Eight essential albums of 2015 so far

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Some critics argue albums are dead and singles will prove supreme. But with these eight releases, this year’s musicians set out to prove critics wrong.

No Cities to Love — Sleater-Kinney

Genre: Indie rock

Release: January 20

After a 10-year absence from the indie-rock scene, Sleater-Kinney has come back in a big way. Each song on this album packs a punch, and the post-punk throwback sound is refreshing in an often confused genre. Some fans feared No Cities to Love might tarnish the seven-album legacy Sleater Kinney established, but the result more than justifies the risk.

 

I Love You, Honeybear — Father John Misty

Genre: Indie rock

Release: February 10

Sarcasm is difficult to convey in music, but Josh Tillman has mastered the art. His second album turns his passion and anger into an opportunity to toy with listeners’ emotions. The songs themselves are just friendly enough for his messages to go out to a wide audience, making this album a good listen for all types of music fans.

 

To Pimp a Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar

Genre: Hip-hop

Release: March 15

Kendrick Lamar combined funk and jazz influences with inspirations from today’s social issues to create this complex release. With collaborations gallore, To Pimp a Butterfly presents itself as one fluid assessment of society. An ear for the most minor of details is necessary to fully grasp this album, but it is entirely worth the effort to understand what could be Lamar’s magnum opus.

 

The Powers That B — Death Grips

Genre: Experimental hip-hop/punk

Release: March 31

Being a fan of Death Grips can be a struggle, but listeners put up with the band’s shenanigans for one reason: Death Grips’ music is damn good. Its blend of traditional hip-hop with industrial and noise music results in an unbridled fury of energy with concerts bordering on riots. The sound on The Powers That B is chaotic and revitalizing compared to many self-described challenging acts.

 

Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit — Courtney Barnett

Genre: Indie rock

Release: March 20

This project’s formula was simple: an underground artist with no apparent agenda. The results are almost unexpected, with Barnett’s songwriting talents and humor shining through. Sometimes I Sit’s natural origin is its key to success, making it a great casual listen.

 

Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes

Genre: Roots rock/soul

Release: April 21

The Shakes’ sophomore effort brought their lively stage presence directly to the ears of listeners. Brittany Howard’s powerful but fragile voice shines through on each, allowing fans to connect every change in emotion she experiences. A full listen to Sound & Color is an experience any music fan should have.

 

Surf — Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment

Genre: Hip-hop

Release: May 28

Chance the Rapper traded in his tongue-twisting bars for a laid-back collaboration with the Social Experiment, solely because he wanted to. One listen to this album will show exactly why collaboration in music is important; it brings out parts of an artist they may have never known they had. This album is chock full of good vibes and sonically pleasing moments.

 

In Colour — Jamie xx

Genre: Electronica

Release: May 29

Electronic music is associated with energetic anthems, but Jamie xx, a member of London-based band The xx, wants to see more variety in the growing genre. In Colour feels like a culmination of everything Jamie xx has produced in his career, including both dance hits and surprising somber moments. His ability to convey an array of emotions makes this one of the best electronic records in recent memory.