I like waiting until the new year to finalize my music lists. You never know which album will make a late surge in the backstretch. This year that was Julien Baker’s spare, wrenching Sprained Ankle: great winter walking tunes. Here’s my genre-by-genre and overall breakdowns:
- Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
- Tame Impala, Currents
- My Morning Jacket, The Waterfall
- Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color
- EL VY, Return to the Moon
- Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear
- Julian Baker, Sprained Ankle
- Joanna Newsom, Divers
- Josh Ritter, Sermon on the Rocks
- Natalie Prass, Natalie Prass
- Grimes, Art Angels
- Jamie xx, In Colour
- Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon
- Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion
- CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
- Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
- Vince Staples, Summertime ’06
- A$AP Rocky, At. Long. Last. ASAP.
- Drake, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
- Dr. Dre, Compton
- Jazmine Sullivan, Reality Show
- Kehlani, You Should Be Here
- Kelala, Hallucinogen
- The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness
- Jeremih, Late Nights
10. Jazmine Sullivan, Reality Show
Jazmine has one of the greatest voices in R&B, but her true strength is songwriting. Each track on Reality Show tells a humanizing story from a different woman’s perspective – from an Instagram model and bank robber, to a rapper’s ex-girlfriend and a heroin addict.
9. A$AP Rocky, At. Long. Last. ASAP.
Surprisingly experimental and searching, A$AP Rocky’s followup album pushes the boundaries of psychedelic rap.
8. Jamie xx, In Colour
Jamie xx put out a dazzling, moody dance music record tinged with sadness and nostalgia.
7. Vince Staples, Summertime ’06
The 22-year-old rapper dropped a stunning debut album that tells the story of growing up amidst Long Beach’s gangs.
6. Julien Baker, Sprained Ankle
This album stunned me with its heartbreaking depiction of addiction, hospitalization, and the loss and recapture of faith.
5. Grimes, Art Angels
A true pop record with a gritty, maximalist heart.
4. Tame Impala, Currents
The modern psychedelic pioneers shift from rock to pop but held firmly onto their blissed-out aesthetic.
3. Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear
At once orchestral and seething, airy and caustic, Father John Misty released an indictment of modern society and his own part in it.
2. Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett’s debut is obsessed with the small things in life – a morning commute, driving on the highway, going for a swim – and she elevates this minutia with clever, humorous attention.
1. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick’s jazz/funk/rap opus explores what it means to be black in 2015. Dark, challenging, furious–but also exuberant and ultimately hopeful.