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The 50 Best Albums of 2015

Posted by Billy Gil, December 18, 2015 07:40pm | Post a Comment

50 best albums of 2015

1. Tame Impala - Currents

tame impala currents lpTame Impala’s Kevin Parker shifts gears a bit for his third album, drawing as much from ’80s soul and disco as he has from prog-rock and psychedelia. Though such a change could threaten to derail a good thing, Parker is the consummate perfectionist, and Currents’ various strands are braided together without a hair out of place. Opener “Let It Happen” builds from a proggish uphill chug into a psychedelic freakout and finally hits its stride with a silky disco beat. “Eventually” relies on rock dynamics but uses fat synthesizers to achieve its booming changes. And a tune like crystalline psych-funk jam “The Less I Know the Better” seems to marry all of Parker’s influences into a perfect amalgam, calling to mind everything from Michael Jackson to My Bloody Valentine. Through it all, Parker is the same chill knob-twiddler he’s always been, but he’s come out of his shell a bit more—it takes confidence to command a song like “’Cause I’m a Man,” which gloriously oozes ’70s cheese, akin to Gary Wright’s “Dream Weaver” or 10CC’s “I’m Not in Love.” From the get-go, Parker himself seems to be reflecting on the change—“Something’s trying to get out/And it’s never been closer,” he sings on “Let It Happen.” It’s confirmed by the time we get to “Yes I’m Changing,” ostensibly a breakup ballad but it seems more pointedly about an introvert accepting accidental stardom (“Curse indulgence and despise the fame/There’s a world out there and it's calling my name”). This lyrical theme, the sense that Parker is coming into his own as not only a songwriter and performer but human being, gives Currents a unity that even the superb Lonerism didn’t have. In every way, Currents is a complete triumph, both as a fascinating headphones album for production junkies and as a set of immaculate psych-pop songs that feels endlessly giving.

 

2. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly

kendrick lamar to pimp a butterfly lpAside from Isley Brothers-sampling first single “i,” which as close as Kendrick Lamar has ever gotten to writing a crossover pop song, his third album mostly does away with anything that would resemble what a follow-up to a blockbuster hip hop album should sound like. Whereas good kid, m.A.A.d city called out to Lamar’s Compton roots musically and lyrically, with nuanced, minimalist productions backing Lamar’s emotionally charged retellings of growing up in the inner city, To Pimp a Butterfly musically has a lot more in common with concurrent releases like D’Angelo’s Black Messiah and Kamasi Washington’s The Epic, drawing on black music’s history in jazz and funk but with a futurist mentality that blends these sounds into densely orchestrated and wholly unpredictable concoctions. “I don’t see Compton, I see something much worse/The land of the landmines, the hell that’s on Earth” he says before the remarkable “The Blacker the Berry,” in which Lamar inhabits countless racial stereotypes as though to detonate them from within. Both musically and lyrically, nothing feels more vital right now than what Lamar has accomplished here.

 

3. Father John MistyI Love You, Honeybear

father john misty i love you honeybear lpThe former Fleet Foxes drummer has put out the most emotionally manipulative album of 2015, and that’s a good thing. Songs like “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” are all sweeping melodrama on the surface, horns and strings and Southwest jangle decorating Joshua Tillman’s sonorous voice, but his words destroy the superficial veneer the handsome troubadour puts out on first blush, sneaking snarky lines into a love song to his new wife (“I wanna take you in the kitchen/Lift up your wedding dress someone was probably murdered in”). Songs like “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt.” and “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow” dismiss young would-be groupies with borderline arrogance (the oft-quoted “She says, like literally, music is the air she breathes/And the malaprops make me want to fucking scream”), Tillman’s use of detail flip your impression of him from douche to annoyingly charming dude who’s just telling it like it is. And as the album progresses, Tillman’s observations turn more self-effacing, and his pathos makes for some brutally candid moments—“Bored in the U.S.A.’s” white people problems are played for literal laughs, and the self-loathing present beneath the beard transcends its trappings and becomes entirely relatable. It’s also a great love album because it’s romantic but doesn’t sugarcoat shit, starting semi-sarcastically using the pet name “honeybear” and later featuring the line “Maybe love is just an economy based on resource scarcity/What I fail to see is what that’s gotta do with you and me.” There have easily been more sentimental singer/songwriter releases in 2015, but Tillman’s cynicism feels like the most honest thing I’ve heard this year.

 

4. Grimes Art Angels

grimes art angels lpClare Boucher’s follow-up to her celebrated Visions is a brightly colored collection of artpop magical realism. The drumline beats and sunny guitars and melodies of “California” and the title track could almost pass for something on mainstream radio, if not for Boucher’s clarion voice cutting through. Similarly, the nimble “Flesh Without Blood” might not be the most original song Grimes has put to tape, but it’s the catchiest and is damn near irresistible. Yet in between those songs we get “Scream,” which has none of the safety of her more accessible tunes, between Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes’ twisting flow and Boucher’s curdled screech. The previously released “REALiTi” throws fans of her more straightforward electro-pop a bone, though it continues with the posi vibes and influences of K-pop and early ’90s house that flow through the rest of the album. Meanwhile, “Venus Fly,” her spacey hip hop duet with Janelle Monae, is a pure delight, coming off like a futuristic art-school spin on the Spice Girls, and “Kill vs. Maim” has the feel of the drama kids taking over a pep rally with Boucher’s yelp simultaneously spirited and demented. Boucher has no use for genre boundaries and is seemingly allergic to negativity, all of which gives Art Angels an unbeatable all-embracing energy. The biggest change from Visions is that Boucher’s personality is more front-and-center; whereas that album could be more cold and cerebral in its in-between tracks, Art Angels is entirely engaging, and even its most digitized moments are stained with blood. 

 

5. BjorkVulnicura

bjork vulnicura lpLike the similarly celebrated Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens, Vulnicura sees an artist known for her fantastical productions and lyrical whimsy completely change course. The most surprising thing you hear on Vulnicura is someone who’s often felt godlike to her most ardent fans descend to Earth and spill her broken heart onto the ground, allowing us to watch as she sifts through jagged emotions and cuts her fingers. It’s not an easy listen, yet her arrangements and productions (with help from Arca) remain dazzling and just out of reach, meaning Vulnicura would be a fascinating listen even devoid of its emotionally wrenching subject matter. (Listen to "Stonemilker" here.)

 

 

 

6. Dr. DreCompton

dr. dre compton lpWith the release of the biopic Straight Outta Compton about pioneering hip hop group N.W.A., Dr. Dre has found himself rejuvenated as an artist. The rapper and onetime N.W.A. member has long been largely behind the scenes as a producer and businessman, but there’s still been hope he’d release something of his own, with a long-promised Detox album now shelved. That’s for the better; with an artist of Dre’s caliber, we’d rather have something polished to compare with his first two solo albums, and Compton, a companion piece to the film, doesn’t disappoint. Among A-list guest spots (Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Eminem) and lush jazz-funk production by Dre and a score of others, the album finds Dre looking back at his legacy. “Goddammit, I'm too old, I forgot I got it all/But Andre young enough to still get involved” he says on “Talk About It,” embodying his younger self to hang with the next generation he’s helped mentor. Dre tells the story of Compton’s troubled history (along with fellow Compton native Lamar) on standout “Genocide,” with dizzying production by Dem Jointz and a sick hook by Marsha Ambrosius. It should go without saying that the rapping across Compton is jaw-droppingly great, not least of all by Dre himself, who raps circles around the young’uns on tracks like “It’s All On Me.” It’s too soon to call Compton a new hip hop classic, but with countless memorable moments across the album’s 16 tracks, it’s looking that way. Certainly it’s an appropriately great finale to Dr. Dre’s rap career, and along with Straight Outta Compton, nicely caps off an important part of hip hop history. (Listen to "All in a Day's Work" here.)

 

7. Jamie xxIn Colour

Ijamie xx in colour lp’ve heard this described as easy listening, which is a fair point—save for the jarring inclusion of hip hop collaboration “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” I don’t know that anything as purely enjoyable to listen to as In Colour has been released this year. Jamie xx’s cinematically building yet softly blurred soundscapes, full of judicious samples, quiet beats and brightly lit synth lines, seem to tug at some memory you can’t quite recall, but the emotional response is the same. In Colour seems to sit like a wallflower in the background, but you’ll never fail to notice it. (Listen to "Loud Places" here.)

 

 

 

 

8. Courtney BarnettSometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

courtney barnett sometimes i sit and think lpCourtney Barnett delivers some of the best anxiety-rumpled garage-rock screeds you’ve ever heard on songs like “Pedestrian at Best" and “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York),” but she can pull the rug out from under you as well on songs like the affecting slice-of-life narrative “Depreston.” Barnett’s combination of personality, tunefulness, bite and emotion haven’t been seen since Liz Phair’s early days.

 

 

 

 

 

9. Panda BearPanda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

panda bear meets the grim reaper lpAfter Panda Bear and Animal Collective’s past two somewhat lackluster releases, Grim Reaper is a return to form that sees Noah Lennox reinvigorated. Songs like “Mr Noah” and “Crosswords” represent some of the most concise distillations of Lennox’s unique combination of avant-garde noise experimentation and knack for singing hooky melodies in a preternaturally youthful voice. And on tunes like the mind-bending “Boys Latin” and lush “Tropic of Cancer,” he successfully ping pongs between both of those extremes while still sounding somewhat logical and always enjoyable. 

 

 

 

 

10. Tobias Jesso Jr.Goon

tobias jesso jr. goon lpWho writes these kind of odes to feeling sorry for yourself and crying in your car alone while singing along anymore? No one has successfully done this kind of thing in decades, bringing the emotionally rich but classically constructed pop songwriting of Elton John, Carole King and Randy Newmaninto the next millennium. (Listen to "How Could You Babe" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

11. Kamasi WashingtonThe Epic

kamasi washington the epic lpThis might be the first legitimate jazz album plenty of kids listen to, thanks to his work with Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar and others. For that alone, it deserves praise. But the highly ambitious three-disc set succeeds on its own merits as well, pulling together a gorgeously orchestrated run through expansive originals and a few choice covers that never settles for easy crossover, feeling unique, even mystical while honoring free jazz and avant-garde originators like Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. Even at its admittedly epic length, it’s never overwhelming; rather, it’s a pleasure to get lost in. (Listen to "Re Run Home" here.)

 

 

 

 

12. Vince StaplesSummertime ’06

vince staples summertime '06 lpOn his gutsy, double-disc debut studio album, Long Beach rapper Vince Staples introduces the world at large to a tough, world-weary persona who at only 22 has seemingly been through enough drama to fill a book. “My pain is never over, pills ‘n’ potions pick me up” he declares on the gnarled beats of “Pick Me Up.” Atonal sound wails in the background of “Norf Norf” as Staples offers slice-of-life tales of growing up in gritty North Long Beach (“I ain’t never run from nothin’ but the police,” he says tellingly). There’s a nihilistic slant to everything Staples puts to tape, which extends even to more decadent party jams like “Loca” and “Dopeman” and love songs like “Lemme Know,” pairing lyrics like “I’ll be fightin’ for you” with “I love to see you cry.” Everything in Summertime ’06 sounds strangely disembodied and cynical, yet it’s not lacking in energy, as with single “Senorita,” on which No I.D.’s creeping production offers the ideal space for Staples’ grim verses and Future’s motoring chorus before morphing into an ’80s horror film-style breakdown.

 

13. Neon Indian Vega Int’l Night School

neon indian vega int'l night school lpVega Intl. Night School manages to remind you of the bets bits of chillwave while successfully moving forward. “Annie” was the banger of the summer, flowing new agey flutes into a digi reggae bounce that sounds like a reconfigured synth-funk memory. The old school hip hop vibe of “Street Level” and synth R&B smear “Smut!” seem to drip acid, coming at you and receding simultaneously. “Slumlord” and “Techno Clique” really let Alan Palomo venture into his classic house fetish, naturally extending the sound he’s cultivated thus far into a rewarding new direction. By far his longest and most complete album, Vega ends on a few lightly tossed off tracks—“C’est La Vie” is an italo disco-inspired splatter of color, “61 Cygni Ave” sounds like two Men at Work and Cameo tapes were left in the sun and melted together, and “News From the Sun” ends things on a straight up Prince homage. Detractors might still find fuel since Palomo primarily mines well-worn ’80s pop influences. However, his ability to render those inspirations as alien forms makes him as relevant as ever, bleeding tracks into one another in a perfectly packaged, post-Internet free-for-all that sets your pleasure sensors on overdrive.  

 

14. Beach HouseDepression Cherry

beach house depression cherry lpDepression Cherry stripped back some of the pop shimmer of Teen Dream and Bloom while maintaining those albums’ more confident songcraft. By keeping the reins on their trajectory and integrity while furthering the quality of their songwriting, Beach House continued to be the most consistent band alive in 2015, not to mention with the most integrity of bands at their level. (Listen to "Sparks" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

15. Julia Holter Have You in My Wilderness

julia holter have you in my wilderness lpOn Have You in My Wilderness, songs like “Feel You” and “Sea Calls Me Home” display a newfound focus for Holter on breezy pop hooks. But the album is highly varied. “Silhouette” moves from deconstructed Kate Bush-style avant-pop into an elegant chorus. “How Long?” sees Holter playing the part of tragic jazz chanteuse. The musicalesque “Everytime Boots” calls to mind Loud City Song’s “Gigi”-inspired song cycle. And the sweeping orchestral majesty and floating layers of vocals of “Lucette Stranded on the Island” are nothing short of heavenly. Have You in My Wilderness may be Holter’s most accessible album, but it doesn’t pander, nor does it try to hide her bookish, sometimes esoteric leanings.

 

 

 

16. MiguelWildheart

miguel wildheart lpGauzy, future-leaning production, Miguel’s fluid voice and sexually explicit but not degrading lyrics made Wildheart the best R&B release of the year. (Watch the steamy video for "Coffee" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17. Deerhunter Fading Frontier

deerhunter fading frontier lpDeerhunter’s seventh album continues to refine the band’s once murky and psychedelic sound into taut guitar pop. There’s a warmth to the sound here that rounds out their more brittle tones and dark subject matter. On songs liket the jaunty opener “All the Same” or gently grooving “Breaker,” Deerhunter have never sounded this comfortable in their own skin, while Bradford Cox is more lyrically engaged than ever.

 

 

 

 

 

18. Unknown Mortal OrchestraMulti-Love

unknown mortal orchestra multi-love lpUnknown Mortal Orchestra continued their transition into the best funk band from another dimension with Multi-Love. The title track sounds like Stevie Wonder on a space-rock kick, as frontman Ruban Nielson raspily sings of polyamorous affairs over proggy movements and danceable beats. Their disintegrated R&B dazzles and melts in your ears. (Listen to "Can't Keep Checking My Phone" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

19. Jessica Pratt On Your Own Love Again

jessica pratt on your own love again lpJessica Pratt’s voice is something special, a breathy, elfin coo that calls to mind Marc Bolan’s spirited yelp as well as Vashti Bunyan’s inward-facing whispers, channeled through Pratt’s own wry, observational tone. Her guitar playing feels nimble yet immediate, while her songcraft feels impossibly intimate, like whispers from someone else’s dream. (Listen to "Back, Baby" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

20. Deafheaven New Bermuda

deafheaven new bermuda lpDeafheaven’s fusion of black metal, shoegaze and post-rock grew richer and bolder on their third album. It feels like one massive, evolving piece, making it easier to point to moments rather than entire songs that speak to you — the way “Luna” folds melodic chords into its double-bass barrage and ends up in a scenic place as lovely as anything on Souvlaki or Agaetis Byrjun. Deafheaven’s commitment to bringing metal into an indie-rock setting and vice versa has helped make them the best and most important metal crossover act since Metallica. (Listen to "Brought to the Water" here.)

 

 

 

 

21. Joanna Newsom - Divers

joanna newsom divers lpJoanna Newsom’s first album in five years finds the musician lending her ornate songcraft and magical imagery to an album that at its plainest, examines relationships and the effects of the passage of time. (Listen to "Sapokanikan" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22. Hiatus KaiyoteChoose Your Weapon

hiatus kaiyote choose your weapon lpThe Australian jazz/soul/indie hybrid band made an epic second album that sounds like nothing else out there, like Flying Lotus jamming with Lauryn Hill and Jonny Greenwood. The songs on Choose Your Weapon are dizzyingly complex, but they’re also soulful and engaging, thanks to magnetic vocalist Nai Palm. (Listen to "Breathing Underwater" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

23. FKA Twigs - M3LL155X

fka twigs m3ll1155x lpThe songs here rival those on LP1, as the queen of alternative soul grows more masterful and confident on slow-burning jams like “Glass & Patron.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24. Sleater-KinneyNo Cities to Love

sleater-kinney no cities to love lpIt’s tough to come back after a nearly decade-long hiatus, especially after your band’s best album (the combustible The Woods). When the trio fits together perfectly here, as on “Surface Envy,” it’s a marvel to behold, its acidic riffs swaying and bursting at the seams while Corin Tucker gives a rallying call.

 

 

 

 

 

 

25. Kelela Hallucinogen EP

kelela hallucinogen epKelela balances the icy electronics of her underground producers with warmth and smarts on her follow-up to CUT 4 ME, featuring jams like the UK garage-style “Rewind."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26. FutureDS2

future ds2 lpFuture’s variety of voices and cadences on a track like “Groupies,” over clattering production by Metro Boomin, Sonny Digital and Southside, proves he has enough ideas and personality to carry an album without extraneous guest spots. Lyrically, Future isn’t reinventing the wheel, rapping largely about women and purple drank, but it’s always been more about the way in which he says them, layering various processed vocal bursts on “Lil One” ‘till it’s an army of Future.

 

 

 

 

 

27. Holly HerndonPlatform

holly herndon platform lpOne of the few artists out there you can say is truly inventive, Holly Herndon uses her own custom digital instruments and vocal manipulations to craft wholly unique electronic compositions. On Platform, her academic-leaning pieces remain as intricate but are less challenging than engaging, filtering pop melodies through these elaborate constructions on tracks like “Chorus” and “Morning Sun.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

28. TamarynCranekiss

tamaryn cranekiss lpTamaryn’s addictive new album found the Bay Area shoegazer going new wave, but in her own insular way. The title track’s syncopated drum machine pulse and layers of floating vocals by frontwoman call to mind turn-of-the-’90s fantasy pop from the likes of Cocteau Twins, Shakespear’s Sister and Tori Amos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

29. Beach House Thank Your Lucky Stars

beach house thank your lucky stars lpBeach House's second album of 2015 was another gorgeous set of dreamscapes. More immediate than Depression Cherry, it relies on simple drum machine beats and loping, distorted guitar lines on tracks like the My Bloody Valentine-ish "One Thing" or Cure-inflected "All Your Yeahs," while making room for the atmospheric drama of "Elegy to the Void."

 

 

 

 

 

 

30. Lower Dens Escape From Evil

lower dens escape from evil lpShifting gears with deliberately retro synths and new-wave beats proves a winning gambit on Lower Dens’ third album. These songs are every bit as intricate and mysterious as those on their last album, the excellent Nootropics, but are more immediately grabbing, offering cinematic soundscapes for Jana Hunter’s elegant voice to wind in an out like a disintegrating reel. (Listen to "To Die in L.A." here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

31. Chvrches Every Open Eye

chvrches every open eye lpScottish trio Chvrches made electro-pop gems splattered with emotion on their beguiling debut. For album No. 2, they just got craftier, creating songs that sound like the soundtrack to your wildest dreams. (Listen to "Leave a Trace" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32. Earl Sweatshirt I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

earl sweatshirt i don't like shit lpEarl Sweatshirt’s claustrophobic second album finds Earl expressing his pain honestly while keeping his rhymes engaging. The stunning “Grief” offers imagery of Earl facing panic attacks, grabbing for the Xanax bottle and reminiscing about drugs and girls on tour over a murky beat but ultimately coming out of the haze. The album further establishes Earl as a compelling character—the tortured wayward son, reveling in and revolted by his own hedonism.

 

 

 

 

 

33. Car Seat HeadrestTeens of Style

car seat headrest teens of style lpTeens of Style picks some of the best of Will Toledo’s many releases thus far and refashions it for a compilation of sorts. Thankfully, in doing so, Toledo doesn’t completely scrub the lo-fi aesthetic that helped win him a legion of fans on the Internet. Instead, Teens of Style plays like a rock debut that’s wiser than its years, calling to mind Guided By Voices’ immediacy, The Strokes’ interlocking propulsion and Bright Eyes’ brain-spilling lyricism. (Listen to "Something Soon" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

34. Death GripsThe Powers That B

death grips the powers that b lpThe Powers That B might be the last album by experimental noise-rap group Death Grips, since the band announced it was disbanding last year. Accordingly, the trio plays through the double-disc set as if their lives depend on it—or, perhaps more appropriately, like they’re on a suicide mission. (Listen to "On GP" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

35. Chelsea Wolfe Abyss

chelsea wolfe abyss lpOn Abyss, Chelsea Wolfe embraces the industrial music and doom metal that have always lurked as influences and adds them as blackened flourishes to her gothy, experimental electro-folk. (Listen to "Carrion Flowers" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

36. Mac DeMarco Another One

mac demarco another one lpMac DeMarco’s warbling guitar licks, laid-back vocals and goofy/sweet sensibilities returned for a wonderful set of surprisingly classy tunes. His latest is a charmingly low-key release that demands little of its listeners and rewards them with instantly hummable little ditties that show DeMarco’s continued growth into a mature singer/songwriter (however immature his delightful persona continues to be). (Listen to "No Other Heart" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

37. U.S. Girls Half Free

u.s. girls half free lpMeg Remy sings with a Siouxsie sneer over Middle Eastern and disco-flavored beats on her latest release, embodying various female perspectives in often bleak circumstances. (Listen to "Window Shades" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

38. Ezra Furman Perpetual Motion People

ezra furman perpetual motion people lpEzra Furman’s quirky power-pop tunes and wildly flailing voice leaves us smiling. The Oakland-based artist captures the feeling of a San Francisco that seems to be quickly fading with his freewheeling, sometimes carnivalesque tunes, full of saxophones and saloon pianos, and lyrics about walking around the city with a bus pass and a $5 dress on in songs like “Restless Year.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

39. Ryan Adams 1989

ryan adams 1989 lpRyan Adams’ full-album cover of Taylor Swift’s blockbuster album 1989 found Adams sounding more focused than he has in ages. Musically, 1989 is gorgeous; the reverb-rock take on “Style,” mandolins as strings in “Out of the Woods,” chiming Smiths guitars in “Wildest Dreams” and ’80s rock pulse of “All You Had to Do Was Stay” give 1989 an immaculate sheen worthy of its pop predecessor, while Adams has a way of revealing not the darkness beneath the \ lyrics (“you look like my next mistake” sound sad rather than impulsive in “Blank Space”).

 

 

 

 

40. Kurt Vile b’lieve i’m goin down

kurt vil b'lieve i'm goin down lpBigger production helps give Vile’s cerebral, spacey folk songs and Western-tinged rockers their due. (Listen to "Pretty Pimpin'" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

41. Adele 25

adele 25 lpI’d be lying if I said I didn’t love five or six songs on this album a lot. “All I Ask” is a time-capsule-worthy tear jerker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

42. Shamir Ratchet

shamir ratchet lpThe electronic/house artist channels a young Sylvester or Grace Jones with his androgynous vocals on spacious nu-disco tracks like “Vegas.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

43. LizzoBig Grrrl Small World

lizzo big grrrl small world lpWarped alt hip hop tracks grounded by Lizzo’s filter-free flow and soulful vocals. Like an underground Lil Kim or Nicki Minaj, but way more badass. (Listen to "Ain't I" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

44. Arca Mutant

arca mutant lp

Arca’s still coming into his own as a solo artist, but there’s no denying his production genius, which comes through in fits and spurts on his latest release. (Listen to "Vanity" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

45. Youth Lagoon Savage Hills Ballroom

youth lagoon savage hills ballroom lpTrevor Powers’ latest release as Youth Lagoon found the shy-seeming psych-pop wunderkind stepping out of his shell. On songs like “The Knower,” the electronics sound like ’80s toys on the fritz, while Powers’ high, ethereal voice paints him as the male heir to Kate Bush’s odd empire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

46. Drake If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late

drake if you're reading this cdHaters will hate, but Drake’s latest no-frills release is a perfect example of how his unique cadences and lyrical candidness more than make for any perceived weaknesses as a rapper. The production is stellar across the board, and without the weight of big singles, Drake and his collaborators are free to focus in on what makes him sound great rather than individual tracks. (Listen to "Energy" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

47. Waxahatchee Ivy Tripp

waxahatchee ivy tripp lpKatie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee project has grown from the home recordings of a promising young singer/songwriter to the full-bodied sound we hear on Ivy Tripp. Crutchfield sings more warmly and confidently than ever on opener “Breathless.” While lyrically she can be oblique (“Your birthday party tongue dripping/You'll summarize/Travel the world ivy tripping”), the scenes she paints are evocative nonetheless. (Listen to "La Loose" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

48. METZ II

metz ii lpCanadian trio Metz dole out mangled post-hardcore riffs like candy on their second album. It’s really no less of a full-on assault than their first album, but everything sticks a little more this time around. In Utero-style ugly/beautiful noise for a new generation. (Listen to "The Swimmer" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

49. Wand 1000 Days

wand 1000 days lpL.A. psych-rockers released their third album in 13 months with 1000 Days, but every album has been great and subsequently better than the last. This one is perhaps their most pop-oriented, with paisley tunes buried under thick slabs of muffed-out proto-metal guitars on songs like “Grave Robber.” (Listen to "Stolen Footsteps" here.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

50. Jaakko Eino KaleviJaakko Eino Kalevi

jaako eino kalevi lpLike a distant Finish cousin to Ariel Pink, Kalevi folds lite jazz, space disco and new age into a sumptuous whole. His dreamy tunes pulse with gently syncopated grooves, otherworldly synth bursts and a deeply intoning voice that gives his self-titled album a tinge of 4AD-style goth. (Listen to "Deeper Shadows" here.)

 

Relevant Tags

Best Of 2015 (14), Best Albums (2), Tame Impala (19), Kendrick Lamar (49), Father John Misty (17), Grimes (29), Bjork (24), Dr. Dre (11), Jamie Xx (8), Courtney Barnett (8), Panda Bear (11), Tobias Jesso Jr. (6)