The best albums of 2015


The Rock reviews best albums of the year.

Abby Kempf

Jamie XX – In Colour  
“Jamie XX” is an eccentric. The one man group of Jamie Smith (currently a member and producer of the great indie chill group, “The XX) sampled all of the spoken word tracks on the album from a totally obscure 90’s movie called “Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore.” Little idiosyncrasies such as this shouldn’t deter anyone new to “Jamie XX”’s fantastic debut though, as the genre-bending Smith is able to weave together trap beats and classic European house sounds to create the best electronic album in recent memory.
Neon Indian – Vega Intl. Night School
To say this album created a ton of hype would be one of the biggest music understatements of 2015. It makes sense though, with their last release as a group was 2011’s fantastic Era Extraña. In the past major breaks in writing music have hurt bands such as U2, but somehow Neon Indian’s lead songwriter Alan Palomo turned it into a positive. The driving synths and 80’s influence are amplified to a completely new level of sexy chillwave funk. The original discotech synth lords of ‘80s would be proud.
Mac DeMarco – Another One
In some ways Mac DeMarco is completely defeating the idea of Indie-Rock music. For a once small genre of music, all has changed, due to DeMarco coming out with three albums in a row that not only went mainstream, but also received quite a lot of money. Surprisingly enough, in no way did DeMarco succumb to greed or re-design himself for top-40 charts, but rather the success evolved Mac into one of the greatest songwriters of this generation. His love songs are heartfelt, his groovy rock is insatiable, and ,above all, Mac DeMarco is still the best indie rocker out there.
Mark Ronson – Uptown Special
It might seem as if Mark Ronson’s recent success can be categorized as a “rags to riches” story of a producer just now receiving mainstream attention, but they are dead wrong. Ronson’s musical touch cannot be seen; rather, he is heard throughout some of the most popular music of the 21st century, as he has helped create hit songs for Adele and A$AP Rocky as a producer. But when it comes to his personal tracks, the signature funk-soul fusion is unmistakable and unlike anything the top-40 has ever been witness to. It definitely helps that Ronson is able to recruit some great talent like Bruno Mars to complete this masterpiece.
Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color
It might come as a major surprise  that they have actually heard some of this album before, as the title track Sound and Color was recently featured in many Apple commercials. On another front, though, what does it say about our culture today that the only way we can learn about great alternative bands is through Apple? It really doesn’t matter in the end because Alabama Shakes wrote an incredible rock/soul album all on their own. The influences and styles are broad here as lead singer Brittany Howard is quite possibly one of the most dynamic singers ever with her ability to sway back and forth between strong bellowing rock tunes sand much smoother soul ballads. The music is smooth and somehow constantly refreshing, so it’s no wonder Bearing News reviewed it a nine out of ten.
Rae Sremmurd – Sremmlife
Whether this apparently self-obsessed duo, who named their album Sremmlife after themselves, is someone’s forte or not, no one can deny that they have absent-mindedly sung along to hits such as No Flex Zone, Come Get Her, and No Type. The pair signed to Ear Drummers (which is whether the boys got their name from, Rae Sremmurd is Ear Drummers spelled backwards) Entertainment in January of 2014, and one year later in January of 2015, the two released their debut album, landing themselves into the musical big leagues. No Type climbed the charts, settling at 16 on the Hot 100. The boys will release their second album, equally as vainly-titled as their first, Sremmlife 2 sometime this month.
Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
This surprise album captivated the attention of millions of Americans, solidifying Drake’s position as a top rapper. Debuting at number one on the US Billboard 200, this chart-topper landed Drake as the first rapper to hold the top position on US Billboard’s Artist 100 list. While songs such as How About Now, which was added to the physical copy of the album after the initial iTunes digital download, are obvious anthems of the album, hidden treasures, namely You & The 6, in which Drake talks about his relationship with his mother and with issues he has faced as a young black man, show the true heart of the album: a project that seeks to give more than a beat and a catchy lyric to rap, but instead dig deeper and spread important messages.
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick Lamar scores again with this critically-acclaimed, chart-topper. Undoubtedly the best project of his career thus far, To Pimp a Butterfly delves into a series of topics ranging from Lamar’s depression and anxiety surrounding his fame and success to growing up in the hood. This diverse collection ventures from the standard structure of most rap: an intense beat with an angry rapper speeding through aggressive lyrics. With undernotes of jazz, rock and funk, Lamar truly pours his soul into his lyrics, leaving an impression of sincerity and rawness in the songs. The album, debuting at number one and named the best album of 2015 by Rolling Stone and Spin, is named To Pimp a Butterfly because Lamar said he liked the juxtaposition of an intense word like pimp and an innocent creature such as a butterfly. Lamar’s love of opposites is an apparent theme in the life of a man who continues to produce amazing music but fights the repercussions of fame.
Fifth Harmony – Reflection
With a message of girl power and confidence, Fifth Harmony’s debut album resonated with teenaged girls across the nation. With a mature pop sound, the all girl band gained commercial true commercial success following their escapade on The X Factor. Female anthems such as the title song Reflection and double-platinum certified Worth It, along with amazing dancing skills, these girls have distinguished themselves in the world of modern pop.
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
New to the scene, Courtney Barnett settled into the Indie Rock crowd like an old friend. Her debut album, recorded over the course of eight days, captures a fresh spirit that relies on nothing save for talent and crafty writing. This Aussie managed number 20 in the US Billboard 200, impressive for a newcomer, let alone an Indie performer. Nobody Really Cares If You Go to the Party is truly congruent with the mood of this generation, proving that rock doesn’t have to be newaged to be applicable and current. Fun fact: the title of the album comes from a sign that hung in Barnett’s grandmother’s bathroom.
What were you’re favorite albums this year?