BEST NEW ARTISTS OF 2015

Alessia Cara

“Here” was our first introduction to Alessia Cara, and the introverted-stoner anthem was as bullshit-free as debut records come. Over the course of her debut EP and LP, she never quite reaches the heights of her great debut single, but with “Here” she’ll always have a place to rest her head.

Dylan Stark

Sample-based electronic artist Dylan Stark released Heartland in the spring to minimal fanfare, but those who stuck around to hear Stark’s debut LP were rewarded with electronic music that carried with it a pulse.

Empress Of

Fetty Wap

I warned you about Fetty Wap. The Patterson, NJ artist joins the Weeknd, Adele and Justin Bieber as the year’s biggest musical winners. From “Trap Queen” to “679,” Fetty Wap had radio lapping up his every move. His huge success in 2015 recalled the heyday of R&B and rap consuming the mainstream, and after years of being relegated to the margins, those genres made big moves these past twelve months. Was Fetty Wap before or after the cart? Either way, 2015 will always be remembered as the year we fell in love with Fetty Wap.

Kamasi Washington

While seemingly a blessing, being a collaborator of Kendrick Lamar’s could be a detriment. Lamar’s visionary outlook on To Pimp a Butterfly set a benchmark for music to try to pass over in 2015. It must have been obvious to his group of collaborators that whatever else they would put out in 2015 would undoubtedly be compared to Lamar’s excellent work. Perhaps the only way to not be overshadowed by such an accomplished piece of work is to title your own project The Epic and have that album feature three sides, and its first three songs getting you through and episode and a half of Nathan For You. That’s precisely what Kamasi Washington did in 2015, creating an album epic in scope that helped bring jazz into the 21st century.

Leon Bridges

It wouldn’t be hard to overlook Leon Bridges’ debut album, Coming Home.  It is a decidedly retro-soul album, begging listeners to yearn for those great old Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson records. From “Lisa Sawyer” to “River” to “Coming Home,” Bridges sounds as comfortable reliving the past as he does living in the present. Put together, it makes for a compelling future for the budding talent.

Natalie Prass

Working under Matthew E. White’s Spacebomb imprint, Natalie Prass showcases her beautiful vocals against a lush, velvety soundscape that is as cinematic as it is authentic.

Rae Sremmurd

No one understood the inherent playfulness (and ultimately, how fun) making music can be in 2015 than Rae Sremmurd. “This Could Be Us” is as great an entry point as “No Flex Zone,” and it features the duo as carefree (not careless) as we’ve heard them.

Shamir

“On The Regular” showed that Shamir was not your ordinary singer-songwriter. Operating in a lane fully his own, Shamir put 2015 on notice with his excellent debut Ratchet. The album is chock-full of songs that would be hits if not for the DIY-charm that emanates the recordings. It’s hard to find an artist in 2015 with as much personality as this one.

Tori Kelly

Armed with a crucial Max Martin cosign, Tori Kelly’s Unbreakable Smile should have been the year’s biggest breakthrough pop record. “Should’ve Been Us” and “Nobody Love” were as great as pop music got in 2015, yet both singles stalled within the top 20 on pop radio. Kelly is gifted with powerful vocals, yet she doesn’t allow her strength to overwhelm her top 40 fodder. “Love” and “Us” give us glimpses of Kelly’s vocal strengths, yet both are smart enough to give the listeners what they want without giving up everything.

Check out playlist featuring all of 2015’s best new artists below, via Spotify.

CURRENT: Fatima Yamaha – “Love Invaders”

Fatima Yamaha made waves earlier this year when his 2004 track “What’s a Girl To Do” was re-released by Dekmantel. Yamaha released his debut LP, Imaginary Lines, last month and FACT Mag has a stream of the album. From the jump it makes a declaration as one of the year’s preeminent electronic music records. Prior to the album’s release, Fatima Yamaha released “Love Invaders,” and the song is as dizzying and colorful as when it first premiered.

The whole thing is worth your time, but if you need a teaser, “Invaders” is as great a place to begin as any. But, really, you should begin at the beginning.

CURRENT: Jaakko Elno Kalevi – “Everything Nice” (Popcaan cover) [ft. Farao]

Jaako Elno Kalevi released his debut LP earlier this year, featuring the great “Hush Down.” But last month, Kalevi teamed up with Farao for what is perhaps the best thing he released this year, a cover of Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan’s 2014 track “Everything Nice.” The duo maintain the original’s laid-back cool, but supplementing electronic flourishes to add their own personal touch. But more than anything, “Nice” succeeds by being glowingly optimistic, from Jamaica all the way to Finland.

Revisit Popcaan’s original version below.

CURRENT: She-Devils – “Where There’s No One”

Montreal’s very own She-Devils are gearing up for the release of their debut EP on January 15, 2016, and they’ve unleashed the track “Where There’s No One” prior to that EP’s release. Of the song, singer-songwriter Audrey Ann says, “I think the song is about the vulnerability of showing your weaknesses to someone you care about and feeling rejected because it isn’t received with compassion.”

That theme plays itself out during the chorus, when Ann stretches out and sings,  “I wanna go where there’s no one.” But what she really wants is a reaction, as she follows her desire by singing, “I just need you to say, ‘Please no, don’t go away.'” As she falls into her vulnerability, it becomes apparent that while she might want someone to help push her down a certain path, she should get used to being the leader. After all, it serves her well on “No One.”

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF 2015

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50. Hot Chip, Why Make Sense?

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49. Shamir, Ratchet

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48. Mark Ronson, Uptown Special

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47. Jessica Pratt, On Our Own Love Again

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46. Holly Herndon, Platform 

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45. Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp

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44. Tamaryn, Cranekiss

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43. Real Lies, Real Lies

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42. Lower Dens, Escape From Evil

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41. Kamasi Washington, The Epic

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40. Fred Thomas, All Are Saved

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39. The Weeknd, Beauty Behind The Madness

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38. Chvrches, Every Open Eye

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37. Molly Nilsson, Zenith

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36. Erykah Badu, But You Caint Use My Phone

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35. Leon Bridges, Coming Home

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34. Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon

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33. Tobias Jesso Jr., Goonkurtvile

32. Kurt Vile, b’lieve i’m goin’ down

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31. Beach House, Depression Cherry

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30. Natalie Prass, Natalie Prass

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29. Joanna Newsom, Divers

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28. Empress Of, Me

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27. Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion

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26. Adele, 25

25. Majical Cloudz, Are You Alone?

24. Björk, Vulnicura

23. Donny Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Surf

22. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities To Love

21. Jeremih, Late Nights: The Album

 

20. Julia Holter, Have You In My Wilderness

19. Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color

18. Neon Indian, VEGA INTL. Night School

17. Drake, If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late

16. Oneohtrix Point Never, Garden Of Delete

15. Future, DS2

14. Beach House, Thank Your Lucky Stars

13. Viet Cong, Viet Cong

12. Grimes, Art Angels

11. U.S. Girls, Half Free

10. Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear

9. Miguel, WILDHEART

8. Jamie xx, In Colour

7. Tame Impala, Currents

6. Young Thug, Barter 6

2015 was a rough, prolific, frustrating, but ultimately rewarding year for Young Thug; his name circulating through music blogs, if not for one of his three long-form releases for accusations of personal misconduct. Controversy first popped up when Thugger announced his debut LP would be a continuation of Lil Wayne’s Carter series and would be titled The Carter 6. A very public feud with Wayne ensued and days before the album’s release, Thug changed the album’s title to Barter 6. While all of that backstory could have swallowed the album before it fell onto an ear, it’s a testament to Thug’s artistry that as soon as the doors close, and one enters the world Young Thug and his team of collaborators have created, the only thing that matters is the dizzying array of verses, melodies, hooks, and production choices that melt together to form an album with a striking singular vision.

5. Deerhunter, Fading Frontier

4. Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

3. Vince Staples, Summertime ’06

2. Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell

1. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly

Following the masterful good kid, m.A.A.d. city, Kendrick Lamar’s sophomore album was set up for failure. How could anyone have reasonably expected Lamar to top his excellent debut with his very next album? Well, he did just that as he channeled all the anger, frustration, sadness, guilt, hope, love, and passion of the black community following years of stories of the horrific crimes being committed against black bodies going unchallenged. To Pimp A Butterfly is a heady, sprawling, fervent record, but also the year’s most musically and thematically cohesive album. And under the weight of an entire movement on his back, Lamar never wavers. Instead, To Pimp A Butterfly is Kendrick Lamar at his strongest. good kid was advised by and influenced by the environment in which it was recorded, whereas Butterfly is a universe created by Lamar. While he tackles very real everyday concerns for members of the black community, he flips the narrative to represent the community as resilient, battle-tested and strong-willed. It’s a refreshing, sadly much needed corrective to ugly misconceptions and stereotypes against people of color. As important as this album is, as joyous as it is to listen to a man revel in his blackness, it is all aided by some of the strongest musical compositions of 2015. From “How Much a Dollar Cost”’s “Pyramid Song”-like piano backbone to the jazz and funk flourishes throughout, To Pimp A Butterfly is just as diverse and beautiful as the community it defends and upholds.

The 100 Best Songs of 2015

It’s been said that 2015 was a pretty good year for music. And when you get new music from Sleater-Kinney, Björk, Kendrick Lamar, Sufjan Stevens, Tame Impala, Jamie xx, Joanna Newsom, Majical Cloudz, Grimes, Adele, Beach House, Deerhunter and so, so, so many more, it’s hard to argue that point. But in such a prolific year for new music, these are the 100 songs that reign supreme.

A Spotify playlist follows the list, with YouTube embed links for those songs not yet on the streaming service.

100. 

Diiv, “Dopamine”

99.

Lower Dens, “Electric Current”

98.

Skrillex & Diplo ft. Justin Bieber, “Where Are Ü Now”

97.

Adele, “Hello”

96.

Hudson Mohawke, “Ryderz”

95.

Rae Sremmurd, “This Could Be Us”

94.

Tori Kelly, “Nobody Love”

93.

Fred Thomas, “When They Built The Schools”

92.

ANOHNI, “4 Degrees”

91.

Pender Street Steppers, “The Glass City”

90.

Drake, “Hotline Bling”

89.

A$AP Rocky ft. Joe Fox, M.I.A. & Future, “Fine Whine”

88.

Lana Del Rey, “High By The Beach”

87.

Julia Holter, “Silhouette”

86.

FKA twigs, “In Time”

85.

Neon Indian, “Slumlord”

84.

Molly Nilsson, “1995”

83.

Vince Staples, “Señorita”

82.

Missy Elliott ft. Pharrell, “WTF (Where They From)”

81.

Grimes, “Flesh without Blood”

80.

Father John Misty, “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)”

79.

Modest Mouse, “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box”

78.

Chance The Rapper ft. Saba, “Angels”

77.

Chairlift, “Ch-Ching”

76

Beach House, “Sparks”

75.

Kendrick Lamar, “Hood Politics”

74.

Carly Rae Jepsen, “Run Away With Me”

73.

Viet Cong, “March of Progress”

72.

Chromatics, “Just Like You”

71

Empress Of, “Standard”

70.

Lana Del Rey, “Terrence Loves You”

69.

Young Thug, “Halftime”

68.

Courtney Barnett, “Depreston”

67.

Future, “News Or Somthn”

66.

Jamie xx ft. Romy Madley-Croft, “Loud Places”

65.

Deerhunter, “Snakeskin”

64.

Drake & Future, “Jumpman”

63.

dvsn, “The Line”

62.

Isaiah Rashad, “Nelly”

61.

Father John Misty, “True Affection”

60.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”

59.

Young Thug, “Raw”

58.

Shamir, “Vegas”

57.

Blood Orange, “Sandra’s Smile”

56.

Kendrick Lamar, “The Blacker the Berry”

55.

Hot Chip, “Huarache Lights”

54.

Nao, “Inhale Exhale

53.

Tame Impala, “‘Cause I’m a Man”

52.

Thundercat ft. Flying Lotus & Kamasi Washington, “Them Changes”

51.

Tamaryn, “Cranekiss”

50.

Joanna Newsom, “Sapokanikan”

49.

Björk, “Stonemilker”

48.

Natalie Prass, “My Baby Don’t Understand Me”

47.

Jeremih, “oui”

46.

Chvrches, “Leave a Trace”

45.

Carly Rae Jepsen, “Warm Blood”

44.

Alessia Cara, “Here”

43.

Rihanna, “Bitch Better Have My Money”

42.

Vince Staples, “Lift Me Up”

41.

Moses Sumney, “O Superman” (Laurie Anderson Cover)

40.

Frankie Cosmos, “Young”

39.

Drake, “Energy”

38.

YG, “Twist My Fingaz”

37.

Erykah Badu ft. André 3000, “Hello”

36.

Chromatics, “In Films”

35.

Tobias Jesso Jr., “How Could You Babe”

34.

Grimes, “Kill V. Maim”

33.

Miguel, “waves”

32.

Kurt Vile, “Pretty Pimpin’”

31.

Beach House, “PPP”

30.

The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face”

29.

Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”

28.

Neon Indian, “Annie”

27.

Samantha Urbani, “1 2 3 4”

26.

Deerhunter, “Ad Astra”

25.

TOPS, “Anything”

24.

Leon Bridges, “Coming Home”

23.

Future, “I Serve The Base”

22.

Chvrches, “Clearest Blue”

21.

Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment, “Sunday Candy”

20.

Majical Cloudz, “Downtown”

19.

Vince Staples, “Norf Norf”

18.

U.S. Girls, “Sororal Feelings”

17.

Deerhunter, “Breaker”

16.

Tame Impala, “The Less I Know The Better”

15.

Alabama Shakes, “Don’t Wanna Fight”

14.

Sufjan Stevens, “Fourth of July”

13.

Carly Rae Jepsen, “All That”

12.

Chromatics, “I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around”

11.

Beach House, “Elegy To the Void”

10.

Jamie xx ft. Young Thug & Pop’caan, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

9.

Kendrick Lamar, “King Kunta”

8.

Jidenna ft. Roman GianArthur, “Classic Man”

7.

Janet Jackson, “No Sleeep”

6.

Sufjan Stevens, “Should Have Known Better”

5.

Adele, “When We Were Young”

4.

Miguel, “Coffee”

3.

Grimes, “REALiTi”

2.

Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian At Best”

1.

Tame Impala, “Let It Happen”

SURPRISE RELEASE: Jeremih – ‘Late Nights: The Album’

Following “Don’t Tell ‘Em,” “Planes,” and “oui,” Jeremih has finally (!!!) unleashed his hotly anticipated album Late Nights. After being prominently featured on last year’s The Pinkprint, the burgeoning R&B singer takes the spotlight for himself. And so far – on first listen – Jeremih’s silky, playful, adventurous melodies shine bright through the minimalist productions. If there’s one album with star-studded features you listen to this week, make it this one.

Late Nights: The Album is available to stream now through Spotify and Apple Music.