Does this list really need an introduction? Albums. 2015. Let’s do this.
10. FROOT – Marina and the Diamonds
Marina and the Diamonds has been flying just under the radar of mainstream pop for a few years now. And with a growing fanbase building hype for her new album Froot, her first in three years, it’s no wonder the album was such a hit. And it is really good. It carries a cool ’70s electropop vibe and Marina has this really unique, beautiful voice that really carries the record.
Best song: Savages
Worst song: Happy
9. GRAND ROMANTIC – Nate Ruess
Nate Ruess’ debut EP is chock-full of everything people want from Nate Ruess: weird shit. And while it does start to get more somber, even to the point where it drags a bit, it’s great to see Ruess back in the booth with his first solo album. Despite only having twelve songs, Grand Romantic goes in a lot of different directions, from the spirited folk-y “What This World Is Coming To” featuring Beck, to the massive violin-infused pop punk ballad “Great Big Storm”, to the balls-out insanity of “AhHa”. But every song carries a certain power that Ruess seems to bring out better than any other musician around today. This generation’s Freddie Mercury? Just maybe.
Best song: AhHa
Worst song: Moment
8. SOUR SOUL – Ghostface Killah and BADBADNOTGOOD
Ghostface Killah has been on the same shit for twenty years. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good shit. It’s cool and different and well-written and intricate. But when you take a step back and look at the good picture, it’s all pretty much the same thing. Not this time though. This time around, he has a band. Canadian experimental jazz trio BADBADNOTGOOD, to be precise. And while the album doesn’t give its concepts quite enough time to flesh out, everyone gets their time to shine, and they all work surprisingly well off of each other.
Best song: Ray Gun
Worst song: Tone’s Rap
7. TETSUO AND YOUTH – Lupe Fiasco
It’s been a rough couple of years for Lupe Fiasco. After his 2011 album Lasers was bombarded by fans saying he’d sold out, and his earnest attempt at a comeback with 2013’s Food and Liquor 2 was met with lukewarm reviews, it really seemed like he’d fallen off. Then in 2014, he started putting out some new singles. They were garbage, but even as his public offerings got worse and worse, he kept promising over and over again that his new album would be a game changer. Then the album came out. “Next to It”? Not on the album. “Thot 97”? Not on the album. “Pu$$y”? Not on the album. Lupe had fooled us all, on his weakest shit for a full year (his performance at the Columbia Bacchanal that year was described as “pretty bad” by friends of mine) just so we wouldn’t be expecting this epic album. While not every song hits, when you step back and look at the album as a whole, it’s a beautiful thing.
Best song: Mural
Worst song: Chopper
6. AT. LONG. LAST. A$AP – A$AP Rocky
As you can see below, I decided that “Everyday”, featuring Miguel, Mark Ronson, and Rod Stewart, is the best song on the album. But that’s a bit belittling. While it is my personal favorite, there’s just too many great songs to choose from on this one. You’ve got one of Lil Wayne’s best verses on “M’$”, you’ve got a killer Kanye beat and an appropriately killer Kanye verse on “Jukebox Joints”, you’ve got a long-lost Pimp C verse on “Wavybone,” the best posse cut of 2015, and that’s just features. Flacko is constantly on this album. I’ve already sung the praises of “L$D”. So, to say that there were five albums this year that were better than this one is pretty spectacular.
Best song: Everyday
Worst song: Better Things
5. THE ALBUM ABOUT NOTHING – Wale
We’ve known for quite some time that Wale is a bit of a Seinfeld fanatic, but that love truly came to fruition this year when he did a full album with Jerry Seinfeld, The Album About Nothing. The record, based on conversations between the two of them, is interspersed with sound clips from Seinfeld and his eponymous legendary sitcom. The truth is, the album would have been just as good with or without these clips, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless. Wale is in peak form on this record. It’s one of the best-produced albums I’ve heard in years, and the subject matter is always fresh and interesting.
Best song: The Pessimist
Worst song: The One Time in Houston
4. BLURRYFACE – twenty one pilots
In emo circles, it could be said that twenty one pilots has filled the void left by My Chemical Romance. But tøp is much more… experimental than MCR ever was. This album, for example, is a bizarre fusion of reggae and Deathgripsian industrial rap. Much of the album is open to interpretation, but its overarching plot is lead singer Tyler Joseph’s dilemma with Blurryface, the embodiment of his angst and doubt. With beautiful production by Tyler Joseph and fascinating lyrics by… Tyler Joseph (the other guy just kinda plays drums), it’s yet another example of the Death Grips formula done right by everyone except Death Grips.
Best song: Message Man
Worst song: Hometown
3. CHERRY BOMB – Tyler the Creator
I’ve already lavished praise on the songs “Smuckers” and “Fucking Young”, so step back and consider that neither of them is the best song on the album. That honor goes to a cool orchestral piece called “2Seater”, with instrumentals recorded by some of Hans Zimmer’s crew. The point is, this is a fantastic album. Tyler is a really good rapper, a really good producer, and a surprisingly good singer, and this is the first album where he really goes experimental, drawing influence from the likes of N.E.R.D., Stevie Wonder, and Death Grips. There’s also a lot of good features, including some straight bars from Kanye West, one of Lil Wayne’s best features of all time, and additional appearances from Pharrell Williams, Charlie Wilson, Cherry Glazerr, and a verse from ScHoolBoy Q on a song called “The Brown Stains of Darkeese Latifah Part 6-12 (Remix)”, which is one of my all-time favorite song titles. High quality shit, Tyler. Keep it up.
Best song: 2Seater
Worst song: Special
2. SURF – Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment
I actually went back and forth between this and my #1 pick for a long time. Ultimately, I decided that Surf is the better collection of songs, but #1 is the better album. This album was a massive undertaking (Chance the Rapper claims there are about 50 people on every track) and it comes through in the music. With a wide range of guests including Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, J. Cole, Janelle Monae, and even Quavo from Migos, there are a lot of different styles to be heard on this album. But even in its darkest moments, it carries an air of pride and celebration. It’s a really inspirational album, it’s helped me through a lot, and it’s just a collection of really good music.
Best/worst song: N/A
Before we get to the #1 album of 2015 so far, here’s some honorable mentions:
VULNICURA – Bjork
B4.DA.$$ – Joey Badass
IN COLOUR – Jamie xx
HOW BIG, HOW BLUE, HOW BEAUTIFUL – Florence + the Machine
NO CITIES TO LOVE – Sleater-Kinney
IF YOU’RE READING THIS, IT’S TOO LATE – Drake
SUMMERTIME ’06 – Vince Staples
TWELVE REASONS TO DIE II – Ghostface Killah
CURRENTS – Tame Impala
ATTITUDE CITY – Ninja Sex Party
1. TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY – Kendrick Lamar
This is probably one of my all-time favorite albums. It’s only been out since February and I’ve listened to it four or five times. It’s an extremely layered album, exploring Kendrick’s life since the end of GKMC, hip hop, and race relations in America as a whole. It’s just one beautiful piece after another, and it comes together in mind-blowing ways as you listen on. It all culminates in a simulated interview with Tupac Shakur that ties together the album’s many themes. It’s Kendrick at his finest, and I can’t wait to see what the next step for him is (*cough* movie *cough*).
Best song: For Free?
Worst song: Hood Politics
So, those are the best albums of 2015 so far. Hopefully we’ll be getting as many awesome albums in the second half of this year as we did in the first. Only time will tell, but be on the lookout for some more juicy articles like this one in the very near future.