Nick’s Top 10 Albums Of 2015

Posted: by Nick

Bjork – Vulnicura

When Bjork puts out a new record, the world takes notice. That’s just the way it is. This year was a little different, because rather than lead us further afield into distant landscapes and cosmic states of being, Vulnicura brought us closer to Bjork the person. It is her most emotionally devastating and human album in decades, if not ever. At 50 Bjork has never had more command over her voice and the compositions she cultivates. What is, at its core, a breakup album, Vulnicura is not a portrait of an artist fighting against devastation or clawing to be seen as relevant. It is the portrait of person: vulnerable, hopeful, confused and yearning for understanding and comfort. It is among her most compelling work, an essential album worthy of all our attention.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

What can I say about this record that hasn’t already been said? I’ll forgo all the praise and tell you why this record appeals to me, personally. While I can’t claim to be an authority on the hip-hop genre, it has been a fairly big part of my life for years. I remember taking notice of Kendrick following his release of Good Kid, M.A.A.D City – drawn in by the groove-reverent and aerial melodies, and captured by the depth and intelligence of Kendrick’s lyricism. His anticipated follow-up is something truly special. Instrumentally dense and pitch perfect in every genre bending moment, the album would seem a classic even without Kendrick’s powerful voice and critical point of view. It’s hard to argue against the seemingly unanimous claim that TPAB is a modern masterpiece.

Deafheaven – New Bermuda

Like the rest of the world, I was entirely captivated by 2013’s Sunbather. However, since the release of that album my admiration of Deafheaven has been coupled with a fear – fear that their follow-up would be an attempt to replicate what made Sunbather so special. Thankfully, my fears were proven unfounded with New Bermuda, a record I like even more than its predecessor. Where Sunbather seemed pleased to remain in its dark but beautiful garden, New Bermuda draws from classic thrash and black metal to create a far more bracing and menacing collection of songs, with no wasteful interludes (all ebbs and flows occur within the songs themselves). While the clean portions of this album may be somewhat stagnant at times, their contrast with the intensity of the dominating, heavier portions is incredibly effective and appears effortless. This is my favorite metal record in some years, and has been a constant pleasure to listen to from its release to the writing of this list.

Pretend – Tapestry’d Life

It has been a long wait for a follow-up to Pretend’s auspicious debut, 2009’s Bones in the Soil, Rust in the Oil. Thankfully, Tapestry’d Life did not disappoint. This band managed to retain all the quiet and kinetic allure of Bones… while evolving into an even more powerful, inventive, and capable outfit. With this record, Pretend offers up a collection of songs that feel both more emotionally genuine and compositionally compelling.

Title Fight – Hyperview

While I was attached to the more driving and unrestrained work of Title Fight’s previous releases, I am rarely excited to see a band I love do more of the same (see Deafheaven). With Hyperview, Title Fight shifts their focus to a more subdued and longing atmosphere. While the results have proven somewhat divisive among long time fans, the shift sees the band writing more thoughtful music with a grace few could predict them capable of. This is undoubtedly the sound of a band maturing, which is a pleasure to listen to – especially alongside the sounds of their past.

Locrian – Infinite Dissolution

Chicago’s Locrian have been exploring the landscape of sound for a decade, melding like and unlike forms of noise, industrial rock, black metal, and euphoric post-rock. Infinite Dissolution finds this intrepid trio at the pinnacle of their musical prowess and idealism. Never before have Locrian released a collection of songs so concise and yet so damnably difficult to pin down. The album is a haunting and eclectic journey through soundscapes of bitter darkness and immense light.

Battles – La Di Da Di

Battles have been indispensable listening for fans of experimental rock for years. They have endured the loss of an original member with impressive ease and given us two very different, equally admirable records. On La Di Da Di, though, I felt that I was finally listening to these incredible musicians make the music I always knew they could. This record has an effortlessness and comfort fueling it that is missing from the other releases, yet is still challenging in arrangement and execution. These elements combine in my favorite Battles release to date – not to mention the coolest album cover in years.

Sumac – The Deal

Since the devastating (yet perfectly timed) demise of post-metal icons Isis, I have diligently listened to the former members’ various side projects, often finding myself settling (see Palms’ 2013 self-titled record). This year, however, saw the birth of Sumac, and I found what I was looking for – a post-Isis project worthy of my undivided attention. The band consists of Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom, Mammifer), Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists), and unofficial – but critical – session and live bassist Brian Cook (Botch, These Arms Are Snakes, Russian Circles). This album is some of the most engaging, patient, not to mention brutal music released this year – and a constantly gratifying listening experience it is.

Hop Along- Painted Shut

Recommended to me by a trusted friend who was thoroughly captivated by the record, Painted Shut by Hop Along did not disappoint. The band has been on my radar since I saw them open for Owls over a year ago, but it took me until recently to give my full attention to these inventive indie rockers. These songs, catchy and quietly complex in equal measure, make for one of the most pleasurable listening experiences of the year.

Palm – Trading Basics

Palm combines, intentionally or not, elements reminiscent of Slint, Animal Collective, and Discipline era King Crimson. If that combination doesn’t sound exciting I’m not sure what does. The rollicking, halting, insidious energy of this band is unlike anything else, and yet accessible to those with a taste for new progressives and experimental indie acts. Trading Basics is a proper introduction for an inventive and capable band that will surely be one to watch in the coming years, not to mention an album that will get under your skin and stay there for a good long time.