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Our favourite 15 albums of 2015

To Pimp A Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar achieved the impossible in 2015 by delivering a follow-up to his now-classic Good Kid, m.A.A.d City that dwarfed its predecessor completely. To Pimp A Butterfly is colossal, a living document of the modern Black experience. With an all-star cast of collaborators (Thundercat, Kamasi Washington), Lamar effortlessly fuses nearly 50 years of African-American music as he guides the listener through a dense anthology of narratives. His songs are short stories, tackling gender politics “For Free?”, systematic racism “Institutionalized”, and even himself “u”. Throughout, he exhibits an immense empathy, and his consistent devotion to humanity elevates the album from potentially preachy to an outright revelation. To Pimp A Butterfly is a vital accomplishment, the benchmark that albums will be measured against for years to come. — Stefan Makowski

Another Eternity

Purity Ring


In their sophomore album Another Eternity, Megan James and Corin Roddick attempted to bring the fire and continue the glow of their praised debut 2012s Shrines. Following their debut, the pair was applauded for their unique, fluid soundscapes, trap-influenced beats and clean, flowery vocals from James. Another Eternity continued to evolve their sound, creating a dynamic album that’s more refined and polished, yet their quality celebrated sound was still intact and nuanced, by using similar tracks and percussions from their debut. Roddick’s mixes and samples are clean and thoughtful and Megan does an admirable job of pushing her vocals; she lengthens the depth and breadth of her range and power. Purity Ring continues to deliver both quality sound and poetic narrative. — Alyssa Demers

Made in the A.M.

One Direction


The boys are back in town with a sound stronger than ever as they have discovered the music that they have been working towards as a band. With songs that have the classic One Direction sound and other new styles as they play and discover the direction they want to move towards as their sound matures from boy band pop to something more adult contemporary. Regardless, the lyrics will still steal hearts and cause people to think of simpler times and more carefree memories. Made in the A.M. channels a higher level of accessability and easy listening that will translate to the artists boy band stigma all but dissolving. One Direction is becoming harder and harder to hate, as they conitue to offer fun and timeless albums. It’s heartbreaking that Directioners will have to patiently wait for the hiatus to be over and to see what the boys will have in store when they return. — Eryn Pinksen

Art Angels



After moving to a remote location in Squamish, scrapping an entire album and then relocating to L.A., Grimes finally came out of a three year hiatus with the pop masterpiece Art Angels. With a significant style break from her previous work, Grimes redesigned her sounds to a much poppier, high energy sound, which parts of the internet didn’t appreciate as much as her ethereal vibes of the past. But through the style change, Grimes maintained her high production standards, keeping with her rule to craft every instrumental piece on the album. The only place where she brought in help was on the single “Scream,” where Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes gave an even creepier vibe to an already creepy track. As an album, it stood as an excellent demonstrator of the highbrow nature pop music can take. — Kieran Chrysler

Beauty Behind The Madness

The Weeknd


Needless to say, the Weeknd was definitely on everyone’s music radar in 2015. After bursting on the music scene with his mixtapes and first studio album Kiss Land, anyone in the music industry knew he was there to stay. With his contemporary funk and edgy R&B meets emotional rap, the young artist blew the world away with his second full length album, debuting first on the Billboard 200 charts. Three singles from the album also flooded the top of the charts and if you haven’t been belting “I can’t feel my face!” in every space, you must have been living under a rock. If this album was any indication, I have no doubt that the Weeknd will continue to smash with hit after hit in the future. Plus, the dude is Canadian and has sick hair, so really, it’s hard not to have mad respect and love for the singer new album. — Raylene Lung


Gang Signs


Gloomy electronic isn’t anything new, however Vancouver three-piece Gang Signs are finding a way to present a fresh take on it. Their dark bass driven tracks and echoing guitar are reminiscent of The xx. Peter Ricq’s voice moves soothingly through each song, impressively resembling the baritone of Tom Smith from Editors. It makes for an interesting dynamic as Ricq’s vocals add a much needed layer of optimism to an otherwise haunting album.Though Gang Signs have their parallels, the pieces work remarkably well together as their debut LP Giest flashes moments of brilliance. It says a lot that songs like “Mate” and “Antitode” wouldn’t sound out of place on an xx record. With a few more steps forward and a bit of luck Gang Signs could easily be playing at a major festival near you. This is definitely a project to keep an eye on. — Jonathan Zilinski

Frozen Niagara Falls



Prurient’s double-disc Frozen Niagara Falls proved to be one of the most harrowing and bone-chilling listening experiences of the year. Here, Dominick Fernow immerses himself in a wave of icy electronics, pummeling rhythms, and agonizing screams, emerging barely intact on the other side. However, the album proves deceptively complex. Rather than simply venting frustrations, Frozen Niagara acts as a heady meditation on themes of urban and romantic decay, depression, melancholy, and hope. The result is perhaps some of the most emotionally evocative noise music ever committed to tape. Fernow’s ability to push the listener to tears with little more than waves of harsh noise is awe-inspiring, and makes Frozen Niagara Falls a haunting epic, more than worth the time and attention it demands. — Stefan Makowski

I Love You Honeybear

Father John Misty


Josh Tillman made a name for himself in the folk music landscape as the touring drummer for Fleet Foxes and as a solo artist, both under J. Tillman and his current moniker, Father John Misty. But it wasn’t until 2015 that he crafted an album so deliriously perfect that the angels sung. I Love You Honeybear is flawless in its deconstruction of modern love, from the one night stand, to patriotism, to the absolute adoration of his wife. While the album is exploring these different types of love, Tillman’s now-trademark cynicism and skepticism drips off every track. Even when completely enamoured, the tracks all still maintain a feeling of looming dread about the world, and what is more true to the current condition than that. — Kieran Chrysler

Carrie and Lowell

Sufjan Stevens


Indie singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens upholds his original sound in 12th studio album Carrie and Lowell, he returns to a nostalgic, subdued musicality, similar to earlier albums Seven Swans and Michigan. Steven’s constructed this album in wake of his mother’s death due to stomach cancer. He explores complex topics such as childhood, his tumultuous relationship with mother Carrie and his stepfather Lowell’s significance in his life. Riddled with mental illness, loneliness and searching, Steven’s creates a beautiful, melancholy narrative about his life. Steven’s effortlessly weaves his personal, raw narrative into his music; although this is a return to a sound we have once heard, it feels like we are listening to Sufjan for the first time again. — Alyssa Demers


Rae Sremmurd


Out of every rap or hip-hop album released in 2015 nothing bangs like Sremmlife. You’d be hard pressed to find even the most highbrow rap fans that don’t know the chorus’ to “No Type” or “No Flex Zone”. Swae Lee and Slim Jimmy won’t lyrically blow anyone away, but it’s difficult to reproduce their style and energetic youthfulness they display on this album. Sremmlife is fun, carefree and doesn’t give a shit about what anyone else thinks. Few have experienced the kind of life changing success that Sremmurd has, from playing basements in 2013 to playing music festivals in 2015. From working Mcjobs in their hometown of Tupelo Mississippi, to supporting Nicki Minaj’s Pinkprint tour and having Minaj herself refer to the duo as “iconic.” — Jonathan Zilinski




After five years of no music that really stirred the emotional pot, Adele finally came back in 2015 with an album to teach the mere mortals how to feel again. And not only did she continue with her trademark heartbreak anthems, but she brought in some lighter moments to remind listeners that she can provide more than the most tragic tracks on the planet. Instead of just straight tears, she weaves in tones of nostalgia to bring an unexplored piece into the emotional rollercoaster that is 25. Gone are the days of mere 21 year-old-feelings; Adele is 25 (actually 27 now), so she knows real feelings, like not knowing if anything will be like it was “When We Were Young” again. Yes, she’s really evolved in the four years since 21, and our emotions will never be the same. — Kieran Chrysler

Wilder Mind

Mumford and Sons


Although many complained that their new album lacked in sufficient banjo chords and folk-y vibes, the rock band has not disappointed with their fresh sound. The heavier guitar is just what they needed to advance their always poetic lyrics. The music may have changed but the band remained determined, cranking out their best singles yet. The entire album plays like a sad yet relatable love story, and regardless of the absence of bluegrass tones, the transformation payed off. Contrary to popular opinion, this record is set to be the band’s most successful album yet. “Little Lion Man” will always be a classic jam, but new songs like “Believe” and “The Wolf” thrived in their luscious, alt-rock environment. Goodbye All-American tunes, hello drum-intense tracks. Mumford has definitely pushed the limits in terms of comfort zones for both the band and the opinionated audience. — Raylene Lung

Half Free

U.S. Girls


Toronto-based expat Meg Remy’s thesis statement is laid bare in the title of her latest album, Half Free. The socially charged record asserts that women are still burdened by systematic oppression, and proves it with a vivid collection of character portraits that marry the personal and political to wonderful effect. While the lyrics are conceptually dense, the songwriting makes for a sublime pop experience. Songs about patriarchy and consent have no right to be so catchy, especially on Damn That Valley, arguably the best war song in decades. However, Remy’s hazy and anachronistic production lends these stories a profound universality. More than any other album this year, Half Free seemed to capture the essence of what it meant to be a woman in 2015. — Stefan Makowski

Thrill of the Arts



Vulfpeck’s first full-length Thrill of the Arts is one of the most underrated pop albums of the year. Tunes with tight baselines, just enough saxophone solos and sultry vocals are highlights throughout the Michigan trios album. Production and it’s roots in funk music paired with nonsensical lyrics give Thrill of the Arts it’s character. Similar to Ohio players and Bootsy Collins, Vulfpecks instrumentation stands above and beyond the majority of pop albums released in 2015. Thrill of the Arts stands as a testament of what’s possible when studio musicians begin focusing on creating their own music instead of creating for others. This shift has been proven with producers and artists like Thundercat, Kanye West, and Pharrell Williams finding success behind instrumentals and on vocal tracks. — Oumar Salifou

Apex Predator – Easy Meat

Napalm Death


Napalm Death were innovators in the 80s, but now they’re innovators by combining genres rather than speeding one up to create their own. Most of Apex is played in that difficult-to-define space between grind and death metal, replete with blast beats, minor key runs and slow gurgling bass licks to reorient the band after playing at blistering speeds. “How the Years Condemn” is as close to standard rock as this form of metal can be with its pace, repetitive sections and catchy chorus; “Beyond the Pale” is d-beat; “Dear Slum Landlord” steals from early Swans; “Hierarchies” features a wailing Slayer-like solo. Along with black metal riffing, Oi! passages, and unpredictable time signatures. Apex proves that Napalm Death continues to thrive at the forefront at the extreme metal by turning genres on themselves. It brings to mind hip-hop’s tendency to reassemble. — Josh Greschner

Bonus: Worst album of the year

The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty



It was a race to the finish line for the worst ablum of the year. 2015 saw Miley Cyrus shove the avant garde flop Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Pets down our throats. (Seriously Wayne Coyne, why are you encouraging this shit?) Coldplay released another album of the same shit the’ve been doing for the last 20 years and the obscure Fillipino alt rock band Sandwich released the most boring album of the year with Debris. But the album that takes the cake this year? Tyga’s The Gold Album) 18th Dynasty. Tyga raps on the album opener “Spitfire,” “I’m pops to your daughter’s daughter.” We get it Tyga, you like underage girls, how is this something to brag about on record? And that’s just only one example on this atrocity of a album. For fuck sakes, Kanye West is an executive producer on this, you should know better Kanye. — Jonathan Zilinski

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