This year has developed into one of the most dynamic years for music in recent history. With the continued progress of music distribution platforms, hosting a flurry of unique and experimental sounds, we are introduced to fresh new artists. And, with the establishment of music streaming services from industry juggernauts, Tidal and Apple Music, we can easily catch the follow-up and comeback albums from our favorite artists. 2015 gave us a blended mix of old and new as established artists and breakthrough artists sharing the top charts. Here’s our handpicked list of LPs, EPs and mixtapes that got us through the ups and downs of this year. (OR “that got us hyped throughout the year.”)
If you followed our print publication, it should be no surprised to see this album on our list. Kendrick’s To Pimp a Butterfly, in our opinion, may go down as one of the best albums of all time. Similar to good kid, m.A.A.d. city, the album plays out in storytelling fashion, painting vivid pictures of Kendrick’s stance on concepts of race and identity, all the while reflecting on himself and his past. The sound, in typical K.Dot fashion, masterfully fuses soul and jazz with strong hip-hop beats. With this third studio album, Kendrick did not disappoint and continues to stay atop the genre as a musician and influencer – not to mention his latest music videos have been fire.
After years of persistence, 2015 was the break out year for the 23 year-old Houston rapper. Stemming from a slew of viral hits across the internet, Travis Scott finally saw the release of his long-awaited debut, Rodeo in Fall of 2015. The impact was felt immediately through Scott’s masterfully stitched album that not only cultivated a sound through some of the game’s most prominent hip-hop producers (Kanye West, Mike Dean, Sonny Digital, Metro Boomin, TM88, Zaytoven), but also the mixture that included La Flame’s prominent rap counterparts: Young Thug, Rae Sremmurd, Future, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, Migos and Chief Keef. Culturally speaking, the album is a masterstroke for those go into it with the right expectations.
Showing complete disregard for the melancholic sonic aesthetic that permeated his prior work, Jamie xx delivered 2015′s most vibrant project yet in the form of In Colour. Featuring tts lead single “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” the album elevated Jamie xx’s sound from the shadows and darkest dancefloors into the brightest, most alive moments of the sunnier seasons and provided a well-rounded soundtrack for any feeling and emotion coursing through you.
From quitting Twitter (then coming back), scheduling and canceling albums, announcing his retirement (then coming back), ending his contractual obligations to Atlantic Records and so on, Lupe Fiasco was able to finally able overcome the adversities that may have dampened the overall outcome of some of his previous releases. 2015′s Tetsuo & Youth was the return of the passionate, focused & insightful Lupe that fans grew to love and admire. The project ultimately sees Lupe harnessing the negative and turning it into perhaps, his most satisfying release since 2007′s The Cool.
Australian psych-rockers Tame Impala’s third studio LP was exactly what fans have been waiting for: frontman Kevin Parker telling the world how he really feels. This after two 60s-inflected psych-rock album releases followed by a four year hiatus, Kevin Parker, for the first time, succumbed to the idea that he himself is just as much an imposing producer as he is a singer in a band. The album showcased Parker’s ability to experiment with new sounds and effects in non-cliche way that conjured up listeners emotions in each song — overall a meaningful, well-crafted album that proves through taking risks, usually comes great rewards.
If Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is the best socio-political-commentary album from a narrative point of view, Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06 is the best one from the protagonist’s perspective. Without glorifying or exaggerating his experiences in the cliché ways of yesteryears’ gangsta rap, the Long Beach rapper paints a hauntingly accurate portrayal of his environment, experiences, perception and feelings as an inhabitant growing up in such conditions.
While Sufjan Stevens’ 2010 album The Age of Adz garnered love-hate reception from fans for its heavy electronic incorporation and his odd decision to depart from his signature sound, the 40-year-old Detroit singer-songwriter returned to his indie folk roots for his glorious seventh album Carrie & Lowell. Named after his late mother and supportive stepfather, the project is affectionate, intimate and very personal. Recorded mostly in his home studio, many regard this body of work to be Stevens’ best to date.
Never before has the turn-up been so dark. Eschewing the reach for crossover success he worked on for most of 2014, Future made the final step in transforming into the opiate-imbued monster and street-rap super villain with DS2. Over the entirety of the project’s 18 tracks, DS2 becomes the devil’s diary of drugs, disrespect, guns, women and everything the underbelly of rap best sensationalizes. If Jeremih’s Late Nights touched upon those weekend nights where you were at your most inebriated, DS2 showed what happened when those weekend nights became your full-time occupation and your average week.
Bryson Tiller proved to be one of the most esteemed breakout acts this year after he reached our radar this past spring after the release of his smash hit “Don’t.” The Kentucky singer-songwriter wasn’t just all hype either; his monumental debut studio album T R A P S O U L proved that he’s able to flawlessly execute what so many have tried and failed to do: create great ambient-wave-trap-R&B music. Bryson found the perfect balance of what we all like about the sound and conveniently made it his own.
Panda Bear and the sound of his group Animal Collective have always veered towards the very left of the uttermost galactic ends of the left field. However, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper is basically modern music’s weirdest, yet most harmonious acid trip. There’s low-slung, mild dance beats mixed with extraterrestrial electronics and cinematic, almost-pop-leaning melodies. As Panda Bear is known to do, on the mixes all those disparate sounds into one psychedelic swirl and sculpture of sound. Lucky for us, it comes out sounding like one hell of a ride.
Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
If You’re Reading This
Darkest Before Dawn
But You Caint Use My Phone