Bully – Feels Like
Bully singer Alicia Bognanno evokes memories of Cobain-era ‘90s grunge in a big way on her band’s debut full-length album. The songwriting is especially strong on tracks like “Brainfreeze” and “Too Tough” – where her smoky vocals sound a mix of Courtney Love and Sheryl Crow. You might not find a better scream in 2015. [Photo Gallery]
Best Coast – California Nights
For years, Best Coast was a collection of simple songs with catchy choruses but no second verses. On California Nights, Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno added some depth to their sound, filling out the band while also writing songs that surpass the three-minute mark. Their evolution on this album speaks well of their future prospects and there’s some quality tunes on here. “Feeling OK” harkens back to the days of Shirley Manson and Garbage in all the best ways.
Zella Day – Kicker
Though fellow alt-pop singer Halsey is getting all the glory in 2015, Zella Day might have more longterm staying power if her debut album is any indication. Zella Day is a throwback to ‘70s era peace and love and her voice has a wide range. There’s a number of possible radio hits, from “Hypnotic” to “High” and the deep cuts are just as strong. [PHOTO GALLERY]
Jamie XX – In Colour
In a year of awesome downtempo electronic music, Jamie XX’s album stands out from the rest – though he mixes it up quite nicely. His samples span such a wide array of music. The collaboration with Young Thug and Popcaan on “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times” is the hard-choice standout track on an album full of them.
Tame Impala – Currents
Vibey groovy tunes are back, and Tame Impala have a lot to do with that. Their success has been mounting for years, but Currents is their masterpiece so far. It’s an album full of lengthy songs you don’t want to end, and Kevin Parker’s voice will melt your soul. “Eventually” might be the best breakup song of the year.
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick’s follow up to good kid m.A.A.d city might be the most culturally-significant rap or hip-hop album of the last decade. It also is the riskiest, as Kendrick used a lot of jazz sounds in a way that hasn’t been explored since Gang Starr utilized them. While it might not be chock full of radio hits the way his last album was, as time goes on people will look at TPAB as a much more important album to the genre.
Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Barnett’s stream-of-consciousness lyrics pair infinitely well with her killer guitar work. There’s not an unspectacular song on the album, from first single “Pedestrian at Best” to the down-tempo ballad “Depreston.” Her three-piece band packs a lot of punch and there’s plenty to be excited about when it comes to this Aussie songwriter.
Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
The follow-up to their debut album was one of the most-anticipated of 2015, and the Shakes didn’t disappoint. “I Don’t Want to Fight” sounds as though it could’ve been a Barry White hit, but Brittany Howard slays on this track vocals-wise. Their Southern rock and soul sound is unique.
CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye
Synth-pop is back in a big way and a lot of it has to do with CHVRCHES’ first album a few years back. Many were wondering how they’d follow it up, and they only somehow improved on their great first record. They are one of few synth-based pop bands that have a stadium sound and they’re only going to climb up the festival bills they play for years to come. “Playing Dead” and “Bury It” are as strong as anything from their first record and these aren’t even singles.
GRIMES – Art Angels
It took recording and scrapping an entire project for GRIMES to finally put together a follow-up to her debut record from a few years ago. It’s a bit of a different sound for her, and she’s the closest-sounding thing we’ve got in the western time zone to K-pop. “Kill v. Maim” is a song about Al Pacino’s character in Godfather II – if he was a vampire who traveled time and switched genders. That’s how out there Grimes in, and damn it sounds great.
Wolf Alice – My Love is Cool
When they put out “Moaning Lisa Smile” last year, their sound was pigeon-holed as ‘90s grunge. But their debut full-length explores a wide range of sounds, from quieter tracks like “Freazy” to more rocking tracks like “You’re a Germ.” Guitarist Joff Oddie is amazing with the amount of pedals he’s got, and singer Ellie Rowsell can jump from beautiful vocals to menacing scream without issue.
Ratatat – Magnifique
This duo just keeps getting better and better with each release. Seeing them perform live at Sonos Studio was eye-opening because I assumed it was all electronic, but much of the sound is produced from guitars. Even just listening to this album without their stellar visual accompaniment, you feel like you’re tripping on something.