Top Albums of 2015
Violents – Two Animals (EP)
FKA Twigs – M3LL155X (EP)
Night Beds – Ivywild
Daniel Johns – Talk
Ryan Adams – I Do Not Feel Like Being Good (EP)
Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
Hillsong United – Empires
Ryan Adams – 1989
In Countdown order:
10. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Classic Stevens, his ability to take personal themes and insert them into music is incredible. This album is really dark at times (“we’re all gonna die”), as Stevens is focusing and processing his mothers passing away throughout the album. If you liked Illinois (2005) or Michigan (2003) then you will probably like this album, but it is different than his last album Age of Adz (2010).
9. Ryn Weaver – The Fool
Great indie pop record. I wish every song on this album was OctoHate, that track is really great. The rest of the album is still good. At times I hear a little of Florence & The Machine, yet there is a distinct difference in the music and dynamics.
8. Amanda Cook – Brave New World
Amanda Cook is a Bethel Worship leader. This beautiful worship album passionately states truths about God throughout, reminding us on the track Pieces, “You don’t give Your heart in pieces, You don’t hide Yourself to tease us.” And on the track Mercy, “You delight in showing mercy, and Mercy triumphs over judgment.” The content conveyed can repaint your picture of God. God can many times have a lightning bolt in his hand (a picture I am continually having to unlearn), yet Cook reminds us of God’s love and mercy over and over again.
7. Son Lux – Bones
The amazing Son Lux (Ryan Lott) is at it again. Change Is Everything is one of my favorite songs of the year by far. Go watch the video for it on YouTube. Amazing!!! I have always loved Son Lux, but with this album my expectations weren’t fully met. In 2013 Son Lux was my number 2 album of the year and I was expecting this one to top the list as well. Don’t get me wrong it is a good album, but something about the sound didn’t connect as much. If you like those interesting and unique sounds, they still come through in that often disjointed yet together way we have come to expect from Son Lux .
6. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
(Warning: Explicit Content)
And here is where I am going to get some heat, I know it isn’t number 1 like everyone else’s lists. I thought it was a great album, but it didn’t connect with me as much as I anticipated. It is actually growing on me more in the month of December than it was when it first came out. If I was making this list back in the fall then it might not have made the list, which probably means that by February it will be my true number 1. Alright is a song packed with powerful lyrics that will cause you to pause and reflect throughout. The album as a whole will do that, even parts you don’t understand because you are not Lamar. I think I read somewhere that President Obama’s favorite song of the year was How Much A Dollar Cost, which is on this album, and highlights a homeless person asking a rich person for a dollar. It is in this song he says, “Have you ever opened Exodus 14?” This isn’t the only spiritual reference, in Alright Lamar says, “If God got us, then we gonna be alright.” This is an album worth checking out even if you aren’t into hip hop or rap, it has some really good R&B and Jazz elements throughout.
5. Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth
(Warning: Explicit Content)
Lupe has always been one of my favorites, almost ten years since Food & Liquor came out, crazy. This album is really great. First, I must be critical because it doesn’t seem to flow as well as previous albums like The Cool or Lasers; if you told me this was a collection of singles compiled for an album I would probably agree. But even with that said, this album is still really good. Deliver and Madonna are by far some of my favorite songs of the year. “Pizza man don’t come here no more, deliver!” is repeated over and over in the song Deliver; a song that describes how difficult it is in the “ghetto.” That song is explicit, yet eye opening, especially knowing that Lupe comes from Chicago and has seen these place he is speaking of; the third verse starts, “Can I get delivered from the sin?”
4. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
I liked CHVRCHES last album, but I love this album. Right out of the gate the first two tracks, Never Ending Circles and Leave A Trace, are two of my favorites of the year. From there on the album still really connects and keeps your interest. My wife got me this record on vinyl for Christmas. I haven’t spun it yet, but I cannot wait. I feel like so many of the electro pop bands or artists get that first album attention and then have a difficult time evolving and keeping my interest, CHVRCHES has gained even more of my interest with their sophomore album. Also, you should just YouTube some of their live performances, they are amazing; hoping to see them in 2016 if I get the chance.
3. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
(Warning: Explicit Content)
So right out the gate I gotta tell you that this album was a guilty pleasure that I thought would never make this list when it dropped. But it is so good. I know I am probably gonna get some heat for that, but the beats are amazing. Drake is the clever fluid rapper we have come to either love or hate. I must say there is very little redemptive lyrical value when compared to the Kendrick or Lupe albums. Yet, it is interesting to hear Drake get more personal in You & The 6 as he is talking to mother in the verses encouraging her to reconcile with his dad, and saying, “You & The 6 raised me right, that s*** saved my life.” There are so many (insert fire emoji) songs, like 6 God, 6 Man, and Energy; try listening to those without getting a bounce in your step or straight up breaking out the dance moves. The dark synth sound and beats on Company (featuring Travi$ Scott) is nuts, great for listening to in the car where you can crank the bass.
Again, I must say that I struggle with much of Drake’s lyrics. The clean version is the version I recommend, I wish his talent would dabble in the realm of positive redeeming hip hop and rap, but until then I still recognize his abilities and his production.
2. Copeland – Ixora
Pre-orders for this album started in April 2014 and then the scheduled release date got pushed back and back, until eventually me, and I am sure many others, missed it when it released in late November 2014. So technically this is a 2014 album in my 2015 albums of the year, but I didn’t catch it until 2015, and even more, I didn’t really get into it until half way through 2015. Anyway, this album is amazing. I strongly considered it for number 1, and it wasn’t an easy choice. Every song is good, really, every song. I Can Make You Feel Young Again is a great song where Aaron sings, “when I feel like I’m dead you’re reviving me.” This album will be getting many spins past this year. I have found it has this ability to put me in a great mood. Brittney and I had the chance to see them live with Eisley, neither band disappointed. That was the first time I had seen Copeland since college and they were stunning. The instrumentation, including live cellos and violins, were beautiful. If you are looking for a new indie pop/rock band and haven’t heard of Copeland then you have to give this album a shot. I personally think it is the best Copeland record yet, it blew away my expectations.
1. Milo Greene – Control
I purchased this vinyl after hearing only the single, which I pretty much never do. So many albums can have one great song, but then be a let down. This album is not that at all. I spun this record more than any other record of 2015 for sure. Milo Greene describes themselves as a cinematic pop band. This is their sophomore album, their freshman album didn’t connect with me the way this one did. Unlike most bands there are four lead singers, yes four! So you have 3 male lead vocals and 1 female lead vocal. It sounds intentional and fluid. It doesn’t sound like a band jockeying for lead singer positioning. Also, their voices blend so well together, it is angelic at times. This album is positive, upbeat, and brings me joy to listen to in the office as I work. My favorite tracks are all of them, but here are some places to start: White Lies, On The Fence, and Gramercy.