Midyear Report — 10 Favorite Albums of 2015 So Far

Jamie XX — In Colour LP

6 months in, here is my 2015 music midyear report of favorite 10 albums (of the ~170 I’ve listened to) so far replete with general musings. These LPs were the ones that shattered my deep-seated music consciousness or confirmed my pop inclinations (a tad different than the widely discussed “poptimism”).

Overall, whereas 2014 was a very underwhelming year for LPs, one could posit that 2015's tagline would be the year of the non-hits; almost all my top albums lack a massive signature song, but their gestalt suffers no less. Tangentially, there are limited singles that define this year (trying to anoint a summer jam right now relative to past years is quite a slog though that usually gets decided en masse in September). For the record, I would put my money, or trap arms up, on Fetty Wap.

One final point that keeps emerging is the unparalleled creep of the artifice surrounding an album overtaking or running in parallel with the album’s success. Bjork might put out a devastating record, but let’s rightfully talk about women’s (or women critic’s) place in rock, or Drake can frontrun his new mixtape record while letting his legion of fans GPS everywhere he is “runnin’ through the 6 with his woes”. Anyhow, a trend to carefully observe.

Album notes: I’ll say it again, but I would let Jamie XX soundtrack my life with his gorgeous electronic lingua franca (halcyon textures, dance bangers, meditative bliss outs, steel drum cameos). Through the beautiful lies and 70’s soulful pop inherent in Emile Haynie’s latest album, I actually appreciated Rufus Wainwright again on the track “Little Ballerina”. Kendrick Lamar’s timely and much-needed follow-up opus to the brilliant G.K.M.C. neither betrays the artistry behind the classic LA hip-hop production of yesteryear (DJ Quik, Sugafree) nor does it fall flat like a lot of well-meaning political rap (i.e. Talib Kweli or Kid Cudi). Father John Misty’s harmonic opining on the state of America is less depressing than tuneful. Eskimeaux, not just another singer-songwriter, eschews navel-gazing (“I Admit, I’m Scared” song has 4 levels | steady, joyful, punk, holy eff) on O.K. The return of melancolic Sufjan Stevens, my favorite version of Sufjan, finds him no less revelatory as he has abandoned his 50 states project to navigate the passing of his mother. The overly buzzed, off-kilter debut from the wunderkind Shamir could provide a musical beacon for the Snapchat generation encaged in digital maximalism. While critics banter about what lens to judge female musicians, Sleater Kinney revive the “riot grrl” movement 10 years hence their last LP and offer my life-affirming concert of 2015. These girls slay! Bjork, in her soul-crushing breakup album Vulnicura offers her most relatable and accessible work I’ve heard from her in years. And finally, JLin, a Detroit-based female producer, makes my workdays more efficient with her electronic “footwork” grooves.

Coda: Can’t wait to see how this list evolves in another 6 months but it’s shaping up to be a wonderful year.

  1. Jamie XX — In Colour Spotify

See his live performance of “Loud Places” on French TV here.

2. Emile Haynie — We Fell Spotify

3. Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly Spotify

4. Father John Misty — I Love You, Honeybear Spotify

5. Eskimeaux — O.K. Spotify

6. Sufjan Stevens — Carrie & Lowell Spotify

7. Shamir — Ratchet Spotify

8. Sleater Kinney — No Cities To Love Spotify

9. Bjork — Vulnicura Spotify

10. JLin — Dark Energy Spotify

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