Favorite Albums of 2015

FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2015

Another year down. Another crop of records obsessed over. This time, I decided to go against ranking things in a traditional list. Instead, I've simply compiled 15 of my favorite albums and placed them in alphabetical order. All have given me sonic pleasure throughout 2015. All are worth cherishing.


by Jericho Cerrona January 10, 2016


Alex Calder Strange Dreams

Like a more obscure Max DeMarco, Alex Calder makes warped pop music with hints of melody wrapped in an acid bath. An unsettling combination of VHS tape hiss and synth-pop wonder.

Chester Watson Summer Mirage

A 19-minute, 6 track EP might seem disappointing after the 18-year-old Florida rapper's 70-minute opus Tin Wooki dropped last year, but condensing ideas actually makes his abstract sound more palpable. Atmospheric production, bass-heavy beats, and stream-of-consciousness rhyming means this kid has some legitimate skills.

Gentleman Surfer Gold Man

Sacramento, CA weirdos make another blast of carefully calibrated, mostly instrumental madness after 2013's bizarro masterpiece Blaks with this spastic, demented, and unhinged gem that showcases some serious musical chops. Prog-rock that's way cooler than you and flaunts it.

It Only Gets Worse Christian Country Home

Alabama-based spoken word artist Matt Finney and Dutch musician Mories get bleak and daringly beautiful with this, their third collaboration; an immersive plunge into the realm of atonal glitches, analog synths, and despairing wordplay.

Kamasi Washington The Epic

A 10-piece jazz band, 32-piece orchestra and 20-member choir all tackling swing, funk, bebop, soul, orchestrated free-jazz as concocted by a 34-year-old jazz musician wunderkind. Ambitious, unwieldy, and utterly brilliant.

La Luz Weirdo Shrine

A gorgeous waltz through Dick Dale-inspired guitar licks, ambient organs, and dreamy vocals in the Shangri-las mode, all manned by producer/guitar maestro Ty Segall. More than simply "surf rock" pastiche.

Palmbomen II Palmbomen II

The latest brainchild from Neatherlands-based musician Kai Hugo (and friends) is a concept album revolving around The X-Files (yes, you heard that right). Wobbly, synth-driven 90s kitsch, done right.

Petite Noir La Vie Est Belle / Life is Beautiful

This extraordinary achievement from half-Angolan, half-Congolese musician Yannick Ilunga weaves African rhythms with 80s new wave and anthemic indie rock to give us something close to perfection.

The Pop Group Citizen Zombie

Pioneers of late 70s UK punk are back with a comeback few expected and even fewer thought would turn out this brilliant; a cacophonous, groove-heavy art-rock album that recalls Bowie in it's uncompromising mixture of strangeness and melodicism.

Protomartyr The Agent Intellect

Frontman Joey Casey shouts, slurs, and mutters his way through Protomarty's latest slab of gutter post-punk. If The Fall crawled out of the underbelly of Detroit, it would sound something like this.

Shamir Ratchet

The year's best summer jam record, bar none; an infectious mix of R & B, disco, house, and wonky pop, all carried along by 20-year-old Shamir Bailey with eccentric confidence.

Tal National Zoy Zoy

There's so much complex history running throughout the undulating percussion and graceful vocals in this album that signifiers such "world music" feel extremely narrow. Based out of Niger and utilizing elements of Afro-beat, desert blues, and West African call-and-response, Zoy Zoy is musically dense, consistently pleasurable, and always full of life.

Viet Cong Viet Cong

Taking the basement-dwelling lo-fi aesthetic of last year's Cassette and then blowing it up to new levels of sonic brilliance. Think little dabs of Joy Division, Wire, and Guided by Voices along with the Calvary post-punkers usual habit of atonal racket, feedback-drenched noise, and monotone vocals.

Wand Golem

This thing gets heavier, dreamier, doomier, and more epic as it sludges along. Pure psych-metal with elements of Brian Eno and T. Rex thrown in to balance out the bong smoke. It's Cave-In getting into a bathroom brawl with The Melvins and Sabbath! And of course, Ty Segall is involved.

Young Fathers White Men are Black Men Too

Recorded on-the-fly in apartments and hotel rooms, this is the year's most boldly left-field hip-hop album, if one can even label it as such. A patchwork of spontaneous outbursts and layered experimentation.

Best Albums of 2013

This is a list documenting my most beloved albums of 2013. It is not a window into my soul or a reason to lambast Kayne West, Daft Punk, or Vampire Weekend for making wildly overpraised albums. Alright, maybe there's a little bit of that, but what's most interesting is the absence of that full-blown masterpiece early on that made the race to the top a foregone conclusion. So, without further ado, here are my favorite records of 2013!

Best Albums of 2013
3.

ALTAR OF PLAGUES Teethed Glory and Injury

A dense combination of post-rock mood and black metal intensity, Ireland's Altar of Plagues take big risks within a musical niche most often characterized by conformity. Repetitious drums explode like crescendoing volcanos. Shrieked vocals claw their way through overwhelming guitar drone. Avant-garde jazz interludes weave around frenzied synths and blackened distortion. A beautiful synthesis of crushing heaviness and slowly building tranquility. Demanding, punishing, and awe-inspiring.

25-11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Best Albums of 2013

This is a list documenting my most beloved albums of 2013. It is not a window into my soul or a reason to lambast Kayne West, Daft Punk, or Vampire Weekend for making wildly overpraised albums. Alright, maybe there's a little bit of that, but what's most interesting is the absence of that full-blown masterpiece early on that made the race to the top a foregone conclusion. So, without further ado, here are my favorite records of 2013!

Best Albums of 2013
4.

JULIAN LYNCH Lines

Experimental, playful, and in love with acid-burnt psychedelia and rambling folk, Julian Lynch's elliptical home recordings finally get the outlet they deserve. At times, the hushed vocals get buried in a sea of finger-picking, drunken sax, tambourines, and endless drum loops, but this is a work of shifting, almost boundless atmosphere. As such, it is an essential work of art that places an importance on musical ethnicity over standard song structure.

25-11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Best Albums of 2013

This is a list documenting my most beloved albums of 2013. It is not a window into my soul or a reason to lambast Kayne West, Daft Punk, or Vampire Weekend for making wildly overpraised albums. Alright, maybe there's a little bit of that, but what's most interesting is the absence of that full-blown masterpiece early on that made the race to the top a foregone conclusion. So, without further ado, here are my favorite records of 2013!

Best Albums of 2013
2.

SON LUX Lanterns

Mastermind/producer Ryan Lott has so many musical reference points (from hip-hop, electronic bedroom pop, R & B, anthemic indie rock, classical arrangements, cinematic orchestral movements, etc) that one might suspect his majestic third album Lanterns to topple under the weight of self-indulgence. Instead, this is the work of a sincere artist shifting between styles and moods relentlessly and with such bold confidence that it's a miracle the songs actually resonate beyond the bombast. Epic, rousing, brilliantly conceived art-pop that taps into that imaginative space in the brain that breeds pleasure.

25-11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Best Albums of 2013

This is a list documenting my most beloved albums of 2013. It is not a window into my soul or a reason to lambast Kayne West, Daft Punk, or Vampire Weekend for making wildly overpraised albums. Alright, maybe there's a little bit of that, but what's most interesting is the absence of that full-blown masterpiece early on that made the race to the top a foregone conclusion. So, without further ado, here are my favorite records of 2013!

Best Albums of 2013
1.  

FROG EYES Carrey Cold Springs

A haunting response to death and overwhelming human loneliness that nevertheless ranks as Frog Eyes's most hopeful album to date, this extraordinary work from veteran troubadour Carey Mercer is the sound of an artist being laid bare for his art. Diagnosed with throat cancer prior to recording, Mercer uses his stunning low register to howl at the fragility of mortality and in turns creates something singular. Frog Eyes have been making noisy art-rock since the early 2000's and Mercer himself has had other side projects (Blackout Beach, Swan Lake), but this seems to be what he's been building towards all along. With Kayne West and Vampire Weekend receiving nearly unanimous year-end praise from critics, it's the sound of Mercer's tortured wail, so distinctive and yet so fragile, that lingers most.

25-11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Best Albums of 2013

This is a list documenting my most beloved albums of 2013. It is not a window into my soul or a reason to lambast Kayne West, Daft Punk, or Vampire Weekend for making wildly overpraised albums. Alright, maybe there's a little bit of that, but what's most interesting is the absence of that full-blown masterpiece early on that made the race to the top a foregone conclusion. So, without further ado, here are my favorite records of 2013!

Best Albums of 2013
7. 

THE KNIFE Shaking The Habitual

Traditional electro-pop, this ain't. Swedish siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer's monstrous epic feels like a calculated affront to the music industry who once awarded them a Swedish Grammy. It's a nightmarish, off-kilter, and just plain masterful collision of ambient synths, tropical percussion, warped vocals, and insane track lengths. The whole thing eschews both radio play and categorization, resulting in an artistic tour-de-force of mood and texture.

25-11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Best Albums of 2013

This is a list documenting my most beloved albums of 2013. It is not a window into my soul or a reason to lambast Kayne West, Daft Punk, or Vampire Weekend for making wildly overpraised albums. Alright, maybe there's a little bit of that, but what's most interesting is the absence of that full-blown masterpiece early on that made the race to the top a foregone conclusion. So, without further ado, here are my favorite records of 2013!

Best Albums of 2013
6. 

GENTLEMAN SURFER Blaks

John Bafus, Drew Walker, and Barry McDanie's dizzying ode to all things experimental; from the math-punk tenacity of Cap N' Jazz to the free-jazz goofiness of Mr. Bungle, is a hugely rewarding mixture of styles. Improvisational madness that still finds room for groove and melody. A bizarro prog-pop masterpiece.

25-11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Best Albums of 2013

This is a list documenting my most beloved albums of 2013. It is not a window into my soul or a reason to lambast Kayne West, Daft Punk, or Vampire Weekend for making wildly overpraised albums. Alright, maybe there's a little bit of that, but what's most interesting is the absence of that full-blown masterpiece early on that made the race to the top a foregone conclusion. So, without further ado, here are my favorite records of 2013!

Best Albums of 2013
5. 

THE WOOLEN MEN Dog Years

Culled from various cassette tapes by a Portland trio who combine the lo-fi spunk of garage rock with the brevity and ethos of punk, this deceptive little gem sneaks up on you. Singer Rafael Spielman yelps, hollers, and coos over the course of 12 tracks, with the music alternating between reverb-drenched psych rock, laconic garage-pop jauntiness, and cranky lo-fi punk. It's an impressive stew of influences; ranging from Wipers, Dead Moon, and early New Zealand Flying Nun pop, and just as magnetic.

25-11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Best Albums of 2013

This is a list documenting my most beloved albums of 2013. It is not a window into my soul or a reason to lambast Kayne West, Daft Punk, or Vampire Weekend for making wildly overpraised albums. Alright, maybe there's a little bit of that, but what's most interesting is the absence of that full-blown masterpiece early on that made the race to the top a foregone conclusion. So, without further ado, here are my favorite records of 2013!

Best Albums of 2013
8.

PARQUET COURTS Light Up Gold

Kind of like listening to The Dead Kennedys under the spell of Big Star, this ramshackle indie/punk/Americana/whatever you want to call it stomper is full of sardonic energy and hugely memorable songs. Austin Brown and Andrew Savage come across like laconic slackers dabbling in self-reflection, and with each guitar strum and slurred line, you start to realize how difficult it is to make an album this great. Brazen, reckless, invigorating.

25-11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Best Albums of 2013

This is a list documenting my most beloved albums of 2013. It is not a window into my soul or a reason to lambast Kayne West, Daft Punk, or Vampire Weekend for making wildly overpraised albums. Alright, maybe there's a little bit of that, but what's most interesting is the absence of that full-blown masterpiece early on that made the race to the top a foregone conclusion. So, without further ado, here are my favorite records of 2013!

Best Albums of 2013
9.

XENIA RUBINOS Magic Trix

Puerto Rican/Cuban musician Xenia Rubinos's startling debut is a one of a kind wonder, a brilliant tapestry of chopped rhythms and smoky vocals that for all it's eccentricity, is still a forlorn collection of love songs. As Rubinos layers her voice over off-timed drumming and quirky keyboards, the listening experience becomes an indefinable journey into the soul of a woman unbounded by the constraints of pop music.

25-11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Best Albums of 2013

This is a list documenting my most beloved albums of 2013. It is not a window into my soul or a reason to lambast Kayne West, Daft Punk, or Vampire Weekend for making wildly overpraised albums. Alright, maybe there's a little bit of that, but what's most interesting is the absence of that full-blown masterpiece early on that made the race to the top a foregone conclusion. So, without further ado, here are my favorite records of 2013!

Best Albums of 2013
10.

DESTRUCTION UNIT Deep Trip

These neo-psychedelic rockers from Arizona take the noisier elements of punk and distill them with space rock trippiness to such an abrasive degree that one might be inclined to flee in terror. No matter. The brutal, drug-like trance of the music takes you by the throat and tightens it's grip with an unrelenting force. Like peeling back the layers of an abyss to realize that there's a blacker void still.

25-11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Best Albums of 2013

This is a list documenting my most beloved albums of 2013. It is not a window into my soul or a reason to lambast Kayne West, Daft Punk, or Vampire Weekend for making wildly overpraised albums. Alright, maybe there's a little bit of that, but what's most interesting is the absence of that full-blown masterpiece early on that made the race to the top a foregone conclusion. So, without further ado, here are my favorite records of 2013!

Best Albums of 2013
ALBUMS 25-11
25.
 

YAMANTAKA//SONIC TITAN Uzu

A sweeping movement of Asian theater, prog-rock, and psychedelic melody that allows singer Ruby Kato Atwood and drummer Alaska B to thematically invoke the Chinese sea goddess Mazu while still laying waste to your ear drums. A grand bit of rock opera that never dips into pretentiousness.


 

WAMPIRE Curiousity

Danceable, nightmarish, and mired in 80's cheese, this thing comes on like the year's best auditory in-joke. There's antiquated synths, electronic backbeats, and warbly vocals, but most of all there's a real goofy charm to Portland duo Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps's sardonic debut.

24.

23.
 

GAJAH & MUTE SPEAKER On & Offspring

There's no shortage of 16-bit bleeps, click-clack percussion and intricate rhymes on Los Angeles MC Gajah and Brighton beatmaker Mute Speaker's manifesto On & Offspring. It's one of the year's most underrated underground rap albums, and one that's as playful as it is experimental. Left-field hip-hop is still alive and buzzing.


 

PURLING HISS Water on Mars

It's been a while since we got a full on rock n'roll album that not only taps into the pre-grunge 90's sound but also emulates it's intensity without coming across disingenuous. Enter Birds of Maya guitarist Mike Polizze, who makes his bid for Dinosaur Jr/Pavement-style axe wielder with this stunning slab of detuned chord progression, reckless soloing, and snarling vocals. A more polished affair than past Purling Hiss efforts, but no less ferocious.

22.

21.
 

MATMOS The Marriage of True Minds

Matmos's ninth album is a collection of dense instrumentals involving parapsychological telepathy that's still remarkably catchy. If you want slow lurches of piano, telephone sounds, bath water, and choral chanting dance music, you've come to the right place. Bat-shit crazy and brilliant.


 

JUANA MOLINA Wed 21

Electro-folk is a weird genre label, but Argentine musician Juana Molina fits the bill with this beguiling mosaic of fragmented bass loops, repetitive guitar chords, and mysterious Spanish mutterings. It's dark and slightly off-kilter, but also wistful, reconfirming Molina as the avant-garde female heir apparent to Tom Waits.

20.

19.
 

JOHN WIZARDS John Wizards

South African guitarist John Withers and Rwandan singer Emmanuel Nzaramba came out of nowhere to land one of the year's most original creations; a magical stew of Afropop, electronica, chamber-pop, reggae, dub, and house that's both bewildering and forward-thinking. A work of endless imagination that takes a multi-ethnic approach and hits the sweet spot.


 

MELT YOURSELF DOWN Melt Yourself Down

Think cocaine-addled sax playing, reverberating bass-guitar hooks, strange guttural noises, French babbling, thumping congas and African rhythms. This is world music with a circus freak edge, with saxophonist Pete Wareham leading this motley crew of talented musicians down the rabbit hole. A great, big bellowing party record.

18.

17.
 

ELISON JACKSON Do Not Fear To Kill A Dead Man

With a dash of Bill Callahan-style rustic balladry and the experimentation of something altogether darker, the third full-length by this CT five-piece is the perfect synthesis of atmospheric folk, blues, and baroque pop. An Intimate, organic, beautiful piece of work.


 

DEATH GRIPS Government Plates

Perhaps an even more startling record than last year's No Love Deep Web. With no one left to offend and all bridges burned, Death Grips unceremoniously dropped this claustrophobic fuck-off to the music industry that took MC Ride's normally ballistic rants and hid them behind Flatlander's spastic production. An auditory landscape as unsettling and frantic as anything they've done yet, and that's really saying something.

16.

15.
 

ORNASSI PAZUZU Valonielu

A black metal album that doesn't bludgeon the listener with blast beats and incessant noise, this tripped out masterpiece from some insanely talented Finnish dudes switches gears so gleefully that even metalheads favoring experimentation will be taken aback. An epic bit of business; with all matters of doom, psych, and space-rock trappings tailored to repetitive guitar riffs and hoarse screams.


 

BLACK MILK No Poison, No Paradise

Contrasting childhood experiences with adulthood responsibilities, Detroit producer/MC Black Milk takes on a semi-fictional character and delivers an introspective hip-hop album that deserves mention alongside J Dilla and Madlib. Unhurried rhymes, frank thematic content, jazzy instrumentation, and syncopated drum snares mark the sound of an artist searching for meaning in a genre largely concerned with surface excess.

14.

13.
 

ROBERT POLLARD Honey Locust Honky Tonk

Certainly the best thing the mad genius has released in many years, this modest charmer (Pollard's 19th solo joint!) has all the usual staples; relatively short songs lengths, catchy melodies, stream of consciousness lyrics, but it's also got deliberately paced songs that feel surprisingly polished. Often criticized for his refusal to edit himself, Pollard once again proves that he simply has music in his heart and can't contain a wellspring of ideas. We should consider ourselves grateful.


 

DEERHUNTER Monomania

Deerhunter could have easily reproduced the jangle-pop ambiance of 2010's Halcyon Digest and made everyone happy. Instead, they jerk the wheel into oncoming traffic and deliver a bold artistic statement where discordant noise collides with blues and glam rock. It's the sort of thing that will likely divide fans, but chances are frontman Bradford Cox doesn't care. Confident and daring.

12.

11.
 

ZORCH Zzoorrcchh

A bombastic melding of digital craziness, this one. Austin duo Shmu and Zac Traeger get into some serious afrobeat, electro anthems, chiptune and prog-rock excess on their debut and make something unclassifiable. A glitch pop explosion of sonic ideas and harebrained oddness, kind of like Animal Collective on Ritalin jumping inside a bounce house, and just as awesome as that sounds.

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