2015 was a downright lovely year for music. I apologize – I tried but failed to get these eleven albums into some sort of order. It’s too hard to judge Fetty Wap against My Morning Jacket and pick a winner. So here are my favorite albums of 2015, in no particular order:
Surf – Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
Ok, so I know I *literally* just said “in no particular order,” but this is without a doubt my favorite album of 2015. Surf is beautiful from the second it begins to the second it ends. The album dropped right as I was in the middle of moving out of my shitty apartment after my college graduation. I was feeling sentimental and strange, and I wanted to go home. Initially, I was just excited to have some new music to blast while I packed, but Surf hit me like a ton of bricks. These songs are about family, friends, growing up, and learning about yourself. Surf came along just when I needed it – it was a weird soundtrack to a weird time in my life.
I really appreciate Chance the Rapper’s propensity to take risks and make unique music, and I loved this partnership with Donnie Trumpet. This isn’t a pure Chance album, so we hear much fewer “na-na-na-na-nas” and raspy shouts, but the big band trumpet sound really works over Chance’s verses. Surf also features a wide variety of swoon-worthy features including Busta Rhymes, J. Cole, Big Sean, Janelle Monae, BJ The Chicago Kid, Erykah Badu, and my personal favorite, QUAVO!
Favorite song(s): “Sunday Candy,” obviously. Holy shit this fucking song!
To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
What is left to say about TPAB? This album has been thinkpieced to death. That’s not to say it’s not haunting and brilliant, though. Kendrick has been consistently on top since Section.80, but his attitude has shifted – there’s a measurable difference in vibes across his three studio albums. TPAB is dark, dramatic, and chaotic. I’m still troubled by his Trayvon Martin remarks in “The Blacker the Berry,” but K-Dot is a complex guy living in complex times.
I feel differently about this album every time I listen to it, and that’s why it’s so good.
Favorite song(s): “King Kunta” and “Alright.”
Dirty Sprite 2 – Future
2015 belongs to Future Hendrix. On the surface, DS2 is full of mumbly songs about doing drugs and fucking bitches, but one of my favorite things about Future is his ability to hide sad, vulnerable truths in songs like these. He admits to his less-than-healthy coping mechanisms and overcompensation attempts, which makes for some secretly deep tracks.
Favorite song(s): “I Serve the Base” and “Where Ya At.”
The Waterfall – My Morning Jacket
My Morning Jacket has been a favorite of mine since high school; I never get sick of their ever-changing but consistently listenable music. The Waterfall is MMJ’s seventh studio album and it appears the band is as good as they ever were. Jim James and co. are a rare breed for our time – they’re really fucking talented rock musicians. As evidenced by this list, this was a hip-hop-heavy year, and I’m admittedly a hip-hop-heavy consumer, but a new MMJ album will always find its way into my Spotify rotation, and The Waterfall was no exception.
Favorite song(s): “Big Decisions,” “Believe (Nobody Knows),” “Tropics (Erase Traces).”
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – Drake
Fucking A, remember when this album dropped in the middle of fucking Mardi Gras?
Favorite song(s): “Know Yourself,” “Energy.”
SremmLife – Rae Sremmurd
Rae Sremmurd’s music is complete and total garbage and I love it. Sremmlife is unrelenting fun for 11 tracks straight and I honestly have not stopped listening since its release in January. When your friends are making you go out when you’d rather not, this album will bring you up to speed and make you want to turn like a champ. The Sremmurd brothers are alarmingly young, but they read like old pros with features from veteran artists like Nicki Minaj.
Favorite song(s): “This Could Be Us,” “Come Get Her,” “Throw Some Mo,” “No Type,” PRETTY MUCH ALL OF THEM.
Sound and Color – Alabama Shakes
Ahh, the wonderfully unassuming Alabama Shakes are back. They’re proud to be southern, they discuss southern culture in their music, but they are never cartoonish. The Shakes are true artists and they make beautiful, soulful music. Sound and Color belongs on this list, among the trap and pop, to cleanse the palate and bring you back down to earth.
Favorite song(s): “Miss You.”
What A Time To Be Alive – Future and Drake
I’m aware of every criticism of this album and for the most part, I agree, but I love What A Time To Be Alive despite it all. I love the effect that Future and Drake have on each other – even when sometimes it feels they lack chemistry, Future makes Drake’s music more authentic and Drake makes Future’s more listenable. While I’m sure that DS2 and If You’re Reading This are technically better quality albums, I find myself listening to WATTBA more than the other two combined. There’s just something about this album that makes it infectious.
Favorite song(s): “Jumpman,” “I’m The Plug,” “Diamonds Dancing,” “Scholarships.”
Purpose – Justin Bieber
Alright, Bieber, you win. I’ve always thought Bieber was a little fucking punk (“Fuck Bill Clinton?” Really? You’re Canadian.) but had a soft spot in my heart for bangers like “Somebody To Love” and “Boyfriend.” His music was undeniably catchy but he was always such a turd. While I remain firmly #TeamSelena, I can’t help but root for Justin after this album dropped. He’s trying to be a better guy, right?
Purpose has some truly incredible singles, but some serious missteps as well. I think “Children” is laughably bad, and “Life is Worth Living” is stupid. But now that that’s out of the way, “Sorry” is one of my favorite songs of the entire year, and it’s supported by five or six other excellent hits. I’m hopeful that this album is a turning point for Bieber, but he remains a better single-generator than cohesive album-creator.
Favorite song(s): “Love Yourself,” “Company,” “Sorry,” “Where Are Ü Now,” “What Do You Mean.”
You Should Be Here – Kehlani
I had no idea Kehlani was 19 years old or a product of America’s Got Talent when I first listened to this album. Maybe I’m ignorant and uninformed, but I’m glad I didn’t know because I probably wouldn’t have taken her as seriously as her music warrants. You Should Be Here is raw, emotional, and really fucking pretty. I’m ready to hear more from Kehlani in the new year.
Favorite song(s): “You Should Be Here,” “The Way.”
Fetty Wap – Fetty Wap
It was hard to imagine a satisfying response to the massive success of “Trap Queen,” but I think Fetty pulled it off. Fetty Wap is chock-fucking-full of bangers like “679” and “RGF Island,” of course, but shit, can we talk about Fetty’s love songs? “Again” and “Rewind” are straight up romantic. There isn’t one bad song on the whole album – a pleasant surprise to those who wrote Fetty Wap off as a one-hit-wonder.
Favorite song(s): “My Way,” “679.”