81IZigpp5YL._SL1500_25. Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon
Choose Your Weapon is the 2nd official release of this Melbourne based band, and it’s an eclectic barrage of ferocious yet soulful vocals and guitar from the wonder, singer Nai Palm. Backing Nai Palm is Paul Bender (Bass/Programming), Perrin Moss (Drums/Percussion), and Simon Mavin (Keys) who all make up Hiatus Kaiyote. Bringing together some smooth chords, intense licks, odd time signatures, and relentless grooves, the band composes some of the most beautiful music that’ll have you bobbing your head until you’re permanently hunched-back. Not only do rappers like Chance the Rapper and Q-Tip count themselves as fans, but “Breathing Underwater” is nominated for a Grammy. Not to influence you or anything… – Kamaron Black (Listen)

SSPenceCoverFinal24. Skylar Spence – Prom King
Ryan DeRobertis, the artist formerly known as vaporwave sensation Saint Pepsi, went through the same sort of crisis that other artists like Neon Indian and Jamie xx did, who felt confined by the trappings of the genres that were assigned to them, and decided to break free. In DeRobertis’ case, it resulted in a poptimist re-invisioning of his sound. Prom King conjures images of 80s disco and school dances, but the key to its success lies in just how fun of a record it is. Never feeling nostalgic or hackneyed, DeRobertis took what he was best at, and ran with it, deciding to have a blast in the meantime. – Yusof Nazari (Listen)


23. Girlpool – Before The World Was Big
The debut album from the Los Angeles punk-rockers saw them strip their minimalist sound down even more and play up their folk-punk sound. From the cover to the lyrics, nostalgia is the key here. The duo convey images of childhood and simplicity. It can all seem a little twee at times, but not in an annoying way, in a way of recalling the good times when your whole life was ahead of you and childhood seemed like it would go on forever. Before the World Was Big takes a feeling and runs with it, exploring ever nook and cranny of how it feels to grow up, fall in love, realize life is complicated, and become anxious, overwhelmed, and humbled. – Yusof Nazari (Listen)

dillydally-sore22. Dilly Dally – Sore
The Toronto band’s debut album is filled with shredding guitar chords and breathy, guttural, disaffected vocals by singer Katie Monks, but it never takes itself too seriously. Preoccupied with love, loss, and the romantic awkwardness of it all, Sore is a record about taking control. The meeting of grunge-chords and pop structures are rarely done well, but Dilly Dally have mastered that balance perfectly to create a rarity in the modern age. An engaging and inventive rock record. – Yusof Nazari (Listen)

a0098900567_1021. Astronauts etc. – Mind Out Wandering
The side project of Toro Y Moi’s touring keyboard player Anthony Ferraro takes full form in the brilliantly mastered and ambiently tuned full length release Mind Out Wandering. Ferraro’s falsetto voice eases you in accompanied with gentle chords on various instruments and smooth drums, relaxing to listen to and yet exciting at the same time, and ends just the same way. The distinctness of the group’s West Coast flavor overlaps on various boundaries of music, including lounge rock, singer-songwriter ballads as well as smooth synth pop. The culmination of these makes for a fantastic release that not only impressed, but will keep us listening no matter the time of year. – Demir Candas (Listen)

deacon_glissriffer20. Dan Deacon – Gliss Riffer
Joanna Fields’ cover art for Gliss Riffer captures a silly Yo Gabba Gabba-esque creature in a state of misery, green puke oozing from its’ laffy-taffy tongue. This juxtaposition of retro-futurist whimsy and all-too-human emotion perfectly captures the record as a whole. Deacon’s blend of stuttering samples and yearning melodies both tugs at your heartstrings and urges you to shake your hips. The astonishing “Learning to Relax” sounds like Kraftwerk after gorging themselves with an entire Halloween candy stash. You can hear elements of The Knife, Phillip Glass, and even Steely Dan in some tracks, but it remains a wholly unique album. Deacon’s “20-tabs-open-at-once” aesthetic might be sensory overload for some, but Gliss Riffer remains one of 2015’s finest electronic albums. – Daniel Valdez (Listen)

Layout_11_A_FINAL_Corr19. Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox has always been the least abrasive of the bunch. Warm synths and Pet Sounds influences permeate the band’s work, but are even more pronounced in his solo efforts. For his 4th proper solo album, Panda Bear decided to talk about what he knows best, the small things in life. A newly minted father, Lennox’s conversation with the grim reaper is one about the most basic question’s in life. Why are we alive, what happens when we die, and how can we make a better future for our children. It doesn’t hurt that these subjects are handled with a light touch and the experimental instrumentation we’ve come to expect from Panda Bear. – Yusof Nazari (Listen)

14a54cdb469e4d2263913f9aeab720eb.1000x1000x118. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love
After a decade-long hiatus, the Northwest punk pioneers prove as vital as ever. The trio tackle income inequality (“Price Tag”), disillusionment (“Fangless”), and other weighty issues without devolving into empty sloganeering. Of course, it helps that the album is catchy as hell. No Cities To Love drops the psych-rock of their previous album for a streamlined post-punk party. This triumphant return cements Sleater-Kinney’s place as the best rock band of the past 20 years.  Daniel Valdez (Listen)

Fjm-iloveyouhoneybear17. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear 
Former Fleet Foxes member Father John Misty is an absolute character. His second album is a revelation, and to describe it as folk music would be reductive. There’s splashes of electronica, pop, hip-hop and everything else, but what comes out of the vortex is a completely fresh and beautiful album. A concept album about “engaging in all manner of regrettable behavior” and courting his wife Emma, I Love You, Honeybear is a completely sincere look at the strange and modern conditions in which we fall in love, and why we stay in it. – Yusof Nazari (Listen)

juliaholt16. Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness
Have You in My Wilderness deviated from Julia Holter’s previous approach of creating an album with one overlying theme to ten songs telling ten different stories. While it needed a concentrated listen to fully appreciate, the album’s sweeping melodies were embellished with luscious orchestral arrangements that never overpowered the songs, but teased at her characters’ psychotic breaks. Her genius was in her lyricism, songs such as “Silhouette”, “How Long”, and the title track hosted many allusions to popular short stories with Holter’s own humorous and dark twists. Her ability to describe scenes and characters within a few verses is definitely a testament to her ability, and resulted in her most mature album to date. – Maham Tirmizi (Listen)

BFDNL055_Thundercat_140015. Thundercat – The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam
The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam is Thundercat’s (Stephen Bruner) first mini-album after two critically acclaimed full-lengths. This Flying Lotus-produced masterpiece is one of Thundercat’s most arresting works. With features from Herbie Hancock, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus, and an Isley Brothers sample to open “Them Changes”, Thundercat pushes himself from his fusion and hip hop background on some of the tracks. However, he still calls back to funk roots, which makes this release such a joy to listen to. This album gives the listener a chance to get a peek into his own advancements as a composer since he’s been working with other artist like Kamasi Washington and Kendrick Lamar who released their own respective albums this year. – Kamaron Black (Listen)

e2bedc22bbda886198fcfba2c6ade7fa.1000x1000x114. Death Grips – The Powers That B
Originally announced as the last album from one of this decade’s most insane band’s, the double album (consisting of the earlier released first disc, Niggas on the Moon, & second disc Jenny Death) from the experimental hip-hop trio is more extreme, loud, melodic, and extreme than all of their previous efforts combined. All of their latest efforts are more extreme than all their previous efforts combined, but The Powers That B sees Zach Hill, MC Ride, and Andy Morin recognizing their peculiar position in the music world and deciding, once again, that they don’t care. Amongst the cancelled shows, Björk samples, sporadic release schedules, pictures with Beyoncé, and overall insanity, the number one thing that people keep fixating on is the music. That’s gotta mean something in 2015. In fact, it probably means a lot. – Yusof Nazari (Listen)

The_agent_Intellect13. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect
Whether one’s interest in Protomartyr is sparked by their backstory, whose roots to the historic and rich music scene of Detroit give them a mythical allure, or by the underdog tale of 38-year old lead-singer Joe Casey, who could be seen as an anomaly in the current musical landscape obsessed with youth and aesthetics, one thing is certain. The sound of Protomartyr is one that begs for legions to be swallowed into their grim vision of the world. At 43 minutes, The Agent of Intellect, feels hardly so, the urgency with which the band plays can deafen the listener with it’s throbbing guitars and insistent drumming that leaves no room for filler noise and aptly compliments Casey’s often bark-like vocals. On the track “Why Does it Shake” Casey snarls “Sharp mind, eternal youth, I’ll be the first to never die” and the record’s sound is living testament to the this claim. – Erika Bocanegra (Listen)

a0622773824_1012. Deafheaven – New Bermuda
Sunbather was one of my favorite albums of 2013, but I never understood why Deafheaven was constantly labeled as a black metal band until I heard New Bermuda. George Clarke’s vocals fit that description much better this time around, sounding wonderfully cold and bleak on top of thinner layers of the band’s signature shoegaze atmosphere. While the guitars may not be quite as lush on New Bermuda, Deafheaven maintains the emotional expansiveness of their previous work while expanding into different facets of metal. New Bermuda has punchy rhythms, heavy riffs, heart-wrenching melodies; it’s warm and cold at the same time and commands a huge aural space. Deafheaven has mastered their balance of delicacy and aggression — dreamy, emotional atmospheres swell into raw, driving energy flawlessly. You’ll feel like floating away before they pull you back in and crush you. – Savannah Sherer (Listen)

empressofEmpress Of – Me
The debut album by Lorely Rodriguez, who goes by the pseudonym Empress Of, was entirely self produced in Mexico, where Rodriguez found a reprieve from the over-stimulating lifestyle of New York that was causing a certain “haze” over her music. Rodriguez aimed to create an album that would be direct and moving. Her goal was accomplished, as Me served as a catharsis for anyone going through a journey of self-discovery. Songs like “Water Water” and “How Do You Do It?” were punchy bangers splashed with robotic sounding synths and 808 drums. Her vocals took the main stage, as she sang over her kaleidoscope-like beats about independence and finding herself. Rodriguez’s unadulterated lyrics offered a huge insight to her self-reflection, a musical selfie if you will. Her audacious project rose to a well-deserved critical acclaim. – Maham Tirmizi (Listen)

carly-rae-jepsen-emotion10. Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion
E•MO•TION is a grand love letter written to epitomize love itself. From those gargantuan, crippling rushes of anxiety swallowing you up by being in the same room with the one and only “crush”, the exhilaration of developing tenderness that’s so intricately intimate, and that swift swoop of bittersweet heartbreak all entail the contradictingly simple yet complex feelings Carly Rae Jepsen inhibits. E•MO•TION is exactly what the album name describes: how feeling in the present is dire to being and, most importantly, living. There are many moments in one’s life where vocal articulation cannot touch on all bases on the feelings people are responding to, and Jepsen is not concerned with that. Jepsen advocates pure kinesiology and for pathos to persuade, in every way possible, getting a sense of feeling comfortable in one’s skin by treasuring what is going on at this exact moment. That’s the awe-inspiring universalism of how love is an E•MO•TION. – Tony Nguyen (Listen)

1035x1035-MI00038974809. Beach House – Depression Cherry
The strangest thing that Beach House did this year, and maybe in their whole career’s, is release two albums. The music on Depression Cherry however, isn’t that surprising. More luxurious, reverb-drenched, dreamy synth-pop from the Maryland duo. Here, it’s even more stripped down and melodic, so this is Beach House distilled and purified. What you will get from Depression Cherry is another collection of beautiful songs about love and loss, and instrumentation that will make you feel like a teenager who’s head over heels. – Yusof Nazari (Listen)

33a9265391b2dcfc1f37a725f309746c.1000x1000x18. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06
Vince Staples’ Summertime ’06 is an exhaustive look into one young adult’s life growing up in Long Beach, California, around drugs, violence, and poverty, and it’s because of this 1st person narrative that Staples so vividly recreates the intimate streets of Long Beach, whilst also touching on these greater topics with a wisdom and perspective beyond his years. Equally removed from and implanted in his situation, Staples does what very few rappers can do, and really haven’t done since 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. Grand political statements derived from microcosms of life, a sense of urgency, all adding up to an album that can truly be described as “cinematic”. It doesn’t hurt that Staples’ knack for song-writing and him feeling at home over both darkly sadistic and hopeful beats make him rap’s most promising young star. This ambitious double-album never feels like it’s overstayed it’s welcome, and yet the last track sees Vince still being left with more to say. What the next album will be focused on we can only guess, but if Summertime ’06 is any indication of his creative energy, it will be just as revelatory. – Yusof Nazari (Listen)

Neon-Indian--Vega-Intl-Night-School-1400pixels_8007. Neon Indian – VEGA INTL. Night School
The return of one of chillwave’s finest and favorite synth guru Alamo Palomo and his Neon Indian group project was abrupt and unprecedentedly different. No one could have guessed such a novel way for a come-back as Palomo executed, but the uniqueness and genuine fun displayed in VEGA INTL. Night School is truly unlike anything previously released, particularly in 2015. The whimsical, dissonant use of synthesizers Neon Indian is notable for driven towards stage rock, pop in nature and funky in vibe, created a space for innovation not yet discovered and for that kept us bumping through the track list. The range of songs is also impressive, such as the single “Slumlord” and it’s sequential reprise with progressive lyrical take on song writing, to the nu-disco vibe from song “The Glitzy Hive,” to the quirky and rough track “Smut!,” all keeping the energy as much as the last. Overall, Neon Indian took the risk of pairing their avant-garde production style with fun and dancey lyrical and it paid off in 2015. – Demir Candas (Listen)

Jamiexx-InColour6. Jamie xx – In Colour
What a banger. Jamie Smith of popular UK alternative group The xx outdid himself on his solo debut album. Following a series of deep and nuanced dance tracks, collaborations and remixes, Jamie xx brought out the refined and easily accessible production that is In Colour. Reminiscent of work done in The xx, Jamie xx’s album has been described as “dance tracks for the faint hearted,” those that are dancefloor shy with a yearning for grooving. This theme is wrapped around melancholy atmosphere and yet juxtaposed with good vibes simultaneously. Jamie brings forth his bandmates on several tracks for lyrical assistance, but what the album excels at are the dark, dank riffs in the slower songs and pure dance beats. In Colour isn’t a dance album though, per se, but an attitude that Jamie Smith seems to express as an artist that carries between projects. With a debut album under his belt now, we can forever rely on Jamie xx to supply great bits of musical prowess in his own way. – Demir Candas (Listen)

grimes-art-angels-album-stream-listen5. Grimes – Art Angels
In what is probably the boldest and most divisive move of 2015, Claire Boucher (pretty much) did a 180° turn and made a pop album. Whatever you may think of Art Angels, it experimented in ways that few others dared to do this year. Held up as an electronic music darling, Grimes decided to embrace her love of early 2000’s pop stars, K-Pop, anime, and whatever the hell else she liked and put it in one complete, disorienting package. For all the wild ideas displayed here, some of the best work is when Grimes makes a pure pop song with her own subversive twists. “Flesh Without Blood” in particular is one of the most exciting, energetic, beautifully realized songs of the year. If this is the new Grimes, then I don’t ever wanna go back. – Yusof Nazari (Listen)

c2ce18074. Tame Impala – Currents
Anyone who expected Kevin Parker to do more of the same that brought his band Tame Impala universal acclaim with 2012’s Lonerism was probably shocked upon the release of Currents. Sure, there’s still psychedelic grooves and reverb drenched lyrics about love and life, but at the core of this album are drums. Hip-hop break beats, electronic music drums, and a focus on beats. It might not reach the same peaks as Lonerism, but it’s still a wonderful, kaleidoscopic journey through the mind of a band that doesn’t want to stay as “pretty much the only rock band that matters” on music’s weighted scale, but wants to ascend to even higher hight’s. – Yusof Nazari (Listen)

a2231815864_103. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Sufjan Stevens’s ode to his late mother rose to universal acclaim upon its spring release. Perhaps the most strikingly emotional albums released all year, Carrie & Lowell made an impact with impassioned lyrics paired with soft chord progressions. Stevens’s modest instrumentals and hushed singing set a fair stage for his lyrics, which circulated around one theme: his mother. He created songs that expressed his frustration at her cyclical disappearance in his life, nostalgia for the summers he spent with her in Oregon, loneliness he felt for her abandoning him, sadness for her death, and overall the love he felt for his mother. For someone known for such musical prowess, one would expect Stevens to back his album with a grand orchestra to demonstrate his sorrows, yet he chose the less ostentatious approach of acoustic guitars and ghost-like synths, which made the album the most pure and honest we’ve ever seen from Stevens. – Maham Tirmizi (Listen)

Cournetbarnett2. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Courtney Barnett tackles songwriting like a great stand-up comic writes their set, finding deeper meaning in the minutiae most of us skim through in our daily lives, be it the cracks in a hotel ceiling or “a possum Jackson Pollock painted on the tar”. Barnett’s debut album is a fantastic mix of humor and empathy rarely found in rock; on “Nobody Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party”, she sympathizes with introverts while also poking fun at how silly their fears can seem. The music itself is a raucous mix of 90s indie rock and country-tinged folk (“Depreston”). “Pedestrian at Best” is a ferocious headbanger, featuring one of the best kiss-off lines in recent memory: “I think you’re a joke but I don’t find you very funny”. On that track, she warns “put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you”, but it’s hard to walk away disappointed from this modern classic. – Daniel Valdez (Listen)

3813bcd3d4accb7634eea23a2a7ab190.1000x1000x11. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Here it is. The year’s most grand artistic statement, by a long shot. 2015’s most expansive, complex, intimate, and overwhelming record. Kendrick Lamar’s struggle with personal demon’s of doubt, self-hate, depression, and his place in the world became the soundtrack for a whole generation of displaced children. A soundtrack for black lives, black pain and anger, black hope and solidarity and love in a world that increasingly violent and marginalizing towards black bodies. An album that begins with the declaration that “every nigger is a star” in neon lights and exclamation points and ends with a conversation with the ghost of Tupac who doesn’t have all the answers we’re looking for. Lamar’s complicated relationship with fame, depression, and race couldn’t have come at a more pivotal moment in American history. The jazz, funk, R&B, hip-hop, and “everything else” influences here are presented flawlessly, creating a record that breaks beyond everything expected from this generation’s greatest musician. We’ll be digging through it, writing thinkpieces about it, dissecting every bar and memorizing every note it contains for a long time to come, and we’ll enjoy every moment of it. It feels like a living, breathing document of our time, and that’s why it’s the best album of 2015. – Yusof Nazari (Listen)