…And, by “top ten,” I mean “ten favorite.” Enjoy.

 

10. (tie) Beach House, “Depression Cherry”: Beach House released two albums within a month this year, but just one cracks the top ten. With “Depression Cherry,” the Baltimore duo made some interesting adjustments to their sound (organs, in; drums, out) and went more aggressive than ever. Best tracks: “Space Song,” “Sparks,” “Days of Candy.”

 

10. (tie) Marilyn Manson, “The Pale Emperor”: As for Marilyn Manson, he can now lay claim to an album that seamlessly blends metal, house and blues together in his best work in years. Manson anecdote: I accidentally went to a Marilyn Manson show this summer. In the space of, like, five minutes, he cut his wrist, blew his nose in the crowd, quoted William Blake and burned a bible. Suffice it to say, it was quite a show. Best tracks: “Killing Strangers,” “Mephistopheles of Los Angeles,” “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge.”

 

9. Vince Staples, “Summertime ‘06”: Staples, the 22 year-old former Odd Future hanger-on, released one of the most interesting rap albums of 2015, a year that was full of them. “Summertime 06” is vulnerable, aggressive, hurting and hurtful, and Staples’ structural and lyrical inventiveness is on full display. Best tracks: “Lift Me Up,” “Norf Norf,” “Jump Off the Roof.”

 

8. Thundercat, “The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam”: It’s funky, it’s dark, it’s fun and it’s only 16 minutes long. Thundercat capped off a great year (prominent spots on Kamasi Washington’s “The Epic” and the album occupying the number one spot on this list) with a spectacular EP that hinted at greater things to come. Best tracks: “Them Changes,” “Lone Wolf and Cub.”

 

7. Sufjan Stevens, “Carrie and Lowell,”: The cult of Sufjan tends to expect a certain vibrant, kinetic energy from his records, and rightly so—he’s always given that to them. However, on “Carrie and Lowell,” he goes sparse and somber. That isn’t uncharted territory for him, but it sounds smaller than anything he’s done, and, consequently, he finds those tiny moments that make this album great. Best tracks: “Death With Dignity,” “Eugene,”  “Carrie and Lowell.”

 

6. Drake, “If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late”: The man who launched a thousand memes transcended it all on the year’s biggest mixtape. Drake’s insistence on his image as the dark, brooding “rookie and the vet” can be grating to some, but his ability to put together a complete album has never been better. Top to bottom, “IYRT, ITL” is the best Drizzy has ever put out. And it didn’t even have “Hotline Bling.” Best tracks: “Energy,” “6 God,” “Used To.”

 

5. Sleater Kinney, “No Cities to Love”: Ten years after “The Woods,” Sleater Kinney returned, sounding like they’d been both hardened and liberated by the hiatus. It’s more punk-ish than some of their earlier work, and gone are the slow burn, neo-Zeppelin jams of “The Woods”; in their place are tight, bristling little bangers that pack a punch. Best tracks: “Surface Envy,” “No Anthems,” “Fade.”

 

4. Courtney Barnett, “Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit.” Barnett’s debut album is a deceptively straightforward rock album, but that’s exactly how she draws you in. Her lyrics are aggressively curious and confused, but happy about—it’s no coincidence that the happiest she sounds is when she sings, “I wanna go out/But I wanna stay home.” Best tracks: “Kim’s Caravan,” “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party,” “Dead Fox.”

 

3. Hop Along, “Painted Shut”: No exaggeration, lead singer Francis Quinlan might have the best voice in rock today. It’s like ballet on scorched earth: throaty and violent, but also delicate and reedy. The whole album is like that—a throwback, but also forward-looking, genuine and impetuous. Best tracks: “Horseshoe Crabs,” “Waitress,” “Happy to See Me.”

 

2. Tame Ipala, “Currents.” Simply the best album Kevin Parker has ever made. Critics have claimed that Parker has thrown off the title of psychedelic rocker in favor of this much more dance-oriented, synth-heavy album, but all the fun and interesting elements that comes with the former is still there. Do yourself a favor and check out the music videos for this album, too. Best tracks: “Let it Happen,” “Nangs,” “The Less I Know the Better.”

 

1. Kendrick Lamar, “To Pimp A Butterfly”: A masterpiece from a master. During a tumultuous year for racial tensions in this country, Kendrick managed to make the record of the moment, capturing the frustrations, triumphs and challenges that face us all. He’s a hell of a storyteller, and smart enough to surround himself with other talented people (Thundercat, Dre, Snoop, Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, etc.) that make him look even better. He’s redefining rap, bringing back funk and adding a sane voice to the racial discussion in America. Best tracks: “Alright,” “The Blacker the Berry,” “King Kunta.”

 



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