Nick Oliver: DJ DIRTY SNOWBALL
#5 The Zoltars – Self-Titled
If you haven’t heard of this band you’re not the only one. This is a group that I found through Spotify and their sound is a blend of modern surf-rock, The Velvet Underground, and The Talking heads. They released their self titled album this year and I have not stopped listening to it ever since I discovered them. Songs like “We Missed Out” and “16-17-18 Living” are simple, yet catchy and their sound dips into the aesthetics of garage-psych and classic college rock. Though not many people will know who these guys are they have great music and they are very talented!
#4 Chief Keef – Bang 3
THE CHIEF IS BACK!!!!! After being dropped from Interscope facing a handful of legal issues, and a little weight gain, one of the youngest rap sensations is back offering an album of pure hood anthem bangers. Songs like “Superheroes” and “Aint Missin You” offer songs that could easily have been radio singles. Although most people slept on this album, the Chicago native has put his best foot forward and it paid off. The album, in my opinion, has not gotten anywhere near the attention it deserves.
#3 Dam Funk – Invite the Light
While other bands like Tame Impala and The 1975 have released songs and albums that attempt to sound like a mesh of psych-rock, indie rock and crappy 70s/80s disco funk, Stones Throw Records representative Dam-Funk put an album out that has been appreciated by critics and Funk purists alike. Invite The Lite is a twenty song masterpiece with songs that are almost ten minutes that take you to other universes and back. This year saw its share of funk influenced artists such as Boulevards, Fat Freddie’s Drop, and Snoop Doggs “Peaches and Cream”. However, in my opinion Invite The Light is the best funk/R&B album of the year in fact I’d even go as far to say that its better than The Weeknds Beauty Behind The Madness.Invite The Light brings classic Parliament/G-Funk bass together with hooks and vocals reminiscent of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. This album has been criticized for its length and even the length on some of the songs, but that’s why I love this album it’s the perfect type of music to just tune in, tune out, and groove.
#2 Wavves – V
This album, along with Mac DeMarco’s Another One (Which will not be in my top 5 simply because I know Tanner will have it in his top 5) seemed to be one of the only albums I found myself legitimately excited to hear. With California aesthetics and Seattle appeal, this surf-punk album was released on October 2nd. V meshes catchy melodies and lyrics with themes of depression and loneliness unlike their 2012 album Afraid Of Heights. While Afraid of Heights was sonically similar to Nirvana’sNevermind, V offers more upbeat tracks. Songs like “All The Same” and “My Head Hurts” blend dark and depressing lyrics about losing jobs and girlfriends with upbeat, melodic, and more pop sounding hooks that find a way to get stuck in your head for weeks. After listening to this album for the 100th time, there is a clear difference in the way this album was produced compared to past WAVVES projects, the quality overall of the album in my opinion is higher then past projects put out by WAVVES.
#1 ILLFIGHTYOU – CASHINTHEBATHROOM EP
Though this Tacoma rap group has only released one mixtape, an EP, and a hand full of tracks on their soundcloud page, this rag tag group of vandals are doing big things in the 253. ILLFIGHTYOU is EvergreenOne (rapper), Khris P (rapper/producer), and UGLYFRANK (rapper) their bassy, drum-heavy production is handled by the same duo Known as KReamteam which consists of two brothers, Khris P and LOU SWANG. The CASHINTHEBATHROOM EP was released in July of 2015 and the album has a little over eighty thousand listens. The 5 song Ep is chalked full of gritty synth layered beats with lyrics that are just as in your face as the groups name. My favorite song on the EP is titled “EMPTYBOTTLE” in this song FRANK delivers a knives-out money in hand lyrical assault with vivid images like “I am jealous of everybody, dust the crumbles off my leather in this mother F___er, fresher then a bitch, I walk around with fifty F____n bands up in my pocket, a couple zans up in my pocket ‘cause I be stressing like a bitch”. I may get a lot of flack for saying this, but I honestly think that this EP is just as good as if not a little better than other works offered up by other rappers like A$AP Rocky, Earl Sweatshirt, and even Kendrick Lamar. I’m not saying that the work they offered in 2015 wasn’t great because it was amazing, I just found myself going back to this EP more than any other album this year.
Tayler Shaindlin: CRAZY CAT TAYLER
#5 Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
In several interviews about Earl Sweatshirt’s previous album Doris, he mentioned he really wasn’t a fan, suggesting the album didn’t really sound like him. This was interesting, especially considering the album was really well received (and extremely well done in my opinion) but it seems as though Earl has really found his voice in 2015’s I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside. Having produced every song on the album aside from fellow Odd Future member Left Brain’s “Off Top”, this album perfectly embodies an Odd Future record, but more importantly an Earl Sweatshirt one: choppy off-kilter melodies, random sound effects, mismatched drum riffs and messages only Earl could get across. Although, if you were a fan of Doris, IDLSIDGO is wildly different in style: with Earl setting aside any fast impressive verses or meaty lyrics to give a slow, sleepy message: this is Earl, this is his style, and he’s not adapting to anything or anyone. A fantastic album that feels really comfortable for Earl, and really humorous if you’re a little more comfortable with Odd Future front man Tyler the Creator and his 2015 release, Cherry Bomb.
#4 FKA TWIGS – M3LL155X
Avant Garde. Clash-y. Base-y. Hypnotic and Erotic. I hate the last word, but its true. FKA Twigs is back with her latest experimental record, M3LL155X (which I have recently learned is actually pronounced Melissa), and its definitely a hard pill to swallow if you aren’t ready. Most of her songs lack any sort of structural layout, hooks or sometimes even choruses, leaving the album to be almost forcefully consumed with 100% concentration if you are to appreciate it correctly. Having been a fan since the release of her debut LP1, I was prepared for her signature heavy drums and heavy overlaid clashing synths, and I got a 16-minute epic showcasing four of the albums’ five songs. What you have to understand about this woman, is she is not a singer, she’s a performance artist, and absolutely demands to be respected within each song she creates. Often hinting at sexism in the media (she’s often only referred to as Robert Pattinson’s fiancé) and empowerment among all, FKA Twigs interlaces sexual questions with forceful statements, giving the album erotic undertones without being overtly sexualized. FKA Twigs is diving more and more into her artistic abilities, which is incredibly exciting for fans like me who can’t wait for more (hopefully longer) albums in the future.
#3 Boulevards: Boulevards EP
Though not technically an album, this four song EP has captured my attention so closely it has rightfully earned a spot on my list. Boulevards is primarily Jamil Rashad, who grew up heavily immersed in Jazz and Funk music (his father being a highly accomplished Jazz DJ certainly helped) and has assembled four of the most addicting funk hits of 2015. In Rashad’s words, it’s a collection of “party funk jams for the heart and soul to make you move” and it most certainly does. My personal favorite track, “Forgot to Mention“, is the kind of track you want as your alarm in the morning and to come on the radio on your drive home: a feel-good funky falsetto electronic jam that, quite literally, never gets old. Funk music has ruthlessly claimed its spot as a revived music trend in 2015, and God damnit I sincerely hope it is here to stay (and more importantly, Boulevards is one of the frontrunners.)
#2 The Hamilton Soundtrack
Leave it to the one with the Musical Theater show to squeeze in a soundtrack. The accompanying album to the Broadway hit Hamilton, has exploded in popularity in the short time it has existed, and rightfully so. The hefty 46-track album is enough of a story in and of itself that barely any context is lost from stage to song. Hamilton, as many know, chronicles the life of Alexander Hamilton in a contemporary Hip Hop style (it’s a little more 90’s to me, but that’s still more contemporary than the 1700’s). The show’s composer and producer also enlisted the help of Questlove to give the album the feel he wanted, which, when you think about it, most definitely shows. Considering the size of the album I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say this is probably one of the most revolutionary albums to come out of Broadway in quite some time. I try my best with my Theater show to make the music accessible and exciting to everyone, because that’s the ultimate goal when it comes to Musical Theater. I believe Hamilton has opened the floodgates to make this area of art and music accessible to an incredibly wide audience, which is incredibly exciting. Rap, Hip-Hop, R&B, and even Reggae make appearances on this album which, its pretty safe to say, you almost never see within the musical theater realm. This show has also been purposefully cast entirely with performers of color, a revolution in and of itself. Whether it’s the new music, the subtle elements addressing the rise of women’s rights, or the statement made with a cast entirely of color, the show will be here for a very, very long time. I even looked at tickets to see if I could save up for some when I’m in NYC in March… Nice try, Tayler. They’re sold out till February 2017.
#1 Troye Sivan – Blue Neighbourhood
Newcomer, and long-time YouTuber Troye Sivan released his debut album Blue Neighborhood on December 4th, which was received worldwide by his 3.8 million YouTube followers. This collection of ambient bass-thumping electronic ballads and positively-driven melodies is perfect for those who are looking for an introspective piece on love, heartache and growing up in the present day. At the ripe age of 20, Sivan has gathered a fan base many artists dream of, and has not let them down yet. The featured single “YOUTH“, is an infectious anthem piece about letting go and being young and free that anyone at any age can really get behind. Other notable elements of Blue Neighborhood include the impressive list of artist features, including the likes of Broods, Tkay Maidza, and Betty Who. This album, especially as a first, is quite impressive, and a testament to what Sivan can accomplish in the future. We truly live in the age of the internet, with YouTube personalities breaking into film and music and writing books left and right, and Troye Sivan is an exciting element to this new trend.
Timo Nakhisa: SELECTA STEPPA
#5 Future – DS2
After breaking up with his former fiancé Ciara, Future left the pop image behind that Hollywood had made him become and turned into a monster. In the song “I Serve the Base” he raps “tryna make me a pop star and they made a monster”. The album DS2 stands for Dirty Sprite 2 is Future’s third studio album and has quotable lines from beginning to end. Prior to diving into the lyrics, this album came in the fifth spot even though it is my most streamed album according to Spotify. DS2 is a dark album that has offers raw gritty lyrics that exemplify the pain and hunger that Future has for his love of music. The production of the album has increased the popularity of some of the producers such as Metro Boomin, Sonny Digital, 808 Mafia, and Zaytoven. The overall sound of the album is what is expected from Future and he does justice to it. What also makes this album outstanding to me is the fact that it is very relatable in different levels. For instance the song “Trap N___s”, Future is being honest with himself as he thanks God for blessing those who are hustling in the streets or those doing a 9 to 5 job to make ends meet, even if it’s in an illegal manner. DS2 also has a lot of bangers with tracks like “Where Ya At”, “Blow a Bag”, “F___ Up Some Commas”, and “Real Sisters”. For a DJ, an album filled with a lot of party anthems, it is quite easy to make house parties playlists with little to no hassle.
#4 Kehlani – You Should Be Here
I had heard about Kehlani before but it was until I saw her put an amazing concert at Bumbershoot festival this summer that I took her music seriously. Her mixtape which I consider an album You Should Be Here is the epitome of what a perfect R&B album sounds like to my ears. Every single line in the album/mixtape has so much conviction coming from a 20 year old female from LA. Even with tracks such as “Jealous” and “N___s” where she exposes features of men who are not worthy of a good woman, better known as f*ckboys. As a male, I cannot deny of how accurate and relatable her honesty is as she lays down such accounts in her lyrics.
The production does not fall back on the slow hard 808s that are common in R&B songs but it varies with the drum patterns, some guitar riffs, and different snares add life to each track. If this is what Kehlani can offer in what she perceives to be a mixtape and be able to tour off of it, then I can only imagine what the album will sound like.
#3 The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness
Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd was once a name that only a few knew as the guy with weird hair (well, that’s true until today) but it was through the internet that he formed his fan base. In the summer of 2015, The Weeknd released his second studio album Beauty Behind The Madness (BBTM) and it was a huge success! With singles such as “Can’t Feel My Face”, “The Hills”, “Often” and “Earned It” BBTM put The Weeknd on a pop superstardom status. Not only does he have his day one fans but he has gained new fans that discovered him via radio and him headlining a lot of major festivals throughout summer.
The biggest criticism about The Weeknd is that he is trying too hard to be like the late king of pop, Michael Jackson. With only three collaborations with Labrinth, Lana Del Rey, and Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd’s presence in the whole album is undeniable. His sound from a production aspect is ear captivating as the 808s drums and basslines that he uses as a foundation for his beats play best to his advantage. Not to forget his sharp voice alongside some vibrato elements that he incorporates to his singing technique, it makes it easy to either love or hate his style.
#2 Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
To Pimp A Butterfly (TPAB) is not an album to keep on rotation on a daily or weekly basis (at least for me). It is a well thought album that is so powerful that once I understood what Kendrick was trying to convey with this project, I gave it a break. TPABtouched on problems that are currently taking place in the streets of Compton and America. Songs such as “How Much A Dollar Cost”, “Complexion”, and “Institutionalized” talk about issues such as race that were probably inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the continuous exposure of the police brutality black people are facing in America. On the other hand, tracks such as “Mortal Man”, “i”, and “u” are darker and personal experiences that Kendrick shares with us on a relatable level without sugar coating the message. Even though the production of the album is not my top tier, the message, the lyrics, the concepts, the creativity, the vision, and the confidence that Kendrick has is superlative. Kendrick made the album as a therapy for himself which meant that he opened up himself to people he doesn’t even know, talk about being brave! Kendrick has set a blueprint for those who want to follow his path in terms of creativity and concepts. Question is, who will be able to match up to Kendrick’s level while still being able to have mainstream success? Only time will tell.
TPAB almost did not make it to my top 5 but after re-listening to it and self-applying myself in Kendrick’s shoes (a challenging task), it was obvious that it needed a spot on my chart, but not just a spot, but a good spot. Kendrick has 11 Grammy nominations for 2015 but it still feels like TPABconceptually is misunderstood by many. Either way Kendrick assures us that everything will be “Alright”.
#1 Protoje – Ancient Future
Protoje really set the bar high in reggae music with his album Ancient Future. When you have an album that is full of truth, wisdom, positive lyrics, and knowledge it is easy for this album to be on your top 5. For those reasons, Ancient Future came in the number one spot for me for 2015. I could go in depth about the process of how the album came together but that will be too extensive. Ancient Future found Protoje speaking on issues that are constantly dawning his mind that may cause him restless nights at times as he noted in an interview earlier in the year.
The opening track “Protection” is filled with golden lines as he vows to protect his own and acknowledges those who breed hatred with the lines “when dem spit can’t reach where we walking….cause a see that in life you achieve something nice but achieve something twice is a problem”. The second track “Criminal” offers a brief history about some of Jamaica’s leaders who were mistreated while reminding us that those who advocate propaganda are the worst criminals. The biggest single off the album is “Who Knows” that features Chronixx as it has about 16 million views on YouTube (huge for a new reggae track). While I may sound like I am bragging about this masterpiece so much, it is because there is no other album that I have listened to this year that sheds so much light on seeking self-knowledge, the ambitions of a man who is trying to do right in a corrupted environment, and trying to find love in a time where material wealth defines you. Who knows I may just interview Protoje
Tanner Chambers: TANNER THE INTERN
#5 Leon Bridges – Coming Home
Leon Bridges debut album Coming Home gives us what Marty McFly and Doc wanted, a trip back to the future. The Texas born singer/songwriter had his big break when he met Austin Jenkins at a bar’s open mic in Fort Worth, Texas. Although Bridges sweetened-soul music seems natural, Bridges didn’t discover his sound until a friend in college showed him Sam Cooke. Nonetheless, Leon Bridges found an artist he could relate to sonically, and a genre to submerge himself in.
Leon Bridges built his foundation off of past artists like Otis Redding, Nat King Cole, and Sam Cooke through online streaming. This is the first example of a millennial basing themselves off of online streaming. Bridges started listening to soul, then started writing soul music while earning a degree in choreography.
Coming Home can be perceived in two different ways. The album either gives a riveting nostalgia trip, forcing you through memory lane, or for new audiences, Leon Bridges gives a swift introduction to the past in a refurbished and polished way for curious listeners trying to explore into the powerful, but soft shelled genre that is soul/blues music.
But what is Coming Home about? Is it really just about Leon Bridges being mesmerized by the girl on the other side of the room? The answer is, no. Coming Home is a narrative of Bridges explaining his family tree. For example, “Twistin and Groovin” Is the story of how his grandparents met, and “Lisa Sawyer” is a ballad based around his mother. This album has diverse emotions. From meeting a cute girl in “Brown Skin Girl” to Bridges pleading in “River”. Just released on June 23rd of this year it gained plenty of critical acclaim, and according to billboard.com the album peaked to number six for the Billboard 200 chart. Also, the title track has over 18 million listens on Spotify, and to top that Leon Bridges debut album has a Grammy nomination for Coming Home to win best R&B album.
#4 Fauna Shade – Baton Rouge
Coming from our own backyards in Everett, Washington, local trio Fauna Shade has become one of the fastest grossing local bands by proving themselves with debut album Baton Rouge along with live performances across Washington. Not to mention their last tour with Thunderpussy. Local disk jockey legend, Marco Collins placed Fauna Shade as one of his favorite local artists of 2015 along with 107.7 The End’s Music Director and host of Locals Only, Pepper.
Baton Rouge gives us riff heavy songwriting and neurotic vocals by Scotty Smith. Then Fauna Shade is accompanied by smooth bass by Derek Johnston and confident, crisp percussion by Richie Owen. This band completely blows me away each time I see them. Their chemistry and tightness of their sets are bigger and better each time I see them. I’ve seen Fauna Shade three times now, and each time I’ve seen them I get more stoked about their future.
“Marzipan” is my favorite riff of 2015. So simple, yet so present. I’m a huge fan of how Scotty Smith’s songwriting can feel like a complete jam, then brought to an aura of free-forming bliss, then right back into a riff-heavy jam sparked from sharp percussion.
In 2016, I expect Fauna Shade to make greater leaps to being the frontmen of Seattle’s music scene. The psych-rock outfit turns psych rock into their own organic way. Rather than following the classic Beatles style, Fauna Shade brings modern psychedelia with a hinge of Seattle’s natural dreariness and angst.
#3 Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
J. Tillman recognizes himself as Father John Misty (FJM) for the second time in Sub Pop’s, I Love You Honeybear. Father John Misty makes listeners immerse themselves into a whirlpool of skepticism and pretentious, but witty lyrics flowing in-between the mix of folk and psychedelic flurries in tracks like “True Affection”.
This is the most honest album I heard in all of 2015. A mixture of Father John Misty’s poetic brilliance, and the way he presents himself gets his point across bluntly. Father John Misty is comedic and almost satirical in a way. His songwriting is dauntingly straightforward, and FJM’s not afraid to have his listeners question his own sanity whether it be talking about coming down off of drugs in “I Went to the Store One Day” or having heart-eye-emoji warfare in “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)” and “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow“. Father John Misty talks in first person and I Love You, Honeybear is his damn story.
Of course many of you know him for his debut album Fear Fun, the album that proves music critics that the guy who quit the Fleet Foxes is not an idiot. Father John Misty played with similar soundscapes in Fear Fun, but I Love You, Honeybearexplains in vivid detail about the transition of getting married. FJM sounds like he dipped himself in more indulgence than past works, and that is we want from him. Why do I like to listen to songs about relationships so much? 2015 was a weird year, man.
#2 Mac DeMarco – Another One
Our favorite gap-toothed Canadian is back with Another One, a mini-LP by Vernor Winfield McBriare Smith IV, otherwise known as Mac DeMarco. Despite being 25, Mac DeMarco has four albums under his belt and a crazy underground following worldwide.
Another One is sonically alike other Mac DeMarco albums. The album was recorded in his own Jizz-Jazz Studios in the luxury of his own home and it is nice to see DeMarco follow his trademark of recording with analog sound. Influences range from Robbie Robertson to Jerry Paper, making Another One a loved album by even a bigger audience than last his LP, Salad Days.
I’m amazed how quickly Another One was made. With DeMarco making circles around the globe non-stop for the past few years, I wonder how the hell is this guy not burnt out?
Another One was rushed, you can hear it in the production that not much time was dedicated to make tracks perfect on this mini-lp, which isn’t necessarily bad. Since Another One is less mastered than past works, it gives select listeners exactly what they want; raw takes to seem more genuine and approachable. Essentially, Mac DeMarco is known for his reliability factor. He’s a nice guy, and heck might even go party with you! Who knows?!
Again, I love how this album is raw. I also love that Another One is still a conceptual album like Mac DeMarco’s albums Salad Days and 2. *I love concept albums completely made by one person alone* The overlaying theme of Another One, is a collection of love songs with hidden feelings layered in eight tracks. DeMarco said in an interview with NPR that “It’s just kind of like every angle of how somebody might feel if they’re having strange feelings in their chest.”
An example is the beginning of “The Way You’d Love Her”. “How’s your heart been beating, how’s your skin been keeping? How’s the dream been going, since you came back home this time?” , seems like a conversation starter between two old friends. Whereas, “A Heart Like Hers” is more straightforward…
“All, all that I could give, all I had to offer her
Is gone, simply locked away, no longer there to bother her
Now look, look at what’s become, what’s become of poor old me
Tried, so hard to believe in something that will never be, never be.”
Mac DeMarco’s lyrics and guitar riffs are the best of his career in Another One. Ever feeling down and want to be picked back up? Listen to DeMarco’s instrumentals. Want to relate to someone about your problems? Listen to Mac DeMarco’s lyrics in Another One.
#1 Tame Impala – Currents
“ I may not be as honest as I ought to be now. Then the walls go up, I said it didn’t worry me, but it hit me like an arrow. I can just be paranoid, don’t quell the desire to know what was really going on, does it really f*cking matter?”
This quote is the opening verse to “Love/Paranoia” on Tame Impala’s third full length album Currents, the first album underModular Recordings. There is no lyric that describes this album better than the opening verse of “Love/Paranoia”. It is obvious that Kevin Parker wanted to build something bigger than the past albums Innerspeaker and Lonerism. To do so, Parker layered part in Currents more carefully, focusing on synth interludes and how each part interacts with each other. Take “Let It Happen” for example, the songwriting is completely different than past works of Tame Impala. To be honest, I’m a huge fan of Tame Impala, but the songwriting in the past two albums felt too close to John Lennon’s, not to mention that their voices are similar because of Bilateral Sinonasal Disease. A condition that makes the voice more nasal than usual.
The track “Disciples” is like an 80’s commercial, switching from a muffled to a present sound exploding from the back of my speakers to the front of my door. I just wish this track was longer, it feels like Parker was so confident in this piece. “Eventually” is so bass heavy, but transitions with a crisp snap to escape into softer terrains. “Cause I’m A Man” revives the disco scene with a slowed down ballad that’s a true powerhouse to this album. Parker criticizes what it is to be a “man”. He feels that men use this as an excuse to be snobs, and to stick their chest out for idiotic reasons. “Gossip/ The Less I Know The Better” are my favorite duo tracks on this album. Gossip is a soft interlude where Parker seems like he is just messing around with a guitar in a mosaic room of reverb splashes on the top of the sound setting up the robust uptown feel of the bass line in “The Less I Know the Better”.
Kevin Parker is a true perfectionist. In his interview with Pitchfork, he claims that Currents is still unlistenable for him, and that these final products are because of a due date. Parker is hard on himself when it comes to vocals – the frontface of Currents. I’m concerned about the live performance because at times Parker second guesses himself and falls flat of the notes he is supposed to sing.
I’m happy to say that after 6 steady months of listening to Currents I am still discovering new treasures within Parker’s arrangements. I am surprised that there is this much depth with one mind behind this album. This is a DIY kind of album that Kevin Parker put together by himself, I am astounded and amazed he made that the Grammy-nominated masterpiece that Currents is, is credited to one person.
Tim Mitchell: TIM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR
#5 Rose Windows – Rose Windows (S/T)
A good friend of mine is acquaintances with bassist Riche Rekow. From a street corner, I watched the band smoke cigarettes outside a rusty burgundy tour van at Nuemos in December, 2013.
I miss them. Prior to releasing their sophomore album on May 5, the band announced their discontinuation and that they would drop their performance slot at the Sasquatch Music Festival and all future tour dates. I miss them in the same way that die-hards trip over the hypothetical outcomes of highly-influential, deceased musicians.
Rose Windows of Seattle, WA were the classic local band that made it to the big stage. In the story-telling of their lyrics, they flirted shamelessly with the joys of youth and also contemplated life’s largest questions: “Just what’s going to happen when we finally reach our end?” For many Seattle-ites, Rose Windows were the friendly neighborhood band who casually referenced local landmarks such as in “Aurora Avenue.”
Pulling influences from psychedelic rock, folk, and East Asian genres, Rose Windows crafted songs that breathed in their full capacity – memorable guitar riffs, tribal-influenced percussion, mystic vocals, and complimentary soundscapes from flutes and organs.
Rose Windows’ self-titled album is the key representation of the heart of Seattle’s music culture – the homegrown stories and heart-warming sincerity that strike emotion in the heart of the listener. Had the band continued to play shows and promote this album, it could have easily worked its way into a wider span of critical reception. Regardless, Rose Windows was the greatest parting gift fans could have asked for.
#4 Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden of Delete
Massachusetts-native Daniel Lopatin is the enigmatic brain-machine behind the experimental electronic project Oneohtrix Point Never; a verbal play off the frequency signal of Magic WMJX in Boston – 106.7.
Lopatin’s 2015 release, Garden of Delete, is black and emotionally-jarring. It follows the fictionalized teenage-wreck character of Ezra, who loosely personifies Lopatin in his youth as a hard-rock junkie. Many of the percussive elements are rough-edged industrial sounds that scrape at your skin like unfiled fingernails, although they are often counterbalanced by somber, longing guitar riffs and piano melodies.
The most notable feature of the musical landscape, as hinted by the album title, is the experimentation with open, unattended space: blatant and spastic pauses and single click-tracks that suddenly explode into a computerized orchestra. Lopatin values the absence of sound as creating equal effect to the presence of sound, which gives the album a captivating framework.
I consider this to be my electronic album of the year for multiple reasons: the music frustrates me as much as it relaxes me, and I find that I feel a different emotion every time I cycle through its track listing. Secondly, the soundscape of Oneohtrix Point Never is a much-needed liberating breath from the uncanny retro-fetishism of many popular electronic albums. Electronic artists that ere on the side of experimentation are the ones consistently splashing the biggest waves – Giorgio Moroder, Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, ext. Lopatin is finding his voice among the giants in Garden of Delete.
In its critical reception, Garden of Delete landed on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums on the #2 slot and was nominated in the top lists of 2015 by multiple online publications.
If you consider yourself a musical purist who finds electronic music somewhat emotionless and unappealing (I know there are a few out there!), remind yourself of the chaotic sensation created on Pink Floyd’s “On The Run”, then dive headfirst into Garden of Delete. Great art is qualified by its effect, not the means to its effect.
#3 Panda Bear – Panda Bear VS The Grim Reaper
One of the masterminds behind the experimental psych-rock quartet Animal Collective, Noah Lennox, known as Panda Bear, released a genre-defying work this past year called Panda Bear VS The Grim Reaper.
The album conceptualizes Lennox’s transition to moving to Spain in the form of encountering the Grim Reaper – the fictitious personification of death. The music selections feature many notable samples that provide a wide dynamic range of emotion to the album, such as Claude Debussy’s “Arabesque No. 1” featured in “Lonely Wanderer.”
In its critical reception, the album peaked at #34 on the Billboard 200, which signifies its relatability and high execution as an experimental record. As an Animal Collective fan, I find that the diversity of sounds and emotions on Panda Bear VS The Grim Reaper is on a level of its own, being both tender and maliciously noisy at varying times.
#2 Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
Led by soul-wrenching vocalist Brittany Howard, Alabama Shakes writes effective, close-to-the-heart R&B-infused rock. With an impressive set of Grammy-nominations under their belt for this year, they’ve already established themselves as a powerhouse group.
I don’t like to overthink Alabama Shakes. On the ground level, they’re just a fantastically-talented collective of musicians. There isn’t a media bandwagon, oversaturated press team, or an excessive list of producers and collaborators (yes, I’m talking about you, Kanye West). In short, they are authentic and great at what they do.
In its critical reception, Sound & Color took off massively, debuting on #1 on the Billboard 200 along with several nominations for Album of the Year by various internet music journalists. I personally love the album’s catchy dynamic songwriting, the simplistic production, and of course, the vibraphone. Listen to the vibraphone
#1 Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
“It’ll be taught in college courses – I truly believe that”
We certainly discussed this album enough to prove the inevitable importance of Kendrick Lamar’s record-setting, Grammy-nominated masterpiece.
To Pimp A Butterfly is a choreographed audio book that features jazz giants and R&B legends spanning multiple generations of American music, ranging from Dr. Dre to George Clinton of Parliament to free-form jazz trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire. In equal importance, the album is the most detailed piece of American racial and social commentary to date, making its mark in the same ways as N.W.A’s critically-acclaimed debut.
In its critical reception, the album immediately soared to #1 on both Billboard’s Top Hip-Hop Album list and 25 Best Albums of 2015, with no surprise.
The music speaks for itself. Follow the links bellow to see and hear all of the content we made about To Pimp A Butterfly.