Demo’s 50 Best Albums Of 2015

Last year was admittedly a slow year in music: we polled our contributors for their favourite albums of 2014, and we struggled to come up with our ten favourite albums as a whole. This year, our contributors came up with fifty of their favourite albums in a hotly contested process. So many more good records come out every year than any one person can listen to, so it’s ridiculous to choose just one as the best, and fifty isn’t much better. So while there are plenty of fine albums that didn’t make the cut, here are the ones that defined our year.

50. Mick Jenkins – Wave[s] [Cinematic]

65f5df26[1]Bruce Lee told us to be like water – shapeless and formless, able to drip and to crush – and Chicago rapper Mick Jenkins truly lives up to that advice, with his agile flow and placid jazzy production. — James Li

Listen: “Your Love”

 

 

49. Sophie – Product [Numbers]

Album art for Product Product presents itself as a collage of the digital zeitgeist, taking all the components of electronic music we’re so addicted to and bringing them to sugary new heights. If the world ever needed a pop manifesto, a compass bearing for the future of music, look no further. Sophie will lead the way. — Marko Cindric

Listen: “Vyzee”

 

 

48. Laura Marling – Short Movie [Ribbon]

Album art for Short Movie Short Movie has further affirmed that Laura Marling is one of the best and most prolific songwriters of her time, no matter the style within which she decides to work. You won’t find her apologizing for reaching out and trying something new, and at the tender age of 25, she shouldn’t be afraid to. — Helena Najm

Listen: “Short Movie”

 

 

47. Dan Mangan + Blacksmith – Club Meds [Arts & Crafts]

Album art for Club MedsClub Meds is a dark but charming record that manages to make sweeping lyrical statements and introspective musial features without seeming self-indulgent — it includes the best parts of Mangan while still venturing into new creative territory. — Carey Roach

Listen: “Vessel”

 

 

46. Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone? [Matador]

While Majical Cloudz’s music always feels extremely personal, Are You Alone? is teeming with anonymity and distance. This album makes you wonder how somber lyrics that could only have been written by someone possessed by Sadness herself could be delivered with such a cold, unaffected tone. — Helena Najm

Listen: “Downtown”

 

45. Disclosure – Caracal [Island]

Caracal[1]

Listen: “Magnets”

 

 

 

 

44. Selena Gomez – Revival [Interscope]

Selena_Gomez_-_Revival_(Official_Standard_Cover)[1]

Growing up under the scrutiny of the entire world is tough, to have done it with grace is even harder (just look at Miley Cyrus). Luckily, Selena Gomez’s coming of age seems quite effortless. By taking time for herself, she conjures up a mature, sophisticated, and honest album. — Alexander Si

Listen: “Good for You”

 

43. Destroyer – Poison Season [Sub Pop]

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Regarded as one of indie’s most renowned rock poets, Destroyer returns with an album that doubles down on esoteric lyrics and mystical, vivacious dreamscape instrumentals. This album is a reverie you’ll find yourself yearning to explore over and over. — Gilad Lippa

Listen: “Times Square”

 

42. Kelela – Hallucinogen [Warp]

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If dark tones and bare shoulders on the cover didn’t clue you in, Kelela’s gorgeous, slow-burning EP is an R&B study in negative space, with her breathy voice peeking through woozy stop-start instrumentals. But the producers, which include Arca and DJ Dahi, work in left-field turns that constantly leave the listener on their toes. — James Li

Listen: “Rewind”

 

41. Dr. Dre – Compton [Aftermath]

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Compton  is a lot stranger, more complex, and less brash than The Chronic or 2001. While the album as a whole occasionally buckles under its own self-serious, self-aggrandizing weight, it presents a unique and varied approach to gangsta rap that only a pioneer like Dre could effectively pull off with such composure, vitality, and force. — Gilad Lippa

 

 

40. Viet Cong – Viet Cong [Jagjaguwar]

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One of post-punk’s greatest inspirations has always been the bleakness of the city. Viet Cong’s self-titled album is a little different in that it is inspired by Calgary’s winters. As any Canadian knows, winter can make you miserable, and that comes through on Viet Cong. — James Li

Listen: “Continental Shelf”

 

39. Miley Cyrus – Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz [self-released]

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Miley Cyrus experiments with psychedelic pop rock, dreamy lyrics, and experimental electronic sound. It’s unlike anything else I’ve heard this year, in the best way. — Savana James

Listen: “Dooo It!”

 

 

38. Wavves – V [Warner Bros.]

Album art for VWavves have taken a turn from their usual topics of drugs, boredom and the beach and concentrate on the aftermath of a night involving bad decisions, breakups and getting smashed. — Kalina Nedelcheva

Listen: “Way Too Much”

 

 

37. Kamasi Washington – The Epic [Brainfeeder]

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Three discs, three hours, seventeen tracks, a ten-piece band, a twenty-piece choir, and a thirty-two piece string orchestra. The Epic is an undertaking to listen to, but it’s also one of the best jazz albums in recent years. — James Li

Listen: “Change of the Guard”

 

 

36. BØRNS – Dopamine [Universal]

borns-dopamine-the-emotion[1]BØRNS has a cool, effeminately laid-back demeanor with vocals that are so full of range, yet come from a place of ease. — Samantha Capaldi

Listen: “Electric Love”

 

 

 

35. milo – so the flies don’t come [Ruby Yacht]

milo-so-the-flies-dont-come[1]

On so the flies don’t come, milo vocalizes the social issues of our generation to provide a simple, subtle, and immersive album. Blending discrete backbeats, methodical pacing and a broken stream of poetic stanzas, milo’s record of alt-rap captures the listener and doesn’t release them until the end. — Harry Myles

Listen: “Souvenir”

 

34. Shamir – Ratchet [XL]

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Las Vegas native Shamir contorts house beats and gender roles on his debut, and makes one of the sassiest and bounciest albums of the year. — James Li

Listen: “On the Regular”

 

 

 

33. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love [Sub Pop]

homepage_large.c8f55f3f[1]Even though one of the tracks on No Cities to Love is called “No Anthems,” every song on this album sounds like one. Unlike their previous albums, there are no slow songs on this record – each track goes for the throat. — James Li

Listen: “Surface Envy”

 

 

32. Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi [Atlantic]

1035x1035-Kintsugi_Cover_HR[1]Kintsugi marks a return to the classic Death Cab tradition of being poignant and at least a little bit heartbreaking. The album name refers to the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using gold lacquer. In many ways, the album is the musical equivalent of this. — Carey Roach

Listen: “Black Sun”

 

 

31. Jlin – Dark Energy [Planet Mu]

homepage_large.5d22f88f[1]Fire! — Adam Piotrowicz

Listen: “Unknown Tongues”

 

 

 

 

30. Fidlar – Too [Mom + Pop]

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Listen: “40oz. on Repeat”

 

 

 

 

29. Halsey – Badlands [Astralwerks]

Halsey_-_Badlands[1]Halsey’s no-nonsense attitude and straightforward, snarky lyrics make her a compelling artist. Her debut album is refreshing in that she doesn’t shy away from talking about her sex life or her bipolar disorder, and her music feels like a poetic diary entry in the best way possible. — Anisha Rohra

Listen: “Ghost”

 

 

28. Purity Ring – another eternity [4AD]

Album art for Another EternityPurity Ring focus solely on the simplest forms of human connection, bodies, tears, aching, and lonely sighs. Sounding melodramatic and depressing on a surface level, the duo brings light and adorable happiness to the most depressing of words. — Claire Cowan

Listen: “begin again”

 

 

27. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye [Virgin]

chvrches-every-open-eye[1]

Every Open Eye reminds me that strength and empowerment don’t necessarily need to translate into aggression or distortion in order to be effective. Often enough, they’re found in the supremely melodic, glimmering and bursting from light.  — Jennifer Hyc

Listen: “Leave a Trace”

 

 

26. Marina & the Diamonds – Froot [Atlantic]

Marina_and_the_Diamonds_-_Froot_(album)[1]I’ll be honest — I didn’t like this album the first couple of times I listened to it. But after seeing her live, I listened to it again and appreciated it for what it was; a fun, different take on the pop genre with weird influences and weirder lyrics. — Anisha Rohra

Listen: “Froot”

 

 

25. Future – DS2 [Epic]

Album art for DS2

DS2 plays like a mixtape, but a very lean one that feels short at 18 tracks. Future’s crack team of collaborators, including producers like Metro Boomin and Southside, sidestep current trends in trap rap for a more distinctive sound: sweeping strings and chiming keys penetrate the drugged-out hazy beats. — James Li

Listen: “Where Ya At”

 

 

24. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness [Republic]

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It’s no small feat how Abel Tesfaye dominated the pop charts this year without compromising the dark hedonism of his first mixtapes. Only in 2015 would you hear “when I’m fucked up, that’s the real me” in a chart-topping single. — James Li

Listen: “The Hills”

 

 

23. Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper [Domino]

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On his fifth studio album, Noah Lennox delivers a textural, yet serene, conversation with death. In true Panda Bear fashion, Grim Reaper shrouds Lennox’s personal experiences with relatable lyrics and aqueous harmonies, packaging fear with an array of aural sensations. — Alekzia Hosein

Listen: “Boys Latin”

 

22. The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily [Nonesuch]

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Listen: “Stay in My Corner”

 

 

 

 

21. Death Grips – The Powers That B [Harvest]

aa7dfbe8[1]The Powers That B is arguably the bipolar pinnacle of Death Grips’ evolution to date, a continuation of the alien punk-rap they have been gradually disintegrating since their debut. As such, both of Powers’ distinct halves reference the band’s roots but constantly into uncharted territory. — Adam Piotrowicz

Listen: “I Break Mirrors with My Face in the United States”

 

 

20. Miguel – Wildheart [RCA]

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Miguel is the closest thing we’ll get to a millennial Prince – nominally an R&B singer, but closer to a rock star. Wildheart is loaded with watery guitars and luxe synths, and while the album clearly has sex and seduction on its mind, Miguel makes smart and vulnerable musings on anything from rebellion to racial identity. — James Li

Listen: “coffee”

 

19. Justin Bieber – Purpose [Def Jam]

Justin_Bieber_-_Purpose_(Official_Album_Cover)[1]In Purpose, Justin Bieber has finally come into himself as an adult and as an artist. It’s a stark and sincere album, and he bares his heart and soul to the world with his album. With upbeat tropical house tracks that blend seamlessly into soft piano ballads, Bieber shows off his musical talents without a single hint of the teen pop that saturated his previous albums. — Hazel Sands

Listen: “What Do You Mean?”

 

18. Hop Along – Painted Shut [Saddle Creek]

homepage_large.96f9778e[1]The first thing you’ll notice listening to Hop Along’s Painted Shut is that voice. Frances Quinlan’s voice has music writers scrambling to describe it and with good reason. Quinlan, whose vocals alternate between a sweet whisper to a gravelly howl, conveys raw emotion in a way that few others can. — James Li

Listen: “The Knock”

 

 

17. FKA twigs – M3L155X [Young Turks]

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Simultaneously horrifying and uplifting, recognizably sexy and destructively alien, twigs continues to explore the connection between the body and spirit, distorting the two until they become one strange, beautiful, wholly new form. — Gilad Lippa

Listen: M3L155X

 

 

16. Young Thug – Barter 6 [300]

young-thug-barter-6[1]The beats on the Barter 6 are low-key and minimalist, leaving much of the attention (melodic and otherwise) focused squarely on Young Thug. In turn, he aces it, having developed his ability for knowing when a yelp, groan or a drawn-out syllable will subvert our expectations and energize a familiar line. — Stuart Oakes

Listen: “Check”

 

 

15. Florence + the Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful [Republic]

Florence_and_the_Machine_-_How_Big_How_Blue_How_Beautiful_(Official_Album_Cover)[1]

Florence showcases a full evolution in this album, showcasing some of her most honest art yet. This album is less fairy tale and more emotionally honest; a glimpse into her most honest heart. This was definitely my favourite album of the year.  — Savana James

Listen: “What Kind of Man”

 

 

14. Adele – 25 [XL]

Album art for 25

To follow an album like 21 would be a challenge to any artist aside from Adele herself. It is very rare to have such a powerful and influential album once in a lifetime like Adele did with 21, and yet here she is again, years later with 25. Adele is a moving artist, who can make you feel so strongly in both happiness and in sorrow.  — Samantha Capaldi

Listen: “Hello”

 

13. Carly Rae Jepsen – E·MO·TION [Interscope]

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Yep. That Carly Rae Jepsen. The Canadian Idol contestant and one-hit wonder made a pop album that sounds more 1989 than Taylor Swift’s 1989E·MO·TION glints and sparkles the way fireworks or champagne bubbles do, and its effervescence is just captivating. — James Li

Listen: “Run Away with Me”

 

12. Leon Bridges – Coming Home [Columbia]

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Leon Bridges’ emergence has been refreshing for 2015, with soft jazz and gospel vocals that sound like they are straight from the 50s. This album isn’t just a throwback to the R&B era, Leon has unapologetically found his genuine sound in it. — Hazel Sands

Listen: “Coming Home”

 

 

11. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear [Sub Pop]

Fjm-iloveyouhoneybear[1]

With a silky voice and swinging hips, Josh Tillman illustrates life in love – fulfilling, yet ultimately brutal. ‘I Love You Honeybear’ is a lusciously egotistical but self-loathing account of his own unpackaging for his wife and all the world to see, making it by far one of this year’s most interesting narratives. — Jennifer Hyc

Listen: “I Love You Honeybear”

 

 

10. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06 [Def Jam]

Vince Staples named his album after a summer that marked an end of innocence – when many of his friends ended up dead or incarcerated. That despair is reflected in Summertime ‘06’s production, handled mostly by Kanye mentor No I.D., with help from Clams Casino and DJ Dahi. It’s just as cohesively produced as Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, but Summertime ’06 is its antithesis. Kendrick’s album is vibrant and groovy, but Vince’s is cold and alienating. — James Li

Listen: “Norf Norf”

9. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit [Mom + Pop]

sometimes-i-sit-FRONT[1]

There’s something about Sometimes I Sit, 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.  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”

8. Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness [Domino]

Album art for Have You in My Wilderness

Julia Holter’s music draws from jazz, chamber music, and musique concrète, and her literary lyrics are inspired by the works of Euripides, Colette, Frank O’Hara, and Virginia Woolf. But despite all this, her music is playful, not pretentious, and her latest album, Have You in My Wilderness, is her warmest and most accessible yet. On Have You in My Wilderness, Holter moves away from the bedroom to the studio (her first two albums were home recordings), and makes a collection of ballads rather than a concept album. But Have You in My Wilderness is no less ambitious for it. With a full band backing her, Holter paints in strings, keys, and horns. — James Li

Listen: “Feel You”

7. Jamie xx – In Colour [Young Turks]

Jamiexx-InColour[1]

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. 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. — Helena Najm

Listen: “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

6. Tame Impala – Currents [Interscope]

Currents_artwork_(Tame_Impala_album)[1]

In a year full of great pop albums, what makes Currents stand out is the ways in which it is unexpected. Completely different from their previous works (there is a song titled “Yes I’m Changing” and they definitely have), this album moves to a synth induced intricacy of ideas and clean line melodies. Kevin Parker showcases not only his vocal talent, especially on “‘Cause I’m A Man”, but also his ability to produce and arrange complex and intriguing pop tracks. — Gwen Reid

Listen: “Let It Happen”

5. Beach House – Depression Cherry [Sub Pop]

Album art for Depression Cherry

Depression Cherry always maintains a balance in its sounds. Heavy and light (bitter and sweet) are always in precise proportion to each other. Elongated, drawn out bass lines and brittle guitar work subtly drags and swirls the ear along juxtaposing registers. As in every Beach House album, their special ability to create beautiful melodies is what makes them so talented. They always ensure they never tip that balance. — Jamil Fiorino-Habib

Listen: “Sparks”

4. Grimes – Art Angels [4AD]

Art Angels manages to continue the trend of embracing retro pop and electronic sounds and recreating them for our generation, thus making tired sounds seem new and fresh again. Despite the aforementioned complaints, the songs that are most jarring in comparison to her body of work prove to be the album’s greatest standouts, and even her most bubblegum pop moments offer an excellent bridge between alternative and pop music without fully playing into predictable tropes of either genre. — Helena Najm

Listen: “REALiTi”

3. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late [Cash Money]

Back in February, Drake pulled a Beyoncé and dropped If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late overnight with no warning. With no obvious singles, this mixtape is simply just Drake showing his love for music without any hint of the commercialism of his previous albums. It’s a love song dedicated to the 6 with dark hypnotic beats reminiscent of downtown Toronto past midnight. — Hazel Sands

Listen: “Energy”

2. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell [Asthmatic Kitty]

Sufjan Stevens knows how to write a sad album. Dealing with the loss of his mother and the nostalgia for when he was close to her, Sufjan used this album as a tool to come to terms with grief. What he created is an intimately relatable account of love and loss. — Gwen Reid

Listen: “Should Have Known Better”

1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly [Interscope]

To Pimp a Butterfly is Kendrick Lamar’s most musically expansive album, drawing deeply from jazz, funk, neo-soul, and even dancehall and Afrobeat. It’s appropriate that Kendrick shouts out Killer Mike on “Hood Politics,” as, on his 2012 album R.A.P. Music, Killer Mike declared that rap music stood for rebellious African people’s music: “this is jazz, this is funk, this is soul, this is gospel.” To Pimp a Butterfly is heavily indebted to these genres not just for their sound but for their power as protest music.  To Pimp a Butterfly is a synthesis of the old and the new, not so much inspired by the G-Funk of the 90s, but rather the P-Funk of the 70s. — James Li

Listen: “King Kunta”

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