Top 10 Albums of 2015

Disclaimer: I am not associated with any music publication. I am publishing this because I love discussing and sharing music with people. Some of these reviews dive deeper into the artist’s history and past work while others focus solely on the album. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts!

2015 was an incredible year for music. A majority of major artists dropped a project in some form this year that left no time where there wasn’t something great playing through my headphones. I tried to listen to a variety of genres this year including everything from folk to hip hop. After this striking year in music, here are my top 10 albums of 2015.

10. AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP- A$AP Rocky

It is too easy for A$AP Rocky these days. Whether or not rapping is at the top of his priorities at the moment when he chooses to throw himself into his music he does pretty well for himself.  With AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP, Rocky made his best work yet from front to back. There are no songs that I skipped on this album, rather ones I just liked more than others. The highlights are evenly spread out and the pace is at a steady rhythm. Joe Fox serves as Robin to Rocky’s Batman on this album appearing on five songs along with guest verses from Schoolboy Q, Kanye West, Juicy J, Mos Def and one of the best Lil Wayne verses I’ve heard since his Carter III days.  Rocky’s actual rapping is at its most polished. From letting loose on songs such as “Excuse Me”, “Electric Body”, “M’$” and “Everyday” to stretching himself as an artist with more singing in songs like “L$D”, Rocky came into his own as an artist with AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP. A$AP Rocky seems to be becoming the new Jay-Z. The voice of New York that explores other ventures (fashion and acting in Rocky’s case), but still can make timeless music when he chooses to.

Favorite Tracks: “Excuse Me”, “Electric Body f/Schoolboy Q”, “Wavybone”

9. The Incredible True Story- Logic

When I first discovered Logic back in 2010 after seeing his music video for “Mind of Logic” I immediately fell in love with him. He was a hungry artist that was just coming up from Maryland and I knew that nothing would stop him on his path to superstardom. Logic’s latest album, The Incredible True Story, shows just how far he has come since I first discovered him five years ago. The Incredible True Story serves as an intermission between the larger story of a script Logic wrote about two men, Kai and Thomas, on their journey to the planet Paradise after Earth has been uninhabitable for almost 100 years. I enjoyed Logic showing new creativity including the movie script in this album. It came as little surprise seeing as he has made it no secret how much he loves movies, specifically Quentin Tarantino’s work. Although I’m a big fan of the album and Logic I’ll start with the negatives. Logic has made it evident that he idolizes Drake, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole etc., and there is nothing wrong with that. But, he sometimes directly bites from them. For example, the opening track “Contact” using the same exact drums as “Amazing” by Kanye. “City of Stars” sounds eerily similar to “Say You Will”. His flow on  “I Am The Greatest” sounds like Drake’s. “Stainless” is pretty much “Backyard” by Travi$ Scott with horns. I digress. Logic is still the same hungry artist that I discovered back in 2010, and I can feel his passion with every verse he spits. The production on The Incredible True Story is the best I’ve heard on any Logic project with Logic himself taking the lead on most songs. The live instrumentation is sensational. The only thing I want from Logic is to stretch himself as an artist. I find myself expecting the same thing from him with every album he releases. Fast raps, similar beats, something about a Rubik’s cube, and Tarantino references. Nonetheless, I am still a huge fan and this is one of my favorite albums of the year.

Favorite tracks: “Upgrade”, “Lord Willin”, “The Incredible True Story”

8. Good AM- Mac Miller

 

Mac Miller’s third studio album, Good AM, is where he establishes himself as one of the top creative hip hop artists in the game. His first album, Blue Slide Park, was a disaster, but he came back with a strong sophomore project in Watching Movies With The Sound Off that showed the growth of Mac Miller. No longer was he a “frat rapper” that played into white rapper stereotypes. Watching Movies With The Sound Off launched him into a distinct sound with heavy syllable lyrics that established him as a force to be reckoned with. Good AM continues that theme, and Miller has found his sweet spot with his latest work. He doesn’t need any radio hits or party bangers like he did with Blue Slide Park. All he needed to make this album successful was high quality production and clever lyrics that shows just how talented he truly his. Miller does this and more. He creates pre game anthems such as the Miguel assisted song “Weekend”. He has songs about relationships with “ROS”, and he has songs that make you want to move with “Jump”. This album has it all. Mac Miller has grown so much since his K.I.D.S. and Blue Slide Park days. Now, he deserves to be labeled as one of the top artists and emcees in hip-hop. Well done, Malcolm.

Favorite Tracks: “Rush Hour”, “Break The Law”, “When In Rome”

7. I Love You, Honeybear- Father John Misty

Joshua Tillman aka Father John Misty doesn’t care what you think. He doesn’t care what I think either, but that won’t stop me from telling you about his latest album, I Love You, Honeybear. This album is full of beautiful melodies, sarcastic lyrics, and crisp vocals from the former Fleet Foxes drummer. He expands his range with I Love You, Honeybear, in addition to keeping the same psychedelic folk rock sound he had on his first album, Fear Fun. I especially love the synths and choir use in the songs “True Affection” and “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me”. Father John doesn’t conform to anyone. He plays the music he wants, and tells the stories he wants to tell. This album is perfect to play on a road trip or enjoy with a small group of friends.

Favorite Tracks: “True Affection”,“When You’re Smiling and Astride Me”, “Holy Shit”

6. Purpose- Justin Bieber

Whether or not you agree with Justin Bieber’s personal ventures the past few years, it is hard to deny the immense talent that the 21-year-old Canadian superstar displays on his latest album, Purpose.  To put it simply this guy has pipes. He has finally found his niche as an adult hitmaker after his mediocre attempt to win older audiences over with his previous project, Journals. He is making pop anthems that kids his own age can blare at any party setting. I’ve seen guys, yes GUYS, scream the hooks to multi platinum singles, “What Do You Mean?” and “Sorry”. Side note, “Love Yourself” proves that the Ed Sheeran formula is golden for success as this song is straight from Sheeran’s playbook and sounds exactly like something off Sheeran’s album, X (which makes sense since Sheeran was a contributor on the song).Anyway I’ll stop ranting and get to the actual album. The first half of the album is extremely strong. I found myself entranced by every song until “Life Is Worth Living”. After this point I wasn’t disappointed but was awaiting other hidden gems such as “Company” found in the first half. The second half highlight by far was the Nas assisted song “We Are”. Bieber doesn’t show his vocal strength with this song like he does with others, but he has the production and melody that cater to his strengths. I have always seen potential with Bieber, but with Purpose I can admit that I’m a Belieber. He has proved he has the longevity to stay the greatest popstar of his generation.

Favorite Tracks: “Company”, “Make Sense f/Travi$ Scott”, “We Are f/Nas”

5. Urban Flora EP- Alina Baraz and Galimatias

I know this isn’t a full length LP, but few of my new discoveries this year have caught my ear as much as Alina Baraz & Galimatias’s Urban Flora EP released back in May. They both compliment each other so well. Baraz’s soothing voice combined with Galimatias’s production is chilling. The lyrics are sensual, the hooks catchy, and the electronic esque production create a euphoric experience for the listener of this EP. Even though Baraz has a pop star voice, she chooses to use her talent to tell about her experiences sexually, and emotionally in a non traditional way. Her voice is the paint brush and Galimatias’s production is the canvas. I expect a big 2016 from these two.

Favorite Tracks: “Can I”, “Make You Feel”, “Pretty Thoughts”

4. A New Place 2 Drown- Archy Marshall

Archy Marshall aka King Krule has been relatively quiet since his spectacular last album 6 Feet Beneath The Moon was released back in 2013. Out of the blue on November 24th Marshall created a new Instagram account and simply posted “ANP2D coming soon…”. The post was as mysterious as Marshall himself, but had fans eagerly awaiting more news of the project. Finally, on December 10th Marshall dropped the album A New Place 2 Drown along with a short film and a book filled with Marshall and his brother Jack’s art and poetry. As for the album itself Marshall picked off right where he let off with 6 Feet Beneath The Moon with the dark, ominous intro track “Any God of Yours”.  With A New Place 2 Drown we see Marshall come into his own as a diverse producer with heavy synth beats and drums that have me feel like the room is spinning . Unlike 6 Feet Beneath the Moon the vocals are not the focus of this album. Most of the time Marshall mumbles barely audible verses that are laid back with a rough voice that seems at his most comfortable. Rappers like Mac Miller or Earl Sweatshirt would thrive on this production and I would love to see Marshall produce more hip-hop beats. Personally, I love when artists explore new sounds and new art forms such as Marshall did with A New Place 2 Drown. Whatever he does next and whatever moniker he chooses to release it under, I cannot wait for Marshall’s next project. This guy is truly an artist.  Next time there is a rainy day or a day with a grey sky turn this album on and let your thoughts run free.

Favorite Tracks: “Swell”, “Ammi Ammi f/Jamie Isaac”, “The Sea Liner MK 1”

3. Summertime ’06- Vince Staples

Vince Staples is on a tear with his latest album, Summertime ‘06. The long awaited full length debut from the 22-year-old rapper arrived back in June, and since then it has shaped a style for new school West Coast rap. Vince comes out firing right from the beginning. He is vicious with his raps. He is in your face continuing the theme of growing up in Long Beach from his last EP, Hell Can Wait. But, this time around he expands more. Summertime ‘06 isn’t just about growing up on the rough streets. It’s also about partying, girls, and getting paid. The thing I love about Vince is how rough he is. His voice is nasally, his production unorthodox, and his features few. Simply put, Vince raps his ass off. He holds nothing back when he has the mic in his hand. I think we found one of the biggest new voices in hip hop with Vince Staples.

Favorite Tracks: “Norf Norf”, “Senorita”, “3230”

2. Strange Trails- Lord Huron

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I stumbled upon Lord Huron this Spring and they have by far become my favorite artist I have discovered this year. Their most recent album, Strange Trails, feels like one continuous song that is a perfect soundtrack for a road trip or a day in the mountains. This album genuinely puts me at peace, makes me think, and takes me to a better place every time I push the play button. The thing I love about Lord Huron is they know exactly who they are. They know their identity as an artist and the band flourishes on Strange Trails. Lead singer Ben Schneider’s voice fits perfectly with acoustic guitar riffs, various harmonies, and melodies on the album. This is one of the few albums I can listen to front to back and not even notice when it’s over. Strange Trails makes me FEEL something. That is what I look for in music, and Lord Huron delivers with Strange Trails.

Favorite Tracks: “Dead Man’s Hand”, “Meet Me In The Woods”, “Frozen Pines”

1. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late- Drake

When I woke up to new Drake on February 13 I found the soundtrack that filled my headphones for the rest of the year. This album/mixtape/way to get out of his Cash Money deal, are songs where the 6 God is on top of the rap game and he knows it. From the gritty raps of “Energy”, “No Tellin” and “6 God” to R&B hits like “Jungle”, Drake flexes his muscles to let the music world know he is here for the long haul. The closing track, “6pm in New York” is a victory lap that supports this case. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late doesn’t feel as cohesive as Take Care or Nothing Was The Same, but the main theme of this album is Drake putting on for his city. “Know Yourself” was blasting from speakers all summer and can be hailed as the anthem of Toronto.  Three songs on the project include “6” in the title. This album is an ode to Drake’s hometown, and the city is a guide. Drake has yet to disappoint me and if these songs weren’t good enough for Views from the 6, then Drake’s next project will be a complete takeover.

Favorite Tracks: “Energy”, “Know Yourself”, “Jungle”

Follow me on Twitter @GroJoebeck

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