Riley’s Top 26 Albums of 2015

Posted: by Riley

2015 was the first year I felt overwhelmed by the amount of music released; to be honest, I couldn’t even keep up. But there are much worse problems to have. I fell in love with music old and new this year. I won’t bore you with lengthy descriptions; instead, I limited myself to one sentence for each of the 26 albums I loved most this year. Cheers, I hope you enjoy.

26. Title Fight – Hyperview

Title Fight’s reverb-drenched third LP was one of the departure records that retained the potency and fervor of the group’s previous material.

Best Track: “Your Pain Is Mine Now”

FFO: My Bloody Valentine, Citizen, Basement

25. Eskimeaux – O.K.

Gabrielle Smith’s gentle indie-pop creations are some of the most human songs I heard this year, and some of the most cathartic.

Best Track: “Broken Necks”

FFO: Rilo Kiley, Frankie Cosmos, Mitski

24. The Internet – Ego Death

Syd the Kyd and co. improve in just about every way possible, bolstering their indie r&b hooks with vibey neo-soul instrumentation. 

Best Track: “Girl”

FFO: Frank Ocean, Thundercat, D’Angelo

23. All Dogs – Kicking Every Day

Maryn Jones is a force to be reckoned with on All Dogs’ debut LP, on which she showcases impressive songwriting chops and invigorating versatility. 

Best Track: “That Kind of Girl”

FFO: Waxahatchee, Courtney Barnett, Bully

22. Open Letters – 10-23

The debut from Vancouver’s Open Letters is an emotionally reckless mess of an LP packed with high-pitched vocals and gritty yelps; it shouldn’t work, but its authenticity and diversity makes for one of the year’s best pop-punk records.

Best Track: “Drugs Will Tear Us Apart”

FFO: Cursive, Microwave, Saosin

21. Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness

Holter’s 4th album is her warmest and most calculated; each song speaks for itself, and each is a nuanced baroque-pop gem.

Best Track: “Silhouette”

FFO: Julianna Barwick, Chelsea Wolfe, St. Vincent

20. Elvis Depressedly – New Alhambra

A criminally underrated LP, Elvis Depressedly’s New Alhambra is full of peculiar indie-pop hymns built on unusual narrative angles and subject matter.

Best Track: “Wastes of Time”

FFO: Alex G, Foxes in Fiction, Radiator Hospital

19. The Sidekicks – Runners In the Nerved World

The Sidekick’s Phil Eck-produced sophomore album recalls the buoyant harmonies of early Band of Horses, but here, they found new life in Steve Ciolek’s unique lyrical voice.

Best Track: “Jesus Christ Supermalls” / “The Kid Who Broke His Wrist”

FFO: Band of Horses, Manchester Orchestra, The Shins

18. Turnover – Peripheral Vision

A shocking sonic transition marks significant progress for past-life pop-punkers Turnover; the hook-lead textured dream pop of Peripheral Vision makes for the LP that grew on me most this year.

Best Track: “Cutting My Fingers Off”

FFO: Wild Nothing, Basement, Beach Fossils

17. Beach Slang – The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us

Beach Slang’s debut is a dense, liberating experience; it’s celebration rock for the troubled and the alive. 

Best Track: “Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas”

FFO: Japandroids, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Cheap Girls

16. Cousin Brian – Closer To Dog

By far the most underrated record of 2015, Philly’s since-dissolved Cousin Brian crafted a spirited punk album comprised of jaunty bass-lines, distorted guitar, and shout-along garage-rock hooks. 

Best Track: “Understimulated”

FFO: Joyce Manor, Cloud Nothings, The Smiths

15. Citizen – Everybody is Going to Heaven

While Youth cemented Citizen as a force in emotive rock, EIGTH disrupted listeners with a focused effort – one that balances snarling grunge bangers with soft, melodic tracks that highlight Kerekes’ significant lyrical progression. 

Best Track: “Numb Yourself”

FFO: Hum, Failure, Title Fight

14. Joey Bada$$ – B4.DA.$$.

Joey’s long-awaited debut LP is loaded with menacing virtuoso rap, dizzying word-play, and carefully selected features; B4.DA.$$ is a spot-on balance of ‘90’s New York hip-hop and Joey’s Jamaican roots.

Best Track: “On & On”

FFO: Mick Jenkins, Vince Staples, Jay Z

13. Adventures – Supersonic Home

Pittsburgh pop-rockers Adventures’ debut is an impressive, 90s-flavored LP which embeds its over-the-top ear-worm hooks into the heads of listeners; this one has stayed with me all year. 

Best Track: “Your Sweetness”

FFO: Tigers Jaw, Superheaven, Pity Sex

12. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

Drake’s surprise mix-tape album is the most instantly accessible hip-hop project of 2015; it’s cohesive, well-balanced, and universal – and it doesn’t even have “Hotline Bling” or “Back To Back” on it.

Best Track: “Jungle”

FFO: J. Cole, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd

11. Hop Along – Painted Shut

What can I say about this LP that our other contributors haven’t said already? Painted Shut is a striking lyrical endeavor presented by 2015’s most interesting voice.

Best Track: “Waitress”

FFO: Laura Stevenson, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Glocca Morra

10. Torres – Sprinter

Mackenzie Scott’s sophomore LP is a unique indie-rock record – one that takes on contentious subjects like religion and sex, but casts them in new light and picks them apart from deeply emotional and wonderfully profound perspectives.

Best Track: “Strange Hellos”

FFO: PJ Harvey, Sharon Van Etten, Waxahatchee

9. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

Barnett’s debut sees her emerge as one of music’s best songwriters, proven by her distinct tone, gifted story-telling and limitless versatility; Courtney Barnett is a superstar in the making, and Sometimes I Just Sit is a modern classic.

Best Track: “Depreston”

FFO: Father John Misty, Mac Demarco, The Velvet Underground

8. Bully – Feels Like

I once described Bully to a friend as “Gwen Stefani fronting Nirvana,” but that is doing Alicia Bognanno quite a disservice; Feels Like is a hectic unpacking of the mind of a (justifiably) frustrated person, projected by a brilliant song-writer who triples as a sharp producer and a gnarly singer. 

Best Track: “Trying”

FFO: Diet Cig, Speedy Ortiz, Nirvana

7. Vince Staples – Summertime ‘06

Long Beach’s Vince Staples is a singular voice in modern hip-hop, and a very important one; on his essential Def Jam debut, Staples paints a grim portrait of Long Beach through personal experience, pointed observation, and No I.D.’s sharp production.

Best Track: “Lift Me Up”

FFO: Ab-Soul, Joey Bada$$, Snoop Dogg

6. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

On Honeybear, Father John Misty abandons poise and dives deep into the conundrum of love; here, his biggest triumph is his ability to capture both the beautiful and the ugly sides of romance with equal – and startling – accuracy. 

Best Track: “Strange Encounter”

FFO: Leonard Cohen, Phosphorescent, Courtney Barnett

5. Grimes – Art Angels

Art Angels is the most furiously catchy, powerhouse of a pop album to come out in recent memory; Grimes weaves her anxieties and victories into dreamy, larger-than-life soundscapes with ridiculous precision and poise. 

Best Track: “Kill V. Maim”

FFO: Purity Ring, Braids, Taylor Swift

4. Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

The sophomore effort from 20-year old Earl Sweatshirt is an embodiment of character which transcends hip-hop, and instead serves as one of music’s most wholesome explorations and expressions of character in the past couple years; from his grimy self-helmed production to his wise-beyond-his-years adages, I Don’t Like Shit is about the struggle of finding yourself and the confidence that comes with finally getting there. 

Best Track: “Grief”

FFO: Ratking, Domo Genesis, Mick Jenkins

3. Tame Impala – Currents

Currents – a psychedelic soul-pop epic – is 2015’s most colorful album, and perhaps presents the most infectious collection of singles of the entire year; however, even more importantly, it retains all of what makes previous Tame material so fantastic, while also offering Parker’s most human creation thus far.

Best Track: “Reality in Motion”

FFO: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Ariel Pink, Andre 3000

2. The World Is A Beautiful Place.. – Harmlessness

Oh man, this album is hard to talk about objectively; throughout this year, Harmlessness, a transcendent collection of soaring indie-rock epics, has acted like a reliable best friend to me – one that roots for its listeners, and plants something within them. What grows from it is a completely singular experience, but it continues to amaze me with each listen (sorry, needed 2 sentences).

Best Track: “I Can Be Afraid Of Anything”

FFO: Sigur Ros, Broken Social Scene, Modest Mouse

1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

There is nothing I can really say about how important this album is, that I didn’t say in this review but really, just listen to it if you haven’t. It’s the journey I’ve taken most in 2015, and the one I still enjoy the most. 

Best Track: “Wesley’s Theory”

FFO: Thundercat, Tupac, Killer Mike