2015 was an interesting year for the music industry. It was quite weird and experimental, given all of the side-projects that rose to the surface this year. Big Grams, Thunderbitch, and The Arcs (just to name a few). It was conquered by both freshman and sophomore albums, as well as the returns of some pretty legendary artists. All in all, 2015 was a memorable year, so let’s see who made up the upper echelon.
30. SremmLife – Rae Sremmurd
Who else to start off the list than Rae Sremmurd? The duo’s debut studio album was a huge step in bringing gritty southern hip hop back into the mainstream. It was difficult going anywhere in 2015 without hearing songs “No Flex Zone”, “Throw Sum Mo”, and “No Type”.
29. The Great Pretenders – Mini Mansions
Mini Mansions must be regarded as more than just that band that occasionally brings out Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) during their live shows. The Great Pretenders was an eleven track homage to both 60’s pop music and their Queens of the Stone Age roots.
28. Another One – Mac DeMarco
27. Coffee Shop Selection – Gramatik
26. Foil Deer – Speedy Ortiz
Noise rockers, Speedy Ortiz, did not hold back with their third studio album whatsoever. Tracks such as “Raising the Skate” and “The Graduates” contributed to Foil Deer being quite the blend of indie pop and angst.
25. GO:OD AM – Mac Miller
24. Purpose – Justin Bieber
Speaking of artists who have finally grown up (and featured black and white album covers), we have Justin Bieber. Pairing Bieber’s glorious vocals with songwriters/producers who make bona fide quality music undoubtedly shoots Purpose into the top 30.
23. Dodge and Burn – The Dead Weather
If you want to hear Jack White do his best Beastie Boys impersonation listen to “Three Dollar Hat”. Dodge and Burn never takes its foot off the gas pedal for a second, from “I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)” to “Impossible Winner”, The Dead Weather deliver pounding rock ‘n’ roll.
22. Yours, Dreamily, – The Arcs
Black Keys frontman, Dan Auerbach, released this side project back in September, and since then The Arcs have been anything but a one-off album. Yours, Dreamily, has something for every listener. The mixture of psychedelic rock, with influences that range from garage rock to blues is near perfection.
21. B4.Da.$$ – Joey Bada$$
Joey soars past some of his genre peers with this one. Rather than rapping about drugs and girls, Bada$$ opted to take the introspective route, reverting back to a time in which rap did in fact tell a story.
20. Sprinter – Torres
This album was beautiful. Torres’ songwriting is well beyond her twenty four years of age, and that can only be taken as a positive. Title track “Sprinter’, as well as the 7:48 min “The Exchange” are demonstrations Torres’ potential.
19. No Cities to Love – Sleater-Kinney
18. Something More Than Free – Jason Isbell
A country album that ranges genres, and does so with ease. Isbell provides the listener with nostalgia for a place they have never been with Something More Than Free. The eleven song LP deserves a full listen.
17. At.Long.Last.A$AP – A$AP Rocky
ALLA is a collection of features and contributors which included Danger Mouse, Mos Def, Mark Ronson, UGK, Kanye West, and even Rod Stewart! Rocky’s sampling of genres like soul and southern rock lend the album to being a great listen, as well as what must be a great live show.
16. Sound & Color – Alabama Shakes
Oh yes, the lords of southern rock, Alabama Shakes. However, Sound & Color is somewhat of an experimental shift for the Athens based band, ditching bluesy anthems for a more chaotic collection of songs. But, the Shakes struck creative gold again, and all we can do is enjoy the results.
15. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – Drake
What more can I say about the best-selling digital body of work of 2015, that also turned Drake into the only rapper to ever top Billboard‘s Artist 100 chart? That it also features some of the greatest pump-up music of all time? Sure, I’ll say that.
14. Carrie & Lowell – Sufjan Stevens
This may have been Sufjan Steven’s seventh studio album, but it certainly does not show signs of him slowing down anytime soon. Heartfelt and graceful, Carrie & Lowell was an obvious choice for not only the top 30, but top 15.
13. VEGA INTL. NIGHT SCHOOL – Neon Indian
This album was pure disco, and it is incredible that Neon Indian was able to pull that off without a hokey feel. Every track on NIGHT SCHOOL will have your feet moving within a matter of milliseconds, and Neon Indian seems to also be channeling his inner Prince throughout the record. And that’s the highest of compliments.
12. Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü – Jack Ü
The highly anticipated collab album from two titans of industry, Skrillex and Diplo, was a showcase of both artists respective strong suits. The blending of Skrillex’s drop-heavy style with Diplo’s vast musical knowledge and tendencies to collaborate was one of this year’s most fun albums.
11. Coming Home – Leon Bridges
This time machine record brought us back to the days in which Motown reigned supreme. And, like many other previously mentioned artists on this list, this is Bridges’ first album. The soul singer has the composure of a seasoned veteran on Coming Home.
10. Art Angels – Grimes
Art Angels is Grimes’ most ambitious work of art to date. With lead track, “REALiTi”, being released significantly earlier than the album all we could do was speculate on what the potential sound might be. And, this reinvention of the pop genre easily slides right into the top ten.
9. Goon – Tobias Jesso Jr.
8. I Love You, Honeybear – Father John Misty
Odd wordplay and lyrics that often times feel comedic make this self-proclaimed concept album one of the year’s best. Misty’s songwriting is truly unparalleled, and I Love You, Honeybear is the eloquent album it is because of that.
7. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – Florence + The Machine
6. Summertime ’06 – Vince Staples
Staples’ storytelling takes the Summertime ’06 listener on a trip filled with imagery that only a few in this given genre can accomplish. This debut album is just the beginning of a fruitful future for Staples. He’s going in the right direction.
5. In Colour – Jamie xx
In Colour is not the final chapter of Jamie xx’s career, but it contains every element that the, The xx member has ever touched on. From banger to ballad, In Colour is deserving of a full concentration when experienced.
4. Black Messiah – D’Angelo and The Vanguard
3. Currents – Tame Impala
Tame took the weird route with their third studio album, ditching guitars for synthesizers. But, they most definitely exceeded their already high expectations. Tracks “Cause I’m a Man” and “Let It Happen” serve as prime examples of the band’s evolution. Moving from rock to dance is a hard task, but Kevin Parker & co. really knocked it out of the park.
2. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit – Courtney Barnett
The self-taught guitarist’s quirks and kinks shine on this sophomore record. Barnett’s Seinfeld-esque observations lead this LP to being he year’s most entertaining albums by far. The future is bright for this Australian singer- songwriter, who has already debunked any preconceived notions of a slacker rock artist.
1. To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
There’s a reason TPAB is topping everyone’s year-end lists. It was the most essential listen of the year. The social context at hand could only be tackled by a mastermind like Lamar, and he essentially created one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time in doing so. K-Dot successfully created a masterpiece that discusses race, politics, and self-reflection. Collaborators George Clinton, Ronald Isley, and Thundercat all contributed to making Butterfly the year’s most authentic and musically gifted album of the year.