Selecting Sound Dessert’s top 10 albums of 2015 was a tricky task. There were many, many contenders but the albums that made the final list were selected based on how many songs, in my opinion, truly excelled on the album as a whole as opposed to a few standout singles. These albums also excelled in their respective genres, and is some instances, pushed the boundaries of those genres and created their own definitions.
Some of these won’t come as a surprise to Sound Dessert readers, but a few might. So without further ado I give you Sound Dessert’s top 10 albums of 2015:
1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
A sublime album from start to finish, Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Multi-Love reveals more nuance and insight with each listen. The melodies, vocals, lyrics, everything fits together beautifully on this psychedelic pop record, landing it the top spot on Sound Dessert’s best of 2015 list. “Nielson’s ear for how something should sound is unparalleled,” writes Pitchfork’s Jeremy D. Larson, “and his fastidious choices behind the boards are a large part of what makes Multi-Love a joy to listen to. It’s as if he tried to make Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions and Prince’s Sign ‘O’ the Times in secret, so as not to wake the kids upstairs—private celebrations and private exorcisms.”
2. Grimes – Art Angels
How talented is Grimes’ Claire Boucher? Let me count the ways: the Canadian virtuoso wrote, performed, recorded, and produced her album. She also designed the album cover, and conceptualized, starred and directed her music videos. She does it all, and she does it all skillfully. Art Angels reveals a creative vision unlike her contemporaries, pop meets gore, noir meets cheerleader, in the most quizzical yet fantastic way. To quote Pretty Much Amazing, “[Grimes] crafted a glorious pop monster entirely by her own mind, hand, and voice. Part dazzling confection, part snarling beast, Art Angels is a stitched together, hook ridden masterwork.”
3. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
One of Stevens’ most heartbreaking and personal albums, Carrie & Lowell features songs of the passing of Stevens’ mother, Carrie, to stomach cancer, and the support and memories he shares with her and his stepfather, Lowell. I was lucky to see Stevens in concert this year, and not only is Carrie & Lowell one of the best albums of 2015, his performance was one of the best I saw all year. In a word, it was transformative. In the words of Billboard’s Jason Lipshutz, “It took an immensely gifted artist a decade to return to the music in which he transcends, and while the circumstances are unhappy, the process of listening to his comeback is nothing less than triumphant. His words are traumatized, but his artistry is as beautiful as it ever was.”
4. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
Holy smokes. That was my immediate reaction upon hearing Brittany Howard roar into her first note of Sound & Color’s lead single “Don’t Wanna Fight.” Howard’s vocal power and passion hits you right in the chest and it’s exhilarating. The singer doesn’t hold anything back on Sound & Color, pouring every ounce of her being into each song. Alabama Shakes are another artist I had the pleasure of seeing perform at ACL Festival this year and Howard’s talent is that much more impressive live. A true icon in the making. Writes Will Herme’s for Rolling Stone: “the ache, frustration, hunger, wonder and bliss in her idiosyncratic hurricane of a voice — magnified by music of new imagination and detail — stand out more clearly than ever.”
5. Tame Impala – Currents
Kevin Parker tackles emotional turmoil with moments of sincerity and satire, creating an album that sounds the way your emotions feel. Confusing, isolating, surprising? The psychedelic dreamscape of Currents covers the spectrum in a heavenly way. This is an album that you can really get lost inside, and take your mind to new corners of your consciousness. It’s a trip, no matter what mental state your in. “Nearly every proper song on Currents is a revelatory statement of Parker’s range and increasing expertise as a producer, arranger, songwriter, and vocalist while maintaining the essence of Tame Impala: Parker is just as irreverent working in soul and R&B as he is with psych-rock.” Ian Cohen, Pitchfork.
6. Borns – Dopamine
When “10,000 Emerald Pools” came on the airwaves this year, I was instantly hooked. Then followed “Electric Love” which was equally quixotic. In the fall I saw BORNS play at ACL Festival weeks before his debut album dropped. It was here that I got a real taste of Dopamine, and when the pleasure principal fully set in. Turns out BORNS has a flair for writing resounding, undeniably catchy pop songs with a 70s flair. Songs like “American Money,” “The Emotion,” “Fool” and “Holy Ghost.” And he’s only 23. Imagine what he’s capable of dreaming up for his sophomore release. “Børns has crafted 11 habit-forming doses of dream pop that slither into all the right spots with a flamboyant blend of glimmering disco, funk, and glam rock.” Neil Z. Yeung, All Music.
7. Beach House – Depression Cherry
“You should see, there’s a place I want to take you,” sings Beach House’s Victoria Legrand on Depression Cherry’s opening song “Levitation.” Within the first few notes of the first song, the stage is set to go on a journey with the dreamy Baltimore duo. Beach House continue to do what they to best, especially on the effervescent “Space Song,” though as the album title indicates, Depression Cherry glimmers a bit dimmer than previous records, with more melancholia weaved into the album’s framework. It’s pensive and exploratory, and perfect for quiet, contemplative nights curled up with a blanket. Writes Paste’s Eric R. Danton, “the duo’s knack for crafting thoughtful, enveloping songs makes their return more than welcome.”
8. Carly Rae Jepsen – E-mo-tion
Surprised by this choice? Have a quick search of the 2015 album round ups and I guarantee you’ll find Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion on numerous year end lists. Why? Because she took the pop album to new places. Because she’s the real teen dream and not a completely packaged robot. Because she collaborated with some amazing artists including one of my favorite, Dev Hynes, Sia, Ariel Rechtshaid (Adele) and even Beyonce?! Because she has more to say beyond her massive hit “Call Me Maybe” and because I guarantee you’ll be seeing more of her. If you haven’t yet, give it a chance. On a road trip this summer I played one of Jepsen’s songs (“Run Away With Me”) in the car, not telling anyone who it was, and they (gasp) dug it. I’m betting you will too. “E•MO•TION is a heart-bursting ’80s-indebted album levitating on Jepsen’s desires,” writes NPR‘s Jacob Ganz. “It may have failed to cement Jepsen in pop’s firmament, but it gave us a capable, earnest, thoroughly human star-next-door for the ages.”
9. Leon Bridges – Coming Home
This old soul has reflects on life’s simple pleasures on his debut album, Coming Home. The Texan throws it back to classic sixties crooners like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. Listening to Coming Home, you’ll be tempted to ask someone to go steady with you, before realizing that’s not a thing anymore. 2015 was ‘smooth sailing” for Leon Bridges with breezy, retro ballads that made every day feel easy like Sunday morning. Says Rolling Stone, “Coming Home is the best kind of nostalgia trip, freewheeling, loose and more interested in good times than mere reverence.”
10. Kevin Garrett – Mellow Drama
More of an EP than a full album, Kevin Garrett’s Mellow Drama still earns a spot in my top 10 albums of 2015, for being a collection of songs I wore out this year. An incredible songwriter, singer and pianist that’s garnered accolades from Sam Smith and Katy Perry (among many others), Garrett is a name I guarantee you’ll be hearing a lot more in 2016. His star has been rising since he signed a publishing deal with Roc Nation and he just wrapped a tour with X Ambassadors. Garrett knows how to tug at the heart strings in the best way. He also knows how to sing with just the right amount of emotion, and fuses pop and r&b with exquisite deftness. Hilly Dilly’s Cole Ryan writes, “Mellow Drama is a gorgeously soft, strikingly soulful project that, besides being simply euphonic, drives home one point in particular: Kevin Garrett has a big career ahead of him.”
Once again whittling down the top 10 albums of 2015 was not an easy task. These releases however, made a lasting impression and will continue to be on my rotation well into the new year. Which records were your favorite of 2015? Sound off in the comments and check out Sound Dessert’s 100 Best Songs of 2015 here.
Thanks for listening and see you next year!
Featured image via jagjaguar.