25 by Adele
Released: November 20, 2015 | XL Recordings
The narrative of Adele's return to prominence is one for the ages: After a four-year absence, Adele returned to shatter seemingly nearly every record set in the music industry, undeniably establishing herself as the biggest act in music today. On 25, she gathered a crew of producers to give her crisp song arrangements to display her vocal prowess and created a slew of standard pop songs we are going to hear for the rest of our lives.
Track You Need To Hear: "Million Years Ago"
I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt
by Earl Sweatshirt
Released: March 23, 2015 | Tan Cressida/Columbia Records
PSA: I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside is an album that is best understood after more than one listen. At first, it feels like a slap in the face; it's short, it seems like it never quite catches its groove and Earl Sweatshirt sounds more pissed off than anything. But after a couple listens, you begin to understand his angsty point of view. Earl Sweatshirt followed up his terrific debut album Doris with an album full of growing pains while rapping about his actual growing pains. Also, if we had an award for Best Album Title of the Year, it would absolutely go to this album.
Track You Need To Hear: "Grief"
Depression Cherry by Beach House
Released: August 28, 2015 | Sub Pop
After Beach House took a pseudo-hiatus after 2012's Bloom, they were in a creative rut and didn't want to force creativity simply to produce music. Three years later, Depression Cherry proves that the wait is almost always worth it, finding the band eschewing the booming drums on past releases and embracing simplicity. On Depression Cherry, the dream pop duo shows us that they have mastered their ethereal, melodic sound through Victoria Legrand and Alex Scully's layered synths, evident on standout track "Sparks."
Track You Need To Hear: "Sparks"
Monterey by The Milk Carton Kids
Released: May 15, 2015 | ANTI-
During their constant touring, Kenneth Pattangale and Joey Ryan, also known as The Milk Carton Kids, decided to capture the feeling of their live sound, hitting several venues early to record an album's worth of new songs while physically on the road. The product became known as Monterey — an album about restlessness, homesickness and longing. With entertwining guitars and serene vocal melodies (think modern Simon & Garfunkel), Monterey is an album you won't want to miss.
Track You Need To Hear: "Shooting Shadows"
But You Caint Use My Phone
by Erykah Badu
Released: November 27, 2015 | Self-Released
If Erykah Badu's But You Caint Use My Phone consisted of all original material, this album would likely be ranked much higher. The neo-soul songstress cleverly remixed several phoned-in pop songs to create an extremely enjoyable mixtape. On "Cel U Lar Device," Badu remixes Drake's "Hotline Bling," trading in "cell phones" for "cellular devices." Oh, and Badu also managed to snag the equivalent of a Sasquatch or Loch Ness Monster sighting — and gifted us a verse from Andre 3000.
Track You Need To Hear: "Hello (feat. Andre 3000)"
B4.DA.$$ by Joey Bada$$
Released: January 20, 2015 | Cinematic Music Group/Relentless Records
Joey Bada$$ raps with the style, aggression and vigor of an underground rapper in the mid-to-late'90s. B4.DA.$$ (pronounced Before Da Money) is the long-awaited debut album for an artist that released perhaps one of the best mixtapes of all time (1999, released in 2012). Bada$$'s boom-bap flow meshes perfectly with the crew of producers present on the album, highlighted by Statik Selektah, Kirk Knight and DJ Premier.
Track You Need To Hear: "Christ Conscious"
Thank Your Lucky Stars
by Beach House
Released: October 16, 2015 | Sub Pop
Thank Your Lucky Stars is the oft-forgotten release by Beach House this year — even though it came out nearly a full two months after the much more promoted Depression Cherry. Thank Your Lucky Stars saw the band break from the static and noise of Depression Cherry, and showed the softer, cooler underside of the pillow that was Beach House's 2015. Showcasing the best track released by the band this year ("Elegy to the Void") and a much more somber tone, Thank Your Lucky Stars displays Beach House in their best form.
Track You Need To Hear: "Elegy to the Void"
Star Wars by Wilco
Released: January 20, 2015 | Atlantic Records
Widely regarded as one of the most reliable bands in indie rock, Wilco's return after a 4-year hiatus came as a bit of a surprise. Star Wars was released as an unnanounced free download in January, and after a lengthy break, proves Jeff Tweedy and company are still a force to be reckoned with. The band's 9th studio album finds the band doing exactly what you'd expect from a Wilco release — and that's exactly what makes it great. It's not the band's most inventive release, nor is it their best, but Stars Wars marks the official return of Jeff Tweedy to the music scene, which makes everything feel right again.
Track You Need To Hear: "Random Name Generator"
At.Long.Last.A$AP by A$AP Rocky
Released: May 26, 2015 | RCA Records
On first listen, it's easy to wonder if A$AP Rocky did too many drugs during the conception of At.Long.Last.A$AP — I mean, he featured Rod Stewart, Miguel and Mark Ronson on the same track. However, after several listens, it's apparent that A$AP Rocky is simply evolving as an artist. He's still "that pretty motherfucker" and Harlem is still what he's repping, but on At.Long.Last.A$AP, he's all of those things — just at a music festival with the hipsters and indie kids.
Track You Need To Hear: "Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2 (LPFJ2)"
The Magic Whip by Blur
Released: April 27, 2015 | Parlophone
Perhaps one of the most notable achievements of The Magic Whip is proving that after nearly 30 years of releasing music, Damon Albarn's still got it. The first release since the brit-pop band reunited in 2008, The Magic Whip sounds like a seamless continuation of the band's progression. You can undeniably hear hints of The Gorillaz on the album (most notably on the zoned-out electronic vibe of "Thought I Was a Spaceman") but at its core, it is still very much a Blur album — and a very good one at that.
Track You Need To Hear: "Ong Ong"