Now before you look through this list I want to stress that this list reflects my personal music tastes and genres that I prefer, this list does not reflect a majority consensus of what music that came out this year is the best.
If that were the case, you would probably find Adele, Taylor Swift, and maybe even Fetty Wap on this list. That is not the case, but partially because I still haven’t listened to Adele’s new album yet (damn you Spotify for not having it). But this year in music has been a very strong one, reminiscent of the musical year we had in 2013, but better I would say. Though I believe if Frank Ocean had followed through with his album he teased us with and had Kanye dropped before the year’s end, this list would also be a little rearranged.
I listen to and discover TONS of music, new and old. For me to make a list of my favorite albums that came out this year was a difficult task, even though some were obvious selections for me. I think I more so ranked this list in order of my subjective replay value, meaning what albums I would return to the most often throughout the year. Although some albums came out earlier than others and some later, I still managed to make a pretty accurate list, though the timing of some of these albums may have affected a few of the selections.
Some albums that I truly loved didn’t make the list only due to the fact I didn’t want to make a 50 album list like Complex, though I could have if I wanted to put in that much effort (it would be closer to 30 though). So enjoy this list I put together, some picks may shock you, others you may agree with, some you may not even recognize.
15. Drake — If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
This was supposed to be a surprise mixtape, but somehow Drake swindled all of us into paying for it and it ultimately went platinum and received Grammy nods. Some may be wondering why this wasn’t higher on the list and I even considered leaving this one off of the list. But this album certainly had it’s moment and a string of weeks and maybe even months where I wouldn’t stop listening and reciting most of the verses. This certainly isn’t my favorite album of Drake’s but it was good enough to make this year’s list.
14. Snoop Dogg & Pharrell — BUSH
Once I heard Snoop was going to release an album produced entirely by Pharrell I knew I had to give it a listen. Pharrell has produced some of Snoop’s best songs in my opinion, from “Beautiful”, “Let’s Get Blown”, and “Signs” from his past albums. All of these songs feature vocals from Uncle Charlie Wilson and a groovy baseline that you can two-step to with ease. A few of the songs I can do without but the overall feel of this album is great.
13. Raury — All We Need
I first heard of 19-year-old Raury through a co-sign from Kanye West, which is pretty big. He put out his first mixtape titled Indigo Child last year and it was like nothing I had ever heard before. Raury is like a folk-rap-singer-songwriter who taught himself how to play guitar, and not to mention his message in his music is centered around peace and love. He’s quite the talented rapper and songwriter in general and the fact that lays his own guitar riffs on his songs makes me respect him more.
12. Alina Baraz — Urban Flora EP
This album was actually introduced to me through a friend, who was introduced to it through another friend of mine. Alina Baraz’s voice is almost like a SZA and Jhene Aiko fusion (both of which I love and have seen live) but that comparison can’t even do this album justice. With the smooth beats backing her spacey voice, this is certainly a record to vibe to and just chill and let the music flow through you.
11. A$AP Rocky — AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP
I originally discovered A$AP Rocky by chance, after clicking on his first mixtape Live.Love.A$AP out of curiosity. I instantly fell in love with it and have been a fan ever since. His debut album though was somewhat disappointing and even leaked an entire month before its release, but his second effort made up for that. He stays true to his unique sound that he’s always had but gets a bit experimental with songs like “LSD” and “Jukebox Joints” while still appealing to a broader audience. Seeing him perform live earlier this year was a dope experience as well.
10. Justin Bieber — Purpose
I can’t say I’m ashamed of this selection. I indeed used to hate Bieber, after hearing his old hit “Baby” I legitimately thought it was a female singing. But after a few more commercial albums, some controversial stunts, delinquent behavior, and his assassination by the media (not to mention his Comedy Central roast), I believe Justin has really gotten back to his roots with what he loves doing and does best: singing. I didn’t think that he would grow into his voice as he got older but he did it pretty well with this album. Especially working with other great musicians on this (Skrillex, Diplo, Kanye West, Ed Sheeran) helped fine tune his sound and deliver probably his best work yet.
9. Tyler, The Creator — Cherry Bomb
I’ve always been a fan of Tyler ever since I heard “Yonkers”. The first time I saw that video I legitimately thought the dude was out of his mind. After listening to more of his music and studying who he really is, I think I might’ve been right. People may have stopped giving Tyler a chance because of his reputation of rapping about murder, rape, and his extensive use of homophobic slurs, but Cherry Bomb truly shows his maturity as a person and a musician, which people seem to forget he is. Along with his OWN line of his clothing, directing his OWN videos, staring in his OWN TV series, Tyler produces all of his OWN music as well. This album shows his progression as a composer (eg. “Find Your Wings”) and as a lyricist (eg. “Smuckers” featuring Lil Wayne & Kanye West). After seeing him live twice he also puts on a great performance.
8. Travis $cott — Rodeo
There was tons of hype leading up to the release of this album. At first I really thought it was just that: hype. Then I listened to it, and loved it. I always knew of Travis $cott, being signed to G.O.O.D. Music and co-signing Kid Cudi heavily, but I was never really a fan until now. The energy in this album is relentless and he really makes you feel every song whether it’s turning up to his hit “Antidote” or vibing out to the melodies in “90210”. I even love the savagery of the Kanye West assisted “Piss on your Grave” as disrespectful as that title sounds. I had the pleasure of seeing him live this year as well.
7. D.R.A.M. — Gahdamn!
This is another album that I stumbled upon by chance. Turns out, D.R.A.M. is the same artist that put out the song “Cha-Cha” that everyone thought that Drake stole from in “Hotline Bling”. Though they do have similar rhythms and I love both of those songs, I still don’t see how Drake ripped off of his song. But anyway, this album separates D.R.A.M. from all of that talk and actually gives himself a very unique sound. He’s a singer, like, he can REALLY sing. But his style is reminiscent of an underground rapper. You could likely compare his style to Chance The Rapper, who he actually toured with this fall, but is still extremely unique in the way he approaches his music. He is also one of the funniest musical artists I’ve discovered period, leaving several punchlines in this 9-song EP.
6. Tame Impala — Currents
After hearing their previous album, Lonerism, I immediately became a fan of the Australian band. Then I heard that they were putting out a new album this year and this was the one that got it’s commercial success. I knew it was successful after hearing one of their songs in a TV commercial. The indie, somewhat psychedelic rock band incorporates very spacey, futuristic, and funky sounds into this album and it is enjoyable from start to finish.
5. Homeshake — Midnight Snack
A random suggestion from a friend can turn into one of your favorite albums to listen to. I was just told about Homeshake through a text message and next thing you know I’m on Spotify listening to this album and I’m completely mind-blown by it. The type of music is pretty indescribable, but if I had to describe it, it’s a mix of soul, funk, rock, jazz, and alternative. I could go through this entire album without skipping a song. Every song is different and fresh with simply flawless instrumentation. Apparently singer-songwriter Mac Demarco used to be in this band and if you know him you can hear the resemblance pretty clearly. Probably the one band that most readers have never heard of but this album is definitely worth the listen.
4. The Internet — Ego Death
You wouldn’t think this band would be affiliated with Tyler, The Creator’s Odd Future collective, but as it turns out the lead singer, Syd Tha Kid, is sister to one of Tyler’s best friends, Taco. Their last album Feel Good was certainly a favorite of mine when it came out, but this one is even better and has even received a Grammy nomination. The production and instrumentation in this album is incredible and while certain songs make you want to zone out, there are about the same amount of songs on hear that make you want to dance and even sing along. I’ve become more biased towards bands these days because I can appreciate live instrumentation as I know much more effort is put into it. I saw them live with SZA and Jhene Aiko but unfortunately before this album was released.
3. Lianne La Havas — Blood
Along with being my future wife, Lianne is certainly one of my favorite female artists to date. I have such an infatuation with female voices, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Jhene Aiko, and SZA among some of my favorites. After hearing her first album Is Your Love Big Enough, I immediately fell in love with her. She plays the guitar, writes her own songs and is extremely relaxing to listen to but has a very strong voice and likes to showcase it at times. Listening to Lianne is certainly one of my guilty pleasures, as I can be quite hesitant to show her to my friends, but best believe I belt my heart out when listening to her in the car. I also had the unexpected opportunity to see her live earlier this fall in New York, which only strengthened my infatuation for her.
2. Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly
This was a pretty obvious selection for me and for most 2015 year end lists. I have been a fan of Kendrick since 2011 and have seen him perform live on five separate occasions. I loved his first album good kid m.a.a.d. city and it received high recognition from people calling it a classic hip-hop album and comparing it to Nas’ debut Illmatic. Three years later and we finally get Kendrick’s sophomore effort, which is immensely far left from a conventional hip-hop sound. He fused jazz, funk, soul, rap (obviously) and a little bit of blues to create not just an album, but an experience that is unique from what anyone has ever done in rap. The social commentary in this album is definitely present as usual but he makes it listenable and easy to digest. With 11 Grammy nominations, this is easily my favorite and arguably the best hip-hop album to come out this year.
1. Hiatus Kaiyote — Choose Your Weapon
If only words could do this album justice. I found this album by chance just from the artwork alone. I did however hear a song by Hiatus Kaiyote before when Q-Tip put a verse on one of their earlier tracks “Nakamarra” which was Grammy nominated. Listening to this album from start to finish was one of the most incredible experiences I have had this year. It’s funky, it’s soulful, it’s groovy, it’s chill, it’s upbeat, it’s honestly indescribable but easily the best album I have heard all year. I put a few of my friends on to this album and they loved it too. If you had to put a label on this band you could call it neo-soul. They are another band that have not gotten much exposure and may not be well known, but their talent has not gone unnoticed, as their song “Breathing Underwater” was recently nominated for a Grammy. If there is an album on this list that I’d encourage people to give a chance, this is the one. There is something for everybody on this one.
And that wraps up my 2015 top albums list, as well as my 2015 wrap-up series. Stay tuned for more posts as the winter goes on. A few albums that didn’t make the top 15 cut are listed below.
Surf Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
The Incredible True Story Logic
Dirty Sprite 2 Future
Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven Kid Cudi
Beauty Behind the Madness The Weeknd
T R A P S O U L Bryson Tiller
Summertime ’06 Vince Staples
What For? Toro Y Moi
GO:OD AM Mac Miller
Tetsuo & Youth Lupe Fiasco