Waxahatchee has been one of those artists who seems to scrape the bottom of the barrel. There’s nothing wrong with Katie Crutchfield’s style of producing music yet somehow her musical appearance never accesses as much attention as it deserves. Ivy Tripp manages to be Waxahatchee’s first fully-captivating album. In all senses of the word, the album takes several moods and moulds them into a seamless string of compositions. The album’s versatility makes it one for any season, any setting, and any emotion.
Highlights: “Breathless”, “Air”, “Grey Hair”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]49. Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass[/heading]
Whether it’s a soft whisper or a Broadway yelp, Natalie Prass always keeps her cool with her self-titled effort. Prass’ expert showstoppers paint the ultimate picture of relationship troubles and sweep the listeners off their feet in an audible journey like no other. Like a giddy Fiona Apple, Prass serenades listeners with her dynamic personality spread out across each track. The album compiles not only the finest orchestral sounds, but the poignant, recognizable voice of a heartbroken woman seeing the world anew.
Highlights: “Bird Of Prey”, “Your Fool”, “Why Don’t You Believe In Me”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]48. Elvis Depressedly – New Alhambra[/heading]
The name of a band can often make or break the curiosity of a music fan. Play-on words are often groaned at when used in a social setting, but in Elvis Depressedly’s case, the name makes sense. The music is downright gloomy and that’s not a bad thing. Not all music should be full of sunshine and joy. No, it’s not the music of a depressed Elvis impersonator (imagine the rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel”). Instead, Elvis Depressedly is the project of a few people making solemn songs soaked in trippy pitch shifting and atmospheric acoustic instruments.
Highlights: “N.M.S.S.”, “Bruises (Amethyst)”, “New Heaven, New Earth”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]47. Rae Sremmurd – SremmLife[/heading]
This generation of rappers has a fire burning under their seats and they’re ready to explode. Rae Sremmurd, the barely-legal duo from Mississippi, have made waves in the music world with their youthful stance in everything they do. Their volatile style puts them in the often-scummy pond of mainstream rap, yet their party anthems are a cut above. Though they juvenilely ask for Taco Bell and stripper poles in their tour rider, Rae Sremmurd are destined for a path of glory.
Highlights: “No Flex Zone”, “Up Like Trump”, “Yno (feat. Big Sean)”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]46. Joey Bada$$ – B4. DA. $$. [/heading]
Sometimes hip-hop needs a rapper whose roots are anchored in rich soil. Joey Bada$$ and his new album prove that hip-hop doesn’t need to be complex, nor mindless. B4. DA. $$. finds a nice middle ground in the genre with chill grooves, thoughtful lyrics, and an impressive flow. Joey Bada$$ may have some areas to tweak but overall, his product is a stunning success.
Highlights: “Paper Trail$”, “Hazeus View”, “On & On (feat. Maverick Sabre & Dyemond)”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]45. Heems – Eat, Pray, Thug[/heading]
The Queens-based ringleader of the shameless group Das Racist has gone solo once again for his most hard-hitting release to date. Himanshu Suri, aka Heems, brings the noise and the teaching with Eat, Pray, Thug, a piece on his Islamic heritage and the misattributions associated with the culture. The album isn’t all based around intense subject matter as Heems knows how to party with bangers like “Sometimes” and slow jams like “Home” featuring vocals from Blood Orange’s Devonte Hynes. Eat, Pray, Thug is one of the year’s more incentive hip-hop albums.
Highlights: “So NY”, “Jawn Cage (feat. Rafiq Bhatiq)”, “Home (feat. Dev Hynes)”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]44. Jim O’Rourke – Simple Songs[/heading]
The well-known producer of bands like Sonic Youth, Wilco, and Joanna Newsom and musician credited to the indie cult classic Eureka has made a grand return with his sixth studio album. Simple Songs brings elements of 1970s prog rock to present day with delightful fervour. O’Rourke’s breed of tidy-sounding chaos is hard to duplicate as the legend continues to rock 26 years after the debut of his musical career.
Highlights: “Friends With Benefits”, “Last Year”, “All Your Love”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]43. Levon Vincent – Levon Vincent[/heading]
This self-titled album bares its bones with deep channels of percussive splendour. Levon Vincent and his experimental nature translate onto the page with over an hour of captivating noises. The album is better as background music, supporting activities such as long walks through the city, lonesome drives at night, or studying for upcoming exams. Even if Levon Vincent isn’t as attention-grabbing as other albums, its overall production is one to be admired.
Highlights: “Launch Ramp To The Sky”, “Anti-Corporate Music”, “Woman Is An Angel”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]42. Hop Along – Painted Shut[/heading]
Painted Shut belongs in some bizarre categorization of genre. It’s part indie, part punk, and part folk. On top of its incomprehensible manner, Frances Quinlan’s vocals are the icing on the cake. Her incredibly dense singing voice sounds, at times, like a tortured soul yearning for greener grass on the other side. The entire album is an extensive stretch of wilderness waiting to be explored. It proves that conventional genres are meant to be fused together.
Highlights: “Waitress”, “Powerful Man”, “Well-dressed”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]41. Citizen – Everyone Is Going To Heaven[/heading]
Citizen scored a perfect 10 on Exclaim! for this album and rightfully so. Post-hardcore albums aren’t usually accessible in the slightest but somehow Everyone Is Going To Heaven makes it through. The album sails along a dreary coastline with the best intentions. It delivers gob-smacking tracks with lush designs and almost-criminal talent. Even if 2015 is chalk-full of fantastic albums, this one is an early contender for the best heavy album.
Highlights: “Dive Into The Sun”, “My Favourite Color”, “Stain”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]40. Czarface – Every Hero Needs A Villain[/heading]
Czarface brings back a much-missed alternative style involving heaps of vocal samples, storylines, and an off-colour sense of humour. MF DOOM is the instigator of this method, creating gems in albums like Operation: Doomsday and Madvillainy, while Czarface continue the legacy to a tee. Every Hero Needs A Villain is a steady collection of entertaining verses and masterfully mixed instrumentals. The album harkens back to hip-hop’s early origins, focusing more on wordplay instead of lyrical content and stating an argument. Nostalgia, thy name is Czarface.
Highlights: “Red Alert”, “Ka-Bang! (feat. MF DOOM)”, “Escape From Czarkham Asylum”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]39. Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside[/heading]
You feeling okay, Earl? Ever since the band of misfits known to the world as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All silently drifted apart, the overshadowed brainy manchild Earl Sweatshirt has been cooking up a dark stew. 2013’s Doris made it seem like things could be better in the end, but this album squashes any sunlight with cryptic beats and slurred verses. I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside and its counterpart Solace (a 10-minute freak fest) pair nicely with a heavy scoop of isolation and that small crack of light that emits from the bedroom curtains.
Highlights: “Mantra”, “Grief”, “Off Top”, “Wool (feat. Vince Staples)”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]38. Four Tet – Morning/Evening[/heading]
Yes, this album is only 2 songs long. These 2 songs manage to make Morning/Evening longer than some of the other albums of this list, clocking in at an average of 20 minutes apiece. Embracing the radical idea of conceptual music, Four Tet has crafted a minimalist soundscape that represent two separate times of the day. The tracks embody what their names state and teleport listeners to a psychedelic environment full of growing noises.
Highlights: “Morning Side”, “Evening Side”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]37. Young Thug – Barter 6[/heading]
This is not the kind of music you would play for your family. Nor would it be the kind of music your family would approve of (unless you have a really cool family). The low-key lurker Young Thug made Barter 6 into 2015’s most unlikely frontrunner. Its laid-back approach complete with Thugger’s impenetrable rapping style is like a car crash. It may be ugly but it keeps your attention and makes you want to see what happens next.
Highlights: “Constantly Hating (feat. Birdman)”, “With That”, “Amazing (feat. Jacquees)”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]36. Bully – Feels Like[/heading]
Straight-forward, spearheaded punk rock is needed every once in a while. Bully’s debut album fills the prescription with measures of screeching sing-song, howling guitar melodies, and enough drum fill to keep your head bobbing for all eternity. Feels Like is a breath of fresh air, not trying to be anything glitzy or glamorous. The music is played and everyone is satisfied.
Highlights: “I Remember”, “Brainfreeze”, “Trying”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]35. Drake – If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late[/heading]
Let me say that Drake has been the butt of a lot of my jokes. My friends and I have taken turns hating on the Toronto superstar, criticizing his voice and vain personality. When Drake’s newest mixtape(?) dropped earlier this year, it felt like a chance to start over with a clean slate. I gave Drake a second chance, unaware at how this album would change my perception. If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late is a beautiful mixture of club bangers and personal commotion exposed for millions to hear. If Views From The 6 ever comes out, it’ll be another golden collection to add to Drake’s catalogue.
Highlights: “Energy”, “Know Yourself”, “Jungle”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]34. Marriages – Salome[/heading]
Metal music isn’t usually known for its fluffy, featherweight sound. However, Marriages finds a way to make Salome sound like a dreamy cloud surf. Each track echoes gorgeous instrumental arrangements as vocalist Emma Ruth Rundle unleashes herself. The atmospheric album is a fascinating listen, never letting go of its carnal energy and always luring its audience in with portions of apocalyptic clamour.
Highlights: “The Liar”, “Salome”, “Less Than”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]33. John Carpenter – Lost Themes[/heading]
Legendary horror film director John Carpenter has been known for making his own music to accompany his haunting visuals. In this modern age, Carpenter has decided to give the music business another go. Just as other experimental directors like David Lynch have picked up the electronic torch, John Carpenter has made movie music a pleasure to hear on its own. Lost Themes is reminiscent of early horror film scores, drawing influence from cult classics and box-office smashes. Its synth-driven trend pulsates, growing with each track. It’s a marvellous achievement to hear classic music brought back to life again.
Highlights: “Obsidian”, “Mystery”, “Purgatory”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]32. Algiers – Algiers[/heading]
It’s impossible to search Algiers on Google without your top results being wide open countryside. Algiers the band is a curious stew bubbling with potential. With vocals like the love child of Michael Gira and Morrissey, angelic gospel-like background singers setting the tone, and knuckle-dragging rhythms, this self-titled debut is a oddly pleasant bullseye. Algiers combines several elements not normally found together and magnify everything into oblivion. For some reason, while listening to this album, you constantly think, “Who died and why is this funeral band so epic?”.
Highlights: “Blood”, “Black Eunuch”, “In Parallax”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]31. Knxwledge – Hud Dreems[/heading]
Even if Knxwledge isn’t a household name in terms of left-field hip-hop, his legacy has been sprinkled across the playing field. From being the mastermind behind Kendrick Lamar’s “Momma” to being a main staple on Flying Lotus’ BBC Residency, Knxwledge has left his footprint in the right ground. Harnessing samples from hundreds of sources and remixing them back into a layered album is how Hud Dreems portrays itself. The album skips, hops, and jumps around with a feverish warmth similar to the production of Madlib or FlyLo himself. Sometimes connections are how great records are discovered.
Highlights: “Mylife”, “Dntfall”, “Thtbodi”, “Mydesire [Fortwin] [Vanuys]”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]30. Jacco Gardner – Hypnophobia[/heading]
Jacco Gardner’s Hypnophobia is a surprisingly peaceful release, filled with pretty instrumental interludes and leading tracks that would make any 60s group jealous. As the listener crosses that first threshold, they are engulfed with harmonious bliss. Jacco Gardner makes his music sound effortless in its execution. He fires on all cylinders without sounding forced or restricted to his own devices. This is an album you need to have in your life, and as Jacco Gardner explains on “Find Yourself”, “Don’t fight the feeling, just let it in / You know you need it like the sunlight on your skin”.
Highlights: “Another You”, “Grey Lanes”, “Before The Dawn”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]29. Jeff Bridges – Sleeping Tapes[/heading]
As weird as this sounds, The Dude knows how to make music. Acting legend Jeff Bridges has proved before that he isn’t a one-trick pony. Bridges has now made something completely unexpected. Yet as Sleeping Tapes lingers on, listeners may think, “Why didn’t anyone think of doing this before?”. Bridge’s silky smooth voice narrates sleep-deprived listeners through a magical experience of tripping out, no drugs required. The bang-on lullabies mesh into a marvellous album that serves many purposes. If it helps put you to sleep, it has done its job. If not, well at least you had some really cool music to stay awake to.
Highlights: “Sleep. Dream. Wakeup.”, “Ikea”, “Temescal Canyon”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]28. Dance Gavin Dance – Instant Gratification[/heading]
Instant Gratification is a complex affair. It’s a bi-polar release with two warring sides combating for centre stage. One half features sweet, almost-poppy vocals drifting with velvety falsetto. The other half is a lung-spewing scream that sounds like the result of an alcohol-fuelled rage. Somehow, each track on Dance Gavin Dance’s new album manage to spark intrigue and make for a hell of a good time. Despite music nerd Anthony Fantano giving this album an unforgivable 1/10 as a final grade, Instant Gratification does exactly what the title implies.
Highlights: “We Own The Night”, “Shark Dad”, “The Cuddler”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]27. Lightning Bolt – Fantasy Empire[/heading]
Straight from the wreckage of an industrial accident, the steel ripples of Lightning Bolt’s newest album prove to be just as thrashing as ever. I first heard Fantasy Empire early in the morning on a double-decker city bus. It wasn’t exactly the best way to experience the terror within but I made do with enjoying such a thick, sludgy compilation. The echoing reverb that serves as vocals masks itself behind drum-laden melodies and guitar riffs soaked in chaos. It may not have top-notch production or the polished sheen of many of 2015’s releases, but Lightning Bolt know their comfort zone and play on their strengths.
Highlights: “Over The Rive And Through The Woods”, “King Of My World”, “Runaway Train”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]26. Zs – Xe[/heading]
This band may be difficult to recommend to others. Neither the album title nor the band’s name require a lot of pronunciation and that’s what makes things complicated. Nonetheless, Zs’ album is a whacked-out explosion of noise, repeating to the point of exhaustion and then some. It may not be a challenge many are willing to take, but for those who brave the venture of Xe, they will be satisfied with a summit of clatter and clang.
Highlights: “Corps”, “Xe”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]25. Torres – Sprinter[/heading]
Sprinter is an exercise in volume control. Torres spikes at the height of suspense, bringing a rattle of intensity when needed. Her second studio album shows substantial growth from her first effort, adding new personality in each song. The slow burners are equality as strong as the fist-shakers, balancing out into a scaled album of a little bit of everything. Shrill cries break through the grime, bringing Torres into a place of pure, unadulterated bliss.
Highlights: “Strange Hellos”, “Son, You Are No Island”, “Sprinter”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]24. Blanck Mass – Dumb Flesh[/heading]
John Carpenter may have made the perfect album to soundtrack a horror film from the 1980s, but Fuck Buttons’ Benjamin John Power made a modern horror soundtrack as Blanck Mass. “Loam” creeps in with other-worldly pitch shifting, “Dead Format” brings the chase scene mood, and “No Lite” explores the murky territory of a dark forest. If ever there is need for someone to score an Evil Dead-esque thriller, Blanck Mass has it covered. Dumb Flesh is a creepy album with beautifully concocted electronic numbers sure to make you sleep with one eye open.
Highlights: “Dead Format”, “No Lite”, “Cruel Sport”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]23. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love[/heading]
Unknown Mortal Orchestra brought the funk where they forgot it with 2013’s II. The band’s second album was a depressing acoustic set about isolation while Multi-Love dwells in the idea of the troubles of togetherness. More lavish instrumentals invade this new album, making it a detailed listen in order to pick up on everything that is going on. Social issues are debated, love tales are told, and an overall uplifting vibe fills Multi-Love to the top. The album overflows with chunks of sultry soul in a muddled pile of distortion.
Highlights: “Multi-Love”, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”, “Puzzles”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]22. Viet Cong – Viet Cong[/heading]
Viet Cong have been called out on several occasions for the displeasure of their name. Not everyone is a fan of a band’s name, thereby drawing attention to a title more than the contents below. Viet Cong’s self-titled album is a fantastic release of experimental rock. Its lo-fi execution matched with hi-fi concepts put out an album of glorious magnitude. The true highlight of Viet Cong is the twinkling piano and keyboard plunking behind all the grungy sounds clumped together on top. If you listen closely to the madness, a flickering sign of serenity pokes through.
Highlights: “March Of Progress”, “Silhouettes”, “Death”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]21. Purity Ring – Another Eternity[/heading]
People were sceptical about the announcement of a second Purity Ring album. Shrines, Purity Ring’s debut into the music scene, was an instant classic and a remarkable milestone in the marriage of indie and electronic music. Another Eternity, Purity Ring’s sophomore album, makes the already-huge songs of Shrines sound even bigger in a grand scheme of synthetics. The album possesses stadium-worthy beats while keeping low on the totem pole of EDM. While the group may not be one to inflict the masses with dope drops and teeth-chattering bass warbles, Purity Ring have not disappointed with their new album.
Highlights: “Bodyache” “Begin Again”, “Flood On The Floor”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]20. Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper[/heading]
Panda Bear is a cuddly giant who dabbles in the strange and bizarre. His primary work as a key member of Animal Collective has displayed his talent for the world to gaze at. As a solo vessel, Noah Lennox takes his music to a different scale. He is in control of his own result and therefore makes the music sound more to his liking. The eclectic bleeps and bloops are still rampant in PBMGR, but in comparison to his other work, the album is on its own. It may not have gained the classic status that 2007’s Person Pitch received, but it’s still a fun listen and one of 2015’s more memorable releases.
Highlights: “Mr Noah”, “Come To Your Senses”, “Principe Real”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]19. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love[/heading]
No Cities To Love is one of the best reunions in a little while. It seems like bands keep getting back together to create fantastic new material (My Bloody Valentine, Death From Above 1979) and others not so much (Pixies, Black Flag). With Sleater-Kinney, alternative rock’s reigning riot grrl act, there is no shortage of spunk. The entire album moves along as if the group has been steadily releasing albums over the past few years. In reality, Sleater-Kinney haven’t released anything since 2005’s The Woods. 2015 was truly blessed with the presence of the infectious yelps and power chords of Sleater-Kinney.
Highlights: “Price Tag”, “Surface Envy”, “A New Wave”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]18. Thundercat – The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam[/heading]
Thundercat just doesn’t quit. The godly bassist has lent his skills to many recent projects, filling in the cracks with his bubbly bass playing and almighty voice. His new “mini-album” is an extremely short listen, only 18 minutes in length, but catches every Thundercat stereotype and makes it sound fresh. No matter what the man does, even if he never changes his style, he will always make fantastic music that feels like a figurative back massage.
Highlights: “Them Changes”, “Lone Wolf And Cub”, “Where The Giants Roam/Field Of The Nephilim”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]17. Björk – Vulnicura [/heading]
Do you have a place you can go and cry deeply to yourself? You’re going to need it if you decide to tackle Björk’s new album Vulnicura. The entire premise revolves around the leading lady’s messy separation from her long-time lover and the emotional turmoil she experiences throughout. The album is immaculately crafted with the help of friends Arca and The Haxan Cloak, making it one of Bjork’s finest in a long line of spotless albums. Vulnicura isn’t meant to be the type of album to casually blast all the time and sing along to. It’s a slice of the heart that can only be handled in small doses at the proper time and proper place.
Highlights: “Black Lake”, “Family”, “Atom Dance”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]16. Miguel – Wildheart[/heading]
Miguel can make sexy music. It’s the type of music that could be used for the sexiest of times. Whether you use it for your horizontal happy dances is your own business but Miguel has released a gem of an album. Wildheart is an easy-like-Sunday-morning album with all the right qualities to make it enjoyable at any time. With a voice of an angel and crooked beat production, Wildheart is a everything the R&B genre needed right now. We’re still waiting Frank Ocean. You can join your musical brother whenever your album comes out.
Highlights: “DEAL”, “Coffee”, “FLESH”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]15. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall[/heading]
My Morning Jacket have always walked with a tightrope stride between the boundaries of country, stadium rock, and folk. The boisterous music skips like a rock across giant lakes, making each album a marvel to hear. The Waterfall is one of MMJ’s most intricate albums, hitting several nerves and spilling out infinitely amazing results. Each song brings out a unique strength gifted to the band and flawlessly demonstrates that The Waterfall is an album to be remembered for years.
Highlights: “Compound Fracture”, “In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)”, “Spring (Among The Living)”, “Only Memories Remain”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]14. Del Bel – Del Bel[/heading]
This group has been labelled as Toronto’s Portishead. I had the chance to hang out with Del Bel a few months ago with resounding success. The group is a very laid-back conglomerate, harmonizing on all levels of musicality. The eerie nightclub vibe emanated from Del Bel’s sophomore album flutters into the night to paint a picture of divinity. Local talent is something often taken for granted. Sometimes the best music can be found in your own backyard. All it takes is some research and bands with music like Del Bel might come knocking.
Highlights: “In My Solitude”, “The Rains”, “Firebox”, “Old Magic”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]13. Mew – + –[/heading]
Mew’s return to the big time could easily qualify as a contender for the album of the summer. Its sunny melodies and sugary tone leaves an energetic reaction in anyone who steps forward. The album is full of brilliant orchestral compositions, wrapped up neatly with a bow. Clean-cut, firm-footed, and standing tall, Mew have created a spectacular work of magic that soars with tracks like the opener “Satellites” to the deep cuts like “Interview The Girls”.
Highlights: “Satellites”, “The Night Believer”, “Water Slides”, “Interview The Girls”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]12. Holly Herndon – Platform[/heading]
The future is now. No more will music be used solely as a form of entertainment, but as a pleasure centre for those in peril. Holly Herndon makes a fascinating effort of industrial jib-jab united with skewered vocal arrangements. This 50-minute sprawl carries a universal theme of socialization and, in contrast, isolation. While humanized tracks like “Locker Leak” leave a comedic, nonsensical touch with lyrics like, “Be the first of your friends to like Greek yogurt this summer”, low-key tracks like “DAO” are banshee beats from another dimension. Platform is a strange achievement that isn’t afraid to break barriers and be creative.
Highlights: “Unequal”, “Locker Leak”, “Lonely At The Top”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]11. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06[/heading]
Youthful rascal Vince Staples has already managed to make it onto XXL’s Freshman list of upcoming hip-hop prospects. His unmatched flow and quirky tidbits make him a rapper unlike the rest. After seeing him in Toronto during NXNE, I saw the true fire burning deep inside of Staples. With a fanbase growing exponentially, Vince Staples has the chance to be one of hip-hop’s biggest name in a few years time. Summertime ’06 is a chronicle of Staples’ youth, cleverly splattering them all over the tracklist.
Highlights: “Norf Norf”, “Jump Off The Roof (feat. Snoh Aalegra)”, “Senorita”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]10. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf[/heading]
[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]9. Shamir – Ratchet[/heading]
Chance The Rapper has kept this project secret for quite some time. His involvement with The Social Experiment was a bit fuzzy and fans were unaware about what Surf really was. Sure enough, Surf was released as a free download, credited to a colourful cast of characters. Chance takes the reins, leading listeners through his land of luxury and hard-hitting, old-school beats. It’s everything to be expected from the young rapper as it progresses up from his debut mixtape Acid Rap in 2013. Surf is the poor man’s To Pimp A Butterfly with similar ideas carried out at a slightly smaller scale.
This 20-year old from North Las Vegas is someone described as genderless and genreless. Not that Shamir is an asexual being who thrives on minimalist sounds as a backdrop, but critics agree that Shamir is unlike anyone they’ve seen before. His overwhelming confidence on his debut album Ratchet proves that Shamir has a long road before him. Ratchet has a party attitude without being afraid to speak on pressing problems. Even though older musicians still try to make their music relevant, youthful presences like Shamir deserve all the same praise for stepping out into the vicious world of musical criticism.
Highlights: “Vegas”, “On The Regular”, “Call It Off”, “Head In The Clouds”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]8. Lower Dens – Escape From Evil[/heading]
As the weather gets warmer, so does the music. Lower Dens’ new album Escape From Evil presents a colourful collection of soothing melodies; perfect for any lazy summer afternoon. With its dazzling echo of sky-high vocals and reverberated guitar riffs, Escape From Evil is a tropical paradise. Its accessibility acts like white sand nuzzled between bare toes as its gentle presence gives a calming pleasure and atmosphere.
Highlights: “Ondine”, “To Die In L.A.”, “Quo Vadis”, “I Am The Earth”, “Societe Anonyme”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]7. Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again[/heading]
Doing the bare minimum is never considered a good thing. However, in the case of Jessica Pratt and her sophomore album, the opposite can be said. Pratt’s stripped-down album is a front-to-back stellar collection of folk glory. Her recognizable voice adds character to every word that floats out onto the scene, making On Your Own Love Again the stuff of genius. Bare bones folk is not something that attracts attention for a long period of time. Once again, Pratt masters the genre by keeping listeners captivated throughout.
Highlights: “Game That I Play”, “Strange Melody”, “Moon Dude”, “Back, Baby”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]6. Death Grips – The Powers That B[/heading]
Pack it up, folks. The answer has finally come to the all-consuming question of “Jenny Death when?”. Death Grips and their trail of pranks and fake-outs has lead them to The Powers That B, a double album that features music from last year’s Niggas On The Moon and the newly released Jenny Death. Played together, the albums compliment and contrast each other. Niggas On The Moon was a more electronic experiment, using the voice of Björk to support the never-ending outbursts of Stefan Burnett. Jenny Death is a rougher side, a rusty wheel on a swivelling shopping cart. Its guitar-licked tendencies are a new concept to the group and they play out well. Let`s see where Death Grips is headed next.
Disc 1 – “Up My Sleeves”, “Billy Not Really”, “Have A Sad Cum”, “Voila”
Disc 2 – “Inanimate Sensation”, “Turned Off”, “The Powers That B”, “On GP”
Bones is a concept album without knowing it is. Its clockwork of lyrics decipher into a message of self-identification. Self-acceptance and finding a place in the world is not something decided on a whim. Son Lux, now a trio of members, ups the ante with a minced and prepared array of songs. Each track has its dysfunctional elements brought to the table only to be sung out with gut-wrenching yells and deafening percussion. Though the album fell slightly under many critics’ radars, it should be considered one of 2015’s most important releases.
Highlights: “Change Is Everything”, “Flight”, “You Don’t Know Me”, “This Time”, “White Lies”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]4. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell[/heading]
Still crying over Bjork’s album? Don’t add this to your rotation quite yet. Carrie & Lowell is Sufjan’s biggest heartache, directing the wounds at his recently-deceased mother and his relationship with her. With a soft coo of a voice accompanied by woodsy string instruments, Sufjan Stevens brings his music back a few paces. 2010’s Age of Adz was a huge production, decorating itself in twirling electronica and auto-tuned goodness. Carrie & Lowell does something else with its quiet lyrics that pierce the heart with brutal reality. The album is a masterpiece and a sad one at that.
Highlights: “Death With Dignity”, “I Should Have Known Better”, “Fourth Of July”, “The Only Thing”, “No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]3. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear[/heading]
Sarcasm has never sounded so sweet. Father John Misty has added a touch of comedy to his music on I Love You, Honeybear, his second solo album after departing Fleet Foxes. Misty’s deadpan musing speaks in a tone most people only fantasize about. The rampant theme of love runs through the album, highlighting Josh Tillman’s relationship with his wife Emma. The sincerely sappy title track opens up a portal to the world of realism, red-flagging the repercussions of excessive hedonism. By the end, the album has run through every possible circumstance of relationship standards, expectations, and realities.
Highlights: “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C For Two Virgins)”, “True Affection”, “When You Smile And Astride By Me”, “Strange Encounter”, “Holy Shit”, “I Went To The Store One Day”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]2. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly[/heading]
To love oneself is often a struggle. Kendrick Lamar’s illustrative new album encapsulates a compelling narrative of stardom. The music of Flying Lotus is an obvious influence on the jazz-infused stylization of To Pimp A Butterfly. Kendrick’s metamorphosis grows and swells until his glorious majesty bursts from a cocoon. The pure juxtaposition of the hellish “u” and the empowering “i” hits the ball right out of the park. The album is a transformative experience, heavily doused in personal mayhem, that will be one for the ages. Even though it may not be the album fans of good kid, m.A.A.d city wanted, it’s the final product of true artistry at its best.
Highlights: “Wesley’s Theory (feat. George Clinton & Thundercat)”, “King Kunta”, “These Walls (feat. Bilal, Anna Wise & Thundercat)”, “u”, “Hood Politics”, “The Blacker The Berry”[heading size=”15″ align=”left”]1. Jamie xx – In Colour [/heading]
As you sit on a chair looking out at the sandy beaches, a small voice whispers in sync with the ambiance around you, “I know there’s gonna be good times”.