20. Action Bronson – Mr Wonderful
Mr Wonderful was the eventual debut from one of rap’s biggest characters. If you want a flavour as to how the rest of the album plays out, the lead single- Baby Blue, is a good representative. Featuring jazzy piano chords as the key productional quality, probes of brass providing the beef, and an infectious hook epitomising Bronson’s persona. What this does is gives the album a real Hip Hop Hooray aura to it, sometimes crossed with an underground vibe. It’s rap that’s easily likeable; and something of an oasis within the boredom of trap.
19. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
Back in 2013, a then-unknown Scottish trio known as CHVRCHES made themselves known via their incredible debut album The Bones of What You Believe. Fast forward two years, the trio have stayed pretty quiet, appreciating the success they’d achieved, touring and cementing themselves as a synth-pop force to be reckoned with. With their sophomore- Every Open Eye, CHVRCHES dare to delve into more intricately crafted music, contrasting the punchy aura of The Bones of What You Believe. This ultimately encapsulates the general feel of Every Open Eye- it requires more of your attention, a little more of your time. And with that dash of perseverance, the result is on the most part rewarding.
18. Jay Rock – 90059
As a member of TDE, the likes of Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q will always have an uphill task, and throughout will have nothing but comparisons made to Kendrick. That being said, they’ve had a real good crack at it, and with 90059 Jay Rock impressed. Featuring deeper themes with a gritty execution, you could near-taste the streets and gang life. With poetic vocabulary and potent imagery Jay Rock’s 90059 really did paint a picture, no matter what it may look like.
17. Purity Ring – Another Eternity
Purity Ring’s Another Eternity is a captivating piece of music, the trip-hop-esque synth baselines used as the foundations for the project are vital to the clouded, sometimes veiled aesthetic to the LP. As well as this, with Megan James’ symphonic vocals draped delicately over the top- it makes for an exciting journey through an album that possesses two such oppositional traits. The LP is a concoction of twists and turns that progress into things you can never really predict- from the punchy vocally-helmed Begin Again, to the initially dainty Flood On The Floor, Purity Ring’s Another Eternity is a seriously impressive album.
16. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06
Vince Staples is a lone wolf, the kid is doing this rap shit on his own, and he’s doing it his own way. He doesn’t have the ten-man-deep posse like GOOD Music, Maybach Music or Odd Future, he doesn’t have that ‘one big’ co-sign, and with Summertime 06, it shows that the appreciation of all-out rap and lyricism isn’t dead. Daringly attempting a double disced album, and with the ever-reliable No ID taking care of production, Vince Staples showed exactly how a no-frills rap album should be.
15. Hudson Mohawke – Lantern
Hudson Mohawke’s Lantern is a complicated piece of music. After a lot of examining, replaying and savouring, I think the layering and precision of the project is something that may often be overlooked. A dangerously inventive project blends such oppositional traits from the world of electronica, what results is something that really took me by surprise. Lantern is certainly not for everyone, first impressions and from the outset; it’s abrasive, unforgiving and direct. However, I assure you to keep at it, give it a fair few listens and it really does evolve into something quite remarkable.
14. Pusha T – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude
Much like the aforementioned Vince Staples and Jay Rock, Pusha T was one of a few names that took the ‘no frills’ approach. Classic Clipse-stemming delivery, unforgiving and often minimalist production, as well as some notable album structure all point to another solid release from the GOOD Music honcho. Featuring some of Pusha’s strongest material, Darkest Before Dawn was a more than acceptable interlude to the eventual release of King Push.
13. The Internet – Ego Death
You may have heard about The Internet via Odd Future, often forgotten in the abyss of Tyler’s various projects and controversies, The Internet were a side-project initially comprised of Syd Tha Kyd and Matt Martians. The group has now progressed into a fully-fledged band, and they’ve marked this with the release of their 3rd studio album Ego Death. With music hard to categorise, The Internet’s sound filters in and out of electronica, trip hop, hip hop, jazz and soul, creating a hazy yet hypnotic album that really should not be missed out on.
12. Slaves – Are You Satisfied?
In an era of deep house spin-offs and pretty Simon Cowell products, it was good of Slaves to come along and put a middle finger up to it all. Spawning music you could easily categorise as punk rock, the geezer-ish charms of Laurie and Issac of Slaves struck a chord with anybody who was fed up with the bleak state of pop. Are You Satisfied? was the high octane, and protestingly belligerent debut from a contrapuntally successful brand of music by today’s standards.
11. The Chemical Brothers – Born In The Echoes
The Chemical Brothers were one of the musical forces of my summer. With it being five years since the last album release, the pioneering big beat duo came back with a bang. First was their lead single of anthemic proportions from Born In The Echoes- Go featuring Q Tip, then came headlining slots at both Bestival and iTunes Festival, and a summer-opening appearance at Glastonbury. Luckily for the Chem Bros, their 8th studio album followed all this excitement, and provided both inventive 21st Century sounds, as well as trademark big beat behemoths.
10. Archy Marshall (aka King Krule) – A New Place 2 Drown
King Krule blew away the indie scene with his debut, and finally blessed us with sophomore earlier this month. A New Place 2 Drown is an absorbing journey. It’s a much more refined album than his last, and every element of the project has clearly been laboured over. The meticulous layering to A New Place 2 Drown is omnipresent across all 12 tracks, with house-nodding synths and sombre 808 beats weaving their way in and out of background to foreground. With A New Place 2 Drown, King Krule’s made it no easier to classify his music, but made it a lot more likeable in doing so.
9. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness
Featuring some of the biggest and best songs of 2015, from the man of 2015 (although I’m sure Drake and Biebz will have something to say about that) Beauty Behind The Madness was what propelled The Weeknd from household name to worldwide mega-star. An array of sultry R&B vibes; both dark and lifting, deeper content and subject matter, all wrapped up with symphonic and hypnotic vocals, it really wasn’t a wonder The Weeknd was one of the biggest selling artists of 2015.
8. Lianne La Havas – Blood
Lianne La Havas’ Blood was proof that there is still life left in British R&B/Soul. In British pop music there seems to be no real in-between when it comes to female acts. You’re either a 10/10 chart topper like Rita Ora or Ellie Goulding, or a bit-too-anonymous like Rae Morris or Laura Marling. Lianne La Havas slots eloquently between these two categories, and conformed these opinions with the release of Blood. Blood oozed timeless style and effortless class, and what resulted was a fusion of sultry jazz and seductive soul. And what’s more is that the most part of Blood was self-produced and self-written- another thing abundantly missing.
7. Justin Bieber – Purpose
Purpose is undoubtedly one of the albums of 2015. Featuring some of the biggest songs of the year including Where Are U Now, What Do You Mean, and Sorry, the Biebz shrugged off his ‘bad-boy’ notoriety, and his tainted pop star image, and dropped an album amuck with anthems. Purpose’s content was as daring as it’s ever been, enlisting EDM figureheads to aid his transition from cheesy teen pop, to world dominating club-ready number ones. If this is where Bieber’s head is at at the moment, who knows what else might work as well.
6. ASAP Rocky – At. Long. Last. ASAP.
Easily the most slept on album of 2015, and I can’t work out why ASAP Rocky’s latest LP hasn’t received as much recognition as it deserves. One of the few hip-hop albums possessing substance and innovation, ASAP Rocky refused to follow in the steps of the Drakes, the Futures and the Big Seans of 2015, and alienated trap-infested boredom. A.L.L.A. continued the veiled and gritty stylings of Rocky’s debut. and further experimented with elements of psychedelica, rock and soul, brought together with consistent and near-faultless vocal arrangement from the man himself.
5. Logic – The Incredible True Story
Logic, the famously independent rapper from Maryland, dropped The Incredible True Story just over a year after his debut, and the difference is monumental. As an album refusing to conform to the pedestrian trap-stemming rap of 2015, The Incredible True Story was one of a few hip-hop albums to possess real substance. Featuring an eye-opening premise and concept, Logic’s dynamic lyricism and excellent ability at the art of storytelling, crossed with inventive, punchy production resulted in an instantly likeable project that outshined near-all other hip-hop albums in 2015.
4. Jamie xx – In Colour
The fact that Jamie xx’s In Colour lost this year’s Mercury Prize is exactly why it’s such a sham award (Massive Attack’s Mezzanine anyone?), but that’s for another article. In Colour had an abundance of electronic sounds on it, all showcasing the array of avenue’s that the The xx tinker-man had pursued. From the instantly anthemic Loud Places, to one of the songs of the summer- Good Times, the remaining make-up of Jamie xx’s debut was filled with atmospheric electronica spanning through house, electronica, trip hop and EDM. And to exquisitely package all these inspirations onto one project with such execution is something Jamie xx needs serious recognition for.
3. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
I know many will disagree with me, and of course there’s no getting around was an exceptional display of music TPAB is, but every publication on the planet is going to be putting Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore at number one. Personally, the albums at number two and three I enjoyed more, and haven’t stopped bumping since its release. To Pimp A Butterfly is of course an instant classic; a contemporary masterpiece. Filled with protest, objection and appeal, the themes and concepts behind King Kendrick’s latest album were unparalleled and rightfully earned him every accolade and recognition there is. That is until Wiz Khalifa beats him to a GRAMMY award.
2. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf
To be honest, the time that Chance The Rapper and co. made us wait for this, it had to be good. After falling head over heals in love with Chance’s soul-infused gospel-like rap, the promise of a fully-fledged album of what The Social Experiment call ‘world fusion’ had me Twitter-watching for the best part of 2015. Finally Surf dropped, and the effort, labour and meticulous refinery was abundantly clear across the entirety of the project. With dreamy choruses of vocals, a plethora of varying flows from Chano himself, and enough brass and soul to warm the surliest of critics, the project was an abundance of perfected 21st century rejuvenations.
1. Tame Impala – Currents
Currents was my first full flavour of Tame Impala besides their biggies, and what an experience, and welcomed surprise it was. Trading frontal electric guitars for synthesisers, and drum kits for drum machines, Kevin Parker’s sound gracefully transitioned from edgy indie rock to hypnotic psychedelic beauty. From the riff driven opener Let It Happen, to the heartbreaking Yes I’m Changing, through the hypnotic Eventually, to the engrossing and challenging Past Life, the expansive array of synth-driven sounds was poetically perfected, tirelessly crafted and expertly refined. Currents really is an exceptional piece of music, and easily the album of 2015.
Like this list? Be sure to check out The West Review’s Songs of 2015 here.