#20: Chvrches – Every Open Eye

I love nothing more than solid synth pop, and Chvrches delivered that in spades this year with their sophomore album, Every Open Eye. The Scottish band self-produced the album and perfected much of what their debut hit on: infectious hooks, lush pop melodies, and unforgettable choruses.

While Chvrches’ latest LP may sound happy-go-lucky on first listen, vocalist Lauren Mayberry’s emotional lyrics tell a very different story. Whether it’s holding on to a love in “Clearest Eye” or kissing one goodbye in “Leave A Trace,” the songs of Every Open Eye add up to one incredible album that perfects the terrific synth-pop sound that first brought Chvrches to our attention. – Mary Bonney

Listen: “Leave A Trace

chvrches-every-open-eye

#19: Purity Ring – Another Eternity

My initial impression listening to electronic-pop outfit Purity Ring’s sophomore release, Another Eternity, was that it’s a more polished update of 2012’s Shrines. Structurally, the album employs more unusual track arrangements and is more slickly produced than its predecessor, but delve a little deeper and you’re treated to lyrics that convey personal struggles with rich metaphors and emotional deliveries.

The song that best showcases all of these elements is the penultimate track, “Sea Castle.” One of the more experimental songs the group has produced, it features a wide range of sounds and a comparatively fluid structure while still possessing a chorus that’s irresistibly catchy, like all the best Purity Ring tracks. – Lesley Park

Listen: “Sea Castle

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#18: Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon

We need bands that excite and inspire us, even when we’ve reached the point of saturation, the point when it seems like there is nothing new under the sun that could possibly make us feel invigorated about current music. Hiatus Kaiyote has certainly filled that role, not just for this writer, but for select pockets of America’s tastemakers at large.

The Australian quartet returned in May with Choose Your Weapon, their second full-length record and their first effort since becoming a favorite of elite musicians such as Erykah Badu, Madlib, Q-Tip, and more here in the States. With a taste of success and a major label backing them, it would seem all too sadly appropriate for the band to switch up their sound and take a more streamlined approach to making music.

NOPE. The off-kilter, prog-like tendencies that were showcased on Hiatus Kaiyote’s debut record are only amplified here. Yes, songs like “Breathing Underwater” and “Borderline With My Atoms” still maintain a certain pop-soul sensibility that is boosted by singer Nai Palm’s incredibly intoxicating voice, but even on those songs and the more fringe tunes on the record, the band pushes their “future soul” sound into new territory. Odd time signatures, polyrhythms drawing influence from genres all across the world, and a sensibility that seems to blend jazz, neo-soul, and Atari games — what more could you really ask for from a new band? – Sean Kramer

Listen: “Breathing Underwater

Hiatus Kaiyote - Choose Your Weapon

#17: The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness

Abel Tesfaye, the man behind The Weeknd, is known equally for his iconic hair as he is for his unbelievable vocal range. The Canadian singer, songwriter, producer, (insert your musical genius job role here) blew minds with his sophomore effort’s second single, “The Hills,” lighting a fire of anticipation for Beauty Behind The Madness, and holy hell, he did not disappoint.

The album starts much in the vein of “The Hills'” sound with “Real Life” and continues on alternating between heartfelt and sexually charged lyrics. If you own a radio, it’s almost impossible to not have heard the album’s wildly popular third single, “I Can’t Feel My Face,” which quickly became the anthem of the record as fans everywhere hit repeat on one of the catchiest songs of the year.

While Beauty Behind The Madness is one of the best records to enjoy in the car, at a party, at your house, or in the shower, I will note, it’s not exactly safe for the workplace, specifically if you sit right next to your boss like I do. Then again, if it isn’t NSFW, it isn’t The Weeknd. – Angelica Corona

Listen: “The Hills

beauty behind the madness the weeknd

#16: Beach House – Depression Cherry

Beach House, one of the dreamiest of dreamy bands, had an ambitious 2015, releasing two full-length records less than two months apart. As a fan and listener, it’s easy to wonder if they should have spent more time on the second, Thank Your Lucky Stars (you won’t find it on this list), but it’s not a stretch at all to call the first, Depression Cherry, one of the most beautiful albums of the year.

From the first notes of album opener, “Levitation,” listeners could quickly tell that Beach House was sharing some of their best work with Depression Cherry. The tones on the album create rich sounds you can almost touch, and the best example of the album’s overall sound and sheer beauty is “Space Song,” which extends out and soothes both the imagination and soul. – Gerry Doot

Listen: “Space Song

beach house depression cherry

#15: The Internet – Ego Death

Syd Tha Kid (Sydney Bennett) and the rest of her crew have been a personal favorite of mine since they dropped Feel Good in 2013. That album was pure funk and a total departure from the type of sound that characterized R&B at the time. With this year’s Ego Death, that sentiment repeats.

The R&B landscape has suffered more than a few big names and big albums with powerful messages and dark imagery. The drug-addled melancholy and thoroughly electronic production of The Weeknd has been an overpowering influence on the flavor of R&B since House of Balloons, but I’m happy to say that that grittiness has floated right over Ego Death.

Instead, The Internet doubles down on the funk. Syd’s voice floats over real, live music from real instruments played by REAL people. That alone is nice, but the songs themselves are a real treat. Syd’s voice is light, cresting off the waves of mellow bass lines and groovy guitar work. Lyrically, Ego Death is perhaps not the most interesting album of the year, but it is hardly meant to challenge your sense of self as much as it exists to alleviate the stresses of being with silky sounds. – Marcus Slater

Listen: “Get Away

the internet ego death

#14: Leon Bridges – Coming Home

When I had the pleasure of seeing Leon Bridges perform live at The Fonda Theatre as part of his Coming Home tour last month, I felt as if I’d time traveled to the fifties. With bluesy tracks from his debut album, Coming Home, the Texan deftly channeled the soul of another era as he serenaded the rapt Los Angeles crowd.

Bridges treated us to a set that ranged from doo-wop songs about broken hearts to more up-tempo tunes about summer in Mississippi, but it was the smartly attired young artist’s breakout single, “Better Man,” a good, old-fashioned song about a woman inspiring Bridges to improve himself, that won over the crowd (and in 2015, all of America). – Mary Bonney

Listen: “Better Man

leon-bridges

#13: Dr. Dre – Compton

The release of the Summer 2015 film Straight Outta Compton brought with it new music from LA’s King of West Coast beats, Dr. Dre. With dope lyrics and smooth production, Compton brought the classic California sound into modern times. Featuring sick collaborations with some of rap’s greatest artists both new and established (Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, Xzibit, BJ The Chicago Kid, etc.), it was bound to be a truly unique album.

As soon as it was announced, fans around the world began counting down the days to Compton’s release, which lead to it debuting at #2 on the US Billboard 200. That anticipation — and Dre’s ability to deliver on it — landed Compton the #13 spot on our list of the best albums of the year. – Kimberly Quitzon

Listen: “Darkside/Gone

Dr Dre Compton

#12: Ratatat – Magnifique

2015 could be considered the year of the Rat…atat, as the enigmatic production duo returned in July with Magnifique, their first album in five years. Look, I’ve pointed out in very plain terms in the past that if you like one Ratatat record, you’re probably gonna like them all. Group members Mike Stroud and Evan Mast don’t tend to stretch too far from their signature sound of hard-hitting, programmed drums, sinewy synth layers, and acrobatically heroic lead guitar lines, and as a result they have a catalog that is pretty damn cohesive.

Still, some elements of Magnifique definitely cause it to stand out from the rest of the Ratatat discography. “Abrasive” is more anthemic than anything else the group has ever done and packs a greater punch than even the most fist-bumping, head-nodding tunes from their past. The duo also covered Springwater’s 1971 single “I Will Return” for the record, and songs like “Supreme,” “Drift,” and the album’s title track have a more mellow approach than anything Ratatat has tackled before. While the group has clearly benefited from the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy throughout its career, Magnifique shows that when Ratatat does deviate from the formula, magic happens. – Sean Kramer

Listen: “Abrasive

ratatat

#11: Tame Impala – Currents

Remember how Tame Impala was supposed to be our new favorite psychedelic band, then Kevin Parker was like, “Fuck that!” and just did whatever he wanted to do? Well, Currents is all the confirmation you should need that following Kevin wherever he wants to go musically is a good idea.

Literally a break-up album, Currents is a melancholic reflection on love from start to finish. It’s simultaneously uncertain, confused, and defiant. It’s about leaving but not knowing where you’re going, with paranoia and heartbreak worn on the sleeve of every song. Fully immerse yourself in this uncertainty, because they say people don’t change, but that’s bullshit. – Melissa Karlin

Listen: “Yes I’m Changing

tame impala currents