The ranking of these albums keeps changing every week. To be honest, I don’t want to set in stone which is #1 or #5 and so on, because they are all good in different ways. Instead I’ll just share the ten albums that meant the most to me from 2015:
To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Hip hop. Influenced by aspects of funk, jazz and spoken word. I’m actually surprised that this type of fast-paced and wordy hip hop is among the year’s biggest sellers. Having said that, does have some stellar moments and I think holds up extremely well to repeat plays. The album will likely still be relevant 20 years from now.
“Wesley’s Theory” is a great opener that could have been a single, the lyrics deal with learning the difference between lust and love and how the media targets successful African-American entertainers who never learnt to manage money or celebrity. “The Blacker the Berry” is a powerful cry for race equality and for the black community to look within itself. On the danceable “These Walls” he delivers a fine vocal performance, you could interpret the sugar walls as escape and real walls as obstacles. “King Kunta” is maybe catchiest offering but not in an annoying way. “For Free? (Interlude)” could be a statement on how music is free today and the repercussions of that. Lamar said “Alright” was inspired by his trip to South Africa, witnessing other people’s problems, the track opens with lines from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple “All my life, I had to fight”. A critic described “How Much a Dollar Cost,” as a song about grace, and “i,” a song against self-harm.
Kendrick Lamar attempts to make sense of the world and there’s an underlying call for action and not just going with the flow.
Currents by Tame Impala
Synthpop. A departure from the bands psychedelic rock sound. Kevin Parker finds himself experimenting with synthesizers. Thematically, the record is about the process of personal transformation, which many critics interpreted to be the result of a romantic break-up.
Listen to: Yes Im Changing, The Less I Know The Better, Let It Happen, The Moment, New Person Same Old Mistakes, LoveParanoia, Eventually, Past Life
Depression Cherry by Beach House
Dream pop. Good from start to finish. Songs work well as a cohesive whole. Goes for atmosphere, but I admit there aren’t any big hits. A change of pace compared to 2012’s Bloom, which went for a rockier sound. Depression Cherry goes for a softer, mellower approach.
B’lieve I’m Goin Down by Kurt Vile
Folk rock. His sixth full-length solo studio release. The opening 4-5 songs are really good, with “Outlaw” the only misstep. “Lost My Head There” is the strongest tune from the second half of the album, a song that is quite different to the others in terms of production.
YouTube critic The Needle Drop was quite harsh in his assessment of the lyrics, which he deemed empty and aimless.
Even though there’s an irony in Kurt’s delivery, he can make you feel something as well. The guitar work is amazing.
Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens
Folk/acoustic. The first 6 tracks are outstanding. An autobiographical album inspired by the 2012 death of his mother, Carrie, and the family trips they took to Oregon in Sufjan Stevens’ childhood. The album title also references his stepfather, Lowell.
A sombre record about regrets and facing loss, which everybody has their own way of dealing with. Coming to terms with your own mortality and the passing of those close to you. This music will still be pertinent in the year 3015, unless they invent a pill that stops us from dying.
The Desired Effect by Brandon Flowers
Synthpop. 80s throwback with some, well, killer singles (pun intended). A step up from his first solo outing Flamingo (2010).
Vulnicura by Björk
Art pop. A melancholy breakup album, about Björk’s split from her longtime partner and father of her daughter. The lyrics feel very personal and also universal, in that listeners who have gone through a painful breakup could identify with her heartbreak. As a commenter on YouTube said, the full album sounds much better than the songs separately.
Lyric from Black Lake: “Did I love you too much. Devotion bent me broken. So I rebelled”
Chamber pop. Unmistakably Newsom, you can listen to these tracks multiple times and still not fully grasp the mystery and layers. Her vocal is an acquired taste, but she always sets the bar high and deliver something interesting. Her pronunciation of words is tricky to decipher, so you may require the lyric sheet to get the full experience.
Dark Sky Island by Enya
New age. She doesn’t reinvent the wheel. If you like her voice, the new album is more of the same.
Toto XIV by Toto
Rock. From a group who I considered washed up. Toto is the band’s 14th album and the first new material in 9 years. Surprisingly it’s the non-singles that impressed me the most. RIP former Toto bassist Mike Porcaro who died at 59 on March 15.
Honeymoon by Lana Del Rey
Vestiges & Claws by José González
Delirium by Ellie Goulding
Why Make Sense? by Hot Chip
E•MO•TION by Carly Rae Jepsen
Ten Love Songs by Susanne Sundfør
Thank Your Lucky Stars by Beach House
Currency of Man by Melody Gardot
Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes
The Planet by Young Ejecta
Poison Season by Destroyer
Art Angels by Grimes
25 by Adele
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett
HITNRUN Phase One by Prince
VEGA INTL. Night School by Neon Indian
Kindred by Passion Pit
How many of these albums have you listened to? Which are your favorites and disappointments of 2015, any overlaps with my list? Did I inspire you to check out any of the top 10?