The Free Weekly's Favorite Albums of 2015

The Free Weekly's Favorite Albums of 2015

What a year 2015 has been for music.

This may have been one of the best years for new music the world’s had since… who knows. Maybe 1969. Many new artists who bring lasting appeal have made their way to the many best albums of the year lists. It’s an exciting time for music, and this was an exciting list to curate.

If you even take the time to read this section of the article, let me begrudgingly apologize in advance. This list is not an all-encompassing list of the best music in 2015. It’s merely a nice feature on some excellent music that came to our attention.

You’ll notice a lack of some genres and even some other incredible albums that we weren’t able to fit in here, but that is absolutely not intended to be elitist. So before getting mad about the lack of Djent in the list, know that.

In no particular order:

alabama-shakes-sound-and-colorSound & Color

by Alabama Shakes

(Neo-soul, Southern Rock)

Who would have thought the old-school rock and rollers who are famous for “Hold On” would go on to follow up with such a contemporary masterpiece as “Sound and Color”? The band went their own path, shucking the expectations of another safe roots rock style album and instead crafted an impeccable work of rock n’ roll and new-age soul.

The album has a wonderful mix of soft and edgy. “This Feeling” will make you want to have a happy cry to yourself about life, and “Future People” will get you grooving to the syncopated guitar rhythms and heavy fuzz guitar in the chorus.

Britney Howard and The Shakes are here to stay. Get with it if you haven’t yet.

KDotTo Pimp A Butterfly

by Kendrick Lamar

(Hip Hop)

There’s too much to say about this one. KDot is at the forefront of the progressive hip hop scene, and To Pimp A Butterfly is an important, instant classic.

The production of the album is incredible. It’s a smorgasbord of noise — acid jazz, upbeat funk, haunting soul — and a monster of a work in words and poetry from beginning to end.

Lamar’s bold, outward thinking and exploration of black lives rang loud and true in a time of racial strife and polarizing politics amid the #blacklivesmatter movement. “Alright” even became an unofficial activist theme song.

The album has a few tracks you could listen to casually, but it nearly demands for the listener to put on a pair of headphones and dive into Lamar’s — often dark — creative genius.

CournetbarnettSometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

by Courtney Barnett

(Indie Rock)

Here’s another newcomer that should be on everybody’s watchlist. The Aussie Courtney Barnett combines catchy, crunchy indie rock — and wonderfully soft moments a la “Depreston” — and dead pan singing with her clever stream-of-consciousness songwriting style to great effect. Her voice comes as a breath of fresh air in a culture where everyone is seeking authenticity. Plus, the music is just really good.

Her songwriting style may appear mundane and off-beat at first, but upon further reflection, they hint at deeper philosophical and wry commentary. The lyrics addressed to the listener place her attitude perfectly in her slow-burner “Kim’s Caravan”: “Don’t ask me what I really mean. I am just a reflection of what you really want to see, so take what you want from me.”

FJMHoneybearI Love You, Honeybear

by Father John Misty


Experimental songwriting was quite the hot idea this year. Father John Misty’s (a.k.a Josh Tillman) “Honeybear” continues his own brand of deeply cynical, sarcastic, existential lyrics along with a lovely chamber-pop/lounge singer aesthetic. The lyrics are pretty real, though. In songs like “Holy Shit,” Tillman sings about the kind of life lessons that come to you at the end of a chapter in life or mental trip.

The music is lush, melodic and soothing to the ear. Tillman can sing beautifully, though it can get wordy. “When You’re Smiling And Astride Me” makes for a lights-down-low lover’s anthem along with the hallucinogenic story of “Strange Encounter.” The dude even dips into electronica with “True Affection.”

Love him or hate him, “I Love You, Honeybear” is an impressive album worth any cynic’s time.


by Chris Stapleton


Primal, heartfelt, exposed, minimalist, but country all the same. When Stapleton debuted earlier this year, it began to look like Sturgill Simpson may have some company in the best new alternative country artist category. Stapleton sings with a perfect soulful affectation of raspy blues and southern rock twang with the Otis Redding-like “Tennessee Whiskey” being the showcase of his talent.

The dude looks like a coon-hat wearin’ rifle-strapin’, grizzly mountain man, but his soulful, vulnerable songwriting shows there’s a big softy who can write the hell out of some love songs underneath it all. Give this man a listen if you’re hurtin’ for some new — good — country music.

grimes-art-angels-coverArt Angels

by Grimes

(Art Pop)

Few albums described as “pop” can forego the stigma that the genre brings as being shallow, pandering and low-brow. All that being said, “Art Angels” by Grimes, the Canadian songwriter solely responsible for the entirety of the album, sounds like a perfect snapshot of what modern pop is capable of. If art pop nowadays is about electronic elements, aggressive rhythms, synths and ghostly vocals both abound and restrained in the middle of mix, then Grimes has got it goin’ on.

Sure, it isn’t classic pop. But in 2015, it resonates in such an accessible way while simultaneously exploring a dark, brooding tonality that enriches the experience. At times the music is like Madonna, Pretty Lights, FKA Twigs, Blondie, Panic! At The Disco and even Lana Del Ray. It’s catchy, but nowhere near in the way that the repetitive nature of modern pop is.

Expect to hear Grimes in every sexy, modern lounge/bar for the next year.

SoSMonophonicsSound of Sinning

by Monophonics

(Psychedelic Soul)

You ever find yourself wishing you were born in the 60s? Well, it’s possible Monophonics discovered a wormhole from 1969 to 2015 with their newest album. The groovy, powerful music of “The Sound of Sinning” is perfectly timeless, and there isn’t one bad composition on the entire album. Kelly Finnegan, the band’s keyboardist and vocalist, sings with an irresistible intensity and soulful croon comparable to St. Paul and the Broken Bones.

The San Francisco group demonstrates a thorough understanding of analog production, and this album seems like a motown or soul-freak’s fantasy. All those tones and sounds of yesteryear, plus many new age sounds are at play. Track after track, the band nails a perfect blend of psych pop, soul, rock and funk. It’s a shame these guys haven’t caught on to the American audience yet.


by Tame Impala

(Psychedelic Pop)

Kevin Parker, a.k.a. Tame Impala, has created a mammoth of an eclectic album to lose yourself in. It’s spacious and big at times, and focused and tight moments later. It’s trippy, too, but in a really fun way. Most all the songs feature a strong, catchy beat along with a quasi-funky bass line.

It’s the kind of music I would play at a party to make myself seem cooler. It just sounds like modern music.

The album’s seven minute opener, “Let It Happen” is a perfect introduction to the groovy trip Parker is about to lead you on.

The song structures aren’t as clear as most pop songs are, but the music never really breaks the spell it puts you under. The album could be perfect to work to, dance to, intensely listen to, or even sleep to. In some ways, “Currents” sounds like Futuristic Disco. Let that mean whatever you want it to.

Categories: Cover Story