Editors’ Note: With this new categorical list, we go through some albums that we had the pleasure (or displeasure) of listening to, but failed to be able to review it. We may have liked them; we may have not. Read to find out…
The side project for The Black Key’s’ Dan Auerbach explores the weird and kaleidoscopic side of soul and blues rock, most recently explored on Turn Blue. While the tracks tend to be a little rudimentary, there is no denying Auerbach’s creative control as he molds something so rustic and leaning on tradition into something adventurous, eccentric, and fun.
Long Beach, CA rapper Vince Staples came out with a double album of tracks loaded with experiences, both personal and relatable, as he chronicled his journey and rise to fame with deadpan swagger, surgical precision, and the occasional tenderness and optimism. Among the heavy topics and vivid themes, you’ll be sure to find a banger here or there.
Known for his highly strange yet mesmerizing flow and style, California rapper and Hellfyre Club member Busdriver delivers his most thought-provoking verses and most unusual production to date on Thumbs. Busdriver uses his lyrics to attack racism and inequality throughout this record and serves up some of his best bangers, some tender moments, and an impressive guest list including Daveed Diggs of clipping., Del The Funky Homosapien, and Hemlock Ernst of Future Islands.
Coldplay’s audacious comeback record moves past the skeletal remains of 2014’s Ghost Stories. Including features from artists such as Beyoncé and Tove Lo, A Head Full Of Dreams advances the inspiring themes introduced in 2012’s Mylo Xyloto, with musical styles ranging from disco to classic Britpop.
With savory bass beats, hard hitting synth lines, and contemplative lyricism, DeLong has stumbled upon an impeccable and coherent fusion of electronica and indie pop. Revolving around the tension between free will and fate, In The Cards is a 45-minute joyride that you don’t want to miss.
The musical project, Prurient, put forth one of the boldest and most punishing records 2015 has ever witnessed. Frozen Niagara Falls is 92 minutes of pure noise – gripping, intoxicating, animalistic, and visceral. Believe us when we say that there isn’t a more life-affirming and sadistic listening experience than this gruesome effort. If you have the balls and stomach for it, please give this a spin.
Experimental rock trio Battles released this excellent follow up to 2011’s Gloss Drop. Track for track, Battles deliver crazy song after song loaded with odd time signatures, synth and guitar riffs, and wild musical passages to make up one of the more weird yet captivating listens of 2015. If you’re feeling idiosyncratic and wanting to dance your ass off, pop this sucker in.
Rising pop sensation Alessia Cara burst onto the scene with her hit single “Here” and since then she’s only come to show how suffocating, limiting, and greedy the mainstream music industry is when taking full creative control of a musician for the sake of money. Sadly, a stellar voice and a good musical idea here or there couldn’t save this underwhelming debut from feeling derivative, heavy-handed, and dull.
Everyone’s favorite blabbering thespian succumbs to the times and delivers alternating flows and ridiculously seductive beats to craft a wonderfully peculiar record that is equal parts incredible and idiotic; kind of like Young Thug himself. With an album title that morphed from an homage to a diss (to Lil’ Wayne) Thug proves himself to be one of the more versatile rappers in the game, giving us numerous tracks to chew on as we continue to decipher the enigma that is Young Thug.
Daniel Lopatin, the mastermind behind the electronic project of Oneohtrix Point Never, released a garish and gorgeously executed – yet malevolently blended – vaporwave album that snakes in and out of the traditional soundscapes and provides some of the most abrasive and trippiest sounds 2015 has witnessed in electronic music. This apocalyptic trance odyssey of a record is sure to make you stop and think how one guy could think up and conjure such maniacal sounds and compact it all onto one 45 minute record.
Viet Cong (although they’ll probably be going by a different name soon…) delivered this self-titled 7 track behemoth of post-punk this year. On this record, Viet Cong serve up a multitude of crisp guitar leads, groovy drum beats, and many ominous and eerie effects looming in the background of nearly every song. While It may not be revolutionary, this album shows a band experimenting with the darker side of their song-writing abilities and ending up with a successful sound and a new direction.
Memes have become a big part of our culture. So much so that a London pop producer had a moment of “sudden clarity” and decided to name himself after one. On No Now, Clarence Clarity takes an electronic maximalist approach to pop music by pumping out walls of bright synthesizer chords and bass lines that explode with joy. Combine these sounds with Clarence’s insanely catchy choruses and you get one of the most layered and loud electronic releases this year.
Dark and depraved, Wrest does it again. Leviathan delivers a punishing and tortured assault of many different metal styles, from sludge to blackened death. Scar Sighted is an incredible record that any fan of depressing and crushing music should listen to. Disturbing chord progressions and haunted vocals combine with swirling drums to create one of the most unpleasant but amazing albums that we forgot to look at this year.
Beach Slang haven’t been around for more than 2 years, but they have made quite some noise. Their debut full-length is triumphant and wistful, full of Springsteen-isms that will appease any Gaslight Anthem fan that wants less heartland rock influence in their punk rock. Great production and delicious melodies are abundant on this record, however it came out at the end of the year so we didn’t get around to covering it. That shouldn’t stop you from devouring The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us.
If you feel like you didn’t get your yearly dose of proper angst, Jeff Rosenstock has got you covered. We Cool? isn’t afraid to admit that things aren’t where they should be, but it admits these problems with such a charming flair. Jeff crafts great pop punk and indie rock songs that will be stuck in your head next time you’re bemoaning your one bedroom apartment. Wish we could’ve covered this.
Björk is a one-of-a-kind artist, to say the least; her confident and odd vocals combined with instrumentation, both gorgeous and experimental, are ambitious, eccentric, and incredibly emotional. She returned in 2015 with an odd yet touching record, titled Vulnicura, on heartache and chock full of wonderfully weird instrumentation, gorgeous crescendos, and experimental and unorthodox approaches to traditional pop music. While not for everyone, this record should be enough to showcase Björk, in all of her sorrowful, ambitious, and beautiful glory. Think what you want, there won’t be another record you’ll hear this year that comes close to sounding like this – it truly is a one of a kind album.
With what could be the defining jazz record of our generation, Kamasi Washington’s debut The Epic is epic in ever sense of the word: its 3-hour length, songs reaching close to 15 minutes, loads of instrumentation, a ton of improvisation, and much more. This record is filled with so much illustrious content that its whole essence is enhanced and elevated to an almost transcendent level of jazz – one that I haven’t personally heard since Miles Davis’ landmark 1970 record Bitches Brew. Washington packs so much in this record yet it doesn’t feel indulgent or masturbatory, it feels generous and heartfelt. And the 3 hour length is his most generous gift to us this year. Behold! The best jazz record of 2015!
Young Fathers are one of those bands that one can’t really explain to a friend, but also one that the previously said friend has to listen to. With an undeniably unique blend of hip hop, pop, rock, noise pop, and tribal music (bear with me), the Scottish trio delivered an experimental hip hop record that is different in every sense of the word. There are some songs here that refuse to be put in a genre and labeled as such (hip hop, in this case, is a loose approximation). What results is a triumphant record that spreads its infectious energy like a wildfire. If you’re into some new and different music, this is it.