Another year of great music is in the books, and once again, the Earbuddy staff is checking in with our best albums of 2015. A few notes about this year’s list: releases were considered from December 2014 up to the end of November 2015, EPs were also considered, and the final list was chosen by the Earbuddy Senior Writing Staff (Nick Krenn, Alex Daniel, John Downey, Ryan Rogers, and Chris Foster) and contributing writers Constantino Christou and Sami Rahman. No more delay; check out our picks for 100 – 36 below.
100. Wild Raccoon – Mount Break
99. HIBOU – HIBOU
98. Aqualung – 10 Futures
97. Misterwives – Our Own House
96. Lapalux – Lustmore
95. Of Montreal – Snare Lustrous Doomings
94. GABI – Sympathy
93. White Reaper – White Reaper Does It Again
92. All We Are – All We Are
91. The Cairo Gang – Goes Missing
90. Sun Hotel – Rational Expectations
89. Jose Gonzalez – Vestiges and Claws
88. Travis Scott – Rodeo
87. Shlohmo – Dark Red
86. Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching
85. Sarah Bethe Nelson – Fast Moving Clouds
84. Jaakko Eino Kalevi – Jaakko Eino Kaveli
83. Blur – The Magic Whip
82. Young Thug – Barter 6
81. Vomitface – Another Bad Year
80. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf
79. Martin Courtney – Many Moons
78. The Black Ryder – The Door Behind The Door
77. Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls
76. Oberhofer – Chronovision
75. Adele – 25
74. Main Attrakionz – 808s and Dark Grapes III
73. Slutever – Almost Famous
72. Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer
71. Future – DS2
70. Ash Koosha – Guud
69. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall
68. Matthew E. White – Fresh Blood
67. Mount Eerie – Sauna
66. Shannon and the Clams – Gone By The Dawn
65. Autre Ne Veut – Age of Transparency
64. Wilco – Star Wars
63. San Fermin – Jackrabbit
62. Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy
61. Pile – You’re Better Than This
60. Clarence Clarity – No Now
59. The Mountain Goats – Beat The Champ
58. Petite Noir – The King of Anxiety
57. Lady Lamb – After
56. MIkal Cronin – MCIII
55. Ava Luna – Infinite House
54. Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt
53. Youth Lagoon – Savage Hills Ballroom
52. Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie51. Floating Points – Elaenia
Calling Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper an out-and-out pop record is disingenuous, but it is surely the most pop-laden release of Panda Bear’s discography to date. What does that mean? It means you can expect approachable vocal lines, repeated to the point of becoming an earworm (e.g., “Mr Noah”, “Boys Latin”) and thick, slick production. Panda Bear retains many of the idiosyncrasies that have endeared him to his audience, and his signature reverbed-vocals return in full force.
What is most commendable about Lower Dens on this record is the ease with which they are able to achieve such a distinct atmosphere and sustain it throughout, especially when so many others try so hard to convey any sort of mood whatsoever and fail. Where this record shines brightest is when the band let go and embrace lighter, more euphoric aspect of their sound, particularly on the melancholic yet therapeutic sheen of “To Die in LA”.
The album as a whole, but especially tracks like “Downtown”, and “Silver Car Crash”, is a perfect example of something that a few bands have been able to really do throughout the past few years. From artificial elements-synthesizers, drum machines, and atmospherics, something sterile and minimalist, yet warm and wholly human is created. It is impossible for this music not to evoke emotions. It has been done by the Notwist on Neon Golden, Radiohead on Kid A and now by Majical Cloudz.
Lightning Bolt is abrasive. Lightning Bolt is terrifying. This is the band that will tear apart your kitchen mere seconds after the opener packs up their gear. Or perhaps the band that Steve Albini quipped to be the “best alarm clock [he’s] ever had.” At the same time, though, Lightning Bolt is a band of whimsy. Their distorted bass lines and frantic drumming call forth feelings of being whisked away on a magical adventure full of black magic, evil bearded wizards, and probably a talking horse. They’ve been at this for almost two decades, with little variation in sound and recording on a rough palate. But now, with Fantasy Empire, Lightning Bolt hops into a studio to fully capture the absolute madness as clearly as possible.
A few tracks from B4.DA.$$ come off as being too safe, but the rest ride a Tribe-meets-weed sound well enough, and the best cuts come in the album’s latter half (“No. 99”, “Escape 120”). There have been worse debuts from better rappers, and there’s a good chance Joey Bada$$ will grow into his act more.
45. Death Grips – Jenny Death
For a group who has threatened breaking up and cancelling tours, it’s not surprising when they totally take an opposite approach to their sound. Death Grips drummer Zach Hill was already in the hard rock arena with bands like Hella, so they have come full circle in their quest to be this decade’s Rage Against The Machine. Jenny Death plays out more like a prequel to Government Plates than a continuation of the first installment of The Powers That B. “I Break Mirrors On My Face In The United States” for a lack of a better term mirrors the lengthily titled “you might think he loves you for your money but i know what he really loves you for it’s your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat” in terms of tone and raw intensity. “On GP” contains some of the best barn-burning guitar riffs to ever grace a Death Grips record. Niggas On The Moon was more Bjork worship than a great Death Grips record and Jenny Death resurrects the spirit and bravery of the group that was missing from that release.
Much of Mutilator Defeated At Last has a dark, almost sinister feel — like if Sabbath had been dipped in punk and hung out to dry in a smoky cellar. John Dwyer can’t help himself and still throws more than a few curveballs at the listener, but unlike Drop, this LP has a better, more complete energy. Nothing feels out of place, nothing seems unreasonable or jarring or unnecessary.
Sure, contextually the album comes in the midst of a controversial beef between Lil Wayne and Cash Money Records, with Wayne leaving and suing the record label. Many have speculated this release shows Drake in solidarity with his mentor, telling rapper and Cash Money co-founder Birdman he’s had enough and is ending his four record contract with a blast. Ignore the overwhelming narrative around the release; you still have an incredibly strong and vicious album from a rapper at his peak. Simultaneously loved and hated for being too soft or emotional, Drake is the angriest he’s ever been on Too Late.
Lantern is a popcorn album featuring too many songs with the same structure, but it is far from the offense to the senses that is the overwhelming majority of mainstream EDM. Lantern is an effective booty-shaker of an album, and that’s fine.
Although the out-and-out shoegaze of promising lead single “Sparks” was a one-off and the rest of the record was very much business as usual for Beach House, it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying Depression Cherry, which above all is still an accomplished and well composed dream-pop record. Besides “Sparks” there are a handful of career highlights such as “Space Song” and “Days of Candy”.
While Fading Frontier didn’t offer many big moments other than the exceptional “Snakeskin”, almost all of the music on Fading Frontier is soaring and gorgeous and flawlessly produced and written to continue Deerhunter’s trend of good albums.
Short Movie is a bit of a misnomer at 13 tracks which all together run almost an hour’s length, but the ride is well worth it for tracks like “Gurdjieff’s Daughter”, the sing-songy “Divine” and ultimate bittersweet ballad “Worship Me”. Marling might yearn to go back to east, but she filters the west so cunningly that you would swear she grew up in some rural hippie California community all her life.
The instrumentation here leans close towards traditional Americana over the wilder material on the last Kurt Vile LP but features arguably just as many strong compositions. Vile is proving himself to be a master of indelible grooves, from the stomp of “Pretty Pimpin” to the busy lushness of “That’s Life, Tho (almost hate to say)” to the playful “Lost My Head There”. No matter how you feel about Vile’s writing, this is an album that is a joy to listen to.
As this was Waxhatchee’s first record on indie giant Merge Records, some bolder moments could be expected on Ivy Tripp. “La Loose”, which is the most off-kilter track on the album, sticks out in Katie Crutchfield’s discography like a sore thumb but for all the right reasons. For this synthy ditty, Katie puts her guitar to one side, replacing it with fluttering synths and cutesy ooh ooh ooh’s and the result is a super fun and endearing bop.
Vulnicura’s song length averages around 6 minute mark, making the album quite an endeavor to traverse at 9 songs, aside from the floaty Arca-produced track “History of Touches”, which is the most single-friendly song on the album. The record opens with a silence followed by a string section and an exaggerated pronunciation of the word “mutual” that would put any Björk fan back in familiar territory. “Lionsong” stays the course of Björk’s Homogenic-era sound. The aforementioned “History Touches” juxtaposes Arca’s skittering vaporwave-esque glitchiness with Björk’s lyrical themes of love, heartbreak and longing for embrace.
And that’s it for today! Be sure to join us tomorrow as we take a look at our best releases of 2015: 35 – 26.