk; In Colour, Jamie xx; Every Open Eye, Chvrches; Divers, Joanna Newsom; I Love You, Honeybear, Father John Misty; White Men Are Black Men Too, Young Fathers; 25, Adele; Multi-Love, Unknown Mortal Orchestra; Compton, Dr. Dre; and probably a bunch more.