The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam by Thundercat
Released: June 21, 2015 | Brainfeeder
2015 is the year that Brainfeeder, the Flying Lotus-founded recording label, tried to force the world to appreciate jazz music — and succeeded. Thundercat, who is typically most recognized for his contributions to Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, also released his solo album The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam. On the 16-minute, short-form electronic jazz album, we see a very skilled bassist experiment with where the boundaries of jazz music really are.
Track You Need To Hear: "Them Changes (feat. Flying Lotus & Kamasi Washington)"
M3LL155X by FKA twigs
Released: August 13, 2015 | Young Turks
On M3LL155X, FKA twigs released a 17-minute, 5-song EP that is better than most artists' full albums. With the EP's trip-hop production and her sexual, R&B-flared style of singing, this EP is an excellent follow-up to her breakthrough debut album LP1. FKA twigs continues the brilliant string of music she has been producing for the last two years, and more releases like this will all but cement the British singer atop the ranks of experimental pop music.
Track You Need To Hear: "In Time"
Coming Home by Leon Bridges
Released: June 23, 2015 | Columbia Records
There's nothing wrong with doing something that's been done before — as long as you do it well. Leon Bridges' Coming Home sees the singer performing a style in 2015 that reached its peak in the early 1960s, but damn, if it doesn't make you feel good. Cut from very much the same cloth of Sam Cooke and The Drifters' style of soul and doo-wop, Leon Bridges makes us want to wear a leather jacket and dance with a girl in a polka-dotted dress.
Track You Need To Hear: "Lisa Sawyer"
Divers by Joanna Newsom
Released: October 23, 2015 | Drag City
Since her debut release in 2004, Joanna Newsom has always felt like she was in a league of her own. Perhaps it's her signature harp playing, maybe it's her wildly unique singing style, but Newsom's music — for all its avant-garde, indie-folk quirks — has always found a way to be relatable. On Divers, Newsom expounds upon the theme of infinite loss while coupling the album's emotional weight with some of the most breathtaking music she's ever released.
Track You Need To Hear: "Sapokanikan"
b'lieve i'm goin down... by Kurt Vile
Released: September 25, 2015 | Matador
Kurt Vile has continually released excellent folk rock music over the span of his 7-year career, and b'lieve i'm goin down... is no exception to that rule. Everything you've come to expect from a Kurt Vile record is present on the album as well: the sly, whimsical lyrics, the idiosyncratic vocal style and the smooth, acoustic sound of guitars and banjos. Hearkening comparisons to Neil Young, Gram Parsons and The Byrds, Vile's consistently solid releases place him atop the list of great modern rock musicians.
Track You Need To Hear: "That's Life, tho (almost hate to say)"
The Documentary 2 by The Game
Released: October 9, 2015 | Ca$h Machine Records
Few would have guessed that The Game would make another good album after his fall from grace in the mid-2000s, but on The Documentary 2, that's exactly what The Game gave us. That's what happens when a rapper who can still rap is given some of the best beats he's enjoyed in his entire career, not to mention an extensive, star-studded feature list of nearly 20 artists, where everyone involved brought out the best of both their abilities and the songs themselves.
Track You Need To Hear: "On Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)"
Natalie Prass by Natalie Prass
Released: January 27, 2015 | Spacebomb
For many singer-songwriters, lost love is as classic a muse as any. On her self-titled debut album, Natalie Prass sings of just that — detailing the struggles of a toxic relationship ("So tonight when you're out / You'll come back to an empty house / With a note signed 'Sincerely, Your Fool'" she sings on "Your Fool"). With her mix of traditional pop style, her soft, innocent vocal style and well-crafted lyrics, Prass delivers a solid debut album full of timeless tracks that offer a solid start to a promising career.
Track You Need To Hear: "Your Fool"
Compton: A Soudtrack by Dr. Dre by Dr. Dre
Released: August 7, 2015 | Interscope/Aftermath
After 16 years of waiting for a proper solo album from hip-hop pioneer, mogul and mega-producer Dr. Dre, many wondered what the 50-year-old rapper had left in the tank. The result is one of the best rap albums of the year, bolstered by featured artists spanning several decades of rap (Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, The Game, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, just to name a few) and Dre's signature pristine production, proving that for some, genius knows no age limit.
Track You Need To Hear: "Deep Water (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Justus & Anderson .Paak)"
New Bermuda by Deafheaven
Released: October 7, 2015 | ANTI-
After the release of 2013's incredible, black-metal-meets-shoegaze album Sunbather, diehard metalheads across the world criticized Deafheaven for not being "hard enough." The result is New Bermuda, a more focused, more powerful version of Deafheaven, proving that the band is head of its class in artistic creativity. Though it may not have the same cross-genre impact as its predecessor, New Bermuda is still a beautiful album and another worthy entry to Deafheaven's growing discography.
Track You Need To Hear: "Baby Blue"
If You're Reading This It's Too Late by Drake
Released: February 13, 2015 | Cash Money Records
In his effort to hold the world over in the wait for Views From the 6, Drake wound up giving enough to feed us for the entire year with the surprise release of If You're Reading This It's Too Late. Almost entirely gone is the soft-singing, emotive version of Drake, and in his place, a braggadocious and borderline-disrespectful version of himself. If You're Reading This It's Too Late also began the "Year of Drake," in which he killed the year commercially — and a couple rappers' careers along the way. #RIPMeekMill
Track You Need To Hear: "Know Yourself"