The Best Albums Of 2015 (So Far)

Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

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Alright, so my real album-of-the-first-half-of-2015 is either by a guy from Detroit, Michigan with a funny first name, a banjo and a plan to turn every American state into a concept album, or it’s by Drake. However, there’s something about SISATSIJS, something precarious and in constant, headlong motion – like a toddler running full out – that makes each moment incredibly compelling: the album walks a very thin line between full-out, snare-rolling-off-the-stage collapse and Barnett being moments from putting all the pieces together and forming an answer for lost souls. Part of it is in how effortless and disaffected she sounds – her voice appears so unforced that I would barely even qualify it as singing – as she crams a near unbelievable amount of syllables into each line (she almost sounds surprised to have ever ended up in front of a mic at all, as if some stranger just handed it to her while she was grocery shopping and said, “you have 44 minutes, go, get it all out there!”). It is, of course, an act – the band is sharp and Barnett is one of the best writers working, full stop – but that does not stop me from imagining a slacker Isaac Brock (of Modest Mouse), watching the world go by. And that may be just it; life does not stop, it just keeps plowing ahead at full speed, and it can be pretty easy to pick up a case of tunnel vision here and there. Sometimes I Sit reminds us that if we get the chance to step back from our own momentum for an instant and look around, there is a whole bunch of weird, intriguing, inexplicable stuff going on, and to let us in on a couple of the good ones we might have missed. – Stuart Oakes

Listen: “Pedestrian at Best”

Hop Along – Painted Shut

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The first thing you’ll notice listening to Hop Along’s Painted Shut is that voice. Frances Quinlan’s vocals have music writers scrambling to describe it – Vulture hyperbolically asked if hers was the best voice in rock music today. They’re not wrong though. Quinlan, whose vocals alternate between a sweet whisper to a gravelly howl, conveys raw emotion in a way that few others can. The Philadelphia indie pop band borrows everything from folky autoharp to twinkling emo guitar leads, and Quinlan’s lyrics always have a wide-eyed idealism to them, whether she’s dealing with heavy topics like alcoholism and mental illness or mundane encounters like the Jehovah’s Witnesses at her door or running into an ex at a restaurant. – James Li

Listen: “Waitress”

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

I maintain until the day that I die that this is one of the best hip hop albums we will be graced with in the 21st century. I’ve listened to this on the brightest and hottest days, alone in my room emotionally compensated, and rapping along to it at ungodly hours to the dismay of wholesome families in various residential areas. It’s not a mood album, but it’s emotional. It’s not a struggle anthem, but it speaks of struggle. It’s a story the encompasses so much of humanity. I haven’t struggled like you, Kendrick, but the universal themes of inadequacy and inner conflict are relatable to all. To Pimp a Butterfly reminds me why I love music so much – no matter how different our stories are, we are still human and experience many of the same things. This makes his inherent political message even more powerful: how could we let this happen to our fellow man? – Ayla Shiblaq

Listen: “Alright”

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

It may seem too obvious to choose Carrie and Lowell as the best album of 2015 so far, but Sufjan Stevens’s latest record certainly deserves all the praise it has been receiving. Carrie and Lowell is a gorgeous, nostalgic and heartbreaking album that mainly focuses on Sufjan’s complicated relationship with his late mother. It’s depressing, yet still hopeful; Sufjan may remind us that we’re all going to die, but he still sings of the joy that his niece brings. Coupled with a live show that brings anyone with a soul to tears, Carrie and Lowell is one of the most poignant albums I have heard in a very, very long time. – Carey Roach

Listen: “Should Have Known Better”

Jamie xx – In Colour


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Just in time for summer, Jamie Smith released the product of six years of work, which culminated into a beautiful and cohesive ensemble that doesn’t tie itself to any particular style or era of electronic music. Considering the fact that the songwriter/producer had previously spoken of his desire to make this album timeless, it’s safe to say that he succeeded in this endeavour. Admittedly, I slept on his work for a few years so this collection hit me like a ton of bricks, despite some tracks (i.e.: “Obvs”) borrowing from his previously released singles (i.e.: “Far Nearer” – 2011). Although the featured vocalists seem like a rather unusual medley, they all come together to accompany this magnificent debut album. Romy Madley Croft of the xx and Young Thug provide some of the more memorable vocal moments. Though technology can be seen as the antithesis of the human, this album manages to keep that cool distance while maintaining a very emotional touch, almost as though Jamie is an omnipresent composer that peeks into your most intimate thoughts (at a London rave). All in all, this album is an absolute delight to get lost in. Bonus: “Colour” is spelled correctly. – Helena Najm

Listen: “Loud Places”

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