The Top 15 Of 2015
15. Jazmine Sullivan - Reality Show
R&B music holds a special place in my heart, but most of the modern versions are derivative of current trends, and general lack nuances in lyrical content. Jazmine's "Reality Show" contained a bit of old and new along with clever songwriting. Great album!
14. Dornik - Dornik
When "Something About You" appeared in 2013, I knew we were in for something special with a Dornik full-length. He didn't disappoint. This 2015 gem is a must listen.
13. Earl Sweatshirt - I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside
I knew something was different about Earl. "I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside" is a clever, interesting album and differentiates himself from his OFWGKTA brethren. It's messy beautiful.
12. Kamasi Washington - The Epic
An album who's time clocks well above any other album on this list is Kamasi Washington's jazz gem. Kamasi's horn sings like a vocalist and while the record plays most seamlessly as a complete listen, it can be broken up.
11. BOSCO - BOY (EP)
EP's are necessary today. It gives the artist room to do what they do, and get out of it, leaving the audience wanting more. BOSCO's Fools Gold debut not only has her in fine form, but pushes past her contemporaries in many ways.
10. Kelela - Hallucinogen
When Kelela's 2013 release "Cut 4 Me" landed, it sent out a beacon to what the possibilities of Future R&B could be. "Hallucinogen" delivers on the promise, and even gives Kelela a leg up by infusing solid dance foundations. Good stuff!
9. Thundercat - The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam
Thundercat is one of the most wondrous bass players of our time, and he makes amazing records. While I didn't fall in love with "Apocalypse" I found this EP a moody and impressive addition to my catalog.
8. Bilal - In Another Life
Bilal Oliver is a bona fide rock star! He's easily one of the most important vocalists in the last 20 years, being both chameleon like and introspective. If you haven't seen him live, do yourself a favor and fix that!
7. Nicolay - City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto
If there's one record on this list that makes me feel the most alive, it's "City Lights Vol. 3." The record makes everyone who hears it smile, and the sounds are colorful and vibrant coming out of the speakers!
6. Nao - February 15th/So Good
London's Nao surprised ME landing so high on this list! Her two EP's released this year some some of the best music I listened to all year!
5. Sleater-Kinney - No Cities To Love
It's been a decade since we've gotten new music from Sleater-Kinney, and "No Cities To Love" proved that we need rock music like this. Rhythmic, distorted and gorgeous, this album inspires us to keep going, no matter what!
4. Byron The Aquarius - J Dilla What Up Doe? Vol. 1
Byron Blaylock is building a solid catalog of masterfully crafted tunes, and this tribute to Jay Dee stands as one of the best original tribute albums to his legacy. He takes the best of Dilla's many sounds and collaborates with artists that both respect and love the experience. Thanks, Byron!
3. Tame Impala - Currents
This record is groovy and cool! Tame Impala's evolution as rockers gives us a glimpse into why calling them a "psychedelic" rock act may not be quite accurate.
2. The Internet - Ego Death
The Internet tend to stick out. They are a band (a talented one), and they write clever songs which catchy hooks. The feeling of history oozes throughout the songs, but they also address contemporary topics of love and lust from a youthful perspective. "Ego Death" is one of the most innovative R&B records of this generation.
1. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
What can be said about this record that hasn't already been said? Kendrick's ability to fuse, rap, soul, funk and jazz is reminiscent of Outkast, but it has the flair of his California contemporaries like The Game. "To Pimp A Butterfly" is one of the best rap records that I've ever heard. I find it challenging to call it a rap record at all. It doesn't go down smooth, but it fills your soul once it's in there.
15. Mark Ronson - Uptown Special
This album is so good that even an annoying hit single that was everywhere an completely wore out it’s welcome can’t ruin it. And while I never need to hear that song that I shall not name here again, the album is amazing. If pop radio never had got a hold of that song, I think we would all recognize the greatness of Mark Ronson’s work more.
14. Freddie Gibbs - Shadow of A Doubt
Fact: Sometimes life calls for some gangster ish. Yes I like my Hip Hip uplifting and fun. But sometimes I need to mean mug, nod my head extra hard, and rep along to some story telling about seady events, mackin b’s and pushing weight. Gibbs is one of my go to guys. And this album picks up right where his collab with Madlib which was my favorite album from last year left off.
13. Roman GianArthur - OK Lady
So if you tell me one of Janelle Monae’s Wonderland Records members is gonna do an EP of Radiohead covers, i’m sold. If you tell me one of Janelle Monae’s Wonderland Records members is gonna do an EP of D’Angelo covers, i’m sold. If you tell me the two were gonna be mashed up, I’m a little skeptical, but still interested. But after hearing how masterfully is was done, I’m hooked.
12. Dornik - Dornik
Over the years I have but up a list of friends whose musical recommendations I find invaluable. Basically if they say it’s dope I drop cash, and I am rarely disappointed. I found out about Dornik this way. His album puts you in my mind of Prince, The System, and a number of Jam & Lewis inspired productions. Amazing work. Note: This is another year where I think a ton of artists outside of America are making music we should all be talking about consistently here.
11. Guilty Simpson - Detroit’s Songu
So dope to hear the homie Guilty switching his sound up a bit on this album. Dope beat selection combined with his signature gritty lyrics make this album one of the best Hip Hop albums this year. My friends make better music than your friends.
10. Bilal - In Another Life
Coming off of working on one of my favorite albums this year, Bilal graced us with another piece of art in the form of In Another Life. If this guy put’s an album out, it’s pretty much guaranteed to end up on my end of the year list. This time leaving the production the capable hands of Adrian Younge, Bilal continued making the type of Soul music that we need. Thought provoking and introspective, this album will be in rotation for years.
9. Raury - All We Need
I first heard Raury on Sbtrkt’s album which made my best of list from last year. I getting excited when a young cat (19 year old) is making quality music. The comparisons to Andre 3K are appropriate, but you can also here influences like Frank Ocean, Lauryn Hill, & Prince on this album. Love the album, and I am looking forward to hearing more.
8. Thundercat - The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam
Dude has played a part in some of my favorite albums of the last 10 years. On his 3rd solo album, it’s clear that his work just get’s better and better. While it’s the shortest release in his catalog, this is my favorite.
7. Alabama Shakes - Sound In Color
After hearing all the noise from their fans leading up to the release of this album, I knew I had to check it out. I missed their first album Boys & Girls, but kept hearing their name on blogs & radio shows I listen to. So when Sound In Color dropped I bought it. I am glad I did. Britany Howard’s vocals are soul stirring. And my favorite track changes almost every time I listen to the album. Definitely worth all the praise it’s receiving.
6. Miguel - Wildheart
I don’t know what it is about this album. It’s not the best songwriting. It’s not the best grooves. When I look at my list there are album below it that I think are better for sure. But it’s just something about it for me. It feels good. I love so much about it. It speaks to where I am am at this point of my life I guys. Coffee is just fresh. Hollywood Dreams, Leaves & Face The Sun remind me of life out here in Phoenix. The break on Waves is one of my favorite moments in music this year. It’s one of my favorite albums this year. And that’s what my list is about.
5. Nicolay - City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto
Another year, another FE Music release in my Top albums. This album is perfect from start to finish. I won’t compare it to his work with the Foreign Exchange, because this album gives me a different feeling. It puts me in a different space. It makes me want to travel. Be outside. Feel the air. And just enjoy life. I played it a ton this year during runs, which it was perfect for. This is another piece that needs to be taken in completely.
4. Donny Trumpet & The Social Experiment - Surf
When I first heard Chance The Rapper, I thought he was cool. AcidRap was OK. Wasn’t blown away or anything. Then through his Soundcloud, he started dropping these joints that were really quality. Specificallythese Donnie Trumpet tracks. I then found out that it wasn’t another name for Chance, but a group that feature him on vocals sometime. So when Surf dropped (still available for free on iTunes) I decided to check it out, and was like whoa! Features from Busta, Erykah, J Cole? Lot’s of Jazz influence? Just generally good vibes! Not to mention one of my wife’s favorite songs this year Sunday Candy.
3. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
Never expected this. I know the follow up to Good Kid was gonna be sick. But not like this! I had no clue Kendrick was working with so many artist I dug. And when i saw the Colbert Report performance I was super excited. It’s rare that an album exceeds my lofty expectations for it, but it happened here. There has been so much written about this album already, I don’t have a ton to add to it. I will say along with Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead from last year, this album was key in peeking my interest in modern Jazz.
2. Oddisee - The Good Fight
I struggled with putting this album ahead of To Pimp A Butterfly. This album is just as important to me as that one was. While Oddisee does not break new ground here, his consistency is on display. It’s like his train has been picking up steam over the last few years. And I identify with him as an MC more than anyone else I can think of. One of the reasons he is in my Top 5 MC’s over the last 5 years. The Good Fight deserves every bit of the critical acclaim it’s receiving. It’s an eclectic album of different styles, clever wordplay, over a soundscape of colorful production. Oddisee is making the Hip Hop music I will be able to play for my daughter for years to come. While Kendrick may have put out the best Hip Hop album this year, The Good Fight is my favorite. Note: See him live if you can. It was my favorite concert this year.
1. Emily King - The Switch
So back in 2007 Emily King put out an album I hated. I was pretty sure I was never going to listen to her again. Until her Seven EP from 2011 came out. I took a friends suggestion and checked it out and was pleased. The Seven EP was cool, but if you would have told me a few years later that artist would put out what I would select as my album of the year, I wouldn’t have believed it. But she did. The Switch is perfect. It’s Soul, Indie rock, & Pop all thrown into a Vitamix. It’s not overbearing or pretentious. Just really, really, REALLY good. Songs about friendships, vultures, relationships, family, love, all on display in her own distinctive sound. It’s like the years have helped Emily find her voice and it’s one I want to hear for years to come. I imagined I would like it when I copped it in the Summer. I didn’t imagine it would be my most played album this year.