#30: Viet Cong – Viet Cong

First of all, I love when bands self-title their debut albums. To me, it’s a classic move. However, Viet Cong’s sound is far from classic. Their debut features a touch of rock but is also very poppy, almost reminding me of an angrier version of Deerhunter. I’m feeling the post-punk energy, for sure.

Released at the beginning of the year, Viet Cong grew slowly in popularity, with the group touring in support of the album for the majority of 2015. At this point, calling it “critically acclaimed” wouldn’t be a stretch. The group hails from Calgary, where the winters are cold. Really cold. For some reason, I feel like I can hear this in their music. Can you? – Anthony Marks

Listen: “Bunker Buster

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#29: Mini Mansions – The Great Pretenders

This album is brilliant. From start to finish, it’s so glam rock, like “circa-1973 Bowie, full on Ziggy Stardust-ing, combined with a bit of that Marc Bolan glammy croon” glam rock. While Mini Mansions hails from our very own Los Angeles, the group’s sound is unmistakably British. In 2015, these three California dudes crafted a stunning love letter to the period and genre with just a little help from Alex Turner of UK rock band Arctic Monkeys, who blows in with guest vocals on album track “Vertigo,” melting the hearts of women on either side of the pond.

It’s not all swoonworthy, though; this album boasts a sinister edge, like the orchestration for a character that is up to no good, out for a night on the town, ready to do something bad. The tracks are catchy, fun, and lyrically a bit “hmmm…” Imagine the soundtrack at that point in the movie when the charismatic killer shows up, and everyone in the audience knows something’s about to go down. That’s The Great Pretenders. – Melissa Karlin

Listen: “Heart of Stone

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#28: Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down

Kurt Vile’s sun-soaked, guitar-driven music was brought to the attention of the masses via 2013’s Wakin On A Pretty Daze, which landed the #39 spot on our Top 50 albums list that year. Since then, audiences have enjoyed the idyllic vocals emanating from behind Vile’s signature long hair at festivals across the globe. The man has a knack for hypnotically blending dreamy guitars with melancholy undertones, and his sixth solo effort, b’lieve i’m going down, proved Wakin On A Pretty Daze was no fluke.

Fans’ first preview of the album, “Pretty Pimpin,” is an ocean of sound; wave after wave of harmonized guitar picking anchored by Vile’s signature voice carried the warmth of the sun straight into our ears. While that single is upbeat, the Philadelphia-based musician wasn’t afraid to delve into somber territory on his latest LP either. Featuring just Kurt and his guitar, “All In A Daze Work” brought simplistic beauty and dimension to the album. With not a single filler track, b’lieve i’m going down is an uninterrupted collection of whimsical, auditory bliss and solidifies Kurt Vile’s place as the poster child for summer. – Angelica Corona

Listen: “Pretty Pimpin

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#27: Mumford and Sons – Wilder Mind

When Mumford and Sons announced that their third studio album would be a departure from their signature acoustic-driven music, the folk community collectively gasped. Why would one of America’s most beloved folk groups, known for their powerful acoustic music, trade in their banjos for electric guitars? And more importantly, what would it sound like?

Luckily, the UK band gracefully evolved, creating an album of passionate songs still filled with thunderous choruses and heartfelt lyrics, proving a change in musical style is something to be embraced, not feared. Marcus Mumford still pleads with remarkable intensity in “The Wolf,” and although the band’s acoustic instruments may not be fully in the album, their hearts certainly are. – Mary Bonney

Listen: “Believe

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#26: Of Montreal – Aureate Gloom

Having prog-rocked their way across the globe for the past 19 years, Of Montreal seems to have encountered no barriers to spreading their sound. In March, the prolific group released its thirteenth studio album, Aureate Gloom, which lead singer Kevin Barnes wrote over the course of a two-week stay in New York City during which he surrounded himself with music from the ’70s underground scene (think CBGBs).

The result is an album focused on heavy guitar riffs and unpredictable pathways. While its predecessor, Lousy With Sylvianbriar, bore more ’60s influences, Aureate Gloom is stripped-down and a bit dark. Like the album before it, it was recorded at an analog studio — no digital recording for this guy or his band. Of Montreal also didn’t spend too much time on the record, completing nearly a song a day in the studio and letting the album have a life of its own.

Aureate Gloom’s song structures are eclectic and incorporate drastic, psychedelic changes, but behind the noise rock that is prominent throughout the album lies well-crafted guitar layers and undeniable hooks. Barnes’ creative lyrics and extensive literary approach make this album a dense listen — dig a little deeper and you can always find new meanings. It’s “out there” but also palatable in a glorious way. – Anthony Marks

Listen: “Bassem Sabry

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#25: Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone?

“Are you alone?” the title of Magical Cloudz’ sophomore LP asks. You should be, because it’s the only way to truly immerse yourself in the emotional melancholia of this refreshingly low-key, vocally-driven album, which befittingly addresses themes of loneliness and heartache.

Lead singer Devon Walsh commands each track of Are You Alone? with his heady, expansive vocals, which echo over the understated instrumentals in a way that will resonate long after each song ends. The overall album experience is moody and intimate, wholeheartedly submerging listeners into the headspace Walsh must have been in when writing it. Still, it’s gentle in its despair when it could have easily been heavy-handed and will subtly grow on you with each repeat listen. – Jillian Goldfluss

Listen: “Downtown

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#24: Major Lazer – Peace Is The Mission

It can be argued that any track Los Angeles producer/DJ Diplo touches turns into ridiculously fun party gold. Peace Is The Mission takes that argument and makes it fact.

The worldwide popularity of the album’s lead single, “Lean On” featuring DJ Snake and Danish singer Mø, is a testament to the electric force of Major Lazer, the group Diplo formed with British DJ/producer Switch. From Elle Golding to Travi$ Scott, a plethora of artists contributed to this massive album, but no egos shine through in the production. Each song’s wild energy is unique and individual, and each track makes a statement. – Christine Perez

Listen: “Lean On

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#23: Passion Pit – Kindred

Listen to Passion Pit just once, and you’ll find yourself intrigued by vocalist Michael Angelakos’ uniquely impressive voice. Then the group’s energetic synth-pop beats and catchy refrains hook you, and there’s no turning back.

The follow-up to 2012’s wildly successful GossamerKindred explores deeper themes of family and relationships (Angelakos got married less than a year after Gossamer’s release and announced his divorce four months after Kindred’s). With tracks like “Lifted Up (1985)” and “Where The Sky Hangs,” the album hits all the right indie-electronica notes, and while a few years may have passed between Passion Pit’s second and third LPs, Kindred is another stellar addition to the uniquely upbeat group’s discography and well worth the wait. – Mary Bonney

Listen: “Lifted Up (1985)

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#22: Casey Veggies – Live & Grow

22-year-old Casey Veggies’ career stretches back to high school when he founded Odd Future with Tyler The Creator. He’s released five solo mixtapes since then, and this year he implored listeners to go after their dreams with his debut full-length, Live & Grow.

The aptly titled album reflects Veggies’ life and continuous growth as an artist, with storylines and themes that offer a great introduction to the artist for the unfamiliar. The album’s varied production and contributions from Tyler The Creator, DJ Mustard, Iamsu!, Hit-Boy, Top Dawg collaborator THC, and more ensure that each track stands apart from the one next to it. I can’t wait to see where life takes this Inglewood rapper next. – Kristen Meza

Listen – “Actin Up

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#21: Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden of Delete

Daniel Lopatin’s career under the Oneohtrix Point Never moniker has been prolific and impossible to summarize. Garden Of Delete is his “pop” record apparently, which in his world means mutilated melodies paired with crashing and jarring rhythms, along with seductive lulls into a false sense of security. Underneath it all was one of modern music’s most fertile imaginations, a natural successor to the Aphex Twins of the world.

Garden Of Delete saw a mischievous sense of humor come to the surface and revealed an approach of over-the-edge maximalism that led to thrilling passages in the likes of “Ezra” and “Mutant Standard,” not to mention the jaw-dropping chaos that emerges during “Sticky Drama.” You could argue all day about whether this is Lopatin’s finest effort yet, but the startling truth is that it is yet another worthy addition to one of the best bodies of work in modern electronic music. – Jay Chirinos

Listen: “Sticky Drama

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