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Music, Year in Review 2015

Year in Review: The Best Albums of 2015

best albums of 2015

We invited our team of contributors to share some of their favourite albums of 2015. Many identify with their top picks on a personal level where the music is a soundtrack to their year; for some, their list represents a culmination of 2015’s hard work; and others select clear stand-outs amidst the transforming process of discovering new music.

Every one of these lists is vital to what we do, and represents the various ways in which our contributors interact with the global music community on behalf of Aesthetic Magazine. Our contributors come from different backgrounds, but our passion for music brings us together to inform, engage, grow, learn from each other, and to share our experiences with our readers.

Thank you for reading Aesthetic Magazine, and see you all in 2016!

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Album: Sound & Color
Artist: Alabama Shakes
Label: Rough Trade
Release Date: April 21st

alabama shakes

Lush, emotive, sonically diverse, brave and just a bit weird, Alabama Shakes’ second album should prove to every other aspiring band that ‘sophomore slump’ is entirely psychosomatic. Sound & Color expands the band’s musical palette in every direction, drawing from Motown, funk and even some punk.

The result is an infinitely listenable classic by America’s greatest rock and roll band.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Album: Little Neon Limelight
Artist: Houndmouth
Label: Rough Trade
Release Date: March 17th

houndmouth_cover

Indiana’s Houndmouth are like an alt-country Voltron. Each member has their own strength and story, but man do they ever make magic when it all comes together.

On their second full-length album Little Neon Limelight, the band creates a spectacular collage of the American landscape, brilliantly channeling early sixties’ Dolly alongside late seventies’ Springsteen into stories and snapshots so tangible, you can taste the dust as it flies from their wheels.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Album: Sour Soul
Artist: BadBadNotGood and Ghostface Killah
Label: Lex Records
Release Date: February 24th

BADBADNOTGOOD_&_Ghostface_Killah_-_%22Sour_Soul%22_official_album_artwork

Ghostface Killah’s repertoire of samples and beats sound like they come straight from an old man’s dusty vinyl collectionmeaning a collaboration with Toronto’s BadBadNotGood was basically destiny.

Sour Soul is a hell of an accomplishment for both artists. Every track takes the aging Staten Island emcee far outside his comfort zone, and puts BadBadNotGood’s adaptability and versatility on display. Sour Soul lets you believe that the live sound – and not the same, tired trap sound – has a place on any emcee’s album. It’s fresh and classic all at once.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Album: To Pimp a Butterfly
Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Label: Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope
Release Date: March 15th

Kendrick Lamar

The internet loved doing two things in 2015. 1) Tweeting/instagramming group pictures that said #squadgoals and 2) Endlessly gushing about Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfuly. Only one of these two things was justified.

That said, you do not need another missive about how relentlessly good this album is. My hope is, you are already well informed of that fact.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Album: Ibeyi
Artist: Ibeyi
Label: XL
Release Date: February 17th

ibeyi-two

“Ibeyi” is basically Yoruba for “Wonder Twins, activate!” Well, not really, but it does describe a sort of shared energy between twins. A superpower, if you will. Those twins in question are Lisa-Kainde and Naomi Diaz, French-Cuban daughters of Anga Diaz, percussionist for Buena Vista Social Club. Though he passed in 2006 (the twins were only 11), the sound their father fostered is alive and well on this album.

Tracks like “Oya” and “The River” show how deeply moved Ibeyi are by their afro-Cuban roots, combined with their affinity for modern R&B and hip hop.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Album: Blurryface
Artist: Twenty One Pilots
Label: Fueled By Ramen
Release Date: May 17th

Twenty One Pilots - BlurryfaceThis year Twenty One Pilots killed it with their follow up album to 2013’s hit Vessel.

With reggae inspired songs such as “Ride,” “Polarize,” and “Lane Boy,” they stood out from their genre because of their originality. Blurryface is definitely a stand out album worth giving a listen to.

– Katie Kuropas

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Album: New Glow
Artist: Matt and Kim
Label: Fader Label
Release Date: April 7th

matt and kim - new glow

I’ve never been disappointed with a Matt and Kim album, and New Glow is no exception. It starts out with the upbeat song “Hey Now,” where the poppy melody makes you want to dance and sing a long right with them.

Their humor is showcased as well, with “Hoodie On,” a relatable song about feeling cool while wearing a favorite piece of clothing, which makes me laugh every time. New Glow is the perfect album for when you’re in great mood, or for when you need something to get you there.

– Katie Kuropas

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Album: Back on Top
Artist: The Front Bottoms
Label: Fueled by Ramen
Release Date: September 18th

front-bottoms-back-on-top

With this being The Front Bottoms’ major label debut, I was skeptical thinking that it might be a little more over produced than their earlier work. Boy was I wrong! While it does have a higher production value, it is full of great, upbeat songs that still have that acoustic punk sound that The Front Bottoms are known for.

– Katie Kuropas

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Album: Kintsugi
Artist: Death Cab For Cutie
Label: Atlantic
Release Date: March 31st

Death Cab For Cutie - Kintsugi

Kintsugi marks Death Cab For Cutie’s eighth studio album, and the first album without longtime producer and guitarist Chris Walla.

The band returns to their roots that they strayed away from in 2011’s Codes and Keys, with the songs “Black Sun,” and “Ghosts of Beverly Drive,” which was refreshing to see. Death Cab is my favorite band, so all together I was over the moon that they finally put their first batch of new music since 2011.

– Katie Kuropas

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Album: Ivy Tripp
Artist: Waxahatchee
Label: Merge
Release Date: April 7th

Waxahatchee

Ivy Tripp is the third album by Waxahatchee and features some of Katie Crutchfield’s most cohesive and catchiest songs to date.

The title is a phrase she made up to refer to being directionless and not knowing what to, which is something a lot of twenty-somethings, much like myself, can relate to. It’s worth a listen if you’re feeling like something more on the tranquil indie rock mood.

– Katie Kuropas

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Album: 25
Artist: Adele
Label: XL
Release Date: November 20th

adele-25-album-cover

This may inevitably be on everyone’s list of best albums this year. It took me a few full listens to get a good feel for this one, as Adele introduces songs like “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)“ which has more of an upbeat, Katy Perry-esque pop sound.

The album shows a more mature side of Adele, in what she calls her “make up” album. With tracks like “Sweetest Devotion” incorporating her daughter’s voice, Adele has evolved sonically while still belting out those heart-wrenching ballads we all know her for.

From start to finish, there is more of a subtlety to this album than the two previous ones, but it functions as a growing narrative piece from start to finish that has notable elements of pop, jazz and blues.

– Morgan Hotston

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Album: Then Came The Morning
Artist: The Lone Bellow
Label: Descendant Records
Release Date: January 23rd

lone bellow

Then Came The Morning, the sophomore album from The Lone Bellow is one of my favourite albums of the year for good reason. The band has an incredibly powerful and moving stage presence, which also translates to their energy in recorded form. They’ve developed a loyal fan base with singles like “Then Came The Morning” gaining popularity on the radio, bringing them well deserved international exposure.

The album is just bursting with emotion, catchy melodies, and blues inspired harmonies and instrumentals. Highlighting each individual’s vocal styles, this album has such a variety of sound from start to finish that it is always engaging to listen to in any mood.

– Morgan Hotston

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Album: Blurryface
Artist: Twenty One Pilots
Label: Fueled By Ramen
Release Date: May 17th

Twenty One Pilots - Blurryface

It seems like Twenty One Pilots exploded in popularity overnight. Blurryface, although quite different sonically than their previous albums, has brought the band into the realm of almost cult popularity. This album introduced more electronic and synthetic sounds, while still maintaining their feel as a duo.

Since signing to Fueled By Ramen, they’ve shifted to more single oriented albums without compromising content and their individuality as musicians. The diversity of this album is striking, yet it flows as an incredibly narrative with this character introduced as “blurryface”, standing as a metaphor for many inner demons discussed lyrically.

It’s often hard to believe Twenty One Pilots only consists of two members, when their sound, live and recorded, is so full and seemingly organic. I don’t think I’ve grown so obsessed over a band’s sound ever as much as I have listening to their music, old and new.

– Morgan Hotston

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Album: Badlands
Artist: Halsey
Label: Astralwerks/Capitol
Release Date: August 28th

Halsey

Pretty much one of the best debut albums. Halsey isn’t afraid to put herself out there and it shows. This album is daring and enthralling.

– Emily Kovacic

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Album: Sound & Color
Artist: Alabama Shakes
Label: Rough Trade
Release Date: April 21st

alabama shakesI fell in love with Brittany Howard’s voice a few years ago when Alabama Shakes opened for Jack White, so I eagerly expected their second album.

Released in April, Sound & Color didn’t disappoint, and was my year-long ear worm

– Julian Avram

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Album: 25
Artist: Adele
Label: XL
Release Date: November 20th

adele-25-album-coverThe thing I love about Adele, besides her insane talent, is the fact that she seems to genuinely write music she loves. I don’t get the sense when listening to her that she’s trying to prove anything or write a song to be a “hit”. She proved that with a lot of talent, people will buy music, and with that I mean, CDs, which is so rare in this digital age.

– Francesca Ludikar

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Album: Volume
Artist: Skindred
Label: Napalm Records
Release Date: October 30th

36916-volume

I have really fallen in love with Benji Webbe’s amazing dynamic voice, great music, and amazing energy. Definitely an album to own.

– Francesca Ludikar

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Album: Badlands
Artist: Halsey
Label: Astralwerks/Capitol
Release Date: August 28th

Halsey

I love every song on this album, it’s artistic, deep, but also very energetic. I find Halsey to be very refreshing compared to a lot of female artists in mainstream music today, she’s doing her own thing.

– Francesca Ludikar

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Album: Black and White Heart
Artist: Andee
Label: Universal Music Canada
Release Date: May 26th

Andee

A very talented Canadian artist who I hope to see much more of, Andee has an amazing voice, very dynamic, and a great sound. She has had many great singles do well in Canada, and the rest of the album won’t disappoint.

– Francesca Ludikar

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Album: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Artist: Florence and The Machine 
Label: Island
Release Date: June 2nd

Florence_-_The_Machine_-_How_Big_How_Blue_How_Beautiful

Florence is a fantastic artist, she has a very unique sound and presence and it shows on this album.

– Francesca Ludikar

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Album: Blurryface
Artist: Twenty One Pilots
Label: Fueled By Ramen
Release Date: May 17th

Twenty One Pilots - Blurryface

To say I am a fan of twenty one pilots would be an understatement. However, even if I was not crazy for them, I would still have a reason to be obsessed with this album. Their previous studio album Vessel, is the type of album that I can listen to every single day, and never get bored of.

I had high expectations for Blurryface, and was slightly nervous when “Fairly Local” was released as the first single. My faith was restored when hits like “Stressed Out” and “Lane Boy” were later released. Every song on the album sounds a bit different, but still wholeheartedly captures the essence of Twenty One Pilots. If you haven’t picked up a copy of this album, what are you waiting for?

– Sam Lichtenstein

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Album: Glitterbug
Artist: The Wombats
Label: 14th Floor Records
Release Date: April 13th

The Wombats

British indie-pop band The Wombats released Glitterbug in early 2015, with an accompanying tour in the US. My personal favorites include “Give Me a Try,” “Greek Tragedy,” and “Headspace,” which all have catchy lyrics and an upbeat tune that you can dance around to.

– Sam Lichtenstein

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Album: SWAAY
Artist: DNCE
Label: Republic
Release Date: October 23rd

dnce-swaay-ep-cover-artwork-2015-426x426

DNCE is the brainchild of former Jonas Brother Joe Jonas, Jack Lawless, Cole Whittle and JinJoo Lee. They released the single “Cake by the Ocean” in September, and it quickly appeared on the US Billboard Hot 100.

SWAAY was released in late October, and although it only features four songs, it blew me away. Joe Jonas made a previous attempt back in 2011 to recreate his Disney image, with a solo album called Fastlife. DNCE’s sound is upbeat and poppy, taking inspiration from Jonas’ personality.

– Sam Lichtenstein

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Album: Life’s Not Out To Get You
Artist: Neck Deep
Label: Hopeless
Release Date: August 14th

Neck Deep

Neck Deep’s sophomore album blew me out of the water, and it had the same effect on many other fans of the British pop-punk group. The album charted at number 8 in the UK, reached the top 20 in the US, and reached the top 40 in Ireland and Australia.

“Can’t Kick Up the Roots” was the first single from the album, and upon listening to it for the first time when it was released in May, I was hooked. The rest of the album didn’t disappoint; the title of the album comes from “Gold Steps,” a song about overcoming obstacles and making the most of any situation, while “Kali Ma” is a summer time jam that can still pack a punch when winter comes.

– Sam Lichtenstein

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Album: Colour Blind
Artist: Seaway
Label: Pure Noise Records
Release Date: October 23rd

Seaway

Seaway’s “Colourblind” is the pop punk album of the year. It starts off strong with “Slam,” a song that packs a guitar punch and lyrics someone can chant along to. “Freak” and “Still Weird” are two of my personal favorites, especially after seeing the band live when they opened for Knuckle Puck in the fall.

– Sam Lichtenstein

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Album: Coming Home
Artist: Leon Bridges
Label: Columbia 
Release Date: June 23rd

Leon Bridges

The hairs on my arm stood up the first time I heard Leon Bridges sing. His voice give me chills. A year ago this guy was washing dishes for a living and now he’s selling out huge theater shows and basking in the love of critics around the world. He’s got a beautiful Sam Cooke thing going on, and it is irresistible to my ears.

– Josh Terzino

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Album: To Pimp a Butterfly
Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Label: Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope
Release Date: March 15th

Kendrick Lamar

To make an album as richly entertaining as How To Pimp A Butterfly is impressive. To make it such an electrifying political statement as well could have ended a prospering career.

Lamar pulls it off, making one of the most critically acclaimed and best-selling records of the year. Imbued with jazz and stream-of-conscious poetry, Butterfly is a perfect display of a talented man refusing to compromise.

– Josh Terzino

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Album: Songs That Couldn’t Swim (A Collection of Demos)
Artist: Gloom Balloon
Label: Maximum Ames Records
Release Date: March 17th

gloom-1024x960

This is the smallest release in my best-of list, but it deserves to be so much bigger. Patrick Tape-Fleming has put together a collection of tunes that is equal parts sweet and dark. He puts so much of himself into every song its like Being John Malkovich where you’re INSIDE his head. Very intimate and very well made, Gloom Balloon is an artist I wouldn’t want to live without.

– Josh Terzino

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Album: Goon
Artist: Tobias Jesso Jr. 
Label: True Panther Records
Release Date: March 17th

goon

There’s a lot about Tobias Jesso you could hate. He pals around with the HAIM girls and writes songs with Adele when he’s not busy with his own music. But that doesn’t matter when your songs are this good. Even the weakest track on Goon is better than 90 per cent of what I heard this year.

– Josh Terzino

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Album: Perpetual Motion People
Artist: Ezra Furman
Label: Bella Union
Release Date: July 6th

Ezra-Furman-Perpetual-Motion-People433

Ezra Furman has, over the past few years, catapulted himself into the upper echelon of American songwriters. Starting with his work on Mysterious Power, the final album he did with The Harpoons, he’s made four amazing albums in a row.

His latest, Perpetual Motion People, is his best yet. Backed by his band The Boy-Friends, there isn’t a genre they can’t play or a topic Furman is afraid to tackle. The album deals a lot with sexuality and identity, and facing these head on, Furman comes out more confident and ferocious than ever.

– Josh Terzino

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  1. Pingback: All Those Best Of…Music Lists In 2015 In One Place | That Eric Alper - December 12, 2015

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