A&E’s best albums of 2015

From black metal to art pop, this year’s best records are examples of cross-genre excellence.


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Christian Davis, Writer

During the last few hours of 2014, Kanye West dropped “Only One,” a tug at our heartstrings and a touching tribute to his late mother. Even though his next album “SWISH” is still lurking out there somewhere, 2015 saw an absolute onslaught of important records. These albums are heavy, emotional and largely influenced by heartache and mourning. Maybe it was just that kind of year, but regardless these are the records to remember our year by.

1. “Carrie & Lowell” — Sufjan Stevens

“We all know how this will end.” Sufjan Stevens opens his 2015 masterpiece with “Death with Dignity,” a reflection on his mother’s passing that echoes throughout every song on the record. “Carrie & Lowell” is his first record in five years, and is his most emotionally devastating work to date. Every song is essential, heartbreaking and refreshingly honest and self-deprecating. Sufjan mourned intensely while writing this record — maybe to make the process easier for the rest of us.

2. “Painted Shut” — Hop Along

Hop Along is important. If you take away anything from 2015, let it be the screeching poetics of Frances Quinlan. Following in the footsteps of college rock giants before them like the Pixies, “Painted Shut” has instantly won a place among records such as “Dolittle.” These are some of the most imaginative melodies and narratives in indie-rock lately — a record with no expiration date.

3. “New Bermuda” — Deafheaven

Our A&E section covered Deafheaven twice this semester, but there is still so much to say about “New Bermuda.” This music pushes boundaries, welding together darkness and beauty. Deafheaven is a vital band, deserving of the attention and hype they have garnered as a result of creating some of the most important records of the decade. “New Bermuda” can be wholly transcendent, if you let it.

4. “I Love You, Honeybear” — Father John Misty

“I Love You, Honeybear” is not a record you emerge from unscathed. If “Fear Fun” was Josh Tillman’s critique of modern L.A. culture, “Honeybear” goes on record as one of the best critiques of love and relationships. The music is timeless — seriously these songs could have been written in 1963, ‘73, ‘83, etc. The lyricism is decades ahead of its time, a devastatingly romantic cynicism you cannot help but subscribe to.

5. “Summertime ‘06” — Vince Staples  

Where Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” is a grammy nominated art piece, “Summertime ‘06” is a precious historical document. Vince Staples is younger than I am, and has crafted the single greatest hip-hop record of 2015. It is an undeniable product of his environment — gang-ridden Northside Long Beach, and a tragically poetic depiction of such. Ambitious, confident and nuanced, “Summertime ‘06” is undoubtedly enduring.

6. “Viet Cong” — Viet Cong

I saw this band with my dad earlier this year. The magic he must have felt in the mid ‘80s was present throughout that small, crowded bar. If mid ‘80s goth and post-punk serves as Viet Cong’s influences, their 2015 self-titled record shows how well these themes can age. These seven tracks push guitar driven indie-rock to its limits.

7. “Art Angels” — Grimes

The last thing Claire Boucher needs is for anyone else to affirm her genius, but pretty much every other music writer on the planet is going to do it anyways after “Art Angels.” This record is cerebral, otherworldly from the start and pulls influence from every spectrum. “Flesh Without Blood” uses major key post-punk guitar hooks that blend with Boucher’s next level production talent.

8. “Dealer” — Foxing

Maybe there exists a heightened sense of criticism for those who have followed the emo revival since its proverbial start a few years ago, but Foxing’s “Dealer” represents everything we could have hoped for in terms of genre growth. These atmospheres are more influenced by album “Bon Iver” than “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me,” and gut wrenching poetics therein anchor “Dealer” as one of the entire revival’s best.

9. “Emotion” — Carly Rae Jepsen

The only thing more surprising than Carly Rae Jepsen crafting one of the best pop records of the year is how many people are surprised she did it. Jepsen has an undeniable knack for the formula, and showcases tact and restraint on “Emotion.” Where other pop records fall short with maximalism, Jepsen uses co-writers to anchor unforgettable pop hooks that know what they are — romanticised, youthful set pieces from the ‘80s teen movie in our heads.

10. “Joy, Departed” — Sorority Noise

This record sort of came out of nowhere. We all knew their last record “Forgettable” was anything but, and “Joy, Departed” instantaneously cemented itself among emo-revival’s capstones. Tracks like “Fluorescent Black” are joining the ranks of “Your Deep Rest” and “Picture of a Tree that Doesn’t Look Okay” in terms of what people will remember decades after the revival is nothing but history.

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