Top 50 Albums of 2015

Torres Sprinter best albums of 201540. TorresSprinter

From the moment of seething rage and blown-out distortion that erupts early on in opening track “Strange Hellos,” Mackenzie Scott sets the listener up for an intense, white-knuckle listening session of visceral anger and brutal honesty. And that’s exactly what we get, though she spills her guts quietly and with a haunting calm that sounds as if it’ll explode at any moment, but rarely does. Sprinkled with references to both her Christian upbringing and the Good Book itself, she retells the story of Noah’s Ark with ambient beauty and crippling loneliness on “A Proper Polish Welcome,” plays the part of (a terrifying and badass) vengeful God on “Son, You Are No Island,” and even dips into her own churchgoing childhood in the standout title track. At every turn, she reveals a little more about herself through a mixture of aching beauty and beautiful ache, a stunning expression of catharsis that goes from a scream to a whisper. – JT

best albums of 2015 Soft Moon39. The Soft MoonDeeper
(Captured Tracks)

The Soft Moon’s third album, Deeper, might remind you of Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails, but with a peculiar, glossy glaze all over it. Luis Vasquez’s chanted vocals drone more than anything Reznor has done, the heavy dose of reverb and delay effects like instrument unto themselves, while the synth sound is so dense it has the metallic edge of a distorted guitar. Deeper is heavy, but unlike ’90s industrial’s hedonistic celebration of angst and volume, this is not nearly as aggressive, much more introspective in its approach. Electronic indie bands have flirted with industrial sounds, but this album is something else entirely, an effort strong enough to put them on the same stage as post-punk legends Killing Joke in 2016. – WL

Battles La Di Da Di38. BattlesLa Di Da Di

It’s not just the wide spread of Battles’ rhythms but their pacing and application that energizes this third album from the New York post-rock trio. Songs on here are made up of wondrous little bits in quick succession. “Flora > Fauna,” “The Yabba” and “Tricentennial” contain endless peaks and valleys; they’re not suite-like per se, but try to imagine the visual of heart monitor blips brought to life through some black box of sonic processing. There are also moments like “Dot Com” and the Hong Kong garden of “FF Bada” that lend indie-snob credibility/legitimacy to the existence of livetronica acts like Disco Biscuits and Conspirator—the album is comic-book Wolverine in reverse, bold and exciting technological music with a human, rock ’n’ roll core. If there are any millennials and hipsters working in the production bowels of ESPN, I bet clips from this album soundtrack so many of their rejected NFL highlight reels. – AB

Jessica Pratt new album best albums of 201537. Jessica PrattOn Your Own Love Again
(Drag City)

Pretend, for a minute, that this album isn’t on the Top 50 Albums of 2015 list. Go listen to it. Does it sound like it came from 2015? Does it sound like it came from any time period, really? Maybe the late 1960s, if you had to put a finger on it, a little Greenwich Village-tinged psychedelic-folkiness, with the intimacy of a bedroom conversation and, occasionally, a sly nudge of humor. When I interviewed her earlier this year, Pratt spoke of her reluctance to allow any outside input into her creative process; the result is a record that sounds cloistered but not austere, familiar but mostly untraceable. – SP

Unknown Mortal Orchestra best albums of 201536. Unknown Mortal OrchestraMulti-Love

Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s psychedelic third album Multi-Love leans on familiar territory, but there’s a bit more momentum to these nine foot-tapping tracks. UMO answers those disco components with gutsy proclamations, such as an acknowledgement to today’s generation’s hand-held obsession on “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone.” Grungy motifs make cameos on tracks like “Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty,” with a punchy guitar riff and a sax solo to boot. Unknown Mortal Orchestra provides their staple course of stacked vocals, with the requisite nostalgic “oohs” and “aahs” that have become an essential part of their sound. Multi-Love is a journey through the unknown, each track more of a surprise than the one before it. – VC

Kurt Vile Blieve I'm goin down best albums of 201535. Kurt Vileb’lieve i’m goin down

On his sixth album, Kurt Vile is a little more serious, a little more grown up, and a little more stripped down. With b’lieve i’m goin down, everything feels more fragile, but in a good way. It’s almost as if Vile’s perspective has been softened—his lyrics aim for the heart in a more cathartic way, and his voice is tender, bringing to mind the iconic singer/songwriters of yesteryear, such as Neil Young and Lou Reed. The 1album is melancholic, a reflection on time and the essence of it, and Vile juxtaposes upbeat tracks like “Pretty Pimpin” against heart-wrenching ballads like “That’s Life, tho (almost hate to say).” B’lieve reads like a how-to manual to the inner workings of Vile’s mind, his thoughts, darkest fears and innermost desires.- VC

Girl Band Holding Hands With Jamie34. Girl BandHolding Hands With Jamie
(Rough Trade)

As thrilling and confrontational as they come, the debut album from these Dublin-based noiseniks is destined to become a cult classic—nakedly uncommercial but beloved by those it didn’t scare away. (Rough Trade are known as risk-takers.) Holding Hands With Jamie is a fractured, frenzied record, inspired by frontman Dara Kiely’s depression-induced breakdown in 2013; not that you’d know it from looking at the lyric sheet, which borders on absurdist poetry at times. Coupled with their techno-influenced noise rock, it makes for a fascinating listen that won’t even come close to preparing you for their visceral live presence. – GO’M

Deerhunter Fading Frontier best albums of 201533. DeerhunterFading Frontier

If 2013’s Monomania came from a dark place, emotionally—after listening to it, it’s hard to argue it didn’t—then Fading Frontier is the clarity after the crisis. Much has already been written about how Bradford Cox’s near-death experience late last year helped to shape the album’s reflective tone, and it’s true; this album is an unsparing, often melancholy self-assessment, set to some of Deerhunter’s strongest music to date. If there isn’t any moment of definitive catharsis—would this record be honest if there was?—the record is at least a statement of affirmation, of renewed vigor. It’s not quite carpe diem, but it’s as close as Deerhunter are likely to get. – SP

best albums of 2015 Myrkur32. MyrkurM

On its surface, M is an old school black metal record—the presence of Mayhem guitarist Teloch and Nidingr drummer Øyvind Myrvoll, as well as production from Ulver’s Garm, should be enough evidence to make that case. And, even by tr00 kvlt standards, it’s as hard hitting a record as one could hope for. But it’s the compositional brilliance of Amalie Bruun (aka the sole songwriter and performer behind Myrkur), as well as her heaven-sent vocal talent, that really seals M as a modern masterpiece. With heavy touches of post-rock, goth-metal and Scandanavian folk added into the mix, the latter of which being an at-least subtle influence on black metal since the beginning, Myrkur sets a new tone for the genre that is subtler than the work of peers like Deafheaven or Bosse-de-Nage, but just as otherworldly and ultimately satisfying. – ATB

best albums of 2015 Drake31. DrakeIf You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
(Cash Money)

If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late begins with a five-song wallop of an intro. A dare to the haters, a provocation to Birdman and Cash Money, and playing down his overtly pop sensibilities (nary a “Hold On, We’re Going Home” here), the suite of “Legend,” “Energy,” “10 Bands,” “Know Yourself” and “No Tellin’’ crushed our expectations and gave us a year of memes and top-of-your-lungs sing-alongs. The rest of the album features guest spots by Lil Wayne, PARTYNEXTDOOR and Travi$ Scott, but it’s Drake’s stage through and through. While it’s been evident for a long time that Drake has an ear for catchy hooks, this collection of moody, paranoia-inflicted songs is perhaps the best Drake; his sensitivity and “softness” turned on its head giving us songs that are tightly wound and full of vigor and urgency. It’s Drake’s most straightforward hip-hop record to date and it just happens to be his best. – JI

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View Comments (7)
  • Out of all the lists I’ve read in the last few days yours is by far the best, meaning I agree with it the most. You have some great picks other people have overlooked. The one record I just don’t get is Father John Misty. Is there anything more disgustingly hipster in this world? Musically boring as all hell, and the level of cleverness I would have found amusing in middle school, maybe.

    • I don’t get it either. Rather, I ‘get it’, and can say it’s a good album. But I don’t *like* it. But hey, that’s democracy. Thanks for reading our list!

    • There are quite a few things more disgustingly hipster than FJM, including but not limited to Destroyer, gastropubs, Whit Stillman films, composting, Win Butler…

  • Hey nice job! I’m pleased with this list, and I’m incredibly impressed to see so many female artists represented here! I know, I know, it’s because they made wicked good art. But still…ladies! Yeah!

    And yet . . . it does seem that every yearend list Treble produces, the number one slots/top five usually fall into the same genre. What up with that?

    Wasn’t it Run the Jewels last year? Maybe you guys have noticed this trend?

    • We had two hip-hop Albums of the Year in a row, but I think in general it tends to change from year to year. Deafheaven was #1 in 2013. Frank Ocean was #1 in 2012. St. Vincent was #1 in 2011.

  • Cheers to seeing this list a little late. I’ve enjoyed reading your site all year, and look forward to seeing what’s in store for next year! Check out my Top 50 too if you so desire. I see some overlap!

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