2015 was an amazing year in music. Streaming became an even bigger part of our every day lives, skirmishes were had, and records weren't just shattered - they were absolutely demolished. And all the while, artists and bands - new and old - from all genres and countries, were putting out their best work to date.
So, in no particular order, here are my top 10 albums from 2015
LOGIC - THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY
Logic is a 25 year old American Rapper, and The Incredible True Story is his second studio LP. If I'm being honest, this was the first album of his that I had heard, so I had little to no expectations going in, and I think that's why it resonated so well with me - I had nothing to compare it to. The Incredible True Story was the natural progression to his debut, Under Pressure, as he took what he had learned and launched himself into space with the conceptual album. While not the most complex of lyricists, Logic was able to produce an album that has the feel of a full, complete body of work - one embedded with nuances, themes and a larger, interwoven framework that nobody could digest in one listen.
DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE - KINTSUGI
Kintsugi is the eigth full length LP by Death Cab for Cutie, and serves as a cathartic send-off for long time guitarist and producer of the band, Chris Walla. The album as a whole is the maturing of the band, which, if you remember the terrible emo haircuts and attitudes of your mid-aughts 16 year old self, is a good thing. The arrangements, along with Gibbard's vocals, allow the album to sound both familiar and new simultaneously. The songs themselves do a terrific job of moving the listener by perfectly balancing Gibbard's personal experiences with more generalized concepts reflective of painfully failed relationships, self-deception, and looking ahead without losing touch with what's past. While the second half of the record is definitely weaker than the opening tracks, Kintsugi provides sonically strong material as a whole.
BEACH HOUSE - DEPRESSION CHERRY
Part of the joy that comes from listening to Beach House is how the duo seems to always be able to craft the perfect daydreaming Soundtrack. Depression Cherry, silly name aside, is no different. The album is full of lush synth and guitars, and the vocals give it a sightly eerie, etheral sound. Everything is just slightly off-kilter, but in a way that only Beach House can master. It's as if they want to take you on a soaring journey, with the only promise being an unspecified destination. Depression Cherry is one of the few albums from this year that left me wanting even more.
Dance Gavin Dance - Instant Gratification
Back in 2012, the former Tides of Man singer, Tillian Person, took over as the clean vocalist for Dance Gavin Dance. in 2013, they dropped their fifth studio album, Acceptance Speech, and the band soared back into being one of my favourites, and that album became one of my most played to this date. This year, Dance Gavin Dance released their second album, Instant Gratification, with Tillian once again at the helm. While I absolutely love this album, it's certainly no Acceptance Speech. That's not a bad thing though. Dance Gavin Dance continues to be an anomoly in the sea of generic post-hardcore, and this album has the same old DGD flair, but with a slightly different flavour. This album as a whole is the culmination of the band's growth over the years, and delivers a variety of well-crafted songs.
IBEYI - IBEYI
Ibeyi is a French-Cuban musical duo consisting of twin sisters, Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz. The duo sings in both English and Yoruba, and after hearing them on NPR's All Songs Considered podcast, I immediately fell in love with them. As Ibeyi, the duo mix traditional Latin rhythms with subtle handclaps, piano and electronics, creating a warm, intoxicating sound that is smart, and emotionally open. Of all the albums that I had listened to this year, this one stood out the most because of how welcomingly different it was.
KENDRICK LAMAR - TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY
The very first song I ever heard by Kendrick Lamar was Hol' Up, from his debut album, Section 80. Ever since then, I've been hooked. Not since the early days of Lupe Fiasco has a rapper grabbed my attention in the way that Lamar has, and he shows no signs of stopping. To Pimp a Butterfly is his third album, and since he doesn't like to do easy, he gave us something far chewier to sink our teeth into. There's just no way to get everything out of this album in one listen, and he knows that as he continues to think outloud, becoming the unofficial anthem for young activists across America. What I most enjoyed about this album in particular is just how different it sounds from his previous endeavours, showing us that he's willing to experiment with new sounds, and sonically speaking, this album is solid from start to finish.
KAMASI WASHINGTON - THE EPIC
What happens when you throw a jazz genius in a room with a 32 member orchestra and 20 vocalists? You get Kamasi Washington's three-disc, three hour long epic that's appropriately called, The Epic. It's an album grounded entirely in the groove, even as the tunes become sweepingly spacey. There's not a whole lot to say about this album other than the fact that you absolutely NEED to listen to it.
Tame Impala - Currents
With Currents, Tame Impala has taken their signature psychedlic-rock sound in a brand new direction. There's this unexpected beauty and tenderness to this while thing, from the crisp, hip-hop accenting on the drums to the full-bodied bass and vivd synths. It's not the sit-up and listen kind of record that you've come to expect from the band, but with the new electro-pop sounds, it's just as accomplished as their previous efforts. It's always refreshing to see artists and bands explore new sounds and directions, while maintaining the very essence that makes them who they are, and Currents is no exception.
BADBADNOTGOOD / GHOSTFACE KILLAH - SOUR SOUL
The prospect of hearing a Wu-Tang veteran, Ghostface Killah, rap over moody live-band jazz sounded too good to be true. And for the most part, it is. Throughout this album with the Toronto jazz-funk trio, BADBADNOTGOOD, Ghostface Killah is consistently outshone by the guest vocalists, who bring to the table strong writing. That, however, doesn't take away from the strength of this album, but rather, the strength of Ghostface himself. Old Habits die hard with Ghostface it seems, as he's still pandering to Marvel geeks with tracks like Ray Gun, but at this point, you pretty much know what you're getting when it comes to Killah. Still, Sour Soul is an impressive album, and one that I kept coming back to throughout the year.
NEON INDIAN - VEGA INTL. Night School
As with every Neon Indian album, VEGA INTL. Night School can feel chaotic, effusive, and overwhelming at times. However, much like the bright lights of the city that provided much of the inspiration for this album, it's equal parts dazzling as well. VEGA is Palomo's idealistic version of NYC, presented as a sort of audio film narrative. It's his riff on the idea of a night school - stay up past midnight and you'll see how the city unfolds before you, and how human nature really works. It's a beautiful album, reminding me of the Bladerunner score. VEGA INTL. Night School goes down like a reimagined debut album, and that's entirely because it introduces a newly carefree, natueae focused Neon Indian.
BONUS: TAYLOR SWIFT - 1989
Okay, yes, 1989 is technically a 2014 release that came out 14 months ago. Even then, throughout 2015, Taylor Swift's first real non-country pop album was absolutely inescapable in 2015. The album has had three singles released so far in 2015, with a fourth slated to come out on December 31st. And not for nothing, 1989 is an incredibly catchy album. Almost every single song is an earworm that will burrow it's way deep inside your head, refusing to get out.