The Top Ten Albums of 2015


By Justin Adams

Let me preface this by saying that this list (like all end-of-year lists) is highly subjective.

10. “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” – Florence + the Machine

This is the third album from the English indie rock band fronted by Florence Welch and her haunting, powerful voice. It doesn’t deviate much from the previous albums’ formula, but hey — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The album’s two singles, “Ship to Wreck” and “What Kind of Man,” are great, but the album has some other gems like “Delilah” and “St Jude.”

9. “Our Own House” – MisterWives

Maybe the most danceable album of the year, “Our Own House is the debut album of indie-pop band MisterWives. Lead singer Mandy Lee’s energetic voice and some extremely catchy refrains make this a great collection of party music.

8. “So The Flies Don’t Come” — milo

This is the second full-length album from Wisconsin rapper milo, whose debut album came out last year. His slow and deliberate style sometimes sounds more like spoken-word poetry than it does rap. Between milo’s meanderingly random lyrics and the lo-fi minimalist instrumentation, the album has a certain quality of intimacy. Listening to it, you feel like you’re in milo’s basement, listening to him practice over vinyl.

7. “Get to Heaven” — Everything Everything

Everything Everything is a British indie-pop group. While their sound is definitely within the realm of pop music, their subject matter really strays into some dark territory, which creates a really interesting contrast.

6. “I Love You, Honeybear” — Father John Misty

Father John Misty, otherwise known as Joshua Tillman, is a veteran of the indie folk rock genre, having previously been the drummer for Fleet Foxes. In his first solo album since leaving Fleet Foxes, Father John Misty certainly shows that acoustic-folk influence in songs like “Chateau Lobby #4” but also differentiates himself with more electronic songs like “True Affection.”

5. “Beauty Behind the Madness”– The Weeknd

I didn’t check out this album when it first came out because I had heard its hugely popular single, “Can’t Feel My Face,” and it didn’t do much for me. I kept hearing about how good this album was, though, so I finally gave in and gave it a listen. You can consider me converted. Most of the album is much less “pop-y” than “Can’t Feel My Face.” Songs like “Real Life,” “The Hills” or “Losers” aren’t nearly as radio-friendly, in part because they’re hard to place in any particular genre, but that’s what makes them so great.

4. “Sound and Color”– Alabama Shakes

Now, this is a little blasphemous, but I’m just going to say it. There are parts of this album that remind me of Led Zeppelin. It’s bluesy, aggressive, rebellious and passionate. Lead singer Brittany Howard has a voice to rival any rock and roll front man of the 60s or 70s.

3. “To Pimp a Butterfly” — Kendrick Lamar

There was no “sophomore slump: for Kendrick Lamar following his highly-praised debut album, “good kid, m.A.A.d city.” If anything, “To Pimp a Butterfly” improves upon Lamar’s first album and firmly establishes him as the best rapper working today. It’s a complex and layered album from start to finish, both lyrically and musically.

2. “Hamilton” – Broadway Cast Recording

If you haven’t heard about “Hamilton,” the hit Broadway musical about the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, featuring hip-hop music and a cast of Latina/o and African-American actors, then you’ve been missing out. Tickets to the actual stage production are nearly impossible to get, but the music alone is so show-stopping, laugh-out-loud-funny and heart-breaking that everyone can and should listen to it, even if they will never see the show in person.

1. “Carrie and Lowell” – Sufjan Stevens

“Carrie and Lowell” tells the story of Steven’s dysfunctional relationship with his bipolar schizophrenic mother, who died in 2012. It sounds heavy and depressing, and at moments it certainly is. On “Should Have Known Better” he sings about when his mother abandoned him, “When I was three, three maybe four / She left us at that video store.” But Steven’s trademark whisper-singing is so vulnerable and intimate that the tragic story is somehow infused with both hope and forgiveness. It’s an intensely emotional and personal love letter in musical form and a definite contender for best album of 2015.

What do you think should be on the list? I’m always looking for new music, so tweet me your suggestions @jusstadams.

[email protected]