January 14, 2016
25. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp
Ivy Tripp is DIY singer/songwriter that draws on Katie Crutchfield’s punk past. Lyrically, the album continues her exploration of feminist ideas, and uses her experiences, or more specifically her mistakes, to demonstrate how a strong, independent woman is formed in today’s society.
24. Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer
Speedy Ortiz’s previous releases were enjoyable, but often lacked the hooks to take the band to the next level. Foil Deer does not have that deficiency. It has hooks for days. Sadie Dupuis’ voice and the album’s guitar tones bring to mind 90s artists like Liz Phair and Veruca Salt, but Foil Deer is noise pop for this generation.
23. Chvrches – Every Open Eye
The best word to describe Every Open Eye is ‘pristine.’ The album sees Chvrches bring their brand of indie, synth pop ever closer to the pop mainstream. In fact, there is no doubt that a little Top 40 radio airplay would see the band deservedly break through that barrier.
22. Young Thug – Barter 6
Barter 6 is Young Thug at his insane best. It’s hooky, full of intricate flows and odd bars, and of course features Thugga’s distinctive voice. Where this tape stands out among Thug’s output of the last couple years, however, is the production. The beats here are almost languid and Thug’s flow often slows down to ride in the pocket.
21. Lower Dens – Escape From Evil
Lower Dens’ prior releases were heavily indebted to shoegaze/dream pop sounds. Escape From Evil, however, introduces a dancey, new wave aesthetic. Drums and bass drive the album and give it a bounce that hasn’t existed for the band before. Even with the new direction, however, the band’s music rises and falls with Jana Hunter’s strong alto vocals, and Escape From Evil has far more rise than fall.
20. Miguel – Wildheart
Full of guitars, explicit lyrics, and largely shunning obvious hooks to rely on an album wide atmosphere to draw in the listener, Wildheart isn’t about sex. It is sex. There’s really nothing more that needs said.
19. Rae Sremmurd – SremmLife
Rae Sremmurd first made waves in 2014 due to a sound that bridges the gap between chart rap and the codeine rap currently coming out of Atlanta. Their debut album is no different. Produced by Mike WiLL Made It, SremmLife is bouncy southern trap made for serious partying, with no concern for what comes tomorrow.
18. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi Love
The music of Multi-Love is the familiar psych pop of Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s first two releases, but the lyrics focus largely on Ruban Nielson’s emotions as he and his wife attempted to navigate a summer living in polyamory. Taken together, the music and lyrics form an incredibly raw whole that is both beautiful and terrifying.
17. Jamie xx – In Colour
In Colour is Jamie xx’s solo debut and brings together all the various UK electronic styles that have influenced him (UK garage, wonky, dubstep, house, etc.). Unlike many of his contemporaries, however, In Colour brings a rare freshness to these sounds that elevates the album to more than ‘just’ a dance album.
16. Screaming Females – Rose Mountain
Rose Mountain is Screaming Females 6th full length release since 2011, and continues to merge punk and the power pop the band’s New Jersey base has been churning out since the 70’s. This time around some of the punk edges have been sanded off and the album feels more like straight ahead guitar rock, but it’s a damn enjoyable listen.
15. Metz – II
II picks up right where Metz’s debut left off. It’s an Amphetamine Reptile-like mix of punk, grunge, and shoegaze with loud, fuzzed out guitars, crushing drums and bass, and emotive vocals. Basically II is the epitome of what Robert Christgau derisively calls pigfuck, but there’s a melodicism to Metz that produces a true depth to their sound.
14. Tame Impala – Currents
Currents is very much a Tame Impala record, but where InnerSpeaker and Lonerism were insular psychedelic rock made for putting on headphones and shutting out the world, Currents takes the band’s sound in a dancey new direction that begs to be played at high volume at BBQs and on beaches.
13. Algiers – s/t
The world may not have realized it, but it was in desperate need of gospel, post punk. Happily, Algiers is here to deliver. Alternately brooding and soaring, Algiers is a casserole of genres that don’t seem like they should work together, but somehow blend to perfection.
12. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Amazingly, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit is Courtney Barnett’s debut full length. It only seems like she’s been around forever, putting out albums full of cutting guitars, slacker vocals, and charming lyrics.
11. Beach House – Depression Cherry
Some bands feel the need to change something about their sound with each album. Beach House has their lane, and they stay within it. Depression Cherry is another top notch entry into their catalog of woozy, dream pop.
10. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
I Love You Honeybear replaces some of the anger of its predecessor Fear Fun with sincere sentiments of love, but Father John Misty is still full of sarcasm and caustic anger rare in a singer/songwriter. Who knows how long Josh Tillman can keep up the FJM act, but it’ll be a fun ride as long as he does.
9. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love
No Cities to Love is the incredibly rare reunion record that doesn’t diminish a band’s previous output. The guitars are as precisely jagged as ever, the drums thunder, and the vocals are on point for society in 2015. Sleater-Kinney is punk rock at its absolute best, and No Cities to Love is Sleater-Kinney.
8. Viet Cong – s/t
Viet Cong is dark, foreboding post punk heavily indebted to the genre’s British originators. Track after track, the album builds to it’s apex, in closing track “Death”, where it finally releases all its tension in an epic 11 minute explosion.
7. Shamir – Ratchet
Ratchet is a worthy capstone to a meteoric rise that saw Shamir go from unknown to signing with indie titan XL Recordings in the blink of an eye Largely made up of very of-the-moment synth and drum machine sounds, but highlighted by Shamir’s contralto vocals, Ratchet is sexy, smooth, laid back fun.
6. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment – Surf
A free mixtape from a group of Chicago musicians (including Chance, the Rapper), Surf merges hip hop and jazz in a way that requires some rare adjectives for 2015 hip hop: fun, happy, and sunny. Highlighted by “Sunday Candy”, an ode to Chance’s grandmother, Surf is an album that evokes nothing but smiles.
5. Colleen Green – I Want to Grow Up
Colleen Green has been making her version of Southern California slacker, garage pop for a while now, and she may have perfected it with I Want to Grow Up. Lyrically, the album speaks to a generational resignation to a life of underachievement and boredom, but it’s also really catchy.
4. Grimes – Art Angels
Grimes scared a lot of people with some of the singles she released after the fantastic Visions, but there was no need to worry. Art Angels is more towards the pop end of the experimental pop spectrum, but it still contains that ineffable Claire Boucher quality that makes her music great. About that cover, though…
3. Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy
The Most Lamentable Tragedy may not be Titus Andronicus’ best album, but due to its in-depth focus on mental illness it is easily their most important. The lyrics, dark and beautiful, despairing and hopeful, are what frontman Patrick Stickles has been building towards for his entire career, and are devastatingly important.
2. Vince Staples – Summertime ‘06
Summertime ’06 is an entry into a 13-year old Staples’ world trying to navigate growing up on the L.A. streets. Not an original concept, of course, but unlike its predecessors it neither thrives in the gangsta life nor chafes against it. Summertime ’06 simply tries to survive.
1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
To Pimp a Butterfly is an absolute monster. Simultaneously a declaration of being a proud black man and a declaration of war against the socio-economic situation so many face in American society. It’s the most daringly political album in some time, and it is jawdroppingly amazing.
Filed under Dance, Electronic, Experimental, Garage, Hip Hop, Indie, Pop, Post Punk, Psychedelic, Punk, R&B, Rap, Reviews, Rock