The amount of great music in the past six months has been almost unfair. As in: How are we supposed to process all this? How can we fully appreciate one major piece of work when there’s always another one coming right around the corner. And when the huge, fully-formed masterpieces are dropping from the sky with no notice whatsoever, is it even safe to tear our faces away from the internet for a day or two? These are good problems to have.
Thus far, 2015 has been stuffed with major artists setting their sights terrifyingly high and then somehow hitting their targets. There have been disappointments, for sure, but they’ve been few and far between. More often, people are trying out insanely ambitious ideas and pulling them off. Kendrick Lamar pulled from spoken-word and abstract jazz to make an opus about what it’s like to be black in America in 2015. It worked. Bjork turned to experimental electronic music to help her cope with the open wound of her divorce. It worked. Chance The Rapper subsumed his talents into a full-band soul-gospel-jazz odyssey about being in love with life. It worked. Sufjan Stevens stripped back all his orchestral indulgences and tried making a devastatingly direct record about family and loss. It worked. Everything worked.
Amidst the avalanche of bigger releases, though, there was plenty going on on the margins: Great indie-pop from Colleen Green and Hop Along and Yowler, great extreme metal from Tribulation and Elder and Leviathan, great folk-rock from the Staves and the Weather Station and Johanna Warren, great partied-out rap music from Rae Sremmurd and Action Bronson and Young Thug. If slick pop music was your thing, Drake and Mark Ronson and Brandon Flowers did their respective things as well as anyone could’ve hoped. If loud, clangy guitars suited your mood better, Screaming Females and Viet Cong and Speedy Ortiz had you covered. Even the reunion albums held up; Sleater-Kinney and Blur’s new albums hold their own in hall-of-fame catalogs.
Any new full-length album released or announced for release between 1/1/15 to 6/30/15 was eligible for this list, and there was so much great stuff that it’ll take us at least until the end of the year to properly appreciate all of it. The next six months have a whole lot to live up to.