List season. It’s odd how something with such a boring name could cause heated debate amongst many, though that’s nothing new for the internet. So as I’ve always done since 2013, I’ve compiled a list of my favourite albums of the past 12 months, ranging from heavy rock to pop to grime to rap, there’ll no doubt be something here for you. Disagree with me? Well you could always contribute to my Best of 2015 post which is coming next Thursday, just message me on Twitter or Facebook and you’ll be sorted!
I hope you enjoy this list which took far too much time to make than I’m proud to admit. So put the pitchforks down for now and let’s dive in.
25. At. Long. Last. ASAP – A$AP Rocky
Following up his 2013 debut Long Live ASAP, Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky gets even more experimental on this sophomore album. While there’s significantly less chart gems present than his last outing, the same charm and production value can be felt on every track.
24. Purpose – Justin Bieber
Time for all those awfully spelt insults and memes we made about biebs to disappear. He is back and with a totally transformed sound as those who once slated him are now praising him as tracks like Sorry are pop perfection. While his vocals might be a bit lackluster and too safe, the influence Kanye, Skrillex and co. have had on the lad has paid off.
23. Back On Top – The Front Bottoms
While Talon Of The Hawk felt like a AAA version of The Front Bottoms’ self loathing lyric fueled sound, Back On Top feels like the beginning of a new chapter for the band. Historic Cemetery just screams Weezer and other tracks like Cough It Out are as catchy as a cold (albeit more enjoyable). A near flawless amalgamation of emo & pop-punk.
22. Every Open Eye – CHVRCHES
There’s no denying that CHVRCHES are one of the best new bands to come out in quite a while, breathing new life into the synth pop genre and yet again reiterating how vibrant the Glasgow music scene is. Every Open Eye is like the Empire Strikes Back for the band: more gritty, more epic but faithful to what made the band what they are.
21. For All My Sisters – The Cribs
West Yorkshire band The Cribs might have hit out with their best album yet, full of the indie punk greatness that put them on the radar in the first place. See Pink Snow for a chaotic crescendo closer that results in another classic album for the band’s discography.
20. Currents – Tame Impala
Despite constantly being compared to the likes of Radiohead for their album rock genius, Tame Impala somehow manage to merge frontman Kevin Parker’s uncontrollable love of pop and their trademark psychedelic sound to craft something truly special. A breakup album disguised as a feel good, funky gem, Currents is only as good as the sum of its parts and those parts are undeniably brilliant.
19. Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit – Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett has proved time and time again why she deserves to be put on a pedestal, despite what she might say on Pedestrian At Best. Sometimes I Sit.. has an unprecedented charm to it and is insanely listenable. Absolutely exceptional.
18. Art Angels – Grimes
As abnormally appealing as they come, Grimes returns with a record which is far more pop orientated than anything she’s ever made before yet it still retains all her trademark characteristics. California is a radio friendly hit that never verges into sell-out territory. She may have scrapped an entire album before this but when the replacement sounds this good, we’re not losing any sleep.
17. Cherry Bomb – Tyler The Creator
While the ever controversial Tyler may have had a bad 2015 (OFWGKTA is no more, fall out with best pal Earl Sweatshirt, banned from UK), he can end the year knowing his latest album is arguably his best yet. A Frankenstein’s monster of sorts, Cherry Bomb fuses Tyler’s influencers (N.E.R.D, Stevie Wonder) and his own own dubious rap style to make a distorted masterpiece.
16. Another One – Mac DeMarco
It really is testament to how talented Mac DeMarco is that a mini album manages to stand above full LPs. In his own words, Another One is about “different kinds of facets of being in love, being out of love, wanting love, not wanting love”. This concept never grows tiresome over the record’s eight track length and further refines his already sublime laid back sound.
15. Happy People – Peace
Peace know what they are: floppy haired indie royalty, just like Arctic Monkeys before them. They’re not ashamed of this in the slightest though as they embrace this wholeheartedly. Happy People has exactly what you’d expect from the guys who brought you bloodshake as well as some even heavier tracks like I’m A Girl, showing the band are still as capable as ever to fire out some more indie-rock gems.
14. What Went Down – Foals
It’s hard to recall an album this year that has managed to balance balls to the wall heavy rock and cordial little tracks all on the one LP. Foals have proven yet again that it’s not in their DNA to make a bad album.
13. Are You Satisfied – Slaves
The debut album is often a record which most bands would play it safe on to be more approachable by the public. This isn’t the case for Kent punk duo Slaves who showcase their silliness on Feed The Mantaray while also trying to get their message across of “doing something with your lives” to listeners. Regardless if they succeed in doing so, the boys manage to stand out from every two piece band around at the moment, no small feat at all.
12. The Mindsweep – Enter Shikari
2015 was undoubtedly one of the most important years for UK politics and no band knows and represents this better than Enter Shikari. From the feedback heavy track Anaesthetist dealing with the privatisation of the NHS to the unsubtly commentary on the corruption of bankers on Bank Of England, the band make their voice well and truly heard and it’s never sounded so good.
11. If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late – Drake
For a man who is worth millions, if not billions, Drake’s latest album is surprisingly minimalistic in comparison to other rapper’s records. However, this surprise release benefits from this, managing to hit out with the anthems you’d expect from Drizzy while managing to be retrospective. A man that can’t be stopped.
10. Too – FIDLAR
Los Angeles band FIDLAR love drugs (despite just getting out of rehab), drinking and self loathing. They lay all their cards out on the table so that they and the listeners can get down to business and have a good time. Wouldn’t you know it, they do exactly that. Heavily inspired by the 90’s teen angst bands like blink-182, Too is a 42 minute record that is all about having fun and provides just that. Simple yet amazing.
9. My Love Is Cool – Wolf Alice
Is it any surprise that Wolf Alice are the biggest new act of 2015? The band have built up a hype hurricane since their very first EP which hasn’t been helped by the likes of NME naming them a “band that will change your life” and being nominated for multiple awards. Thankfully this hasn’t derailed the band who deliver a record bursting with heart and grunge-lite sound. One of the greatest debuts of the past decade.
8. Life’s Not Out To Get You – Neck Deep
Pop punk has had its own sort of renaissance this year with Knuckle Puck mixing the emo sound of American Football with the appeal a genre like this brings. Neck Deep have filled the converse of blink-182 with an album that is full of the same polish and emotion as Enema Of The State. A band that are worth keeping your eye on.
7. Positive Songs For Negative People – Frank Turner
You’ll struggle to find a solo artist with the same raw passion as Frank Turner. After constructing a record about heartbreak that was enough to make the toughest person feel second hand remorse, PSFNP does exactly what it says on the tin. Any self professed cynic will find themselves drawn in by the snarling guitars and folk rock genius of certain tracks, showing that Frank is arguably the most talented Turner in the business.
6. The Powers That B – Death Grips
Sacramento experimental hip hop band Death Grips are…weird to say the least. This statement proves to be the most true when listening to Jenny Death, the second half of TPTB, which came out of fucking nowhere in traditional Death Grips fashion. It serves as a reminder to why many fell in love with the band: pure uncut anarchy with the staple MC Ride delivery. Although it isn’t as tremendous as The Money Store, it’s the perfect combination of rap and rock, especially on tracks like On GP.
5. Integrity > – JME
Just like pop punk, Grime witnessed a second wind this year, solidified by artists like Skepta breaking into the charts and a flamethrower extravaganza at the Brits when many artists from the genre joined Kanye on stage. While it may not have topped charts, JME’s latest record is the best record in the genre since Boy In Da Corner. Independently released, JME preaches about keyboard warriors, veganism and his disinterest in others opinions. Over the 16 tracks and countless video game references, it’s painfully clear that JME is loving what he’s doing, not having to answer to a boss and in the process he’s stumbled upon one of the most refreshing albums of the year.
4. Get To Heaven – Everything Everything
Bare with me here. Yes, if you had asked me a few years ago if I would ever enjoy an Everything Everything album I would probably have laughed you off. However, the Manchester act aren’t regarded as genre defying for nothing and their latest release is proof of that. Full to the brim with infectious pop and insanely danceable tracks, Get To Heaven is unlike anything to come out this year. It has political commentary so well hidden by its 60’s beats and weirdly catchy alarm clock samples that even if they were stripped away, the album as a whole would still stand on its own. Imaginative and unique, Get To Heaven can be three genres at once but still be described with one word: exhilarating.
3. That’s The Spirit – Bring Me The Horizon
After a brutal history with the drug Ketamine, Oli Sykes says he came out of Rehab feeling like he didn’t want to scream anymore, he wanted to “sing from the fucking rooftops”. Just as Sykes overcame his addiction, so to have Bring Me The Horizon overcame the troubles that most bands face when changing their sound. Although hardcore fans who have been there since their metalcore days may be disappointed about the transition, there is no denying the layered and evolved synths and atmosphere that come in hand with them are on an such a level of quality that it’s hard to think of a band that does it as well as them. Without a doubt, the best rock album of 2015.
2. In Colour – Jamie XX
It’s hard to fault Jamie Smith when it comes to his skills as a producer. Many felt like working with The XX was limiting his range, musically, and whilst members of the band make appearances throughout, In Colour not only stands on its own two legs, it stands out as an absolute juggernaut of a record. The brilliant thing about In Colour is how difficult it is to pigeon hole. It’s been described by some reviewers as a rave album and some tracks like the aforementioned Gosh could imply that it is such an album. However each track can be interpreted in so many and the term “electronic” is so vague that it’s almost insulting. Whether you think it’s a rave album, a techno one or even a semi reggae one for some reason, you’re both right and wrong. One thing is for sure though and that’s that you’ll definitely be in the latter if you decide to give this album a skip.
And the best album of the year is…
To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
What else was it going to be? Let’s all confess for a minute: we were all worried. How on earth could Kendrick Lamar top the move-esque masterpiece that was Good Kid m.A.A.d city? We were anxious as fuck but once To Pimp A Butterfly dropped out of nowhere, all those worries were laid to rest.
Criticise me if you wish but Lamar is the new king of rap as his scope reaches a ginormous scale you’d expect from a firearm. Showing the rage of Kanye (Blacker The Berry), romantic nature of Drake (Complexion) and the unpredictableness that only Lamar himself can provide, TPAB could have been a lame, safe follow up. Instead it tackles integrated racism in America, staying true to yourself by turning down stardom and…talking to Tupac. Seriously though, Kendrick is a man who knows where he stands in the music world. He knows he’s one of the biggest artists in the world and he uses this position for good, asking for gangs to reconcile, calling out rappers for being shams and telling the listener to love themselves.
There’s not much I can say about To Pimp A Butterfly that hasn’t been said already but what I can say is this: it’s not only the best album of 2015, it’s arguably the best album to come out this century.
Big love, Liam x