It was hard to compile a list of my favorite albums of 2015. There were so many great releases and a lot of stuff just didn’t make the cut. I started out with 25 albums and narrowed it down to the The High Note Best Of 2015. They’re unranked and some artists have two albums. So it’s an unconventional best of list.
Leave your picks for best of 2015 or most anticipated for 2016 and I’ll put those together in a future blog.
Sufjan Stevens – “Carrie & Lowell”
One of my most anticipated albums of the year, “Carrie & Lowell” by Sufjan Stevens is heartbreakingly honest and touching tribute to his deceased parents. Stevens made a pure and personal album that is his best release to date.
The bombastic beat master of balaclava-laden bravado, Action Bronson made “Mr. Wonderful” the soundtrack to his own 80s action movie. His unfiltered lyrics are rapped and sung together in a loose, energetic and unique package.
Mac is back, clean and taking charge of his hip hop game. On “GO:OD AM,” Miller has collected fresh tracks about looking forward and reaping the benefits of relatively sober living. The inspiring young man cleared another hurdle with this release.
Blazing with punk rock brilliance, Beach Slang has captured the angst of youth with its first album “The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us.” This album is fueled by a working class drive that comes straight from the streets of Philadelphia.
“To Pimp A Butterfly” is by far the best hiphop album I’ve heard since Kendrick Lamar’s Last album “Good Kid M.A.A.D. City.” Lamar is one of the best rappers and lyricists and also one of the best storytellers that has come along in a long time.
Wavves is such a perfect name for a band that produces amazing music seemingly inspired by confusing and unmotivated teenage years. On “V,” these themes are so fuzzy and isolated they sound as though the were captured on a bedroom cassette recording.
Ben Folds has constantly been unique and unapologetic in his pursuit of his personal passions. On “So There,” Folds combines eight new songs written with yMusic and also his “Concerto For Piano And Orchestra,” recorded with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.
Brittany Howard may be the best singer you’ve never heard of. Or, you may have heard her unbridled power unleashed as the singer and guitarist for Alabama Shakes. “Sound & Color” harnesses that energy in a soulful, bluesy and modern rock package.
The self-proclaimed King of Connecticut followed up on his EP “Weekend at the Cape” with his full-length album “The Black Lodge” this year; the latter of which is the fourth part of his “It’s the Bootleg, Mothafuckas!” series. If you like rap or hiphop, listen to Apathy. Just do it.
Both “Depression Cherry” released in August and “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” released in October, were both recorded during the same Beach House sessions in 2014. Although thematically different, taken as a collective body of work, these songs are tremendous and deep.
Among the top blues guitarist of his generation, Gary Clark Jr. shows his versatility of “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim.” On this album recorded in his hometown of Austin, Clark Jr. jumps from swagger to soul seamlessly and plays most of the instruments.
These albums are linked together in a collection of beats, scratches, ambient noises and electronic excellence. Panda Bear of Animal Collective has created a hypnotic and meaningful collection of songs on two albums.
The debut album from the L.A.-based duo Hunter Hunted is what I want out of a pop album. The band goes beyond typical synth-pop expectations in “Ready For You” and ties together heady melodies and heavy rock rhythms. I’m excited to hear more.
“Sprinter” is an album you can judge by its cover. The seemingly sweet young woman shows her dark side and you know things are about to get deep. Wonderfully distorted and meaningful in the right ways, Torres couldn’t have done better on her second album.
The first time I heard, “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album By Earl Sweatshirt,” I didn’t like it, despite its organ-driven opening. This stripped down hip-hop album forces Earl Sweatshirt to stand on his own and he does so remaining confident and honest.