Top 20 Albums of 2015 (10-01)

10. Negative Scanner: Negative Scanner

Like a devastating tornado in the middle of the night, Chicago’s Negative Scanner delivered their excellent self-titled full length debut album of tense hold-and-release energetic post-punk onto a tired, unsuspecting planet. Though the world wasn’t ready, it had no choice but to face the fact that singer/guitarist Rebecca Valeriano-Flores and her three bandmates had pushed things forward by looking back. Having only been together since 2012, the group arrived fully-formed in much the same way their UK forefathers Wire did in the 1970s. Negative Scanner’s premier record is an exceptional achievement and a standout in the genre. – Andy Mascola

09. Grimes: Art Angels

Not many records can intersect the realms of pop, avant garde, indie, and noise rock quite like Art Angels does. With the album, Grimes makes some incredibly poppy and high energy music and combines it with sad and soul crushing lyrics. Certainly the combination creates some dissonance in the mind of the listener but that seems to be Grimes’ purpose. She is here to blow minds and makes no apologies for it. Art Angels may not be the year’s most comfortable listen but it is an important one. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

08. Joywave: How Do You Feel?

Joywave is the best band you’re not paying attention to, but their newest release How Do You Feel Now? is here to change that. With booming distortion, seemingly ridiculous whistling sounds, and too many warped vocal samples to count, the Rochester five-piece is pushing the limits in every direction imaginable. “Tongues” (featuring fellow Rochester band Kopps) is their famous single, with a dance-heavy beat and lyrics that tell the tale of social alienation. “Destruction” and “Parade” stand out as huge, stomping one-hitters that are sure to channel all of your rage (or excitement) if you turn your speakers up loud enough. Joywave is certainly capable of dialing it back, too: “Nice House” and “Bad Dreams” are more relaxed, but still incredible examples of the band’s genius. Their energy is completely palpable in every note – nobody believes in this music more than they do, but the die-hard fans they’ve managed to gain may just come close. The band recently finished up their first headlining tour and are set to serve as the opening act for Metric on their 2016 run. If How Do You Feel Now? sounds amazing recorded, it’s even better live. This album is the result of ten years of hard work, and the results were well worth the wait. – Shannon Athena

07. Death Grips: The Powers That B

Oh Death Grips, how you’ve grown. “The Powers That B” in its completion has been a long time coming and fans will agree that the turbulent torture was worth it. The first half of“The Powers That B” takes on a slight twist from the hip-hop trio’s usual shenanigans. While production is still critical, arguably Death Grips took on a more noise/rock inspired approach. The end result is visceral. MC Ride is pulling something out of you buried deep –all those fight or flight fueled feelings. He delivers line after line accompanied by insane layers of sound organized into a melodic chaos –it’s almost cryptic at times. The second half brings forth a slew of standalone tracks that absolutely explode and pop with energy. The atmosphere remains the same, maddening, but the rest of the album gains much more composure and rounds the listen out nicely. Even more could be said, one day this album will be fodder for all the historical anthropologists. Ultimately, the artistic ideas that fuel the group have been brought to life and given a voice. “The Powers That B” is beyond music, it’s a surreal experience unlike any other. – John Naessig

06. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly

To Pimp a Butterfly doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it combines so many genres in such intelligent, elegant fashion, turning out something utterly new and captivating. There are a bunch of great singles on here, but anyone who loves music needs to sit down and listen to this album front to back—it’s an intense, emotional experience. – Mark Steinbach

05. Jamie xx: In Colour

Jamie xx‘s new album was one of the most talked about of the year, and for good reason – In Colour manages to take empty space and turn it into a lush sonic dream. Lyrically sparse, the listener is instead treated to plenty of funky sounds and electronic beats, drawn out over the course of forty or so minutes. “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” is one of the exceptions to this, however, and is pretty much a bona fide hip-hop song. The lyrics are vulgar and the beat hits hard, so it’s no wonder why this is one of the album’s most popular tracks. Consistency is this record’s weak point, but that also means no two songs sound the same. From “Gosh” to “Girl”, there’s something here for everyone, even if you’re a little upset at Jamie for going solo. Two songs feature Romy, the other half of Jamie’s original band, The xx. Her voice is sultry and compelling; it’s no doubt she deserved to be on this record. In Colour brings us on a journey through synth and computerization, but in the end we’re gifted with some of the best music of the past five years. – Shannon Athena

04. Lana Del Rey: Honeymoon

In 2012, America fell in love with Lana Del Rey‘s brand of sad girl pop. It is hard to determine whether or not her artistry has grown since then but perhaps it doesn’t have to. Honeymoon is a record that shows off Del Rey’s signature aesthetic with a new found sense of control. Every song builds her lore: from the deftly stark titular track to the closing cover of Nina Simone’s classic “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Honeymoon is a delicate tour-de-force from one of the most provocative and mysterious artists of the decade. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

03. Panda Bear: Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

This is a lovely return to form for Panda Bear. No disrespect to the Avey Tare or Geologist, but Panda has always felt like the most experimental, intellectual guy of the bunch. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper succeeds on both fronts; it’s full of strange sounds and profound ideas. This is deep stuff, with each subsequent listen peeling away a new sonic/emotional layer. – Mark Steinback

02. Destroyer: Poison Season

It is almost sickening how little wrong Daniel Bejar (aka Destroyer) can do. His experimentation with Italian disco landed his Kaputt album atop many album of the year lists in 2011. Four years later, he releases a completely different sounding record in Poison Season and it comes with the same critically acclaimed results. With a nod to classic rockers like Bruce Springsteen and Elvis Costello, Destroyer makes a nearly timeless record infused with his mysterious lyrics and signature witticism. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

01. Tame Impala: Currents

Topping year-end lists far and wide is Tame Impala‘s Currents. It’s fast-paced and dreamy with the right amount of synth, making it perfect to dance to, drive to, or just listen to and do absolutely nothing else. Give it your full attention and there’s no way you’ll be bored. “Yes I’m Changing” and “Eventually” slow it down a bit, allowing Kevin Parker’s voice to shine through beautifully. “The Less I Know the Better” is this album’s version of Lonerism‘s “Elephant” – bass-heavy and totally irresistible, the kind of song that’s sure to please a crowd of thousands at whatever major music festival Tame Impala headlines next. The record’s sound is varied enough to keep things interesting, but consistent enough that all of the tracks flow perfectly. The band has grown enough to know who they are as musicians, and this album doesn’t lose sight of that for a second. Each element is focused, each note determined to make the song in question the best it can possibly be. Currents is rare, but it’s the kind of artistry that sets a standard, one that other bands should be excited and inspired to live up to. – Shannon Athena

The year’s greatest victim of hype is also, strangely, the year’s best album. Sure, after a string of great singles, people were expecting a masterpiece. Instead they got…a near-masterpiece? The lyrics are just okay in spots. “Past Life” is a bad song but Kevin Parker still feels like rock music’s last hope and possibly its next visionary. Currents is a collection of psych-pop love songs and nothing more. Yet somehow it feels new and exciting, a fact that might just be the musical achievement of the year. – Mark Steinbach

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