Top 10 Albums of 2015

Penultimate list of the year! Movies will be coming soon…

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10. Carly Rae Jepsen Emotion

A lot of people were really surprised by this record, but I never really was. I championed (and still do) “Call Me Maybe” as a perfect pop song and placed it as my number one song of 2012. Emotion is a strong pop album that never made much leeway on the radio despite its catchy 80s influenced style. Jepsen is our best pop star, you all just don’t know it.

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9. Titus Andronicus The Most Lamentable Tragedy

A 90-minute plus punk rock opera that filters the band’s punk influences through Bruce Springsteen’s everyman representation with an added experimental edge. It certainly doesn’t have the highs of The Monitor, but it is pretty consistent from beginning to end. Patrick Stickles brain will always come up with raging rock songs, intricate and complex enough to inspire a plethora of think pieces and this is everything I love rolled into one giant album.

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8. Julien Baker Sprained Ankle

Quite the opposite of The Most Lamentable Tragedy, Baker’s debut album is quiet and sparse. There are only nine songs here, most of which only feature Baker singing and playing guitar , but boy are these tracks affecting. She has claimed these songs represent her coming out of a place of depression and abuse and one can certainly see the inner-monologue taking place. It’s an internal struggle, with Baker battling over her own soul and just when you think the darkness will overcome, grace shines through.

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7. Future Beast Mode

A lot has been written about Future being the saddest rapper to brag about drugs, partying, and sexual affairs and this has certainly been the case across his two mixtapes (Beast Mode, 56 Nights), his full length (DS2), and collaboration with Drake (What a Time to Be Alive). There’s a weariness to the way he raps, an autotuned slur, that makes you wonder if he’s really enjoying any of it. DS2 was the most critically acclaimed of the bunch, What a Time had the most hype surrounding it, but my favorite was Beast Mode which I think shows Future at his most sincere.

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6. Grimes Art Angels

On Art Angels, Grimes takes pop music and puts it through the most eccentric filter it could probably go through while continuing to be pop. It’s pure bubblegum pop, but is also very weird. Grimes takes a page out of K-Pop–electronic pop songs that are given the spirit and enthusiasm of a high school cheer team. It works surprisingly wonderful and is so much fun to listen to.

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5. Vince Staples Summertime ’06

Staples’ studio full length debut is a biographical double album about one of the most important summers he ever had. It tells the tale of Staples growing up, learning who he was, and the outside factors imposing in on his life. There are stories of adolescent love, of depression, and of extreme violence. It’s one of the most complex coming-of-age stories I’ve ever experienced. Staples is one of the best young voices making music out there and he may have just come up with a masterpiece here.

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4. Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit

It’s hard to say what the best thing is that Barnett does, is it her ability to come up with rollicking rock songs? Her clever wordplay? The fact that she came up with the introvert anthem (sorry Alessia Cara)? All of these things point to why Sometimes I Sit is an amazing album. It’s funny, it’s thoughtful, it can be blasted on any road trip. Women are crushing it in indie rock and Barnett is there at the top.

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3. Tame Impala Currents

Currents shows Tame Impala at their most accessible, like Grimes their sound perfectly mixes their more experimental tendencies with mainstream pop’s aesthetic. Currents is a blend of EDM with a singer-songwriter’s vision. Kevin Parker has created dance music for indie rock kids, blending in disco and R&B influences to make an album that grew with every listen.

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2. Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly

This was probably the album of the year, with Kendrick building on all the goodwill of good kid, mad city to make one of the most ambitious, sprawling, and important albums maybe ever? It’s funky, jazzy, and altogether not what you’d expect from the most hyped person in rap music. But that makes it even better, showing Kendrick as a true artist, one that pushes the genre forward. To Pimp a Butterfly was a necessary album in a year filled with racial strife and police brutality at the forefront of our national conversations. It’s celebratory of black culture, comforts all the pain, and is also deeply critical of inner-city violence. Kendrick is never what anybody wants him to be and I think that’s what makes him all the more important.

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1.Sufjan Stevens Carrie  & Lowell

While Kendrick spent time analyzing the affairs of a nation, Sufjan spends his time processing his inner-self, responding to the loss of his mother. It’s painstakingly personal, littered with references to the loss and the deep depression he went through as a result. Most of Sufjan’s work features beautiful, stripped down folk songs but these are usually places between quirky chamber pop tracks. Here we essentially get sad, contemplative Sufjan for 43 straight minutes, and as much as I love the baroque Sufjan, slowed down it is so beautiful.

Honorable mentions: Young Fathers White Men Are Black Men Too; Hop Along Painted Shut; Sports All of Something; Panda Bear Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper; Drake & Future What a Time to Be Alive

Top 14 Albums of 2014

The second to last list of the season! It’s coming a little later than expected, but I have other stuff I’ve been working on for those of you who care. Music is a hard thing to write about, so I’ve done my best to express my feelings about what I loved below. I struggled with the top three, but ultimately came to a balance of what I think I will love for a long time and what my heart is telling me in the moment.

As always I don’t recommend all of these albums, some may have objectionable content for your conscience.

Top 14 Albums of ’14

14. Joyce Manor “Never Hungover Again”

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“Never Hungover Again” is a great party record if you’re into loud punk-heavy rock songs. They are fast and often short (the whole album is only 19 minutes long), but this doesn’t stop it from being a great album and one that does have depth to it.

13. Cymbals Eat Guitars “Lose”

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A great indie rock album lead by the unique high pitched vocals of Joseph D’Agostino, but equally matched by the guitar driven sound of the rest of the band.

12. Hospitality “Trouble”

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A late in the year discovery for me, Hospitality hits hard at this women-led raw indie rock phase I’ve been going through lately. Though the band is divided between a tougher indie rock group and a more synth-y indie pop band, the songs that lead toward the former are some of my favorite of the year.

11. tUnE-yArDs “Nikki Nack”

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tUnE-yArDs’ brand of eclectic, world tinged pop music won’t be for everyone. It’s not even for me half of the time, but those times it does hit, it hits hard.

10. Parquet Courts “Sunbathing Animal”

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Parquet Courts will likely continue to crank out their post-punk, garage rock, laid back rock ‘n roll music year after year and I will likely buy into it every time. I’m not sure if “Sunbathing Animal” is quite as good as “Light Up Gold”, but it is more of the same witty rock tunes.

9. The Hotelier “Home Like No Place is There”

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This piece of new wave emo and pop-punk brought me back to my high school days where I got plenty of that sound. The Hotelier tend to transcend that genre (not that it really needs to be transcended) through poetic lyrics and songs that have emotional payoffs.

8. Iceage “Plowing Into the Field of Love”

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Iceage took a step into a new direction this year, bringing their post-punk sound a more alt-country feel and to me this was an improvement. The songs retain all the heaviness of their last albums, but add a unique change and wit to them.

7. Vince Staples “Hell Can Wait”

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Staples was one of my favorite discoveries this year and though this is technically an EP it was one of my records to listen to all year. “Blue Suede” and “Hands Up” got all the credit they deserve around the internet for their look into Staples’ life and commentary on current events, as well as their absolute musical brilliance and the rest of the album keeps up with those two standouts.

6. Jenny Lewis “The Voyager”

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A solid pop/rock album from the former Rilo Kiley lead vocalist. Here she lays herself bare while also making catchy and witty tunes.

5. Run the Jewels “Run the Jewels II”

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A fierce barrage of a hip-hop album offering non-stop and brutal verses from El-P and Killer Mike. It’s surprises you at every corner and does so in the most brilliant of ways.

4. D’Angelo “Black Messiah”

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I wasn’t some big D’Angelo fan before this year, sure I had heard the story, but it did little more than pique my interest. When the new album dropped I waited a couple of weeks before I even ventured to listen. Once I did listen, I guess you could say that the groove took a hold of me. This album is all groove and it is infectious.

3. Cloud Nothings “Here and Nowhere Else”

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A great rock ‘n roll album, Cloud Nothings reached their peak for me this year with songs that reached anthemic heights with their fuzzed out guitars and impassioned vocals. “I’m Not Part of Me” was my favorite song of the year, but the rest of the album was nearly just as good.

2. The War on Drugs “Lost in the Dream”

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This one is a continuous grower for me with his folksy elongated tracks breezing through my ears in its soothing fashion. It’s strangely reminiscent of Dylan for me, though more calming than his work is known for being. I can’t help but think when asked to point to a great album of the decade that this one will be toward the front of my mental catalog.

1. Makthaverskan “II”

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Maybe this won’t hold up whenever I look back at this ten years down the line, but for now Makthaverskan’s blend of punk and 80s new wave has got a hold on me. They are at times aggressive, at times melodic, but always emotionally bare. Its breadth of style and sound makes me interested in what will come next from the band, but also makes the album really work on multiple levels.

Honorable Mentions: FKA Twigs “LP1”, YG “My Krazy Life”, Jessie Ware “Restoration”, White Lung “Deep Fantasy”, Sharon Van Etten “Are We There”, First Aid Kit “Stay Gold”