written by Michael Owino (@mikoniablogs)
2015 was an unbelievable year for music. Records were smashed by Adele, as her third studio album 25 sells north of 5 million copies within it first week worldwide. Grimes sophomore record Art Angels is almost pop perfection. Sufjan Stevens took us to his roots in Carrie & Lowell. And of course, Kendrick Lamar shook the world with his magnum opus, To Pimp A Butterfly. It’s been difficult, but I’ve conjured up my 10 favourite records. Here it goes!
10. Jazmine Sullivan – Reality Show (RnB)
Album pick: Brand New
9. Natalie Prass- Natalie Prass (Indie Pop/Chamber Pop)
The Cleveland born singer finally solidified her presence with her self-titled debut album. After releasing Small & Sweet in 2009, followed by Sense of Transcendence in 2011, Natalie Prass manages to accomplish almost the impossible. Her voice alone could ignite a room full of gloominess. “Bird of Prey” is easily my favourite track. I for one hope we haven’t heard the last of this truly astonishing performer.
Album Pick: Bird of Prey
8. Joanna Newsom – Divers (Avant Garde)
When mentioning Avant-garde, it is almost a sin to exclude Joanna Newsom in the discussion. “The Book of Right-On” from her debut The Milk-Eyed Mender typifies everything you need to know about the genre. Divers could well be my favourite out of her four releases. Joanna seems to have raised the bar almost every time she’s in the studio. Divers is a culmination of intelligent lyrics, tailored with spell bounding sound arrangements. Listening to the opening track, “Anecdotes” is strong sign of things to come from what is already an epic catalogue.
Album Pick: Anecdotes
7. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love (Indie Rock/Post-Punk)
I was in ecstasy when Sleater Kinney announced their long-awaited album, after ten long years. I had a gut feeling they’ll get a little complacent during the hiatus, but I was wrong. No Cities to Love is heart pulsating to a point I couldn’t get through the first track, “Price Tag”. I’m in awe of how glorious they managed to keep things together, after so long. After listening to this exquisite, beast of the record, it corroborates that age is just a number.
Album Pick: A New Wave
6. Tame Impala – Currents (Psychedelic Pop/Disco)
Lonerism is one of my favourite records this decade thus far, so a follow up is nothing short of anticipating to say the least. However Currents may not carry the same weight as its predecessor, the record is superlative in its own right. “Let It Happen” takes psychedelic pop to new extremes. Kevin Parker (part of Tame Impala) is a genius on formulating another whirlwind of a release.
Album Pick: Let It Happen
5. Vince Staples- Summertime ’06 (Hip-hop)
The atmosphere of Summertime ’06 is at times frantic. Vince Staples flourishes in painting a bleak shade of what really goes down in Long Beach California. The production is wonderful, blended with persevering, excruciating lyrics. Track by track, we uncover the psyche of an individual that possess a raw talent, in telling a story in distinctive fashion. His flow varies throughout the record, taking random twists and turns. One of the leaders of the new school, Summertime ’06 is something not to be slept on.
4. Jamie XX – In Colour (Electronica)
Originally from the British band, The XX, the producer decided to cut ways momentarily to assemble a studio album. After remixing the late Gil Scott-Heron’s final album I’m New Here, Jamie XX went forth on amassing his most adventurous music to date. In Colour is an overwhelming debut, jam-packed with bar raising collaborations from his fellow XX members (Romy & Oliver Sim), Popcaan and Young Thug. It’s hard to figure out if he’ll ever top this, though I’m not putting it past him.
Album Pick: Loud Places
3rd place: Grimes – Art Angels (Synth pop/Art Pop)
Even just by observing at the cover art, you know Grimes took a left turn from what she’s already used to. Art Angels dwarfs every album she’s ever done period! Her magisterial vocal patterns sparkle on each track. It’s wacky, haunting capped with penetrating lyrics. True pop perfection by the Canadian native singer. It’s scary to think that Grimes has yet to even tap into her true potential. No one today is manufacturing pop like Grimes, that’s for sure.
Album Pick: California
2nd place: Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (Indie Folk)
In any other year, this would have been my album of the year, though let’s not dwell on that. Sufjan Stevens took us all by surprise when he showcased his stripped down, folk roots. Almost 10 years since he released his stroke of genius Illinoise, this record could well enter the conversation of his most supreme work to date. Heart-wrenching tales of his late Mother personifies the prominence of one the most iconic artists of our generation. Carrie & Lowell will unquestionably stand in the test of time, in years to come.
Album Pick: Should Have Known Better
1st place: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (Hip-hop)
Album Pick: Wesley’s Theory