While they are certainly a headache to some people, I fucking love doing these year end lists. Perhaps because each year this is my one piece of writing that guarantees unadulterated positivity. No complaints. No bashing. No suicide jokes. Just celebration, plain and simple. And with 2015, our ears have yet another astronomically pleasurable year to celebrate. I worked harder on this list than I have on any of my assignments in sixteen plus years of academia, with countless hours of listening and painful deliberation poured in. If you are reading this, no it’s not too late (see what I did there Drake?) to discover any gems that you might have missed the boat on!
*Denotes a Top 15 album
Mr. Wonderful – Action Bronson: On his major label debut, Action Bronson came through with loads of personality, charisma, and a good sense of humor over some refreshingly original production. Chance the Rapper definitely makes a case for verse of the year with his hilarious guest bars on “Baby Blue”.
At.Long.Last.A$AP – A$AP Rocky: Its spacey “cloud rap” vibes make it enticing, and Rocky’s undeniable lyrical skill keeps it compelling
Inanimate Objects – Atlas Genius: One of the best of 2015 in the Indie Pop/Indie Electronica category.
Long Live – Atreyu: After a five-year hiatus, this comeback release combines the best of all eras of the band, resulting in their best album since The Curse. Here is a full review.
Psycadelik Thoughtz – B.o.B: After the double flusher that was 2013’s Underground Luxury, this under-the-radar project from B.o.B. thrives in its minimal-fucks-given experimentation, particularly in the Pop-Rap realm.
*Abysmal – The Black Dahlia Murder: Their albums all blend together a little for me so it’d be too rash for me to call this the best Black Dahlia Murder album to date, but my God if this isn’t one of the best Death Metal albums of the last few years.
*Venom – Bullet for My Valentine: A near-flawless return to classic Bullet! I was flabbergasted at how much I enjoyed this album. Here is a full review.
*That’s the Spirit – Bring Me the Horizon: A hater from day one, I am profoundly disturbed by my love of this album. Whether or not integrity is at the heart of this band’s radical stylistic transition remains to be seen, but it’s difficult not to be drawn to the raw emotion that radiates from each song.
*Emotion – Carly Rae Jepsen: Not only the Pop album of the year, but perhaps of the last few years. 80’s Pop hasn’t been this well represented on a major commercial release in some time.
*The Anthropocene Extinction – Cattle Decapitation: The finest piece of Extreme Metal released this year. Travis Ryan continues to saunter ahead of the pack vocally.
I Worship Chaos – Children of Bodom: I continue to insist that they have yet to make a bad album regardless, but I Worship Chaos, the band’s ninth, certainly sits in the upper half of Children of Bodom’s discography.
New Bermuda – Deafheaven: Achieving innovation at any level in Metal in 2015 is a challenge, yet Deafheaven manage to be completely singular with New Bermuda, their third album.
*Surf – Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment: “Fun” is the only adequate way to describe Surf. The numerous cameos, the warm horn sounds, and Chance the Rapper’s one-of-a-kind bars (on nine tracks) don’t hurt either.
Compton – Dr. Dre: Like the two Dr. Dre albums that have preceded it, a murderer’s row of all-star posse cuts and pristine production. Especially stoked to see the underrated Jon Connor get some shine on here.
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – Drake: Though his crooning has served him well on projects past, less wuss and more aggression were a great fit for Drake on this surprise mixtape.
I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside – Earl Sweatshirt: Earl squeezes a remarkable amount of cynical insights into 30 minutes on his second full-length.
In Times – Enslaved: They continue to prove themselves masters of Extreme Metal.
*Mr. Misunderstood – Eric Church: This surprise LP from Country Rock’s finest is, at its core, exceptionally moving. Here is a full review.
Sol Invictus – Faith No More: Who the fuck thought that a) we would ever see this, and b) it would be so damn good!
*Meliora – Ghost: An average first album, a sophomore slump, and an outstanding third album; what a fascinating trajectory. Ghost really came into their own on all fronts with Meliora. “Cirice” in particular is a must-listen. Psyched to see it get a Grammy nod.
The Book of Souls – Iron Maiden: Just mind blowing that one of Metal’s elder statesmen are still churning out material on par with their classic stuff. Competes for best album of 21st century Maiden
90059 – Jay Rock: Jay Rock meets impossibly high expectations on 90059 by sticking to his strengths and keeping the project at a slim but forceful 11 songs.
B4.DA.$$ – Joey Bada$$: Newly 20 years old upon this debut release, I expect we’re gonna see a lot more of Joey in the coming years. His talent and his throwback lyrical style will always have a welcome place in Hip-Hop.
*To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar: Undisputed Album of the Year. No praises to sing here that haven’t already been sung.
My Garden – Kat Dahlia: My future wife. Though the singles are still this album’s strongest material, each track moves you in a unique way.
*VII: Sturm Und Drang – Lamb of God: Randy’s jail stint and manslaughter case resulted in the most lyrically focused and ferocious Lamb of God record I have ever heard.
Tetsuo and Youth – Lupe Fiasco: Though I have stood by Lupe through each project, I can’t argue with people who call Tetsuo and Youth “light years ahead of all post-2007 Lupe”.
GO:OD AM – Mac Miller: The first Mac Miller project worthy of the tag “essential Hip Hop listening”. He dropped the hyper-lyrical psychedelic persona and focused solely on good songs. Here is a full review.
*Adventure – Madeon: Without a doubt THE party album of 2015. I’m not a connoisseur by any stretch of the word, but I have never been as enthralled with an EDM album as I am with Adventure.
The Pale Emperor – Marilyn Manson: I’m a huge Manson fan, so to see him hit an artistic peak like this late into his career is thrilling. Perfect blend of Industrial, Grunge, and a dose of Metal.
Metal Allegiance – Metal Allegiance: What really should’ve been called “Metal All-Stars” comes through as a pure celebration of anything and everything METAL.
*Pagans in Vegas – Metric: This band continues to be my favorite in the Alternative Pop world. Three gems in a row now – they can’t be stopped!
Drones – Muse: In the band’s best since Black Holes and Revelations, they succeed immensely at a straight-ahead rock record, thanks in part to production from the legendary Mutt Lange.
*Ire – Parkway Drive: The stylistic risks taken by these Aussies on their fifth album paid off tremendously. This is the type of album Melodic Metalcore needed in 2015.
The Ride Magestic – Soilwork: (Biggie voice) *Here’s another one. And a, and a, and another one*
*Hand.Cannot.Erase – Steven Wilson: Prog master Steven Wilson makes albums so dense that conceptually, they take years to fully grasp. What is relatively easy to grasp, however, is the musical brilliance displayed throughout. Guthrie Govan’s guitar playing is a particular highlight on what certainly veers into “masterpiece” territory.
Currents – Tame Impala: I just finally heard this for the first time this month, so there will be no elaboration on this one. But my God is Kevin Parker a freakish talent.
Cauterize – Tremonti: Mark Tremonti’s solo band – in addition to Alter Bridge – is making some of the only Hard Rock that is musically interesting. “Providence” and “Flying Monkeys” stand toe-to-toe with Alter Bridge’s best material. Here is a full review.
Silence in the Snow – Trivium: I love when bands take risks. Silence in the Snow was a fucking risk and a half. While there are occasional misses, its aesthetic prevails. Not to mention, Matt Heafy turns in his best vocal performance to date.
*Blurryface – Twenty One Pilots: Alternative Rap? Alternative Rock? Pop? Electro-Pop? This fucking thing completely defies categorization, and that’s what makes it an utter joy to listen to from beginning to end. That and some of the best melodies that 2015 had to offer.
Hot Streak – The Winery Dogs: The Winery Dogs are perhaps – ironically – the most musically talented group in the Rock world aside from Dream Theater. Richie Kotzen’s songwriting and soloing make me want to just fucking quit.