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The Best of 2015: Albums Through October 31st, 2015

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Carrie And Lowell – Sufjan Stevens – His mother left Sufjan when he was three, three maybe four, and again, and again, and then she died, and left Stevens to deal with it by writing the most exquisitely beautiful album of this or many years.

Beauty Behind The Madness – The Weeknd – From the streets of Toronto to the penthouses in Trump Tower, the Weeknd grabs his max martin and presents the pop album of the year.

The Most Lamentable Tragedy Of – Titus Andronicus – Whatever doubts you may have about this 29 song rock opera song cycle detailing the ebb and flow of manic depression, if only for its sheer audacity you will hear nothing more important this year. Plus, cmon, what price “Dimed Out”? It dimes out and then some.

Before This World – James Taylor – A late career masterpiece by Sweet Baby James’ Uncle, songs as sweet and strong as memory and as strong and lasting as this exact moment, as though before this world there was this world and just this world was then and now.

Summertime ’06 – Vince Staples – Violent, disturbing, sad, brilliant, important, true “No matter what we grow into, we never gonna escape our past,” Odd future becomes no future.

35 MPH Town – Toby Keith – The man who gave jingoism a bad name is pretty excellent when he keeps his flag in his pocket, this collection of country tracks stands head and shoulders above most keepers… even some of his betters.

Questions – David Bronson – This is soft rock meets prog rock meets sweet soul and questions raised and answered over and over again. Back up harmonies an added plus and a great guitarist (and Carlos Alomar) doesn’t hurt.

#AndSeeThatsTheThing – Dej Loaf – One of the best rhymers around, can also rap in tune.

Fire And Skill: The Jam Live – Six albums representing a live concert a year from 1977 to1982 with 1979, the ALl Mod Cons tour, an especially treat with Weller in blusteringly great voice. They had it sussed.

Imaginary Life – Worriers – Indie rockers who have managed an album brimming with tunes and hooks and smarts and shenanigans; just past her first decade in the business, Lauren Denitzio has emerged as a major songwriter.

#392: The EP Collection – Marshall Crenshaw – 14 songs, we’ve heard 12 of them before and they are excellent. Especially the best “Close To You” I’ve ever heard.

White Men Are Black Men Too – Young Fathers – Scotland mixes rock and soul with hip hop to make modern political rock and roll completely their own.

California Nights – Best Coast – My favorite of their three albums is a collection of LA inky blue mood music which merges with Bethany’s weed inspired drowsiness and builds into symphonic OKness.

At Long Last A$AP – A$AP Rocky – The problem here is not the lyric as such, but the inability to get over his occasional braggart hip hop attitude but that’s the only problem with this consistency great rap album. “LSD” has song of the year written all over it.

The Accused – Abigail Williams – Dub it moodcore, unusual and beautiful roll up the guitars rock and screams with extra intensity, sounds like hell and heaven are one and the same thing.

Vulnicara – Bjork – Her most accessible work in years renders a torn asunder romance as steady strings beatified and then distressed.

Shadows of the Night – Bob Dylan – His sublime take on the great American songbook reinterprets classics and lesser known song as songs of deeply rooted humanity

Rebel Heart – Madonna – The 25 song deluxe version deserves the length and breath it takes to emerge as a true self portrait.

To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar – Both major and minor at the same time, his is a toweringly ambitious look at Black life in the States which could have done with more better songs.

The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us -Beach Slang – 26 Minutes of indie pop rock but better than that sounds like, songs about the young by their elders but better than that sounds like as well

Jamie Lawson – Jamie Lawson – Singer  songwriter with skills and then some, though he gets too lachrymose from time to time, he pulls it off and how on some of these tracks.

The State I’m In – Leigh Nash – Old school country songs, stately without being remotely pompous.

Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You – Funkadelic – 81 minutes of top class remixes

Love Lust And Genocide – Samuel Claiborne – The deconstruction of the self-deluding, in song.

Born Certified – Luxuriant Sedans – White blues masters with a great harp

M3LL155SX EP – FKA twigs – Experimental and accessible and always sexy

Secretions – Garfunkel And Oates – More songs about forgetting who you are giving a blowjob to. Liz Phair would be proud. If the question is whether it works as song without the comedy, the answer is yes, but only occasional Which is a whole lot better than most.

Play Guitar – Buddy Guy – 78 year old last Chicago electric bluesman standing at the top of his game.

Lantern – Hudson Mohawke – Of the three big Scottish DJs, this guy sounds best: he sounds like nothing else, not a beat or bass addict, his addiction is taking desperate sounds and fusing them till they explode.

The Truth – Mike Posner – First rate singer-songwriter, four songs and all great.

Rodeo – Travis Scott – Kanye West protégée earns his keep with different sounding r&b.

The Montesanto Years – Neil Young – Agitprop for agriculture.

My Love Is Cool – Wolf Alice – The London indie pop rock band’s first album is a masterpiece of form and formulations mutating at will.

Sound And Color – Alabama Shakes – The sound of post punk meets Southern soul with a terrific lead singer and once in a lifetime songs, this is what happens when bands get better and take you by surprise. It is a beautiful, smart, soulful album.

Power In The Blood – Buffy Sainte- Marie – The Native American folkie discovers modern production and uses it to her own ends.

Be Still And Know – Hymns And Faith – Amy Grant – The sound of faith, Christian music as a force of beauty and life. Amy and Vince stake their claim to being the first couple of country.

Unity: The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson – Tony Succar – The sound of Jackson and Salsa meeting for a mash up of epic proportions: it works completely.

Stuff Like That There – Yo La Tengo – Excellent follow up to Fakebook

Still Got The Hunger – The Zombies – The unlikely return of one of the British Invasions top bands… with their skills in tact

Down To Believing – Allison Moorer – Five years in the life and she is shaken not stirred and ready to explain it all. “Ain’t ever gonna be like it used to be…” she warns. No, it is better.

If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – Drake – Remix tape? I prefer it to his last album, though it has no “Hold On, We’re Going Home” or the single that won him a punk from Diddy and a Grammy. Any album with songs as good as “Legend” and “Jungle” needs no caveats at all.

Tomorrow Is My Turn – Rhiannon Giddens – Sublime blues and gospel album that has made a believer out of me.

Wildheart – Miguel – The second is the charm on this superior sophomore effort by the Prince wannabe who just might pull it off if he makes another leap this large.

Short Movie – Laura Marling – I am gonna stop beating her up for this not being Once I Was An Eagle, and accept it for a set of fine singer-songwriter tracks.

Ego Death – The Internet – Neo soul from one of the best around. A huge leap forward for Syd The Kid and company.

Strange Trails – Lord Huron – Indie rockers with the gift of consistency and melody, and depth.

The American Dream – Adventures In Bluesland – In which one of our great blues singers Phil Gammage, takes his band on a trip to urban blues

Second Hand Heart – Dwight Yoakam – The latest album in a resurgent Dwight with all his, not insignificant, powers restored to him.

Laugh In The Dark – Tommy Keene – This is Tommy by the numbers, a power pop masterpieces.

Home – Pat Green – One of the years better country Americana albums, plus “Girls From Texas” is a must hear.

Tetsuo And Youth – Lupe Fiasco – His best album is also his most easy going, the seasons pass and the songs, beautiful, r&b and chilled hip hop songs accrue, in mutual degrees. “Blur My Hands” is better than any r&b you’ve heard this year and it isn’t even the best

Duets: Re-Working The Catalogue – Van Morrison – Some of this is better than the originals and even if it wasn’t… Womack? Taj Mahal? Chris Farlowe…???

Back To The Woods – Angel Haze – Gender bending hardcore rapper puts us all in our place.

Dale – Pitbull – Mr. Worldwide returns to his rots and then pulls it forward on this excellent salsa update.

Artistic Visions – Shinobi Ninja – Improvised live in the studio, produced and mastered over weeks, and as great as hard rock can get. Maniac Dave’s guitar steals whole chunks.

Faith In The Future – Craig Finn – A typical Craig Finn album and a little better than that suggests The level of songwriting is quite exquisite.

Traveler – Chris Stapleton – Beautiful country songs, superbly performed and sung… the production on the other hand…

The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets – Van Hunt – D’Angelo’s contester on the weirdo r&b front.

Songs In The Key Of Price – Sean Price – The late rapper gives us one more hit of great rhymes and old school rhythms.

Honeymoon – Lana Del Rey – An album in search of a James Bond movie.

Smoke Machine – Nick Catchdubs – Half of Fool’s Gold Records, releases one of the most fun noises of the year.

Fully Re-Covered – True Groove Allstars – Empathic covers in a deadly time for the USA

Expect Delays – Evans The Death – The indie rock album of the year with a death wish which will have you whistling all the way to the grave.

Gates Of Gold – Los Lobos – The premiere Latin American rock band with eleven slivers of prime classic rock and an instrumental demo and a live track.

If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ – Daniel Romano – A purist country singer in the footsteps pf George Jones and with the songs to back em up.

The White Man Made Me Do It – Swamp Dogg – This is as good as I’m Not Selling Out – I’m Buying In… from 1981 and just as funny (and as sad and angry). We call that consistency of vision.

Absent Fathers – Justin Townes Earle – Masterful but we assume that, no bad songs, but we assume that as well.

Worthy – Bettye Lavette – She covers other people’s material like Dylan sometimes covers his own; she rearranges them to an inch of their lives and then she sings the hell out of them.

No Cities To Love – Sleater Kinney – Quirked out angular post-rock, post-riot grrrl, post childhood anthems sung as one.

I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t go – Earl Sweatshirt – This grows with every damn listen. “Mantra” took maybe five spins, but it got there in the end.

What Went Down – Foals – At its best, these guys from Oxford have the best rock riffs of the year.

Waiting On You – Sam Lewis – Modern sounds of country, western and soul from a singer songwriter with a great future.

Modern Sounds From Muscle Beach – Night Birds – The sound of 1977 LES – hard rock punk rock that was born to rock CBGBs? Well, at least Gildersleeves.

I Don’t Prefer No Blues – Leo “Bud” Welch – hard electric guitar blues by an unknown master who just celebrated his 83rd birthday and 50th year in Church and here sounds like maybe you should be locking up your daughters. Man, is this guys mojo workin’.

No Pier Pressure – Brian Wilson – Three great songs does not a great album make… unless Brian Wilson wrote the three great songs.

Renaissance, A Journey From Classical To Jazz – Bucky Pizzarelli and Ed Laub – The classical stuff is quite as good as the American songbook stuff

Brava – Bradinski – Where dance and hip hop bear down on each other by a French DJ.

Five Dimensional Man EP – Herb Eimerman – Sounds like the power pop record of the year to these ears.

The Firewatcher’s Daughter – Brandi Carlile – Story songs recorded fast, performed live on tape

Till The Story’s Told – Kevin Jenkins – The sophomore album from the gifted bassist is quiet without being still: deep stories told in time with a question mark and a hard final answer.

Sprained Ankle – Julien Baker – Teen girl gets unstuck on junk, doesn’t like it

Touch Down 2 Cause Hell – Boosie Badazz – Fresh off death row, and not the label, and out for blood -METAPHORICALLY!

All We Need – Raury – Youthful, soulful crossover hip hop singer  does positive pop that crosses lines on this album.

Feels Like – Bully – It is as if the Bangles went indie.

Zero – The Rezillos – They’ve lost a little in stickiness a coupla decades later, and no Jo Callis which sucks, but the power is still there

Hold Fast – Letts – best singer songwriter album of the year so far, always smarts, always pretty, never boring, nice production by Marcus Mumford and a lot of songs that will get under your skin, especially “Charles De Gaulle”. a very pleasant surprise

R.N.I.C. – Lil Snupe – The late great rapper who coulda been mainstream but kept it way too real. The kid had flow to spare.

Title – Meghan Trainor – Her third album is even better than her second which is better than her first. She could well be a 21st century Bette Midler

Goblin Rebirth – Goblin Rebirth – Pro rock old timers via Italy have still got it.

A Haze Of Blues And Grays – Heather Powell – 1960s pop re-imagined by a superb singer.

Guitars And Microphones – Kate Pierson – First rate new wave for the 21st century from the act we’ve known for all these years and who does herself proud.

Earthquakes And Tidal Waves – Dot Dash – 29 minutes of superstar power pop weeknd

La Vendetta… – Adolescents – Old school punk rock and maybe a little more, from a band who can still do it.

All Hands – Doomtree – This Twin Cities collective makes rap for grown ups with five rappers, two of whom are big time and all of whom are good.

Jackie – Ciara – Pretty awesome diva r&b

Forever Charlie – Charlie Wilson – Pure hearted, full voiced soul music.

B4.DA.$$ – Joey Bada$$ – Debut album by the Pro Active co-boss, its lyrical smart but bland but musically he goes from jazz to hip hop to r&b and back and the beat are triumphant.

Chrissybaby – Christopher Owens – Power pop glory, simple but it says it through sticky gooey hooks.

Barter 6 – Young Thug – This is better than you’d expect, the man has flava and he has flow and he is never obvious, even when his ebonics get the better of him.

Meets the Grim Reaper – Panda Bear – easily his most accessible work to date except when it isn’t; “Crossword” should rule the alt charts.

Go Down – Bryan Adams  – Genre exercise about going down rocking.

Half Free – US Girls – Experimental nise merchant still manages to write good songs

1000 Palms – Surfer Blood – Their grand return to indie land heralds their best album to date.

Underwater – Matt Whipkey -songs for and about people sketched in and then colored in with sounds.

Don’t Lose This – Pop Staples – The late great’s daughter Mavis gets Jeff Tweedy’s help in finishing this terrific blues album.

Algiers – Algiers – Debut album is a completely unique mix of Gospel and EDM beats, and hard grunginess.

Future Brown – Future Brown – Experimental collective bring the pop to DJs and rap.

Rom-Drom – Liam Corcoran – Two Hours Traffic leader goes solo, nails a singer songwriter album big time.

Neon Repairman – Freedy Johnston – Freedy does what he does for the thirteenth time

The Awakening – P.O.D. – The best christiancore band ever still have what it takes to make you a believer.

Sometimes I Sit And Sing, Sometimes I Just Sing – Courtney Barnett – I swing from irritation to admiration, and back.

Crosswords EP – Panda Bear – Five songs, two new, four excellent.

Weeklings – The Weeklings – Power pop from a top notch Beatles cover band. Kudos to “That Means A Lot”.

Visionary – Farruko – Modern Reeggaeton at full throttle with the occasional wink for taste.

Nights In The Dark – California X – Classic rock goes punk on a terrific sophomore effort. The guitars are the best sound in the world right now.

American Beauty/American Psycho – Fall Out Boy – Their best album ever, which means two masterpieces, and a coupla killer tracks. Look, I loathed em when I saw em last year so I couldn’t be more surprised myself.

The Past, The Present, The Future – Jodeci – This is the hippest old school r&b band around, they split the difference and win.

The Early Years – Girl Band – Hot Irish band’s back pages, post-punk perfection

Something More Than Free – Jason Isbell – I wonder if I will wake up one day and consider it a masterpiece? Till then, the songs don’t make it often enough and he proselytizes too much but still “Children Of Children” and “24 Frames” are excellent.

Hermits On Holiday – Drinks – 1979 style art rock with a DIY aesthetic and a lot of smarts.

The Pale Emperor – Marilyn Manson – Sure, it isn’t the shock of the new “Beautiful People” was, why would it be? It is still excellent goth rock unlike any one else at all

Montery – The Milk Carton Kids – Gorgeous folk songs

Victory Or Die – Motorhead – An absolutely brilliant form and a content whatever Lemmy chooses.

Live From Crush Palace – Karen O – So good in its Lo-Fi dreaminess, it may well take you back to the solo album it is culled from and which it improves upon.

I Can’t Imagine – Shelby Lynne – A profoundly strange woman but man can you write a song. Her best album in a long time.

Mr. Wonderful – Action Bronson – Now I get it, there is a Long Island connect between Bronson and Joel…

Mixtape Of The Open Road – Martin Sexton – The world needs grown ups, as Gary Trudeau once noted, so here is a grown up rock and roll album for you. I know that because one song is for his daughter like he is Paul Simon or something.

Tha Truth – Trae The Truth – It’s not the truth, it’s a truth, and it owes a little too much to Rick Rose, but this is very powerful stuff.

What A Time To be Alive – Drake And Future – Not a masterpiece, but as mixtapes go both the freestyle at the end and “Big Rings” at the start are ace.

Courting The Quall – Guy Harvey – Quietly tempestuous songs of seduction by the ELbow front man cum poet.

Boys – Crocodiles – A fuzzy sound of pop momentum

Kitsugi – Death Cab For Cuties – this is as thoroughly distressing as the new Sufjan Stevens, except it hides it better.

White Reapers – White Reapers – First rate fuzzed out garage classic rock and roll.

Rich Coast – Kids – excellent and deeply felt indie pop

Live And Grow – Casey Veggies – Odd Future alumni and this is a fine piece of modern rap art.

Constant Bop – Bop English – Superb variant on power pop.

The Killer Instinct – Black Star Riders – Second rate Thin Lizzy is vastly superior to no TL at all

Made Us Strangers – The Young Novelists – Americana meets singer songwriter indie rockers, with a coupla cracker tracks.

Can’t Forget: A Souvenir Of The Grand Tour – Leonard Cohen – From the sound check soundboard to your stereo.

Non Believers – Mac McCaughan – The Merge magnet releases a beauty of an album, and sings like, well, like he always does.

Evermore: The Art Of Duality – The Underachievers – East Coast art rap

Peanut Butter – Joanna Gruesome – Loud fast rules

No Life For Me – Wavves And Cloud Nothings – Two great rock bands come together and both are better for the experience.

Rattle The Lock – David Gilmore – Pink Floyd guy provides a classic rock soundtrack with a side of prog.

Star Wars – Wilco – I’ve been unimpressed with Jeff Tweedy so long and so hard, I am a little surprised this is a pretty smart straight forward alt Americana rock album.

In Love – Kaya – Rock superstar scion is a 15 year old disco pop smartiepants, better than you could possibly imagine.

Nathaniel Rateliff And The Nightsweats – Nathaniel Rateliff And The Nightsweats – First rate rock and soul.

Nocturnes – Willis Beal Earl – The Scott Walker of soulfulness experimentation.

Reflektor Deluxe – Arcade Fire – The rarest of extended albums, especially for a double, that improves through inclusion.

Dreams Worth More Than Money – Meek Mill – Not only does he have great ears, he signed the late Lil Snupe for one, he has good friends -having recorded for both T.I. and Rick Rose’s labels at various times, Mr. Nicki Minaj has just released this star filled following up to a Dreamchaser mixtape. It is still new to me but it feels like a real keeper.

High Country – The Swords – Old school heavy metal looks back at Led Zep and channels the vibe nicely.

Illinois – Brett Eldredge – Country pop with nice EDM quality beat

Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass – her voice is gorgeous but for back up so she lives and dies by her arrangements and songs … and those are great.

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