Top 25 Albums of 2015

25: Coming Home– Leon Bridges

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Leon Bridges is definitely one of the most unique acts to come out in 2015. He does not just create an album inspired by 1960s R&B, but one that feels like it could be from that time period. Even when listening to it on my phone, with my headphones in, it still felt like it was being played on an old record player. While you can argue Bridges’ style as more of a shtick, it still feels very authentic, even if it does not try anything too new.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Coming Home
  2. Smooth Sailin’
  3. River
  4. Shine
  5. Twinstin’ & Groovin’

24: Star Wars– Wilco

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I, like many, were quick to get the free download of Wilco’s latest album when it dropped without notice this summer. It seemed weird that Wilco would release an album in such a casual way until I listened through it. What I got was a very relaxed, but still experimental album for the band. It felt like an album that knew what it wanted to be and definitely did not disappoint. I am just happy that after 11 albums, Wilco is still putting out quality content.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Random Name Generator
  2. Where Do I Begin
  3. Cold Slope
  4. Magnetized
  5. You Satellite

23: Pageant Material– Kacey Musgraves

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After 2013’s Same Trailer, Different Park, there were many people expecting great things from Musgraves follow-up. While some might have been disappointed, I still think this is a solid release from one of country’s most entertaining current acts. While lyrically this album is not very complex (you can get the gist of songs like “Family is Family” and “Good Ol’ Boys Club” by just looking at the title), we are still treated to a collection of consistently good songs with a few that are absolutely wonderful.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Late To the Party
  2. Pageant Material
  3. Are You Sure (feat. Willie Nelson)
  4. Biscuits
  5. Fine

22: Wildheart­– Miguel

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This summer I was waiting for Frank Ocean’s new album, which sadly never came. While I was waiting, Miguel released Wildheart which I saw as a good way to wet my appetite for Ocean’s album. It did much more than wet my appetite, as I thoroughly enjoyed this release from Miguel. Not every track works, but songs like “Coffee” and “NWA” make up for it, being some of the best in his career. The Lenny Kravitz feature was also great and fitting for what Miguel was going for.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Coffee
  2. NWA (ft. Kurupt)
  3. Face the sun (ft. Lenny Kravitz)
  4. Hollywood Dreams
  5. DEAL

21: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit– Courtney Barnett

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On her debut album, Courtney Barnett proved that she is one of the most interesting songwriters making music right now. Tackling topics like the environment and meeting a cute girl at the pool in very fun ways. Considering how praised this album is, some might be disappointed in it’s seemingly simple and mundane messages. It is definitely something you should try to ignore the hype for. As Barnett says on “Pedestrian at Best,” Put me on a pedestral and I’ll only disappoint you.”

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Pedestrian At Best
  2. Kim’s Caravan
  3. Elevator Operator
  4. Dead Fox
  5. An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)

20: Chaos and the Calm– James Bay

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James Bay is an artist I expected to explode this year. With the surprise success of artists like Hozier and George Ezra, James Bay seemed to the next person for the U.S. to really get into. While that did not happen, I am still content enjoying his debut album by myself. With several catchy and emotionally satisfying songs, it is hard for me not to give this album credit. “Hold Back the River” is easily one of my favorite songs from this year and tracks like “Let It Go” keep creeping into the more emotional parts of my mind.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Hold Back the River
  2. Craving
  3. Get Out While You Can
  4. Collide
  5. Let It Go

19: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful– Florence + The Machine

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After a few years of silence, Florence + The Machine came back full force this year. Lead singer Florence Welch does not shy away from the pain that she has endured while battling her personal demons on this album. Welch has created another honest and beautiful album that has me hoping that I do not have to wait as long for her next album. She is 3 for 3 in my eyes and I cannot wait to see what she does next.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Ship to Wreck
  2. Mother
  3. Queen of Peace
  4. What Kind of Man
  5. Delilah

18: If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late– Drake

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I honestly have not been a fan of Drake since middle school. He just stopped being enjoyable to me. There were just more interesting rappers to pay attention. 2015 was definitely the year where Drake made a comeback for me personally. And that comeback started with the surprise release of this album/mixtape earlier this year. It seemed like Drake was not trying to make commercial hits, which is ironic considering how big this album has been, but instead making more of a personal collection of tracks that give us insight into Drake’s views on the rap industry, his fellow rappers, and his hometown which everyone now knows as “The 6” thanks to this album.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. You & The 6
  2. Know Yourself
  3. Energy
  4. 6PM in New York
  5. 10 Bands

17: Hand. Cannot. Erase.– Steven Wilson

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Steven Wilson has been one of those artists I always thought I would like more. I am a fan of progressive rock but his solo work had not impressed me all that much. That was until I listened to Hand. Cannot. Erase. earlier this year. This is definitely one of the best concept albums of 2015 and one any progressive rock fan should dive into. Wilson’s style is much more accessible, especially on the title track which is truly spectacular. While the story of the album is heartbreaking, it will have you returning to dissect each of the tracks.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Hand Cannot Erase
  2. Routine
  3. Happy Returns
  4. Ancestral
  5. 3 Years Older

16: The Magic Whip– Blur

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I am so glad that Blur is back and sounding just as good as they did 20 years ago. After 16 years without putting out music as a full band, they return with an album that is full of East Asian influences. Diving into Blur’s experiences in China, this album felt like a fresh new start for the band. Tracks like “Thought I Was a Spaceman” and “My Terracotta Heart” show a serious side to the band while songs like “Ong Ong” are just fun and memorable. This should definitely please Blur’s fans.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. My Terracotta Heart
  2. Ong Ong
  3. Pyongyang
  4. Ice Cream Man
  5. Ghost Ship

15: Algiers– Algiers

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Algiers is a band I literally had heard nothing about until they released this album over the summer. Once I heard there was a band that was combining gospel and post-punk, I knew I had to check them out. I have not stopped listening to them since. This is a dark and politically charged album that is quite powerful after a few listens. Lead singer Franklin James Fischer is one of the most powerful voices to come out in 2015 and I cannot wait to see how this band is able to follow this up.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. And When You Fall
  2. Utility. Irony. Pretext.
  3. But She Was Not Flying
  4. Blood
  5. Claudette

14: Blurryface– Twenty One Pilots

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I thought I was going to hate this. I had never heard anything from this duo before listening to this album, which was a mistake considering how great Vessel is, and was expecting something that would pander to the emo high school crowd. Obviously I was wrong as this album turned out to be very good upon a first listen and great after several listens. The album provides a trip into the mind of Tyler Joseph as he deals with his insecurities with his life and his place in the music industry. I am so glad this album was able to make Twenty One Pilots a bigger name and I am pumped to see these guys this summer.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. The Judge
  2. Not Today
  3. Tear in My Heart
  4. Stressed Out
  5. Doubt

13: Compton– Dr. Dre

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Detox is an album that people have been waiting over a decade and a half for. It is clear that we will not be getting that album but I am totally fine with that seeing that what we did get was still an amazing release from Dr. Dre. Dre is much more serious here, talking about his personal life as well as his hometown of Compton, which he has largely influenced over the years. For better or for worse. Not only is he great here but all his guest features deliver as well. Snoop Dogg especially stood out giving one of the most vicious verses he has given in years. If you are a fan of Dr. Dre in anyway, this will be a treat for you.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. One Shot One Kill (feat. Snoop Dogg)
  2. Deep Water (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Justus & Anderson .Paak)
  3. Talking to My Diary
  4. Animals (feat. Anderson .Paak)
  5. It’s All on Me (feat. Justus & BJ the Chicago Kid)

12: Something More Than Free– Jason Isbell

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2015 was the year I decided to get into country music, a genre I chose to ignore just because of the stigma it has. That being said, Jason Isbell was one of the first country artists I listened to and I was so happy I did. This album is incredible all the way through as Isbell sings about living a new life as a single and sober man. If you liked Isbell’s last record Southeastern, there is no reason for you not to enjoy this. The instrumentation is also much different from standard country as Isbell adds plenty of rock inspired sounds to this album. If you are trying to get into country music, Jason Isbell is an excellent place to start.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. 24 Frames
  2. Children of Children
  3. The Life You Chose
  4. To a Band That I Loved
  5. Hudson Commodore

11: Beauty Behind the Madness– The Weeknd

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This album had no right to be as good as it was. I only checked this out because of how much I enjoyed “Can’t Feel My Face” and I wanted to see if the rest of the album would surprise me. It blew my expectations out of the water and now I can safely say The Weeknd is one of my favorite popular artists now. Vocally he has so much presence, using his Michael Jackson inspired voice to engage the listener into each word he says. The Weeknd also plays off his features perfectly, creating genuine duets. Artists like Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey seem to have real chemistry with him when singing with him. Kanye West’s production on “Tell Your Friends” is also worthy of praise. This is a dirty album coming from someone who seems broken and it comes across beautifully. If it weren’t for a couple weak tracks, this would be very high on this list.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. In the Night
  2. Can’t Feel My Face
  3. Dark Times (feat. Ed Sheeran)
  4. Shameless
  5. Real Life

10: Traveller– Chris Stapleton

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I am so happy that Chris Stapleton was able to finally get the attention he deserves at the end of 2015. His debut solo album was introspective and powerful as Stapleton explains how the music industry has affected his personal life. Between all the travelling and whiskey, I got the feeling Stapleton was a wise man warning people the price of being a successful artist. I was moved by how attached to Stapleton I got over the course of this album. It was able to connect with me on a very personal level and I appreciate that. This was definitely the best country album of 2015 and I am so happy it has been recognized for its excellence, even if it took a few months.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. The Devil Named Music
  2. Parachute
  3. Traveller
  4. Outlaw State of Mind
  5. Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore

9: 25– Adele

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It was the most successful album of the year and there is a good reason for it. Adele is the best thing that has been on mainstream radio since, well since Adele in 2011. I do not even know what else I could say that has not already been said. She is a powerhouse performer and 25 proves that after four years she is still just as good as she was before. This album shows so much growth and maturity, which makes sense considering she is a mother now. While it might not have taken many risks outside of what worked on 21, I cannot deny I was more than satisfied with what I was given after the wait.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. When We Were Young
  2. Million Years Ago
  3. Water Under the Bridge
  4. All I Ask
  5. River Lea

8: Currents– Tame Impala

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While I can criticize Adele for not taking risks, I can definitely make that same complaint for Tame Impala in regards to this new release. The band boldly and confidently departed from their typical psychedelic rock sound and moved to a more synth heavy sound which was definitely polarizing. I know many criticized this album, and while it is not as good as the masterpiece that is Lonerism, I am happy Tame Impala decided to take risks here. The sound became instantly captivating for me and I feel almost hypnotized when listening to this. Considering this is actually a breakup album, I am impressed with how often I sit back and actually enjoy it. This is not for everyone but it certainly did work for me.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Let It Happen
  2. The Less I Know the Better
  3. Yes I’m Changing
  4. Eventually
  5. ‘Cause I’m a Man

7: Sound & Color– Alabama Shakes

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Another band to get plenty of deserved attention, Alabama Shakes proved with their sophomore album that they are here to stay for a long time. This album is filled with plenty of emotional power on hard hitting tracks like “Don’t Wanna Fight” and “The Greatest” while songs like “Miss You” and “Dunes” shows a slower side to the band. Of course these songs would not be nearly as great if it were not for lead singer Brittany Howard’s strong vocal deliveries. This is a straightforward, highly enjoyable alternative rock album that I have had a lot of fun with since its release.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Don’t Wanna Fight
  2. Gimme All Your Love
  3. Dunes
  4. Miss You
  5. Sound & Color

6: In Colour– Jamie xx

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I am not totally familiar with the electronic music genre, but I know enough to say Jamie xx’s work here is brilliant. With some of the best production I have heard all year, In Colour uses all these artificial sounds to make something that feels truly human. This is especially true when his fellow bandmates from The xx join him on a few tracks here. Jamie xx’s production is so good he was able to put Young Thug on one of his tracks and still have it be one of the best songs of 2015. Let’s hope this can carry over to The xx’s next album which is supposedly coming out this year.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Loud Places (feat. Romy)
  2. I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) [feat. Young Thug & Popcaan]
  3. Gosh
  4. Strangers In a Room (feat. Oliver Sim)
  5. Girl

5: Art Angels– Grimes

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Grimes was one of the best discoveries for me in music last year. I had not really heard much about her but once I saw how much praise this album was getting I decided to check it out. I ended up listening to it non-stop for a solid week and still listen to it frequently. Grimes’ production is excellent and the albums pop sound make many of these songs infectious in the best way. Grimes’ vocals are also super entertaining as you can feel her energy on every track. She adds occasional screams and growls to her otherwise pleasant voice which adds so much personality to this album and also makes you feel a little uncomfortable with how it catches you off guard. Honestly, if I had more time to listen to this it might have been even higher on this list.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Kill v. Maim
  2. Flesh without Blood
  3. REALiTi
  4. Artangels
  5. Butterfly

4: Carrie & Lowell– Sufjan Stevens

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While 2015 gave us many seemingly personal albums where artists told us just what was on their minds, none were as intimate as this release from Sufjan Stevens. This is an album about death, specifically the death of Stevens’ estranged mother, and how Sufjan deals with this time of grief as he reflects on his past, his flawed relationship with his mother, and his faith in God which has weakened due to this death. Sadly, this an album that offers no closure in the end making Stevens’ emotional wounds seem that much more real. This was one of the only times I felt that the artist was possibly crossing the line with just how personal the songs were. I still think this is a beautiful piece of music that deserves recognition for how it was able to affect me in such a genuine way.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. Fourth of July
  2. John My Beloved
  3. The Only Thing
  4. Should Have Known Better
  5. Death with Dignity

3: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)– Various Artists

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I now spend most of my time about 25 miles outside of Manhattan, meaning Broadway is something I have been exploring more. Having only seen two musicals on Broadway (Something Rotten and Les Misérables which were both excellent) I now am anxiously waiting to make Hamilton my third. I have always loved the history of America’s founding fathers so this definitely appeals to me greatly. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s biography of Alexander Hamilton using hip-hop and R&B is a unique concept with perfect execution. I was worried this would end up feeling like two and a half hours of Epic Rap Battles of History but this is so much more as the lyrics and production is genuinely great and engaging. I felt like I was watching the show while listening to this, to the point where I even teared up during the Act II. If you are a fan of history or Broadway and for some reason have not listened to this, you are doing yourself a major disservice.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. It’s Quiet Uptown
  2. Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)
  3. You’ll Be Back
  4. Alexander Hamilton
  5. Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

2: I Love You, Honeybear– Father John Misty

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When I listened to this album for the first time, I was certain that it would be topping this list. It was easily the best album of the last couple years. Father John Misty writes one of the wittiest and at the same time genuine and heartfelt albums of the decade. The instrumentation is a treat and sounds beautiful throughout. Josh Tillman shows that his persona is far from a perfect person, and neither is his partner, but in the end they are perfect for each other and have a love that you cannot help but be invested in. I have been talking about this album all year and probably will not get bored of it. After about 11 months it is still just as amazing to me as it was when I first heard it. I honestly have no idea how Father John Misty will follow this up but I will be waiting anxiously to see how it comes out.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. The Night Josh Tillmn Came to Our Apartment
  2. Holy Shit
  3. I Love You, Honeybear
  4. Strange Encounter
  5. The Ideal Husband

1: To Pimp a Butterfly– Kendrick Lamar

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It almost seems too easy to put this at the top of this list. It seems like this leads every other list but there is obviously a reason. As far as I am concerned, this is the greatest album of the decade and is on track to become a classic. I loved Lamar’s last two albums but I honestly thought he peaked with good kid, m.A.A.d. city but this takes what made that album great and just adds to it. The scope of the album’s story arc has become grander as Kendrick sounds wiser as he focuses on his own personal growth after becoming famous and leaving the bad conditions that he was raised with. The production has become much better as Lamar experiments with more jazzy and funky sounds that make these songs not just well written but catchy and memorable. Honestly, I do not know what I can say that has not been already said. Political in the most perfect way, personal in the most effective way, this album knew exactly what it wanted to do and achieved its goals with perfect execution. I adore this and hope it is eventually seen as a milestone in the hip-hop genre because it deserves to be seen as that.

Top Five Tracks:

  1. The Blacker the Berry
  2. How Much a Dollar Cost
  3. i
  4. King Kunta
  5. u
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2 thoughts on “Top 25 Albums of 2015

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