This was the year that the idea of the album was reinvented. When I say that, I mean that this year included absolutely brilliant albums across all genres and themes, but somehow including something for absolutely everyone. The top albums of the year includes releases from seasoned artists changing up their musical aesthetics as well as newcomers just starting out, and have surpassed expectations to the extent that making this list was incredibly difficult, as it always is. Because of that, the order of the list below is definitely not set in stone, and can be moved around according to your own tastes. While I do admit that some of the top releases of the year have gone over my head due to sheer volume, 2015 just felt different. It was deeper, more introspective, and in a way, more meaningful than years past, and these albums reflect that tenfold.
10. Crushed Beaks – Scatter
Scatter was one of the best pop-punk albums I’ve heard in a really long time, which doesn’t necessarily have to do with the tracks themselves, but instead with frontman Matthew Polie’s stunning vocals. His passionate performance in the sentimental track “History” as well as the more upbeat “Rising Sign” makes his vocals more of a powerful force more than anything else. The crowning glory, however, is the amazing track “Overgrown,” with its fervid, yet brilliantly balanced instrumentals and stunning vocals. With this stunning debut album, Crushed Beaks have definitely shown their noise-pop aesthetic, as well as what they are capable of in the near future.
9. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
Sufjan Steven’s hushed croon never comes without some sort of new inspiration with each album, no matter how deep. With Carrie and Lowell, it’s definitely one more personal, considering each track expresses Steven’s troubled relationship with his late mother, with whom he reconnected with after she abandoned him as a child. Though it definitely can be sickly saccharine and somber at times, and with tracks like “Fourth of July,” it will definitely have you reaching for all the tissues you have in your house, it never ever sounds hollow or lonely. Instead, Steven’s fills the empty space with gorgeous falsetto and delicate folk-inspired instrumentals, and tracks like the optimistic “Should Have Known Better” and the majestic closer “Blue Bucket of Gold” show that the most prominent emotion in this album isn’t of sadness, but of love.
8. East India Youth – Culture of Volume
I’m always impressed with an artist or musician that can take a genre like modern electronica that’s been beaten down time and time again and create something innovative, and in this case, highly intellectual. Willam Doyle’s second album as East India Youth is without a doubt a definite continuation of his excellent debut Total Strife Forever, but instead focuses more on experimentation, though here its hard not to notice the bouts of color and energy peppered throughout as well. While I missed his dark, brooding persona he took on in his debut, singles “Beaming White” and “Turn Away” reminded me of his meticulous skills in the art of synth, and further solidified his fascination with electronic synth icons Pet Shop Boys. In the end, Culture of Volume is, humorously, chock full of dance music specifically designed for people who don’t like dancing, but instead want to lose themselves to sound.
7. Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone?
Majical Cloudz, since the release of their excellent debut album Impersonator, have been deemed the masters of minimalism. They’re a triple threat – dark, brooding, mysterious – all seeming to converge in Devon Welsh’s intense stare as he croons with a pained contentment almost too beautiful to comprehend. Are You Alone? was lighter and less confrontational in comparison, but showcased a lot of fresh techniques that definitely worked in their favor, starting with the unexpected Smiths-esque song “Silver Car Crash” going all the way to the soft, yet edgy track “Downtown.” Welsh has grown accustomed to his own personality and has grown into his unique voice, exclaiming in “Heavy” that “you got to learn to love me, cause I am what I am.” There’s a lot of self-healing and acceptance throughout, making the album’s title one that you can answer with a stark and blatant no. Majical Cloudz is there for you, perfect or not.
6. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
Psych-pop trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra embraced their more experimental side with their third album, which is really saying something considering their past repertoire was filled with such lush, unique imagery. Multi-Love and its obvious poly-amorous theme worked incredibly well with the textured, funky, jazz inspired instrumentals that basically took over every track. “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” and its fantastic bass line is the grooviest anti-technology anthem out there, while “Stage or Screen” and “Necessary Evil” show off frontman Ruben Nielson’s gauzy vocals. As if those weren’t enough to name this album UMO’s best full-length release to date, the title track is one of the band’s absolute best singles. It’s catchy and quirky, which seems to be a good summary of the album itself.
5. Title Fight – Hyperview
Title Fight really changed their aesthetic for their third album Hyperview, switching out their overly aggressive punk sounds for ones more appealing to fans of shoegaze and dream-pop. As a result, the quartet has shown their versatility while also creating something as soothing as it is fervid. Hyperview is one of those rare albums where every single track follows each other brilliantly while also remaining brilliant individually; “Mrahc” is colorful, brooding, and balanced, “Trace Me Onto You” and it’s many layers builds continuously as the it plays on, and “Your Pain is Mine Now” houses one of the best synth-powered guitar solos I’ve ever heard. For those who want to relive the past glory days of Title Fight, “Rose of Sharon” steps up to the challenge, presenting a glorious, rage-filled track with plenty of substance, further solidifying the fact that the brooding quartet still know what they’re doing, and that they’re good at it.
4. Jamie xx – In Colour
I’ve mentioned before that I was never really a fan of mostly instrumental albums, but Jamie xx’s second album has changed my views on the genre completely. In Colour is lush, luxurious, and edgy all at once, with some absolutely mesmerizing tracks, including “Gosh,” “Sleep Sound,” and “Loud Places,” the stunning track in collaboration with fellow xx band member Romy Madley Croft. With this album, its clear that the London producer knows where to place his instrumentals so that they do not appear frivolous or cheap, and it shines through on every track. The sheer brilliance of “Girl” is unmatched with any other pure electronic artist, and the fact that it appears on the album makes it even more worthy of this list.
3. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
In his second album as Father John Misty, former Fleet Foxes member Josh Tillman narrates the relationship of he and his now-wife, Emma, in a humorous, yet tender tone that evokes nothing but pure honesty and often times, cynicism of the world that seems to include everyone but them. Tillman is an brilliant lyricist, showing his intense intellect as well as his strange sense of humor. The instrumentals are gorgeous, and they never fail to swell around his vocals, which are passionately sung, whether he’s criticizing the materialistic nature of today’s society in “Bored in the USA,” or passionately imagining his future with Emma in the beautiful “I Went To The Store One Day.” In the end, you have to be honest. I Love You, Honeybear, though possessing some unique, twisted imagery, is the kind of “romantic” album you wish was written about you.
2. Ought – Sun Coming Down
Art punk band Ought have become one of my absolute favorite bands since the release of their brilliant debut album More Than Any Other Day, and considering that it was a complete surprise, made me like it even more. It’s definitely lighter and more upbeat than their aggressive past work, but that doesn’t mean it is inferior in any way. Opener “Men For Miles,” single “Beautiful Blue Sky,” and frontman Tim Darcy’s impressive mile-a-minute vocals are suitable for fans of their particular aesthetic, consisting of more of the rapid instrumentals they are now known for. However, they do know how to mix it up a little, and fresh tracks like “Never Better” and “On The Line” feel like stepping into some strange yet engrossing performance art piece. It’s an incredible album, and shows that Ought aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
1. Tame Impala – Currents
Currents received the highest rating on any album review that kidwithavinyl has done so far, and every time I listen to it, the more I am satisfied with that fact. Kevin Parker is one of the most hardworking musicians currently working today, and the fact that he not only writes his own brilliant lyrics but also records every instrumental track himself makes his reincarnation from a hazy guitar virtuoso to a sleek, elegant master of funk. Parker is aware of his own metamorphosis, and expresses it through tracks like “Yes I’m Changing” and “New Person, Old Mistakes.” The album, like all Tame Impala albums, touches on love and the lack thereof, presenting amazing tracks like the funky “The Less I Know The Better” and the passionate track “Eventually.” Parker knows the quality in not resisting change and going along with the ebb and flow of everyday life, and he especially knows the benefits of letting creativity come to you instead of the other way around. This is where the absolutely track “Let It Happen” and its brilliant bass line as well as the soft croon of Parker’s vocals take center stage. After this third album, its clear that basically everything Parker touches turns to gold, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.
Thank you so much for visiting kidwithavinyl for the second year in a row. Have a great rest of the holiday season, take a well deserved break, and I’ll see you back here next year!
all album covers belong to their respective owners