As always, best means Ben’s favorite, because the two phrases are synonymous. This has actually been an incredibly strong year of new releases, so this was challenging. Also, I wasn’t crazy about Kendrick Lamar’s reheated G-funk and Flying Lotus hybrid album, so that made my Top 5 even more volatile.
There’s a good chance a few more prominent releases and time for newer releases to grow on me could really shake things up by December. I’m convinced Girlpool’s album can only sound excellent in warm weather. It just barely missed this list, but we’ll see if it’s still kicking around my main rotation in November. The Most Lamentable Tragedy, which is essentially 90 minutes of Patrick Stickles braindrippings is the other near miss. Technically, it won’t be released until the end of July, and it’s so dense I really don’t have a definitive stance on more than five of the album’s songs.
Since this is a mid-year round up, these are presented in no particular order, but I will start with albums I’ve already covered:
This album is a collection of solid tunes performed on varied instruments that perfectly capture Father John Misty’s appeal. This is a portrait a sardonic jackass, who is fully aware he’s a cad, reconciling the idea he can still be his petty self while experiencing transcendent love. I circled back to this album earlier this week to make sure it’s still great, and it’s staying power seems legitimate.
This is an awesome twangy rock album that I would thoroughly enjoy with just about any singer slotted in on vocals. However, Frances Quinlan delivers one of the most outstanding vocal performances in recent memory. Every emotion she expresses has palpable urgency and registers on a visceral level. The intensity is enjoyably offset by fairly bouncy tunes.
- Ratchet by Shamir
I can’t believe every review of this album doesn’t start off with a Prince comparison. It’s painfully obvious and might set the bar high, but it’s appropriate. This is a party album that identifies the vapid nature of it’s scene before strapping on a studded collar and wallowing in surface pleasures.
Shamir’s falsetto tag-teams with gorgeous electronic beats, which draw from every decade’s dance music and hip-hop to deliver my favorite pure pop thrills of the year.
- Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett
This album, which has the most unwieldy title since Neko Case’s The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, is full of funny, rowdy rock music with a distinctly Australian flavor. Barnett is clearly a songwriter with a sharp eye for detail with a talent and a wit to match, which mingle excellently with a bar-room rock sound.
- I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside by Earl Sweatshirt
This is my favorite rap release of the year. It’s grim, sparse and intelligent. I think sometimes its bleakness is somewhat overplayed, because while there aren’t many outright jokes on I Don’t Like Shit… there is a cleverness to wordplay and chemistry with Vince Staples that hint at both a sense of humor and a joy in the catharsis of creativity. It’s a short album and well-worth the scant time investment.
Honestly, this year’s rap releases could probably fill an extensive list of recommendations. Off the top of my head, check out: Kendrick Lamar’s effort, A$AP Rocky’s release, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s breezy rap collective harmonies, Action Bronson’s aural ’80s action movie and Joey Bada$$ most recent LP.
Those are my five must-listen albums for 2015 so far, although as stated up top, this has been a strong year for new music so go listen to FFS, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, No Cities to Love, Rose Mountain or some other great release I just overlooked.