Ivy Tripp by Waxahatchee
Released: April 7, 2015 | Merge Records
Katie Crutchfield, the lead singer and songwriter of Waxahatchee, named the band after a creek her parents have a house near in her home state of Alabama. It should come as no surprise, then, that her music just sounds so intimate. Waxahatchee's third studio album Ivy Tripp continues to build on the momentum of 2013's stripped-down Cerulean Salt, all while creating music reminiscent of summer days spent back home on the creek.
Track You Need To Hear: "The Dirt"
Anthems for Doomed Youth
by The Libertines
Released: September 11, 2015 | Virgin EMI Records
With the life that The Libertines have lived, we're just glad they're alive. In the band's heyday in the early 2000s, the post-punk Brits were a group of angry youths releasing their aggression on their tracks, halted by an indefinite hiatus from releasing music in the wake of lead singer Pete Doherty's struggles with heroin. Anthems for Doomed Youth marks the band's first release in 11 years and displays their most polished sound with more concise lyrics and cleaner tracks.
Track You Need To Hear: "Gunga Din"
Dark Sky Paradise by Big Sean
Released: February 24, 2015 | Def Jam Records/GOOD Music
It wasn't long ago that it was uncertain whether or not Big Sean would actually achieve the level of success he's always rapped about, but on Dark Sky Paradise, he's taken a giant step toward finally getting there. His cartoonish delivery and comical similes are at an all time peak on the album, but never feel forced. Big Sean finally realized that he is at his best when he's spazzing out over hot beats, so that's exactly what he went out and did — and the result is his best album yet.
Track You Need To Hear: "Paradise (Extended)"
The Story of Sonny Boy Slim
by Gary Clark, Jr.
Released: September 11, 2015 | Warner Bros. Records
Ask anyone who's familiar with Gary Clark, Jr.'s music, and no one will question his ability to play the guitar. But on The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, instead of seeing the Austin-based artist show off his technical skills as a blues guitarist, he opted to expand his genres of influence to include more R&B and soul sounds and focused more on his storytelling. The result is his most expansive album and a welcomed progression from 2012's Blak and Blu.
Track You Need To Hear: "Down to Ride"
Sour Soul by BADBADNOTGOOD
& Ghostface Killah
Released: February 24, 2015 | Lex Records
Hip-hop and jazz have had a long history of collaborations, and Sour Soul is another notable union between the two genres. The veteran Ghostface Killah showcases his sleek rapping skills over smooth jazz tracks provided by Toronto's BADBADNOTGOOD. Sour Soul is strengthened by some timely guest spots, including the show-stealing verse from Danny Brown on "Six Degrees," but the album is highlighted by Ghostface and BADBADNOTGOOD's ability to work off each other, evenly matching the jazz trio's smooth tracks with Ghostface's playful flow.
Track You Need To Hear: "Six Degrees (feat. Danny Brown)"
Ratchet by Shamir
Released: May 19, 2015 | XL Records
On the surface level, it's easy to become enthralled by Ratchet. Through the shimmering, synth-laden dance pop beats, Shamir's floating, changing-pace-at-a-moment's-notice countertenor voice, or simply at how enjoyable his music is, it won't take long to fully immerse yourself in the sheer joy that is Ratchet. At just age 21 and with only one full album under his belt, Shamir is already making waves in the dance scene, and for good reason.
Track You Need To Hear: "On the Regular"
56 Nights by Future & DJ Esco
Released: March 21, 2015 | Freebandz
When bad things happen in your life, you can let it crush you or you can use it as motivation. After his failed album Honest and the soured relationship with the mother of his child, Future released five projects in a 12-month span, with 56 Nights the undeniable peak of his trilogy of mixtapes. 56 Nights is high octane music, with blind fury on each track. The mixtape continued Future's comeback and helped bolster the year in which the rapper was omnipresent.
Track You Need To Hear: "March Madness"
Tetsuo & Youth by Lupe Fiasco
Released: January 20, 2015 | Atlantic Records
On Tetsuo & Youth, Lupe Fiasco has found a new voice, releasing his most thoughful and satisfying project since 2007's The Cool. Once hailed as backpack rap's "Chosen One," Lupe has now become a sort of elder statesman in the hip-hop world, and he's letting his worldview show. He's replaced songs about skateboarding with songs about the prison system, controlling his inner activist and focusing it in his most gratifying release in years.
Track You Need To Hear: "Mural"
Viet Cong by Viet Cong
Released: January 20, 2015 | Jagjaguwar/Hostess
From the controversy over their band name (forcing the band to eventually announce a yet-to-be-fulfilled name change), Viet Cong was seemingly born to create controversy. Their self-titled debut full-length album brims with rebellion and possibility, breathing new life into a stagnated post-punk genre. Viet Cong is an album that hangs in the shadows, a conversation piece about conflict and contrast coupled with the band's corrosive, us-against-the-world music.
Track You Need To Hear: "Death"
by Punch Brothers
Released: January 27, 2015 | Nonesuch Records
Chris Thile, one of the most prominent names in modern bluegrass and leader of the progressive folk outfit Punch Brothers, spoke candidly about the release of Phosphorescent Blues. "We have to decide how are we going to connect to in a deep, three-dimensional way with our fellow human beings because that is what's going to save us eventually." The album, chock full of the incredible, virtuosic riffs we've come to expect from Thile and company, is about enjoying the small moments in life — a julep on the porch, fleeting moments with another person — and embracing real, human experiences in a digital world.
Track You Need To Hear: "Familiarity"