Top 20 Albums of 2015 (20-11)

20. Jenny Hval: Apocalypse, Girl

Imagine if in 1982 when Laurie Anderson released her experimental masterpiece Big Science it created a worldwide revolution. Modern popular music might sound a lot like Norwegian avant-garde artist Jenny Hval’s album Apocalypse, Girl. The record is a mix of thoughtful spoken word pieces and lovingly sung songs that deal with sex, feminism, America, death, and perhaps most widely relatable, what it means to be human. All of these subjects are approached with humor and heart and make for a compelling listen regardless of whether you’re a fan of the genre or not. Great art pop albums don’t come along very often, so when they do they should be appreciated in much the same way you would an innovative art exhibit or groundbreaking novel. Apocalypse, Girl was a standout record in 2015 and definitely worthy of your attention. – Andy Mascola

19. Florence + The Machine: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Florence Welsh’ vocal talent has never been in question but as a group, Florence + The Machine have never made a great album before How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Mixing arena-sized hooks with British art rock influences similar to Kate Bush, How Big is an album made for the pop realm but with enough cred for the indie crowd. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

18. Beach House: Thank Your Lucky Stars

Few bands were more generous than Beach House in 2015, giving us two beautiful new additions to their catalog. Of the two, I preferred Thank Your Lucky Stars—in fact it may be the best thing they’ve done since 2010’s instant-classic Teen Dream. It’s an incredibly sad album, yet still saves room for some of their loudest, most surprising moments. Many people were tempted to write this off as Depression Cherry B-sides, but that couldn’t be more off-base. This is a beautiful, singular work and one of the year’s highlights. – Mark Steinbach

17. Father John Misty: I Love You, Honeybear

Changing the game big time, J. Tillman as Father John Misty unleashed his extremely poetic, often show tune-esque, and always mesmerizing “I Love You Honeybear.” There’s no doubt about it, this has been a very good year for Tillman and many of his fans will lovingly call “I Love You Honeybear” an absolute masterpiece. With songs like “Chateau Lobby #4,” “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt,” and the very bitter, very hysterical, “Bored In The USA,” it’s no wonder why people are falling in love with Father John Misty. Tillman is authentic. I Love You Honeybear doesn’t beat around the bush, it digs the knife right in and twists. The lyrics are wildly intelligent, the instrumental melodies are haunting. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll say, “Damn man, did you really have to remind me?” Father John Misty’s I Love You Honeybear, is an amazing listen to combat and compliment the modern sensibilities. – John Naessig

16. Selena Gomez: Revival

While the road from Disney to pop stardom is a familiar one not many can attest to commercial and critical success while still seeming relatively well adjusted. Revival sees actress-cum-singer Selena Gomez show a new and exciting vulnerability through a set of songs that are perfect for a Netflix-and-chill generation – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

15. The Sonics: This is the Sonics

A band reuniting, recording, and releasing their first album of new songs in almost fifty years is a remarkable achievement. That The Sonics’ record This is the Sonics song-for-song sounds as if no time has passed between their last LP and this one is nothing short of a miracle. Original members Jerry Rosalie, Larry Parypa, and Rob Lind, along with replacement garage rock vets Dusty Watson and Freddie Dennis, destroy any notion that time crushes youthful musical exuberance. Utilizing his trademark scream to great effect, Rosalie and his bandmates rip through twelve infectious, heavy-hitting tracks that introduce The Sonics’ powerful sound to a new generation of fans. – Andy Mascola

14. Sun Kil Moon: Universal Themes

Mark Kozelek is more than just a songwriter, he’s a goddamn storyteller. Sun Kil Moon’s “Universal Themes” is Kozelek’s latest collection of stories and songs. The album took a little bit of a different approach, often longer passages of instrumentation and in some ways a very prolonged, jammy feel –something a bit more progressive. More so, Kozelek’s words are still heartfelt and heavy. All of which make for a beautiful listen. The themes of “Universal Themes” are powerful –often mixing a sense of sorrow, being beat and tired, or a search for tranquility. The execution is perfect. Sun Kil Moon’s Universal Themes claims its place as one of the top albums because of how personal Mark Kozelek made the music. It’s raw and vivid. The instrumentation at the top of the game; Kozelek’s guitar playing often takes on some Fahey vibes –carefully plucked and played. The overall listen is the nitty gritty of Kozelek; a brilliant and soulful experience. – John Naessig

13. Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Multi-Love

Unknown Mortal Orchestra have jokingly referred to themselves as “the best band in the world” in the past, but upon listening to Multi-Love, they might actually be right. The sound is definitely crisper and more finished than previous albums, but it retains that certain warmth the band has come to be known for. Ruban Nielson’s raspy voice gives the songs a pointed edge, and his sheer talent is undeniable. “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” is surprisingly addicting; “Necessary Evil” creeps into your psyche in a way that’s comfortable instead of invasive. Closing track “Puzzles” stretches things out for seven minutes with plenty of distortion and guitar. No matter what, every song is catchy, well-written, and well-executed. It’s an impressive feat for a band that’s only been around for five years. Newcomers probably won’t be won over instantly, but once they are, they’ll wonder how they ever overlooked Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the best band in the world. – Shannon Athena

12. Carly Rae Jepsen: E*Mo*Tion

From guilty pleasure to bonafide critical darling, Carly Rae Jepsen‘s transformation in 2015 seemed so stark because it was so unexpected. Previously positioned as a tween pop star with two-hit wonder written all over her, Jepsen’s E*Mo*Tion uses universal themes, forward thinking production, and a lack of pretentiousness to make a record that has no greater goal than to make the listener smile and dance. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

11. Frog Eyes: Pickpocket’s Locket

Regardless of the music Frog Eyes have released up to this point in their career, pinning the label indie rock on Pickpocket’s Locket seems neither fair nor accurate. Incorporating plaintive piano and organ, as well as gorgeous strings throughout, baroque pop may be the genre that most closely defines this collection. Without uttering one easily identifiable or repeated chorus, Carey Mercer’s singular voice and poetic lyrics create exceptionally memorable moments that echo long after the songs have ended. The personalities of each track reveal themselves more with each listen. In time, the songs on Pickpocket’s Locket are transformed into increasingly endearing and faithful old friends whose presence remind you why you love them so much. – Andy Mascola

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