End of Year 2015 – Best Albums of 2015

Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I claim to be, an expert in the field of music of any kind.  I listen to a great deal of it, and read about it occasionally, but nowhere near the amount that I watch or read about films and film criticism.  I can’t tell you what it is that makes music great or artful in the way that I can tell you about films, and for that I apologize.  I’ll probably anger passionate music fans with my lack of knowledge and terminology, but hey – I’m going to give it my best here.  It’s important to know before reading that my musical preferences include hip-hop, independent folk, and bands led by female vocalists, which is very much reflected by my list.  If I’ve managed to miss anything you think I should check out, by all means shoot me a recommendation or two!  For those wondering, my 2014 albums of the year were Run the Jewels’ Run the Jewels 2, and Taylor Swift’s 1989, and in 2013 Kanye West’s Yeezus and Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City.  Without further ado, my top ten albums of 2015


SremmLife_cover10. Rae Sremmurd – SremmLife

Chain swings like nunchucks
She gon’ chew you up, yeah
Twerk like she from Russia
Don’t get me wile’d up (up)
Soldiers at a 10 hut
Look what you’ve don’ done (up)
Now you’ve done fucked up, up
– Up Like Trump, Rae Sremmurd

Easily the most energetic album I had the pleasure of hearing all year, SremmLife was released early on in the year and still managed to resonate nearly a year later.  After the release of their hit No Flex Zone, Rae Sremmurd quickly became a huge mainstream success.  The two brothers, Khalif (Swae Lee) age 19, and Aaquil (Slim Jimmy) age 20, have incredible careers ahead of them, and if they can keep a consistent quality in future releases look to only get bigger and bigger in the eyes of the public.  They’re young, clever, cool as hell, and most importantly know exactly the kind of sound that their audience wants to hear.  Most tracks on the album were produced by the terrific Mike WiLL Made-It, who clearly sees potential in these young men.  Using repetition in songs like Unlock the Swag and No Flex Zone, nearly every song on SremmLife is an earworm, and will undoubtedly get stuck in your head for days on end.  Whether you enjoy the trap music club sound or not, this album deserves your attention.  If you’re looking for an album full of nothing but bangers, look no further.

Standout Tracks: No Flex Zone, Come Get Her, Throw Sum Mo (feat. Nicki Minaj), YNO (feat. Big Sean)


9. The Staves – If I Was
91SZT9tUzhL._SL1500_
How can I want you a little bit more than I did before?
I don’t need you,
But I want you back just a little bit more than I knew
Now I can’t go back to life before
Before I knew
That you didn’t love me no more
You didn’t need me no more
You didn’t love me no more
You didn’t want me at all.
– No Me, No You, No More – The Staves

The Staves are a folk trio out of England composed of three sisters, Emily, Jessica, and Camilla.  If I Was is the band’s second full-length release, and boy is it a real treat for fans of the three young ladies.  Their latest release has been entirely produced by the acclaimed Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, and you can really hear it deep in the music.  The entirety of If I Was feels like perfect winter music for some reason, and I’m not sure why that is.  It may be attributed to the loneliness felt in the album’s cover art, or the natural winter-y sound of Bon Iver’s music, but whatever it is makes it a perfect album to curl up with, drink some hot coffee, and try not to cry as these women create a heartbreakingly beautiful album that rings so true.  It’s clear that at least one of these sisters has been through a great deal of trauma in her life, whether it be romantic or otherwise.  Featuring a bold sound that never distracts from the lyrics at play, The Staves’ If I Was may be a slow and clearly folk-influenced album, but not once has it been a chore for me to listen to it all the way through.  Their voices are beautiful, Vernon’s production is inspired, and the lyrics in songs like No Me, No You, No More make it hard not to immediately fall in love with this album.

Standout Tracks: No Me, No You, No More, Let Me Down, Damn It All, Horizon


Mac_Miller_GOOD_AM8. Mac Miller – GO:OD AM

I’m a deranged motherfucker, took too many uppers
Now it’s rush hour, Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker
I stuck around for the past six summers
Karma is a bitch and that bitch don’t love ya
We was in the attic you could smell the weed
Bitches getting naked, we was selling E
Bitches kissing bitches just like Ellen D
In the kitchen whipping biscuits, giving generously
– Rush Hour, Mac Miller

Having never delved into the work of young Mac Miller before his latest release, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  When the album opens you’re treated to a dream-like introduction that doesn’t do well to reflect the incredible Mac Miller sound you’re about to hear.  Packed with lyrics that detail the unthinkably difficult life Mac has had, his ambitions, and his regrets, GO:OD AM is a more personal and autobiographical album I ever thought possible for a 23-year old to release.  Miller is still so young, and yet he’s lived a life of hardship the likes of which we couldn’t even imagine sitting behind our computer screens or smartphones.  GO:OD AM focuses on Miller getting clean and sober, and trying his damndest to rid himself of the depression that he’s been trying to contend with for some time.  Triumphant songs like 100 Grandkids make the album a constant blast to listen to, but it’s in the searing, personal lyrics of songs like Perfect Circle/God Speed that the album truly shines.  It’s clear that Miller knows he’s not completely out of the dark yet, and I can only hope that he stays safe and sober so he can continue to grow as an artist and blow away all of his critics.  GO:OD AM is a revelation, somehow being one of the standouts in a year littered with incredible hip-hop albums.

Standout Tracks: Rush Hour, 100 Grandkids, Clubhouse, Break the Law, Perfect Circle/God Speed, The Festival (feat. Little Dragon)


7. Young Thug – Barter 6
Young-Thug-Barter-62

But really what is it to do
When the whole world constantly hatin’ on you?
Pussy niggas hold their nuts, masturbatin’ on you
Meanwhile the fuckin’ federal baitin’ on you
Nigga tell me what you do
Would you stand up or would you turn to a pussy nigga?
I got a hundred things to do
And I can stop rappin’ but I can’t stop stackin’ fuckin’ figures
 – Constantly Hating, Young Thug (feat. Birdman)

It took me more than a week to get through the entirety of Young Thug’s full-length debut album Barter 6, but not because of the quality, but because I just couldn’t make it past the first track “Constantly Hating”, which I adored.  I listened to it on repeat, and legitimately forgot that there was more to the album than that one song.  When I finally managed to make it past the opening track, I was absolutely floored.  Every song that followed was even catchier and more fun than the one that preceded it, and Barter 6 instantly became one of my most-listened to albums of the summer.  Young Thug’s slow is incredible, never going for obvious or awkward rhymes, and his selection of incredible and energetic beats is incredible.  The pure energy that one feels from listening to Young Thug’s album is incomparable to any hip-hop album I listened to all year, which I feel is impossible to ignore.  What Barter 6 gives you is a mainstream sounding album full of catchy hooks, incredible beats, and lyrics that paint Young Thug as both a frustrated and endlessly joyful artist who never fails to infect you with his unique energy.  The album is made even better with terrific features from established rappers like Birdman, Duke, and T.I.  If you enjoy rappers like Lil Wayne or Birdman, then Young Thug might be right up your alley.  I can’t recommend it enough.


Cournetbarnett6. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

I love you, I hate you, I’m on the fence, it all depends
Whether I’m up or down, I’m on the mend, transcending all reality
I like you, despise you, admire you
What are we gonna do when everything all falls through?
I must confess, I’ve made a mess of what should be a small success
But I digress, at least I’ve tried my very best, I guess
This, that, the other, why even bother
– Pedestrian at Best, Courtney Barnett

Speaking of infectious energy, the debut album by Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett does exactly what Young Thug’s album did for me, but for a completely different genre.  Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit has received a great deal of critical acclaim from critics, and even managed to pick up a Grammy nomination for Barnett.  Simply put, the album absolutely rocks in every sense of the word.  It’s at times loud, as times contemplative, but always manages to sound fresh, personal, and very invigorating.  Barnett’s album sounds less like a debut album and more like that of an established rock star with years in the music scene.  Songs like “Pedestrian at Best” have a mainstream sound that could get Barnett on any Top 100 list in the world, while “Depreston” is a look at the truly mundane and depressing.  Sometimes I Sit and Think is an intensely personal album, but unlike other debuts manages to be funny, insightful, catchy, and down-to-earth.  It sounds like a perfect summer rock album, and it has me incredibly excited for the future of this young and unique artist.

Standout Tracks: Pedestrian at Best, An Illusion of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York), Depreston, Aqua Profunda!, Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party


5. Vince Staples – Summertime ‘06Summertime-06

I feel like “Fuck Versace”, they rapin’ nigga’s pockets
And we don’t get acknowledged, just thank me for the profit
A prophet just like Moses, if Moses look like Shaka
Zulu, my .44 loaded, I’m aimin’ at Nirvana
My bitch look like Madonna, they starin’ at katana
Waiter still ain’t brought the chopsticks, should have brought the chopper
Uber driver in the cockpit look like Jeffrey Dahmer
But he lookin’ at me crazy when we pull up to the projects
– Lift Me Up, Vince Staples

Making what was easily my favourite hip-hop album of 2015, Vince Staples is an artist I hadn’t actually heard of until June when the hype around Summertime ‘06 started to build to epic proportions.  The 22-year old rapper made one of the most impressive, ambitious, and personal debut hip-hop albums in recent memory.  Summertime ‘06 is a double album featuring 20 tracks in total, and a runtime of nearly an hour, showing off Staples’ incredibly varied and versatile style.  As soon as I heard “Lift Me Up”, the second track on the double album, I knew I was going to be in for a treat.  Staples wastes no time in painting a unique and provocative portrait of who he is as both a person and an artist, and instantly hooks the listener into caring about him and the stories he has to tell.  The album serves as a kind of coming-of-age tale that would play almost as well on the big screen.  Staples has an ear for both intensely personal songs, as well as mainstream bangers that even the most jaded music fans can appreciate.  Songs like “Norf Norf”, “Birds & Bees”, “Lemme Know”, and “Jump Off the Roof” all sound like they could be club hits, but also manage to be profound and infinitely listenable.  And that’s just the songs on the first disc.  The highlight of the album comes at the end of side one, with Vince Staples’ beautiful song “Summertime”, which instantly became one of my all-time favourite songs.  The song is sung in a somewhat monotone, quiet way, and is full of incredibly vivid lyricism the likes of which I legitimately hadn’t heard in hip-hop before this point.  It’s slow, it’s serious, and it’s incredibly beautiful.  Vince Staples’ Summertime ‘06 is an epic-length hip-hop album that features the work of a young man who has all the potential in the world to become the next big thing.  I can’t recommend it enough.

Standout Tracks: Lift Me Up, Norf Norf, Birds & Bees (feat. Daley), Summertime, Surf (feat. Kilo Kish)


Miguel_-_WILDHEART4. Miguel – Wildheart

I wanna fuck like we’re filming in the valley
I wanna push and shove and paint your hills and valley
I got a rad idea to expedite the ride
Bend it over, pull em to the side
– The Valley, Miguel

I can’t believe just how long it took me to finally get to this album just because of the supposed genre it fit.  The moment the album got to its halfway point, I knew I was listening to one of the most unique and incredible albums of the year, and that the genre doesn’t matter as long as the quality is there.  I’ve described Miguel’s Wildheart as “baby making music” to everybody I’ve told about it, and I’d say that’s not such a stretch.  Full of sexy lyrics and beats, Miguel will make even the most seasoned hip-hop or R&B fans blush.  This is music for adults and only adults, and that seems to be increasingly rare in today’s scene with artists trying to reach the broadest audiences possible.  The songs on Wildheart vary more than I thought possible on a single R&B album, with rap inspired N.W.A. to the sexy hit single Coffee, and over to the lewd and impossibly catchy The Valley, preceded with the screeching guitars of Deal.  All these varying songs make for a diverse album that keeps me guessing even all these listens later.  If you’re not sure how you feel about R&B, give some of his more accessible songs like Coffee or The Valley a listen and see where you stand.  I promise you that this is an album that won’t disappoint, and it’s easily the sleeper hit of the year for me.  If you’re looking for something to play in the car during a road trip with some friends, maybe pick something that’s a little less likely to make you all embarrassed to look one another in the eye.

Standout Tracks: The Valley, Coffee, NWA (feat. Kurupt), What’s Normal Anyway, …goingtohell


3. Hop Along – Painted Shuthomepage_large.96f9778e

Realized I knew you from
His photo when you walked
Into the restaurant
And my heart just sunk
Your friend looked over from the bar
She must’ve known, who I was
The worst possible version of what I’d done
As, seating couples
I tried to listen
– Waitress, Hop Along

The third full-length album by indie rock band Hop Along has finally earned them the praise and critical attention they so obviously deserve.  Painted Shut is an album that seemingly came out of nowhere and absolutely blew me away with how much I truly enjoyed it.  Hop Along’s sound isn’t quite rock, and it isn’t quite punk, but whatever it’s technically classified as is a genre I want to hear much more of, especially if it’s full of as many revelations as I found in Painted Shut.  The beautiful voice of Frances Quinlan might not be to everybody’s liking, but it’s exactly what got me hooked on Hop Along’s album.  Painted Shut’s incredible personal nature hit me on levels I was never expecting, managing to make captivating stories out of very mundane and regular situations.  The highlight of the album is “Waitress”, one of my absolute favorite songs of the year.  The song captures the awkwardness and anxiety filled in being in a situation where you have to confront the new lover of your ex.  Quinlan’s voice conveys embarrassment and guilt like nobody I’ve ever heard, creating something truly unique.  Hop Along’s Painted Shut is an underrated album that I’d love to see get a lot more love from mainstream music fans.

Standout Tracks: The Knock, Waitress, Happy to See Me, Powerful Man, Well Dressed


1035x1035-MI00038079872. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

Oh, I just love the kind of woman who can walk over a man
I mean like a god damn marching band
She says, like literally, music is the air she breathes
And the malaprops make me want to fucking scream
I wonder if she even knows what that word means
Well, it’s literally not that
– The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt., Father John Misty

Painful, romantic, awkward, alienating, cheesy, intensely personal.  These are all words I’ve used to describe Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear to the people around me, and yet they don’t even cover a fraction of the emotions and feelings that the album gets across.  Josh Tillman, former drummer for Fleet Foxes, managed to create one of the most unique folk/rock albums I’ve ever heard.  Every song on the album feels different than the one preceding it, from the dark romanticism of “Chateau Lobby #4”, to the synth-pop sounds of “True Affection”, to the disturbingly funny “Bored in the USA”.  With every song bringing its own sound and feel to I Love You, Honeybear, it’s incredibly hard to pick a standout.  It’s just all so damn good.  The song that had me hooked on the album was the fourth track, “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment”, a sarcastic, spiteful song about a brief romantic fling Tillman might’ve had.  The album is full of dark and romantic personal anecdotes, sarcasm, satire, and insight.  It’s sickly sweet at times, and incredibly depressing at others.  I Love You, Honeybear may not always a fun listen, but it’s surely the most interesting and ambitious project I heard in 2015.  I highlight recommend it, though it may take a listen or two before the genius of the album truly sinks in.

Standout Tracks: Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins), True Affection, The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt., The Ideal Husband, Bored in the USA, I Went to the Store One Day


  1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & LowellSufjan_Stevens_-_Carrie_&_Lowell

Don’t back down, concentrate on seeing
The breakers in the bar, the neighbor’s greeting
My brother had a daughter
The beauty that she brings, illumination
Don’t back down, there is nothing left
The breakers in the bar, no reason to live
I’m a fool in the fetter
Rose of Aaron’s beard, where you can reach me
Don’t back down, nothing can be changed
Cantilever bridge, the drunken sailor
My brother had a daughter
The beauty that she brings, illumination
– Should Have Known Better, Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell is only on my list so I can keep my indie cred with the music blogging scene.  Only kidding, the album is legitimately one of the most special and highly emotional things I’ve ever heard, and I instantly fell in love with it after its release early on in the year.  Carrie & Lowell is the most mature album to date from the prolific and multi-talented indie folk artist Sufjan Stevens, and you can feel it in every line of every song.  The album chronicles the lives of his mentally ill mother (Carrie) and her relationship with Sufjan’s stepfather and producer (Lowell).  It deals with serious themes like death, depression, aging, suicide, mental illness, and addictions.  Stevens’ album is incredibly intimate, emotionally and thematically deep, and every single song packs a punch – while still managing to be catchy, memorable, and enjoyable.  Carrie & Lowell is perfect for a rainy day, curled up under your favourite blanket with a cup of hot coffee by your side.  There’s literally not a single dull or bad moment in the entire album, as every single song manages to set itself apart from the last, while still maintaining the serious and emotional nature of the project.  I can’t recommend enough, especially if you’ve ever dealt with the loss of a loved one, or struggled with mental illness yourself.  It’s one of the most beautiful projects I’ve ever heard, and one I can legitimately say I’ve listened to fifty or so times already.  Do yourselves a favour and listen to it at least once.

Standout Tracks: The entire album, duh.


Honorable mentions:

  • Adele – 25
  • A$AP Rocky – At. Long. Last. A$AP
  • Beach House – Depression Cherry
  • Chvrches – Every Open Eye
  • Drake – If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late
  • Drake & Future – What a Time to Be Alive
  • Future – Dirty Sprite 2
  • Future – 56 Nights
  • The Game – The Documentary 2
  • JME – Integrity
  • Joanna Newsom – Divers
  • Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
  • Laura Marling – Short Movie
  • Laura Stevenson – Cocksure
  • Meek Mill – Dreams Worth More Than Money
  • Travi$ Scott – Rodeo
  • Wale – The Album About Nothing
  • Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp
Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under End of Year, Lists, Music, Other

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s