As the year winds down, we too are slowing our roll and looking back at everything 2015’s given us. In this spirit, we asked some of our friends and family what their favorite albums of the year have been — new or old — and why. We got in on the fun too. This isn’t a best-of ranking by any means, just a dabbling of what’s moved us. How Nice.
Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
I first learned to feel comfortable singing listening to early Sufjan Stevens in college. Seven Swans provided an easy environment for self conscious teenager doods to bear their vulnerability by humming along to the barely there whispery vocals gracing those abundantly beautiful landscapes Sufjan is known for. He fetishized country and colloquial life, fascinating a mainstream indie audience. He even made the banjo cool for a little bit. That time has passed, but Carrie & Lowell is a step back into the sparse, acoustic territory that I've missed, even as I've stayed a fan through the last several years. Many of the album's songs stand up to even the best sparse material on Michigan or Illinois. The album feels like reuniting with an old friend, but much more grown up, and it's my favorite of the year.
— Taylor Rice (Local Natives)
Mini Mansions - The Great Pretenders
Admittedly, as I get older, the time I spend seeking out new music dwindles. Luckily for me, I'm surrounded by talented people and I don't have to look very far. My album of the year is LA's own Mini Mansions — The Great Pretenders. With standout tracks like "Any Emotions", "Creeps", and "Death is a Girl", the Mansions boys crafted an album full of timeless psych-pop gems that recall the ’60s and ’70s while still managing to feel relevant to 2015. As the proprietor of our favorite local Silverlake audio repair shop Solutions would say, "it sounds like butter."
— Graham Fink (Milo Greene)
BØRNS - Dopamine
My favorite album this year is by a band I just toured with called BØRNS. Honestly, it's not my typical listen — vibed out psych kinda stuff. It's just that every song on that album is so good it's hard to believe that a guy (Garret Borns) could have so many great songs, be that good at singing, AND performing... And looks like a model. It's kind of crazy.
Dopamine is the album... So good.
— Jacob Summers (Avid Dancer)
Carly Rae Jepsen - Emotion
I'm terrible with favorites. That being said, I had a good run with the Carly Rae Jepsen album this year. It's a record full of precise, meticulously perfected pop songs with a metric ton of hooks (and features production from a lot of my friends). While this type of meticulous crafting is normally off-putting to me, in this case Carly went SO pop that the whole album feels like a deep tissue mind massage.
— Dan Vidmar (Shy Girls)
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
I can't remember the last time an artist with as much shine in our pop culture made an album as musically and lyrically daring as Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly. It's equally menacing as it is vulnerable. It’s not the kind of record you can just play one track from and leave it alone. It's a proper album, and it has a truly magnetic and dizzying effect on me.
I don't even know if I enjoy listening to it in the traditional sense, but I do know that I love it and I need it.
— Darren Weiss (PAPA)
Majical Cloudz - Are You Alone?
Majical Cloudz's Are You Alone is easily my most listened to album of the year. It is a beauty — a gem I will always come back to. Truly heartbreaking, it made me cry the first time I listened to it. I was cooking dinner for myself and my wife and I was overwhelmed by it all. I've loved a lot of records that came out last year but nothing caused such a visceral reaction for me. It is an LP that sunk it's teeth in deep and I'll carry that with me for a lifetime.
— Cameron Parkins (Hit City U.S.A., Superhumanoids, the Franks)
Fela Ransome Kuti & Africa 70 - Expensive Shit
This record is amazing. Full on dance party. Turn down the lights. Up the volume and blast off. Great LP. Get funky.
— Calvin Love
Hot Chip - Why Make Sense?
So, I'll just start by saying having a kid this year really brought down the amount of current music I listened to (except a lot of top 40 trap that seemed to just emanate from my car stereo) I loved listening to this new Hot Chip record with my son, because it was danceable, fun and so consistent. Those guys always get the best tones and really no how to keep an album interesting and engaging for the full duration of the record.
"So Much Further to Go?" was definitely the highlight on the record for me.
— Jesse Kivel (Kisses, Princeton)
Bobbi Humphrey - Blacks And Blues
A few months ago my friend Jordan gifted me with this record. Jazz has always been a style of music that has intrigued me, but it's an intimidatingly vast genre, and I never really knew where to start . Thanks to Jordan, and this record, I finally have a jumping-off point. I haven't been able to take this LP off of my turntable. Every song is incredible. I'm infatuated with "Harlem River Drive." Everyone should listen to this masterpiece of an album.
Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass
There was a lot of great music released this year, but the one album that really stuck out to me was Natalie Prass' self titled LP. Her voice must be made of tiny, delicate, fluffy angels because it is nothing short of a silky heaven. The production and instrumentation that supports her is beautiful and purposeful, never feeling overbearing or unnecessary. I know this album is going to follow me on many scenic road trips and relaxing evenings to come!
— Sarah Chernoff (Superhumanoids, the Franks)
Junk - Like a Cop b/w Destructive Fun
When thinking about a favorite record of the year I consider what came to me this year, not necessarily what came to the world. In such personal assessments I think this reasoning is twofold. One, the amount of amazing old music resurfacing thanks to outlets like Light in the Attic, Numero Group and other labels of the like, there is an unprecedented library available today. Two, there are more bands than ever, the market is saturated and we very well may be doomed. There is more junk than ever, but there is only one more Junk than ever. My favorite release of this year is the Junk 7”- FYF Records, that’s right it’s FYF001. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s live and it will stick to you like a refrigerator magnet.
— Zach Dawes (Mini Mansions)
Holly Herndon - Platform
Earlier this year I took a detour into the world of programming and generative music — it ended up being one of my defining experiences of 2015. My appreciation for the place technology has in music grew. Holly Herndon's Platform exemplifies how computers can be foregrounded in the compositional process without alienating the listener.
— Anthony Ferraro (Astronauts, etc.)
Prince - Sign O’ The Times
This is Prince’s scariest album. The grooves have more of a stomp than his other work and the minimalist funk is taken to extremes in songs like, “Forever in My Life” where his multi-layered vocals and a drum machine dominate until a single acoustic guitar enters in the last 25 seconds. “The Cross” is the closest he gets to Velvet Underground territory and I’ve always wanted to hear the Boss do “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”. He takes sexiness to a sinister level. Prince’s voice sounds like he’s on the verge of orgasm or threatening you quietly with a knife. It’s starkness is a lesson in density and subtlety, making it my favorite “headphone” album.
— Maxim Ludwig