In my Best Albums of 2014, I let The War on Drugs have it, so in the sake of holiday tradition it only makes sense to throw umbrage toward another critic favorite that just didn’t do it for me. Given that I think Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City belongs among the noble ranks of Ready to Die and Aquemini, I hate doing this. But I’m sorry, every time I hear King Kunta, all I see is a white dude in a drug rag bragging about how he once volunteered at a juvenile detention center. Where are the dark edges that made us fall in love with GKMC? Where is To Pimp a Butterfly’s “Backstreet Freestyle,” in which Kendrick prays that his “dick get[s] as big as the Eiffel Tower” so he can “fuck the world for 72 hours”? While GKMD was rebellious and nihilistic, TPAB cheesily assures that “we gon’ be alright.” Well we aren’t going to be alright, ok? Systematic injustice isn’t going anywhere. And as Sufjan more aptly declares on “Fourth of July”: “we’re all gonna die.” So let’s enjoy our short time on this fucked up planet by listening to music that both makes us feel good and sharpens our edges. These albums may not make you feel warm and fuzzy all the time, but they’ll hopefully slightly alter the lens through which you see the world, which is why we consume art, right? Maybe that’s just me, but luckily these also sound nice. Ok, leggo!
Listen Here: Best Albums of 2015
Art Angles – Grimes
Elevator pitch: Indie pop perfection.
Soundtrack for: Laughing and not being normal.
Ideal listener: Sad girl who only moves when she’s dancing.
Standout tracks: All but “SCREAM.”
Standout lyric: “Your voice, it had the perfect glow / It got lost when you gave it up though” (from “Flesh Without Blood.”)
Soulmate albums: Bjork’s Post, M.I.A.’s Kala
2. Barter 6 – Young Thug
Elevator pitch: Surrealist strip club album.
Soundtrack for: Blowing kisses to the haters.
Ideal listener: Blunt-smoking poet.
Standout tracks: “Check,” “Constantly Hating,” “Just Might Be.”
Standout lyric: "Every time I dress myself it go motherfuckin’ viral / Pussy n*ggas stealin’ swag, bring my shit back like recycles” (from “Halftime”).
Soulmate albums: Future’s Pluto, A$AP Ferg’s Trap Lord.
3. Ego Death – The Internet
Elevator pitch: Yet another Odd Future offshoot album far superior to anything Tyler could make. (See also Channel Orange, Doris.)
Soundtrack for: Stoney sexcapades.
Ideal listener: Swaggy romantic.
Standout tracks: “Girl,” “Special Affair,” “Get Away.”
Standout lyrics: “Fuck a 9 to 5, I’m seeing dollar signs” (from “Get Away”).
Soulmate albums: Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh.
4. Ratchet – Shamir
Elevator pitch: Gender-queer fashion pixie vacillates between swagger and vulnerability.
Soundtrack for: Applying fake eye-lashes.
Ideal listener: Sad boy who only moves when he’s dancing.
Standout tracks: “Vegas,” “Demon,” “Call it Off.”
Standout lyric: “Just can’t make a thot a wife / No more basic, ratchet guys” (from “Call it Off”).
Soulmate albums: Azealia Bank’s Broke With Expensive Taste, Solange’s True
5. Depression Cherry – Beach House
Elevator pitch: Beach House adds distorted guitars to their trademark dreamy perfection resulting in perhaps their most addictive album yet.
Soundtrack for: Floating.
Ideal listener: That kid who’s always staring at the sky.
Standout tracks: “Levitation,” “Sparks,” “10:37.”
Standout lyric: “Tender is the night / for a broken heart / who will dry your eyes / when it falls apart?” (from “Space Song.”)
Soulmate albums: Cocteau Twins’ Heaven or Las Vegas, The Radio Dept.’s Clinging to a Scheme.
6. But You Caint Use My Phone – Erykah Badu
Elevator pitch: Erykah Badu fires the Uzi that Drake loaded.
Soundtrack for: Texting.
Ideal listener: Sarcastic alien.
Standout tracks: “Phone Down,” “Cel U Lar Device,” “Hello.”
Standout lyric: “Flipping the switches and bitches come witness / that you’re in your feelings and I’ll call you back” (from “I’ll Call U Back”)
Soulmate albums: The Weeknd’s House of Balloons, Drake’s Nothing Was the Same.
7. Carrie & Lowell – Sufjan Stevens
Elevator pitch: Your favorite album in college, but today.
Soundtrack for: Crying.
Ideal listener: Spiritual sad boy.
Standout tracks: “Death With Dignity,” “Should Have Known Better,” “Fourth of July.”
Standout lyric: “Amethyst and flowers on the table / is it real or a fable?” (from “Death With Dignity.”)
Soulmate albums: Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It in People, Elliott Smith’s Either/Or.
8. Summertime ’06 – Vince Staples
Elevator pitch: “Even when its themes get heavy, Summertime ’06 crackles with speaker-rattling menace.” Put differently, a more interesting and nuanced To Pimp a Butterfly.
Soundtrack for: Playing hooky.
Ideal listener: Foxy outlaw.
Standout tracks: “Surf,” “Norf Norf,” “Jump Off The Roof.”
Standout lyric: "I hate when you lie; I hate the truth, too" from ("Jump Off the Roof")
Soulmate albums: Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris, Danny Brown’s XXX.
9. In Colour – Jamie xx
Elevator pitch: “[M]inimalism breathes buckets of color.”
Soundtrack for: Feeling nostalgic for the xx’s near-perfect debut.
Ideal listener: Hipster with ADHD.
Standout tracks: “Gosh,” “Loud Places,” “Obvs.”
Standout lyric: “I feel music in your eyes” (from “Loud Places”).
Soulmate albums: Daft Punk’s Discovery, Mount Kimbie’s Crooks & Lovers.
10. Currents – Tame Impala
Elevator pitch: Australian psych-rockers make an album for Pitchfork.
Soundtrack for: A dive bar with red light-bulbs and succulents.
Ideal listener: Hipster with OCD.
Standout tracks: “Love/Paranoia,” “Eventually,” “Yes I’m Changing.”
Standout lyric: “They say people never change, but that’s bullshit, they do” (from “Yes I’m Changing”)
Soulmate albums: Cut Copy’s Zonoscope, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.
11. Knockin Boots – Julio Bashmore
Elevator pitch: Disco funk meets ghetto house.
Soundtrack for: Vogueing.
Ideal listener: Prep school dropout.
Standout tracks: “She Ain’t,” “Rhythm of the Auld,” “Kong.”
Standout lyric: “Oh friend, we don’t need to see the end / so let’s stay, dream, the things that could have been” (from “Kong”).
Soulmate albums: Disclosure’s Settle, Duke Dumont’s EP1.
12. Wildheart – Miguel
Elevator pitch: Soulful psychedelica.
Soundtrack for: Filming in the valley.
Ideal listener: R&B fans nostalgic for Prince.
Standout tracks: “gfg,” “the valley,” “Hollywood Dreams.”
Standout lyric: “Peach color, moon glistens, the plot thickens / As we laugh over shotguns and tongue kisses” (from “Coffee”).
Soulmate albums: Prince’s Purple Rain, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange.
13. If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – Drake
Elevator pitch: Peak Drake.
Soundtrack for: Preparing to slay.
Ideal listener: Someone with ears.
Standout tracks: “Know Yourself,” “6 Man,” “No Tellin.”
Standout lyric: “I got money in the courts ‘till all my n*ggas free / Bout to call your ass a Uber, I got somewhere to be” (from “Energy”).
Soulmate albums: Beyoncé’s Beyoncé, Future’s Pluto.
14. Dirty Sprite 2 – Future
Elevator pitch: Future ditches Honest’s pop tones and sprints in the opposite direction, resulting in – ironically – his most honest work to date.
Ideal listener: “This is music for nihilists, for the reckless, for those who embrace darkness because they don’t see another option.”
Soundtrack for: Smoke machines and laser beams.
Standout tracks: “Fuck Up Some Commas,” “Thought it Was a Drought,” “Where Ya At.”
Standout lyric: “Tryna make a pop star and they made a monster” (from “I Serve The Base”).
Soulmate albums: A$AP Rocky’s Live Love A$AP, YG’s My Krazy Life.
15. Honeymoon – Lana Del Rey
Elevator pitch: Southern California gothic at its most devastating.
Soundtrack for: A glamorous breakdown.
Ideal listener: Equal parts Marilyn Monroe and Joan Didion.
Standout tracks: “Art Deco,” “Freak,” “High on the Beach.”
Standout lyric: “You’re so Art Deco, out on the floor / shining like a metal, cold and unsure” (from “Art Deco”).
Soulmate albums: Beach House’s Devotion, Sky Ferreira’s Night Time, My Time.
16. Thirst Trap – DonMonique
Elevator Pitch: “[E]ffortless flow (think 90s Lil Kim), darkly booming beats, and a don't-fuck-with-me air.”
Soundtrack for: Naming drugs after celebrities.
Ideal listener: Coolest bitch in the room.
Standout tracks: “Pilates,” “ION.”
Standout lyric: “Got Kendall, got Kylie, got Miley / I can make the work stretch like pilates” (from “Pilates”).
Soulmate albums: Junglepussy’s Satisfaction Guaranteed, Thunderheist’s Thunderheist.
17. Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 – Aphex Twin
Elevator pitch: Richard D. James makes a companion piece to Drukqs, 14 years later.
Soundtrack for: Writing icy sentences.
Ideal listener: Sexy sociopath.
Standout tracks: “piano un1 arpej,” “piano un10 it happened,” “diskhat ALL prepared1mixed 12.”
Soulmate albums: Tim Hecker’s Dropped Pianos, Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica.
18. Late Nights: The Album – Jeremih
Elevator pitch: Jeremih finally gives us an album as red hot as his singles.
Soundtrack for: Drunkenly stumbling into an orgy.
Ideal listener: Thoughtful nympho.
Standout tracks: “Planes,” “Oui,” “Pass Dat.”
Standout lyric: “Have you ever read ‘The World is Yours’…on a blimp?” (From “Planes”).
Soulmate albums: Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream, The-Dream’s IV Play.
19. b’lieve i’m going down – Kurt Vile
Elevator pitch: "It’s definitely got that night vibe…KV’s Night Life—it’s my sequel to Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly.”
Soundtrack for: Sipping bourbon in the woods.
Ideal listener: Wallflower who’s secretly hilarious.
Standout tracks: “Life Like This,” “That’s Life tho (almost hate to say),” “Wheelhouse.”
Standout lyric: "I hang glide into the valley of ashes" (from “That’s Life tho (almost hate to say)”).
Soulmate albums: The Velvet Underground’s Velvet Underground, Elliott Smith's Either/Or.
20. I Want to Grow Up – Colleen Green
Elevator pitch: “[W]eed paralysis and paranoia in a sugary glaze.”
Soundtrack for: Navigating your Saturn’s return.
Ideal listener: Trendy existentialist.
Standout tracks: “Whatever I Want,” “Pay Atttention,” “Deeper Than Love.”
Standout lyric: “And the closest I can come to being really free / is letting my lover perform experiments on me” (from “Deeper Than Love.”)
Soulmate albums: Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill, Chastity Belt’s Time to Go Home.
By Anna Dorn
Photograph courtesy of pastemagazine.com