The Best Albums of 2015: #10-#1
Here they are: our selections for the ten best albums of 2015. Anything released during the calendar year is eligible, except for Adele's 25 for reasons we've already specified.
Missed #20-#11? Click here.
10) Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment, Surf
For the uninitiated, The Social Experiment is essentially Chance the Rapper and a few of his friends, and they make the music they want to make, cash grabs be damned. Why else would they position the trumpeter front and center on the cover of a magazine?
There's a hefty list of name brands to keep you intrigued, of course. Big Sean, J. Cole, Busta Rhymes, Jeremih, BJ the Chicago Kid, Janelle Monáe, B.o.B., Erykah Badu, and others all make appearances alongside these kids.
And make no mistake, they are kids. See the awesome video for "Sunday Candy", which you'll notice is one continuous shot. Few adults are capable of such teamwork and joy. Thanks Obama.
Cream: "Sunday Candy", "Slip Slide"
9) Purity Ring, another eternity
Imagine synth beats were tangible things, and you've been tasked with sneaking a bag stuffed with them into a club, doing your best to restrain them under your jacket. That's kind of what Purity Ring sounds like.
Maybe you don't want to feel like you're trapped in an intense scene from the Twilight movies. That's fine, can't really blame you there. But if you enjoy the sensation under your jacket, it's worth letting another eternity marinate with a few listens.
Cream: "begin again", "repetition", "bodyache", "push pull"
8) Alabama Shakes, Sound and Color
Whether she's lightly crooning over strings or belting as hard as her throat will allow, Brittany Howard owns every single song that's lucky enough to have her.
Oh, you wrote a song that Brittany Howard covered? Sorry, she owns it now. Copyright transferred, nothing you can do.
Her voice overflows with energy. Her face comes through in the sound. Each song feels like a live performance. It's an appropriate album title, because you're likely to smell colors and feel sounds.
Cream: "Don't Wanna Fight", "Gimme All Your Love", "Sound and Color", "Shoegaze", "Future People"
7) Coldplay, A Head Full of Dreams
Oh I'm sorry...are we still pretending to hate Coldplay?
Raise your hand if you were among those who rolled their eyes and fired off some jokes when this sweet band was revealed as the Super Bowl halftime show. Congratulations...you played yourself.
This was the consensus "best band in the world", until the lead singer had the gall to say as much, at which point they careened down the rankings into joke status.
Perhaps this album is an attempt to dig themselves out of that public perception hole? If so, job well done. Whether you're looking for a slow song to cap off your prom, a dance smash to fire up your rave, or the soundtrack to your cell phone commercial, you'll find it on AHFOD.
Cream: "Everglow", "A Head Full of Dreams", "Adventure of a Lifetime"
6) Action Bronson, Mr. Wonderful
Good luck squeezing Action Bronson into your square hole. No, seriously.
With Mr. Wonderful, we get the full Action. It's funny, its trippy, it's introspective, it's bizarre. It's beautiful.
Cream: "Baby Blue" ft. Chance the Rapper, "Easy Rider", "Terry", "A Light In The Attic" ft. Party Supplies and Black Atlass
5) Passion Pit, Kindred
As a pre-diabetic adult, I will forever appreciate the tried-and-true formula employed by Passion Pit: make every song sound like a cupcake.
"Little Secrets" and "Take A Walk" are among their earliest and most well-known confections. With Kindred, we finally have a robust serving of these delicious treats, like a birthday party held at a bakery.
Of course, like actual sugar, this album is best when consumed sparingly.
Cream: "Until We Can't (Let's Go)", "Lifted Up (1985)", "Where The Sky Hangs"
4) Jamie xx, In Colour
Are you opening a high-end urban fashion store in the most overpriced neighborhood of your big city? Just put this joint on loop and watch the dollars go up.
More than just a really good electronica album, In Colour sets itself apart with the inclusion of one of the year's best songs, "I Know There's Gonna Be Good Times", featuring a sample from a 1970's a cappella group and a verse from Young Thug. This combination should be the template for all music released in 2016.
Less surprising is the quality of the other two standout tracks, both collaborations with Romy Madley-Croft, fellow member of The xx.
Cream: "Loud Places" ft. Romy, "SeeSaw" ft. Romy, "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" ft. Young Thug, Popcaan
3) Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
How consistent has Kendrick Lamar been over the last five years? To Pimp a Butterfly is my third-favorite record of 2015, and probably my least-favorite of his three studio albums.
From Section.80 to good kid, m.A.A.d city and now with TPAB, each Kendrick album has expanded in scope and ambition. He remains one of rap's great storytellers, even when he reaches further than ever.
Confronting dozens of issues at once while simultaneously weaving in a story or two throughout the album is a nearly impossible task. Yet it's all there, uneasy and dense, more often bumming you out than lifting your spirits.
My question is, after he wins all these Grammys, where does he go from here?
Cream: "These Walls", "Alright", "u"
2) Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion
Madonna. Janet. Beyonce. Carly Rae.
Through no fault of her own, Ms. Jepsen will never crack this list of legends. While the catchiest song of 2012 put her on the pop map, the billionth radio play probably turned the tide of public opinion against her for good.
That's a shame, because this album is pop music nirvana on every level.
I get it. The bangs, the pantyhose, the 80's-style font. Your mind is already made up: Carly Rae Jepsen is not for you.
But before you move on, let me ask you this: Have you ever loved? Have you ever lost? Have you ever just wanted to dance?
Carly Rae has, and if you let her, she'll take you on a journey through all of life's emotions. You may just emerge a changed person on the other side.
Cream: "Run Away With Me", "All That", "Emotion", "Making the Most of the Night", "I Didn't Just Come Here To Dance", "When I Needed You"
1) CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
Martin Doherty, bless his heart, is a pretty good singer. But when the trio allows him to lead the way, the result is something like Captain Jack letting Dwight steer the booze cruise.
The real star is Lauren Mayberry, of whom there are many imitators, and precisely zero duplicates. Nowhere is that more obvious than during the tracks listed below.
Somehow, Every Open Eye is a worthy follow-up to a fantastic debut. Pick a genre out of the alt hat: electronic, synth pop, indietronica, splenda, whatever — CHVRCHES set the bar by which all other artists should be measured.
Cream: "Clearest Blue", "Leave a Trace", "Playing Dead", "Never Ending Circles", "Empty Threat"