The 50 best albums of 2015


50. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late


Canada’s greatest ever rapper (sorry Neil Young!) dropped this bombshell mixtape via Twitter in February – and the rap world is still reacting. Sprawling and dense, with minimalist beats and nods to trap, this 17-track monster finds our hero in the depths of the “6” (his code for Toronto), trying to find meaning in a world that’s becoming more and more complicated the bigger he gets. – Darren Levin

49. Marlon Williams – Marlon Williams


On his debut solo release NZ born Marlon Williams filters Roy Orbison melancholy through disarmingly poised songwriting to hit emotional notes like few others can. With a voice as tempestuous as his it would be easy to let the songs bleed out into something far more overblown, but the 23 year-old has an uncanny knack for reeling it in before it gets away. – Sarah Smith

48. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye


Every Open Eye is relentlessly optimistic, aspirational even, as if Chvrches can already see the illuminated festival crowds laid out before them. Lauren Mayberry’s particular gift, of wrapping heartbreak inside an iron fist, is as strong and nuanced as ever. It’s bizarre why anyone would have the gall to call her “pixie-like” or “pint-sized” when she is this forcefully self-assured. – Jules Lefevre

47. Dr Dre – Compton

dr Dre

The increasingly mythical Detox had become somewhat of an albatross around Dre’s neck. After 15 long years it seemed that no matter what he came up with Andre Young’s third solo LP was never going to overcome the weight of expectations. Releasing a “companion piece” to the film Compton stacked full of rappers and co-writes rather than his own record, then, was a stroke of genius. But Compton is no cop out. On it Dre reminds us of the skills that built his name,  while simultaneously showing off a stack of new tricks. The production is playful – especially on stand-outs ‘Talk About It’ and ‘Genocide’ – while the lyrics (both Dre’s and his guests) are some of the most potent and political of his career to date. – Sarah Smith

46. Bully – Feels Like


Nirvana is what it feels like, and Bully’s debut album makes no secret of the influence. From Alicia Bognanno’s throat-shredding wail and bracing tunefulness, the Nashville quartet look fondly to their heroes on the lurching likes of ‘Too Tough’ and ‘Picture’. But even more apparent is the sheer compressed emotion, and the bulk of these anthems lope ahead with giddy power-pop hooks that date back much further than grunge. – Doug Wallen

45. BadBadNotGood and Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul


Slick, elegant and accomplished, it’s the kind of album that would stand up on its own as an instrumental; such is the audacious musicianship on display. But the unmistakable, ever-reliable vocals of Ghostface provide a gritty realism to the dark subject matter, contrasting nicely with the smooth, layered atmosphere laid down by BBNG. The message is clear: this is the future of hip-hop. – Sean A’Hearn

44. Methyl Ethel – Oh Inhuman Spectacle

methPerth three-piece Methyl Ethel only formed last year which makes their debut album Oh Inhuman Spectacle all the more impressive. Anchored around the melancholic drift of lead single ‘Twilight Driving’, the record sees songwriter Jake Webb stretch melodies out like Hubba Bubba imprinting the band’s shadowy pop with a deliriously gooey aesthetic. While there are moments that closely echo Merriweather Post Pavilion-era Animal Collective, Methyl Ethel clearly have something far more original in their sights. – Sarah Smith

43. Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool

wolf alice

Wolf Alice may have evolved from a folk duo to a rock quartet, but they retain the best of both worlds on their barn-storming debut LP. For all the spooky, low-slung atmosphere on display, we also get shouted harmonies on ‘You’re a Gem’, angst-y stoner rock on ‘Giant Peach’ and a real knack for ’90s-style alt-rock outbursts. But the best moments exploit the tension between those extremes, like when Ellie Rowsell sings oh so coolly about wanting to smash windows. – Doug Wallen

42. Beach House – Depression Cherry


Beach House released back-to-back albums this year, but Depression Cherry is the “official” one. It continues the patient expansion of the duo’s quicksand-of-syrup dream-pop, which gets richer and sweeter all the time. The components are ever so humble – sputtering drum machine, Victoria Legrand’s foggy sigh, Alex Scally’s snaking guitar threads – but they present a grander vision than ever on the Baltimore band’s fifth LP, even as they wade into diffuse electronics. – Doug Wallen

41. Mark Ronson – Uptown Special


The funk is definitely in the building once again, but it’s far from the only sound at the party. Tame Impala figurehead Kevin Parker, who lends his vocals to three choice cuts of fittingly psychedelic and fluttering pop, helps carve out even more new territory for Ronson to explore. Uptown Special is yet another insight into one of the more flexibly creative names in contemporary pop. Don’t believe it? Just watch. – David James Young

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