2015 In Review

The 50 Best Albums Of 2015

20 Screaming Females – Rose Mountain (Don Giovanni)

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There’s no other way to say it: This album kicks so much ass. Instead of rattling around your brain, the hooks on this thing punch right through your skull. Screaming Females sound less ragged and more polished, and to some, the sanding down of their punk edges could be a disappointment. But that polishing leaves them a towering rock machine, every one of Marissa Paternoster’s guitar heroics and defiant wails perfectly calibrated to make you want to go stomp a dragon in the teeth. And if that makeover paves the way for something like “Wishing Well,” a downright pretty alt-pop song that still manages to shred, I’m all for it. —Peter

19 Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (Merge)

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Over the years, Katie Crutchfield has proven herself a master of the form: ’90s-inflected, nasally, home-recorded punk. Ivy Tripp is yet another subtle but meaningful step forward from what she’s been doing in various iterations for a decade now. It’s the perfect fall record: the crunch of leaves, the crisp morning air can be felt in every note. It’s the sound of stumbling and brushing the dirt off, feeling like shit, not knowing where to go or what to do next. It’s a record for wanderers, for those of us who are unable to or refuse to settle down. —James

18 Future – DS2 (A1/Freebandz/Epic)

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You will never hear a sadder album about getting high with strippers. Last year, when Future’s pop-star aspirations were sputtering, his pregnant fiancée Ciara left him, allegedly because of his infidelity. So he crawled to the bottom of a cup of lean and spent three (great) mixtapes honing a new sound — ravaged, garbled, zooted, paranoid. And then he made this, an album of digital codeine blues that sounds like the moment you’re convinced your hangover is never going to clear up and you just want to die. And it banged hard enough that it made him a rap god. —Tom

17 Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge)

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There are no half measures in the world of Titus Andronicus, least of all on The Most Lamentable Tragedy. If Patrick Stickles is going to write a sprawling opus about his battles with manic depression, you best believe it will be sprawling, and that it’ll have room for a handful of their best songs — “Fatal Flaw,” “Dimed Out,” and “Fired Up” are all instant classics — right alongside a cover of “Auld Lang Syne.” Fittingly for a band that can make DIY venues feel like stadiums, The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a paradox: as demanding as it is rewarding, dense and overwrought as it is raw and furious, as life-affirming as it is confessional and tortured. It’s driven by a runaway ambition almost unheard of in rock music these days. Hardly any of Titus’ contemporaries are attempting this kind of scope, and if they are they probably aren’t getting away with it. Titus is more than getting away with it. They’re making some of the most vital music of their generation. —Ryan

16 Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf (Self-Released)

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Instead of following-up his critically-acclaimed mixtape Acid Rap by bashing us over the head with another jittery, anxiety-ridden vision, Chance The Rapper took the road less traveled. He got a bunch of his friends together in a studio — both total unknowns and certified celebrities — and they created Surf, a hope-fueled collection of songs that can brighten the most dismal day. Chance outdid Acid Rap by refusing to take the spotlight. Instead, he introduced us to a slew of new stars and put to rest the tired mythology that true art is only ever born of pain and torture. Sometimes, when it’s done right, the best art is made out of towering feelings of pure, unadulterated love. —Gabriela

15 Tame Impala – Currents (Interscope)

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“Let It Happen” was the anthem and the guiding principle. On Currents, this generation’s biggest rock band finally caught up with poptimism, proving for the bazillionth time that you can be a maniacal studio-rat control freak specializing in transcendent psych-pop opuses and still, like, listen to the radio sometimes. Tame Impala’s epiphany is not a radical or novel concept at this juncture in music history, but on these roller-rink jams and laser-light-show power ballads, it feels like a revelation. —Chris

14 Jenny Hval – Apocalypse, Girl (Sacred Bones)

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It’s impossible to encapsulate the various themes that Jenny Hval invokes on her anthemic offering, Apocalypse, Girl, but above all else, this album is an exploration of sexuality. “I’m six or seven and dreaming that I’m a boy,” Hval sings on “Sabbath,” before interrogating exactly what it means to be that: a girl displaced by her own body and the carnal desire that it inspires. Hval’s sound is performative and spoken-word heavy, but her earnest, prose-driven monologues inevitably descend into melodic choruses. Hooks jut out like elbows and knees in the tangled bed sheets of her narration as she questions what true intimacy should look like: “It would be easy to think about submission, but I don’t think it’s about submission. It’s about: holding and being held.” —Gabriela

13 The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Harmlessness (Epitaph)

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There’s a parable that’s often recited in addiction counseling and made famous by The West Wing that goes something like this: A guy falls into a hole and can’t get out. A doctor and a priest pass by and give him a prescription and a prayer, and then his friend walks by and jumps down into the hole with him. “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.” And the friend says: “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.” The World Is… is that friend, and Harmlessness will help you find a way out. It’s not the kind of music that will change the world, but it might just change your life. —James

12 Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear (Sub Pop)

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You have to buy into Father John Misty. There’s no way around it. Josh Tillman’s alter-ego is arrogant, petulant. He’s an asshole. And he’s singing songs that are ridiculous in their lushness, stuff that would be intentionally saccharine were it not for the sarcasm and critiques leveled left and right. This is the brilliance of the whole Father John Misty project, though: Tillman has a gift for incisive wit and brutal observations, but they’re turned inwards as often as outwards. I Love You, Honeybear deconstructs him as a person while deconstructing human relationships in the 21st century. The self-lacerations all lead us to that cripplingly moving, spare final moment of the album where he relays the moment he met his wife: “I’ve seen you around, what’s your name?” The beauty of I Love You, Honeybear is that it wickedly cuts through all the bullshit, but what it finds underneath is certain universal things we all want. And there’s something there that makes the album one of the most hopeful of the year, in its way: If it can happen for that jerk, well, there might just be a chance for all of us to be happy. —Ryan

11 Jamie xx – In Colour (Young Turks)

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In Colour opens with a feint: “Gosh” begins with an irregular heartbeat rattle, and then that synth comes in and dropkicks you with one of the year’s most beautiful melodies, sounding like heartbreak experienced from a faraway space station. Much of the record continues apace, offering alternate-reality melancholic club music. The clouds clear for moments of triumph like walk-home-at-sunrise jam “Loud Places” (better than any song by the xx, by the way) and “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times).” Most of it, though, inverts dance music from communal experience to deeply interior personal journeys, the stuff of synapses firing on long, lonely walks. —Ryan

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