17 Best Albums Of 2015

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2015  was an incredible year for music, full of surprises and second comings, weird new genres and unbelievable evolutions of existing sounds. Of course, every year is great for music as long as you’re open to new sounds. That’s how this whole thing works.

Every year, I enjoy writing down my favorites as I go along, adding them to a simple text file on my laptop. Sometimes I add stars to the albums when I realize I’m completely mad for them. For some albums, this means I find myself listening day after day, racking up dozens of plays. For others, this means that I’m struck so deeply on an emotional, intellectual, or even physical level that I can’t bring myself to listen again for a few days. Both experiences bring lasting rewards, especially when considered in the long view. This is why I love looking back and appreciating the permanent impact from these powerful pieces of music.

As it turned out, this year’s list included over twenty starred albums. I left a handful for my Best of 2015 Honorable Mention list, but the rest were simply indispensable. My list would not be complete without all of these albums.

So please, read on and enjoy. These are the 17 best albums of 2015.

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Sufjan Stevens “Fourth of July”

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Some of my favorite songs hurt too much to listen to very often. They send me plunging into those forlorn corners of memory that I spend most days avoiding. I try to remember these songs, play them, and appreciate what happens when I open the flood gates to total despair.

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Who Makes The Nazis?

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This is the first time I’ve brought politics onto the site, but in light of recent news, it feels appropriate. The song asks an eternally relevant question that we seem to have collectively forgotten the answer to.

Here’s legendary English punk band The Fall, asking Who Makes The Nazis?

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DJ Paypal – Sold Out

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I haven’t listened to footwork this bracing since the first time I heard DJ Rashad.

That thought ran through my head mere minutes into this incredible set by DJ Paypal, the brief but incredibly energetic Sold Out. If you’re familiar with the Rashad and the wider genre at all, you’ll know how bold of a statement this is.

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Gr◯un土 – Vodunizm

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When I saw the name Gr◯un土 on a list of recently released albums, my first thought was to pass right on by. After all, there are countless indistinct artists with unpronounceable ascii-fun names. Then I saw the cover art and was intrigued. Something called to me. I found a stream of Vodunizm and a smile immediately crept across my face.

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Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt

I’ve been listening all week and I can tell you that Freddie Gibbs‘ new album is sublime.

Shadow of a Doubt is a beyond-worthy follow up to last year’s best music of 2014 list-making Piñata, where he paired with prolific beat scientist Madlib. While he comes with a bevy of producers this time, the sound is surprisingly cohesive and tightly wrapped. This is one of the best hiphop albums in a year full of strong material.

Since the album is releasing today and I’m working too hard to spend time on a proper review just yet, I’m leaving you with the haunting video for first single Fuckin’ Up The Count. Sporting a thematically spot-on sample from everyone’s favorite drug drama, The Wire, it’s a tense but spacey jam that sets the mood for the rest of the album pretty well.

It also seems to place the album cover into context, shadows obscuring Gibbs’ visage, as a slow motion chain of events spiral ever darker.

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The album is out on itunes and Spotify of course, and you can buy the CD edition from Amazon. Not sure about a vinyl release yet, but I’m hoping for it. The last album had superb packaging. I’d love to have that evocative artwork writ large on a 12″ sleeve in my collection.

If you’re not already listening, stream the whole thing below:

Oneohtrix Point Never – Ezra

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This is the final bit of Oneohtrix Point Never news before the new album, Garden Of Delete, drops tomorrow.

OPN, aka Daniel Lopatin, has finally released the first real song, Ezra, as a single on Soundcloud. I really want to share this with everyone because it’s not only a great introduction to the new sound; it’s a layered world of sound unto itself. Enjoy:

Please allow myself to quote… myself here:

“Ezra, the first proper track, leaps from the midi-fired dreams of the previous album, reaching speed behind sheets of Philip Glass-like shrill arpeggios. It appears to crest before the two minute mark, suddenly projecting the nanomachine-clogged cyberpunk future of 2000’s Deus Ex in silhouette. Maybe it’s a sample?”

I think it is a sample. Decide for yourself.

Speaking of this game, the original Deus Ex is both an action-RPG masterpiece, and a definitive work in the cyberpunk canon. It’s the precursor to modern games like Fallout. It’s got a great soundtrack too. Sounds like Lopatin might have played it, too. It’s about $7 on Steam if you’ve never played it.

So I’ve written a lot about Lopatin’s work lately, partly out of excitement for this work, and partly out of a desire to connect with what I see as the most forward-thinking, interesting music being made today. If this is the first piece on the site you’re reading, you might want to see these:

Review of Garden of Delete

First single: “I Bite Through It”

Oneohtrix Point Never “Mutant Standard”

Oneohtrix Point Never’s Mindbending “Sticky Drama” Video

Garden of Delete drops tomorrow! It’s his first full length in 2 years, so be sure to check the album out on Spotify or wherever, if you’ve been a good kid and ignored the leak. I’m just hoping that gorgeous 2LP vinyl arrives on time.