The Best Albums of 2015 so far

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Best Albums of 2015 so far

Somewhere between a handful of surprise album drops, some unlikely reunions, a lot of funk, a lot of noise, quite a bit of distortion and some socio-political messages well worth heeding, 2015 reached its halfway point. Time certainly flies when the flow of music gushes out of the tap with unstoppable force, and we’re just doing our best to ride the crest. So, as we take a brief breather before diving headfirst into the rest of what 2015 has to offer, we’ve compiled a list of our 30 favorite albums of the year so far. There’s a little bit of everything: indie rock, electronic, black metal, psychedelic soul, hip-hop, IDM, chamber pop, industrial soul, lo-fi folk, post-punk, space jazz and dark ambient noise. It’s all over the map, which is what’s making this year one of the most exciting we’ve experienced in a while. So let’s get on with the best albums of 2015 so far.

Algiers reviewAlgiers – Algiers (Matador)

Algiers’ three core members—Franklin James Fisher, Lee Tesche and Ryan Mahan—may have individual street addresses in New York City and London, but their music is rooted in the American south. Founded in Atlanta, the trio pulls heavily from a tradition of soul and gospel, in particular the tortured and impassioned ballads of Nina Simone, but their invocation of Simone is performing a duet with Frankie Teardrop. The 10 powerful post-punk and industrial dirges on Algiers’ debut juxtapose America’s dark history of racial injustice against ominous post-punk and industrial soundscapes that present a real, tangible darkness. You’d be hard pressed to find a more exciting debut album this year. – JT

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best albums of 2015 so far BarnettCourtney BarnettSometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom+Pop)

Courtney Barnett’s debut album finally arrived in the first half of 2015, riding a wave of high expectations. Nearly 18 months after knocking the indie world sideways with “Avant Gardener” and its accompanying EPs, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit confirms Barnett as the wittiest, most mischievous singer-songwriter in town. Her dry lyrics and studiously deadpan delivery take the most mundane aspects of life and give them a yearning significance that can switch from funny to poignant on a dime. The irritable, ambivalent, ’90s slacker soundtrack to these tales seems only appropriate. This is the album so many had been hoping for. – MP

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Bosse-de-Nage All FoursBosse-de-NageAll Fours (Profound Lore)

Something’s in the water around the Bay-area metal scene. Two years ago, Deafheaven’s superb sophomore LP Sunbather topped our year-end lists by mesmerizing us with their own explosive mixture of black metal aesthetic and shoegazing guitar, and now another San Francisco band is likely to find themselves all over our best of 2015. Bosse-de-Nage’s climb to perfection has been a little slower than their shoegazing counterparts—All Fours is the mysterious band’s fourth studio effort. But patience pays off as the group mixes blackened vibes with elements of post-rock, post-hardcore, ‘90s indie-rock and a twisted sense of storytelling that draws comparisons to a band like Slint. Suffice it to say that the band’s lead songwriter is a novelist and the record contains its fair share of brutal, horse-related narratives. But All Fours’ most rewarding moments happen when Bosse-de-Nage break from their modus operandi to venture into sonic bursts that channel elements as varied as noise-rock, avant-garde and doom-metal. It’s in these powerful moments that the band showcases its ability to transport the listener to and from a completely different world in just an instant. – ATB

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Chastity belt time to go homeChastity BeltTime to Go Home (Hardly Art)

The four scrunchie-donning, epiphany-inducing girls of Chastity Belt thrived in the record collections of many with Time to Go Home. Tackling subjects like mansplaining, the reclamation of the word “slut,” and inevitable college-party boredom, the punk troupe is broadcasting girl power with a stronger frequency than ever before. With laid back, minimalist grooves like “Joke,” Chastity Belt proves their capability as both serious musicians and also, well, jokesters. Equal parts punchy and pouty, “IDC” sticks out as a relatable revelation. With hints of both the beach and the skate park, Chastity Belt clearly did not fall victim to the sophomore slump. – VC

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Black Messiah reviewD’Angelo and the Vanguard Black Messiah (RCA)

Technically a 2014 release (just barely), D’Angelo’s long-awaited third album Black Messiah saw 2015 going in like a lion. Released early in the aftermath of a tragic and turbulent year marked by numerous deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of law enforcement, Black Messiah is both celebration and riot, fierce and vulnerable. In moments like “1000 Deaths,” it’s more defiant and intense than its 2000 predecessor, Voodoo. And in others, like “Sugah Daddy,” it’s playful and lighthearted, with a reliably sexual undertone. D’Angelo’s voice was missing from pop music for too long; Black Messiah is proof that it’s needed now more than ever. – JT

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Death Grips Jenny DeathDeath GripsJenny Death (Third Worlds)

Hip-hop? Nah, Death Grips was always a punk band, really, and there’s no album in their catalog that proves that more than Jenny Death. The hard-rock yin to Niggas on the Moon’s electronic yang, the second half of The Powers That B finds the band latching their sound onto a curdled stadium rock sound that manages to feel both completely alien to the band’s established sound and glove-fittingly satisfying. And it’s funny, in a way for which Death Grips rarely get credit. Ride’s non-sequitur flow is as compellingly absurd as it’s ever been (“My favorite color is oh my god, bitch,” from the title track, is one of this record’s many gems). If Death Grips had settled on this being their swan song, as they had led everyone to believe in the months leading up to the release of the album, it would have been an appropriate exit. As that’s turned out not to be the case—it wasn’t even the last album associated with Death Grips this year, counting Zach Hill and Andy Morin’s side project the I.L.Y.s—it’s an exciting indication of the band’s willingness and ability to grow their sound. – SP

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best albums of 2015 so far DrakeDrakeIf You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (Cash Money)

It was a familiar feeling. It happened in December 2013 when Beyoncé dropped a surprise album, and it happened again when D’Angelo dropped Black Messiah earlier than anticipated. There were rumblings of another Drake album or mixtape or whatever you want to call it, but no one was expecting one in February. So when I aimlessly scrolled through Instagram at an event one night and saw the album cover on Drake’s account, that excitement and immediate impatience struck again. With each release, Drake has become a more self-assured artist and If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late is his best and most consistent yet. Bringing a healthy dose of self-awareness and risk with songs that are complex. These aren’t just bangers, they aren’t Mustard-inflected hits. These are moody songs, rife with tensions and bravado. As an emcee, Drake shows his nimbleness and his capability to be one of the greats. Where in the past, Drake albums were often uneven in quality and in tone, If You’re Reading This has no misplaced track and no out-of-nowhere ballad. As a release designed to worm out of his Cash Money deal, Drake could have easily phoned it in, dumped 12 tracks on iTunes and called it a day. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late isn’t that. It’s a mic drop. – JI

best albums of 2015 so far father john mistyFather John MistyI Love You, Honeybear (Sub Pop)

Josh Tillman never really seemed like the heart-on-sleeve, earnest confessional type, but in writing an album length love letter to his wife, he both confirmed and obliterated any presumptions about him as a songwriter. His second album under the Misty name, I Love You, Honeybear is a lush and gorgeous chamber-pop album that’s at turns sweet, surreal and profane. When he croons “Baby, be gentle/ It’s my first time” on “Chateau Lobby #4 In C (For Two Virgins)”, it’s a moment of tenderness and vulnerability; when he refers to “The Rorschach sheets where we made love” on the title track, it’s a little gross, but hey, good for them. In all of its fucked up, hallucinatory weirdness, I Love You, Honeybear is one of the most honest and affecting expressions of love in pop music today. That’s not something you get to say all that often. – JT

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Holly Herndon PlatformHolly Herndon – Platform (4AD)

Holly Herndon’s latest LP ain’t no easy listening. Sure, it might contain elements of ambiance, glitch and indie-pop, but the sporadic bursts of song found on Platform make Dntel sound like Michael Bublé, and even give Aphex Twin a run for his money when it comes to crafting alienating IDM. Herndon has spent the last half decade slowly mastering her trademark form of sound manipulation—an artform that combines elements minimalist-pop, soundscape and classical minimalism for a sound that promises to floor the listener with its darkly enticing beats. – ATB

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Jamie xx In Colour best albums of 2015 so farJamie xxIn Colour (Young Turks)

Jamie xx has slowly been building up an impressive batch of singles over the past few years, but it’s his long-awaited debut album that finally sees the producer and beatmaker in The xx coming into his own as a solo artist. Not that he’s distancing himself from his bandmates—Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft both make prominent appearances, the latter helming the runaway standout “Loud Places,” which is the song of the summer. Young Thug and Popcaan show up, too, lending just a touch of dancehall and hip-hop cred to the album. But it’s to Jamie’s credit that he can seamlessly blend future garage, house, Balearic beat, hip-hop and indie pop sounds into one seamless set of music. It’s both the album you’re most likely to hear at parties this summer and the one you actually want to hear. – JT

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