The Music Of 2015 (Ranked According To Me)

The Best Of 2015

by Ken DiTomaso

There goes another year! As always, there was plenty of great music to listen to, but ranking favorites isn't always so easy. This year in particular was tricky; while I didn't have any trouble populating my list, putting my favorites in order was actually pretty tough. It was a very even year with few albums I liked significantly more or less than others. Ask me again tomorrow and I might come up with a completely different order for these.

15. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

A sad, slow and quiet album, Carrie & Lowell is the most raw record Sufjan Stevens has ever released. I generally prefer Stevens when he's upbeat and eccentric, so this won't ever be among my all-time favorite Sufjan records. But he's nailed the desolate, weary and depressed atmosphere that this album aims for. Many of these songs are downright heart breaking. It's not the kind of album I'll want to listen to often, but it's perfect when I'm in the right mood.

14. Animal Collective – Live At 9:30

Animal Collective's concerts tend to change radically depending on the album they're supporting, so it's only fitting that this live record's approach matches up pretty solidly with their previous release, Centipede Hz. I think choosing a show from this tour was a great call since it features all four members together performing their instruments, freed from the constraints of samplers and loops. They use this freedom to stretch their legs with some really cool jamming, transforming several tunes into sprawling epics in the process. The Centipede Hz tracks are cleared of some of the clutter the studio versions piled on them, packing the tunes full of live energy. The band's older material is reinvented to accommodate the style, too, which means that there is almost nothing here that isn't reinvented in some way or another.

13. Tame Impala – Currents

The band's oddest effort to date. Currents is awash in reverb, tweaked out synth tones, and bizarre sonic choices. The downside is that it gets kind of samey after a while, but it's a neat kind of samey all the same. This adventurous attitude worked in the band’s favor, and I'd consider it my favorite Tame Impala record so far.

12. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

Returning from a long hiatus Sleater-Kinney pulls no punches with this album. It's a brash, to-the-point effort that gets in, rocks like hell, and gets out of there before you even know what hit you.

11. Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper

Laid-back and melodic, Panda Bear's latest solo record is one of his better efforts. It's like a cross between the hypnotic drones of Person Pitch and the catchy hooks of Tomboy. It doesn't quite reach the highest highs of either of those records, but it's more consistent overall. He also put out an EP titled Crosswords this year, which is worth checking out alongside this record.

10. Kamasi Washington – The Epic

A jazz-fusion excursion, The Epic lives up to its name at nearly three hours in length. There's so much music to digest here that I don't think I've remotely scratched the surface of what this album has to offer. Even while listening to the record in the moment, however, the themes are thrilling and the musicianship is constantly staggering. I particularly enjoyed the hybrid of choir and orchestral elements thrown into the mix at times.
9. Death Grips – Jenny Death

Jenny Death is the wildest, most intense Death Grips album yet, and if you know these guys, that's really saying something. Jenny Death is pure attitude, packed wall-to-wall with noise, yet as we've now come to expect, almost everything here still manages to be bizarrely memorable. There are some exciting new directions for the band here with a bigger emphasis on traditional-sounding keyboard parts, non-distorted drums, and guitars than ever before. It's the closest Death Grips has ever come to sounding like a rock band.

8. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Paper Mache Dream Balloon

A psychedelic and garage-rock throwback that reminds me less of the original psychedelic bands from the ‘60s than it does of the bands from following generations that tried to emulate them. The original Elephant 6 Collective bands especially come to mind here, as does Ariel Pink. But King Gizzard's personal spin on the sound still manages to be uniquely them. The abundance of woodwinds that are blended in make for a great touch, too.


7. The Lilac Time – No Sad Songs

Gentle, pensive, and lush. The Lilac Time doesn’t push themselves in your face; they wait quietly for you to come and listen. Stephen Duffy has been a bastion of pure songwriting craftsmanship for over 30 years now, and I see no sign of that talent slipping here.


6. Joanna Newsom – Divers

Newsom's performances are as dazzling as ever. Divers benefits greatly from its short, streamlined structure, making it almost the complete opposite of the sprawling Have One On Me (2010). Newsom's songs are fathoms deep, and I don't think I'll be done picking this record apart for quite some time.


5. FFS – FFS

Sparks brings the weird and wacky, Franz Ferdinand brings the tightly wound indie-rock power, and both deliver songs that rank with the best of either band's catalogue. Collaboration albums don't get much better than this.




4. Ghost – Meliora

Heavy metal in the old school sense, Ghost focuses not on intensity in their music but on simply writing great hard rock tunes. The riffs are memorable and the songwriting soars. I wish their frontman had a more distinctive personality, but that's really my only complaint. I dig pretty much every track here.
3. Ash – Kablammo!

The power-pop album of the year. Tight, accessible, and loaded with punchy rock tunes that evoke prime-era ’90s Brit-pop, this aptly named record put a smile on my face every time I gave it a listen. It's the kind of album that doesn't do anything new, but instead does everything right.


2. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

An all-over-the-map collection of as many different styles and approaches to rap that Kendrick Lamar could come up with. Every track brings something new to the table. The themes and concepts present on the album tie everything together into a cohesive and often poignant whole that I think will be resonating with people for a long time to come.


1. Everything Everything – Get To Heaven

A bunch of tightly wound art-rock that wedged itself in my brain and hasn't let go yet. Everything Everything is a modern indie act through and through, but they exemplify all of the best qualities that entails. The songs are clever and memorable, from the tunes down to the instrumental arrangements. It's upbeat and full of personality in the first half, but they aren't afraid to change their sound up either as the moodier second half demonstrates. 

Thanks for the great year everyone! Now, onwards to 2016.

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