Best Albums of 2015, Final Edition

Best Albums of 2015
Final Edition
Click here for preliminary January-June and January-September editions
For previous years see



  1. Sufjan StevensCarrie & Lowell
    • Hands down, my favorite Sufjan Stevens album to date. I’m glad that he eschewed the orchestral/woodwind flourishes, dropped the electronica experiments, and just stripped things down to their bare bones: guitar, banjo, piano/organ, a few extra things here and there, but mostly just gorgeous backdrops for Sufjan’s most personal, intimate, and emotional lyrics to date. Wow.

  2. Craig FinnFaith in the Future
    • Craig Finn’s narrative story-telling is what elevates The Hold Steady into something special. Unfortunately, his first solo album, Clear Heart Full Eyes, was underwhelming. The stories were ok but his vocal delivery and the music was boring. He sounded bored. With his 2nd solo outing, however, he comes out swinging. It has grown on me with each listen. The music is great. The storytelling is some of the best he’s done.

  3. The Mountain GoatsBeat the Champ
    • John Darnielle and companies’ last couple albums haven’t been great. Framed as stories about the professional wrestlers of Darnielle’s childhood, this album hits all the right notes. Energetic, honest, great stories. The best Mountain Goats album in years.

  4. BlackaliciousImani Vol. 1
    • Its been a while since 2006’s The Craft. Since then, the Gift of Gab has done a lot of solo work, but it never quite seems to have the magic of Blackalicious. This album has a few complete stinkers – That Night, and Inspired By, but otherwise most of the album is on par with good Blackalicious. A few songs are on par with their best – Blacka, On Fire Tonight, The Blow Up, all pop.

  5. Alabama ShakesSound & Color
    • This one took a while to grow on me, but grow on me it did. There are still a few songs I’m not big on, but Gimme All Your Love might just be my song of the year. We’ll see. Sound and Color, Dunes, Don’t Wanna Fight no More, Future People, so many good tracks. The girl can sing. No doubt. Her songwriting and guitar work don’t disappoint either.

  6. Mikal CroninMCIII
    • Each of Mikal Cronin’s 3 LPs have gotten better and better. Well-crafted power pop that just brims with good vibes. You just can’t listen to this stuff and not have a grin on your face. A lot of it reminds me of the best of Ben Kweller. Classic stuff.

  7. The Tallest Man on EarthDark Bird is Home
    • From Sweden, TTMOE took his sparse folky sound and fleshed it out with all kinds of new sounds. The album is full sounding, lush, vibrant and surprising. Unlike Night Beds’ attempts to add new sonic pallets to their repertoire, TTMOE doesn’t betray the heart of what makes him great.

  8. My Morning JacketThe Waterfall
    • Better than their last album. Some sleepers, but buoyed by a couple earworms that hold the album together. The opening track – Believe (Nobody Knows) may be a contender for my best song of the year.

  9. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly [clean version]
    • You know me, gotta get my stuff edited and clean – which some Kendrick Lamar fans might chaff at. Sorry chaps. Them’s the breaks. His first album didn’t grab me, but To Pimp a Butterfly really blew me away. Here we have impressive storytelling, literary acumen, strong political awareness, etc… And some great music to back it all up. King Kunta, All Alright, I, and others are hard tracks to not put on repeat.

  10. Jose GonzalezVestiges & Claws
    • Junip was fine and all, but I am glad to have another Jose Gonzalez outing. This Argentine-Swede has a unique sound that is instantly recognizable. The way he layers vocals and imbues his (mostly) acoustic guitar-dominated music with a rhythmic quality that, even when repetitive, pushes tracks along. So good.

  11. Tobias Jesso, Jr. – Goon
  12. WilcoStar Wars
  13. VursatylCrooked Straights
  14. Ben FoldsSo There
  15. Josh RitterSermon on the Rocks
  16. Built to SpillUntethered Moon
  17. CalexicoEdge of the Sun
  18. The DecemberistsWhat a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
  19. Bhi BhimanRhythm & Reason
  20. RatatatMagnifique
  21. BattlesLa Di Da Di
  22. ToeHear You
  23. The World is a Beautiful Place…Harmlessness
  24. Sorority NoiseJoy, Departed
  25. Iron & Wine and Ben BridwellSing Into My Mouth
  26. DesaparecidosPayola
  27. Someone Still Loves You Boris YeltsinThe High Country
  28. Nate Reuss – Grand Romantic
  29. Beach House Depression Cherry
  30. Rocky VotolatoHospital Handshakes
  31. Night BedsIvywild
  32. Say HiBleeders Digest
  33. Father John Misty I Love You, Honeybear
  34. They Might be GiantsGlean
  35. JR JRJR JR
  36. ThunderbitchThunderbitch
  37. Matt Pond PAThe State of Gold
  38. Lyrics BornReal People

Live Albums

  1. Dr. DogLive at the Flamingo Hotel
    • I saw these guys live this year and their live show brimmed with more energy than I have seen in a live show for quite some time. PLUS, they were tight. Their vocal harmonies didn’t get sloppy in the live setting – they kept it dialed in. All of that is featured here is top form.


  1. The Ghost of a Saber Tooth TigerGOASTT Stories [EP]
    • This is Sean Lennon and his partner at their psychedelic best. The harmonies, the moody atmosphere, I love it all.

  2. S. CareySupermoon [EP]
    • The alternate versions of a few songs from his AMAZING Range of Light are good. The cover of Radiohead’s Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was is as close as anyone has ever come to making a Radiohead cover that is better than the original. Get ready for goosebumps.

  3. Mates of StateYou’re Going to Make It
  4. The DecemberistsFlorasongs [EP]
  5. Owen / Into it. Over it.Split [EP]
  6. Cold War KidsFive Quick Cuts
  7. The BarSon of Barkada

Singles / 7 inches / Misc

  1. BeckDreams
    • Depressed Beck of Sea Change and Morning Phase is my favorite Beck. His voice can be so rich, and the instrumentation so lush and beautiful. But, pop-dance Beck can be pretty good too. I can’t wait for the upcoming that Dreams presumably comes from.

  2. Sufjan Stevens Exploding Whale [single]
    • The electronic backing, the vibe. I can’t get enough of this one. Not an “epic fail.”
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  3. BraidKid Get Grids b/w Because I Am [single]
  4. MaritimeMilwaukee [single]
  5. The Mountain GoatsBlood Capsules b/w Dub Capsules [single]

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