By Quincy Tejani
DAMN. 2015 sure has been a monumental year for album releases. Following last year’s drought, the crop offered this year has been bountiful and delicious. Although some of the most highly anticipated electronic albums fell flat, ie. Major Lazer’s Peace is the Mission, overall there was a wide array of albums across many genres that satisfied listeners. There have been so many fantastic albums released this year that narrowing it down to just 10 should be considered a fool’s errand. That being said, we did our best to represent a multitude of different kinds of albums on our list. And without further adieu, we present our Top Albums of 2015 list.
10. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett has made a name for herself with her playful rock singles. Pedestrian at Best relates to anyone who has felt insecure about rising to expectations. Barnett shows that a song can be personal and also catchy as hell. However, it is with her slower, lyrically diverse tracks that Barnett takes this album above and beyond what audiences expected. Kim’s Caravan for example explores Barnett’s struggle with sitting idly as the environment continues to be polluted and “raped beyond belief”.
9. Jessica Pratt: On Your Own Love Again
Pratt’s newest album feels almost like it was transported from some obscure vinyl shop from the early 1970’s. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to find albums like Vashti Bunyan’s Just Another Diamond Day strewn about Pratt’s living room. You can almost feel the nostalgia drip off track like Back, Baby as Pratt’s twangy voice sings quietly over lovely guitar arrangements. Atmosphere is clearly integral to this album and that makes this nine song album come together even better.
8. Julia Holter: Have You in my Wilderness
Holter expands upon the avant-garde soundscape adventure that she led us on on her critically acclaimed 2013 release Loud City Song. One of the most respected songwriters of the last half decade, it seems strange to refer to this album as Holter’s commercial breakthrough album. Although Wilderness is slightly more accessible for the general public, songs like Sea Calls Me Home shows that Holter’s genius continues to draw from beautiful avant-garde songwriting techniques.
7. Vince Staples: Summertime ’06
Vince Staples is a 22 year old rapper who has a lot to say and knows how to say it. His new album Summertime ’06 is an ode to his home town Long Beach, California. Throughout this hour long, double record Staples discusses things such as hustling, women problems and the joys/setbacks of living in Long Beach. He hollers lyrics like “Hit the corner, make a dollar flip/And split the dollars wit’ my mama children/Folks need Porsches, hoes need abortions/ I just need y’all out of my business” over searing beats produced by No I.D and Clams Casino. One thing that this debut album shows the music world is how much potential this kid really has.
6. Father John Misty: I Love You Honeybear
When Josh Tillman, formerly of Fleet Foxes announced his departure from the band, many people were shocked. And when his first solo album Fear Fun dropped in 2012 many reviewers felt that it had underwhelmed. Tillman’s latest release I Love You Honeybear reminded people how good Tillman could be and was the kick in the ass that his career needed. On this album, Tillman struggles with the ideas that come with marriage and love as well as his own irrelevance. He reveals his doubts when he sarcastically asks “Wouldn’t I make the ideal husband?” on the albums 8th track. Although Tillman’s lyrics sometime come across as arrogant, his intelligence cannot be denied. More than anything, it is Tillman’s honesty and sincerity that makes this album so difficult to deny.
5. Beach House: Depression Cherry
I wonder how many people were nervous about this album after seeing that it would be called Depression Cherry? I’ve often heard people describe Beach House’s music as “pleasant” or “good background music”, but many cannot fully understand the critical acclaim and success that comes with Beach House. This album is the first since their breakthrough album Teen Dream to fully capture a specific emotion and it does so by venturing into a slightly different type of music then fans are used to. Sparks for example almost comes across as space rock rather than the dream pop sound of their previous albums. What makes this album so successful is Beach House’s ability to express a certain feeling with each track. The band reminds us that sometimes, familiarity with a twist is enough for success.
4. Jamie xx: In Colour
Fans of Jamie xx’s main band The xx had come accustomed to waiting for Jamie’s debut solo album. Ever since he released his collaboration project in 2011, We’re New Here the wait for this album had begun. No longer were people as excited for The xx‘s next release after the lack luster sophomore release Coexist. This album is full of hard hitting musical moments such as the guitar solo on Stranger in a Room and the final drop on Girl. Sonically, it has been a long time since a more satisfying album was released. Some albums are seen as masterful for their lyrics or concepts, but it is not every day that an album be so highly regarded simply for the music.
3. Tame Impala: Currents
Kevin Parker, leader and sole songwriter of Australian psych outfit Tame Impala has always worn his influences on his sleeve. On Impala’s first two albums Innerspeaker and Lonerism, Parker’s vocals were said to have a John Lennon-like sound and some went as far as to say that Tame Impala were simply a Beatles rip-off band. With the release of Currents, it is becoming obvious that Parker is anything but a one trick pony. Switching to a more synth driven sound on singles like Eventually and ‘Cause I’m a Man Parker successfully pulls off what some famous artists have failed to do; make a dramatic switch in sound work and work well. What Parker is able to do on this album which he somewhat failed to do in his previous releases is express his emotions and project these emotions onto his listeners. On Eventually Parker says, “It feels like murder to put your heart through this / I know I always said that I could never hurt you / Well this is the very, very last time I’m ever going to.” By the end of the song, you better believe that there is a lump in every listeners throat. Now that’s good songwriting.
2. Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell
This album was very nearly number one on this list. Try listening to it by yourself in the dark and you’ll know why. This album forces us to face realities that we’d rather not think about. Mainly, Sufjan makes us accept our own mortalities and contemplate losing the one’s whom we love. Since the beginning of the millenium, Stevens has created works of art which change so much from piece to piece that one never has any idea what they will hear when they pick up his new album. On his previous albums, Stevens has distracted us from the lyrical content of his music by adding layers of harmonies and instruments. On Carrie & Lowell, gone are these layered elements. Instead, Stevens leaves us with nothing but his lyrics, delicate atmosphere and our own dark thoughts to contemplate.
1. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly
Let me guess, you knew that this would be number one. After reading through the rest of the list and not seeing Kendrick you knew it would be number one because no top ten albums of 2015 list is complete without TPAB. This album is a sprawling epic which contains ideas about social equality/inequality, inner struggle and about being a black-American in America. Although Alright became one of the year’s major anthems, the album comes to a pinnacle in The Blacker the Berry. In this song he calls himself “The biggest hypocrite of 2015” and goes on to explain this with his lyrics, “So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?/When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me?/
Hypocrite!” TPAB is more than just a fantastic album. It has the ability to make all other albums released in 2015 seem nearly inconsequential.
Also, Obama’s favourite song of the year is How Much a Dollar Cost. I mean, come on.