I don’t know what to write in this introduction. 2015 was one of the best years for music that I can remember (and we didn’t even get a Kanye album), so you’ll probably have a problem with these lists. Just like you had a problem with our best songs list and best albums list. But I don’t care. I’m right.
10. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
There’s not much more that can be written about this record. We already named it the album of the year—alongside pretty much every other music publication—so it’s hard to deny the reality that Kendrick made one of the best pieces of art we’ve ever seen. There’s the argument that it’s critic bait, that it’s something you can’t casual listen to, that it’s a little Trying Maybe Just A Little Too Hard, but I don’t give a shit about any of that. I probably listened to 20 other albums way more than TPAB, but that doesn’t matter. When Kendrick is at his best, he’s undeniable.
9. Pusha T – Darkest Before Dawn
It’s a fucking travesty that Pusha T’s sophomore solo record Darkest Before Dawn is has a December 18 release date, meaning that King Push will no doubt be snubbed on countless year end lists (including ours). On DBD, Push delivers some of the finest rapping of his already iconic career—listening to him spit over menacing beats is like watching the Warriors win basketball games: elegant, beautiful, and sinister.
8. Vince Staples – Summertime ‘06
With Summertime ’06, I thought that Vince Staples might break into the mainstream—but his dismal initial albums sales kind of proved that I apparently don’t know what I’m talking about. However, the record continued to slowburn throughout the year as Vince has toured across the country, selling out mid-tier venue after venue. After I saw him in Brooklyn earlier this month—playfully bantering on stage while putting on a kickass, energetic show—I got the sense that he’s just getting started. Maybe Summertime ’06 will be his Section.80, and the next record we see from Vince will actually be his moment. Here’s to hoping.
7. Dilly Dally - Sore
As I’ve gotten older, my music taste has continually pushed into the realm of rap and r&b, but then a band like Dilly Dally comes around and I remember what made me fall in love with music—just good fucking guitar songs about heartbreak. Toronto’s Dilly Dally have been one of my favorite surprises this year. “Desire” is the hit from the record, but it’s full of bangers—“Purple Rage,” “Next Gold,” and “Green,” in particular—the last of which might be one of the best love songs I’ve ever heard. The aching conviction with which Katie Monks sings is infectious: “I want you naked in my kitchen makin’ me breakfast.” Guh-damn.
6. Future – 56 Nights
56 Nights is the best Future project this year. It’s better than Beast Mode. It’s better than DS2. It destroys What A Time To Be Alive. It’s Future at his best—pained, frustrated, pissed, self-loathed—while abandoning all reason and turning up through the pain. It sounds like a line of cocaine: a fuckin’ great time in the moment, but it’s only being done to hide the demons you’ll face in the morning.
5. Jamie xx – In Colour
This past summer, I spent the Fourth of July with a group of friends at a beach house. We took a bunch of psychedelics and listened to this record on repeat. There was a moment when I was tripping, sitting on the sand, looking back at the house, In Colour on repeat, watching the grass between the house and me kind of… start to… float… They say you shouldn’t do drugs, but you should definitely do psychedelics. And you should listen to In Colour when you do.
4. Carly Rae Jepsen – EMOTION
There has never been a record that’s sounded more like falling in love than Carly Rae Jepsen’s EMOTION. This album was definitely my most played, which means, I guess, it should probably be number one. I have so many favorite songs on here—“Run Away with Me,” “Emotion,” “Boy Problems,” “Making the Most of the Night,” “Your Type,” “LA Hallucinations,” “Warm Blood,”—that I lose count. It’s a crime that this record tanked commercially.
3. Jeremih – Late Nights: The Album
Here’s another record that won’t end up on a bunch of year end lists (again, ours is guilty) because of its late in the year surprise release date. But, damn, it’s fucking great and was worth the wait. It’s a shame we live in a world where The Weeknd can top the Billboard charts and get brought out on stage with Taylor Swift, but Jeremih can’t even have a proper album release.
2. Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside
You know those moments in the middle of the night when you wake up and start questioning every decision you’ve ever made that led you to this point of waking up in the middle of the night and questioning every decision you’ve ever made? I Don’t Like Shit I Don’t Go Outside is that feeling in sonic form.
1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
I’ve struggled to write about this record all year long, and I'm still struggling to write about this record right now. I think it’s because it’s an album that I connect with on such a deep, emotional level, yet I have difficulty understanding why, becuase the I don't really identify with the lyrical content. Throughout the record, Sufjan is exploring his mother and stepfather's relationship, and how he sees that reflected in him. But there's something... bigger than that—and yet even as I sit here and try to explain to you why, I can't quite put my finger on what it is that makes me feel so hard. I don't really get why I love this record so much, why it moves me, why I want to cry whenever I hear it. There's something so brutally honest about how sparse it is, how Sufjan just lays it all out there, and how it's not trying to be anything except what it is. Don't bother reading me trying to explain why this record is good—because I obviously can't. Just listen to it.
10. Future – “Stick Talk”
Does Future make anthems? I don’t know, nor do I care. Future’s music is beyond being analyzed. “Stick Talk” is the thesis statement for the Atlanta rapper’s year of dominance.
9. St. Lenox – “Bitter Pill”
This might be one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard. St. Lenox—a lawyer turned Rufus Wainwright-style songwriter from New York City—released a heartfelt record called 10 Songs About Memory and Hope earlier this year. It was missed by pretty much every publication (except Noisey) because, as my fellow editor Kyle Kramer once acutely noted, this guy is too real to be famous. And this song is the perfect example: he’s telling the story of a former lover, cycling through the daily reminders of that past life. With our relationships—current and past—we can’t help but focus on the smallest, most mundane things: the way somebody would always greet you on Gchat, the signature emoji somebody would always send you, the silly picture they gave to you as a present and you hung on the fridge. St. Lenox captures the ever-sad human condition. It’s lovely.
8. Meek Mill featuring Future – “Jump Out the Face”
In a year that featured Meek Mill losing harder than Meek Mill could’ve ever dreamed of losing, he still put out this song. Future is the best part, sure, but it’s on this type of track where we see Meek Milly at his best, spitting back and forth with Nayvadius, surfing on one of the most exciting beats on the album.
7. Jeremih – “Paradise”
I didn’t realize until I heard it, but this is everything I could ever want a Jeremih song to be. The Chicago singer floats over a slow acoustic jam that you might initially think is made for Ed Sheeran, but oh, is it sweet. I need an album full of Jeremih acoustic jams ASAP.
6. Royal Headache – “Carolina”
Royal Headache’s High was a record I was heartbroken didn’t make our top albums list, but that’s how democracy works, I guess. The best song on the album is “Carolina,” an anthem of love lost. If you didn’t know any better, you might think this was Bruce.
5. Kurt Vile – “Pretty Pimpin’”
Earlier this year, I spent a day moving a piano with Kurt Vile for a story. Pretty clever idea from his perspective, huh? Make the music journalist who wants to write a story about you help you move a stupid heavy object. But it led to one of my favorite stories of the year on one of my favorite artists. “Pretty Pimpin’” is the best song of Kurt Vile’s career.
4. Future – “March Madness”
I don’t know how many times I can write about Future on this list but here we are again. I made a lot of new friends this year, and you might say that “March Madness” is what brought us together. It’s a twisting, angry ride that feels so good to turn up to. Plus, the street I live on is named Nassau, so anytime I hear Future rap “dress it up and go to NASA,” I know he’s talking about hanging out at my apartment.
3. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away with Me”
The moment I knew I'd fall in love with Carly Rae Jepsen's new album was within seconds of the record kicking off—when that goddamn sax hits. There's something just so joyous about it. And that's what makes this song in particular—and Carly Rae Jepsen—so great. She's obsessed with capturing that moment when love clicks. It's appropriate that this song is called "Run Away with You," because that's all it makes me want to do.
2. Justin Bieber - “What Do You Mean”
The first time I heard this song was the night it leaked onto the internet and I was a little drunk in my apartment, cleaning up my bedroom. I pushed play because I had this weird feeling that, after the banger that was "Where Are U Now," Justin Bieber was about to kick off his redemption story and deliver a classic record. And the moment I heard "What Do You Mean," I immediately fell in love. There's something so casual and so captivating about its sound, like Bieber is genuinely just trying to figure out how to be a young adult. It's the perfect pop song. It made me a Belieber, and I'll never look back.
1. Kanye West feat. Paul McCartney – “Only One”
There’s so much I could write about this song. I could tell you the story of its release, when I stopped partying on New Year’s Eve so I could post it to Noisey, forcing the entire crowd to listen to Kanye’s ballad to his daughter North. I could tell you about the following days, how it’s the only song that I could really listen to, cleansing my system as I prepared for 2015. I could tell you about the time I sat in Central Park with a girl with an accent in the springtime; embracing the cliché we’d become, kissing and listening to this song on an iPhone speaker. I could tell you about playing it at the end of my last DJ set at my favorite bar in New York that’s since closed forever, a group of my closest friends all singing it together with our arms around each other. But none of those memories really matter for you, because they’re mine. And you have yours. It’s songs like this that make me less jaded about the world, that, hey, maybe it actually will be OK, even though it never feels like that’s the case. Even now, almost a year after its release, when I put this track on, the emotional weight with which Kanye sings through Auto-Tune is palpable. “Bound 2” was the sound of falling in love. “Only One” is the sound of understanding what love means.
SOME OTHER PERSONAL BEST AND WORSTS I CAME UP WITH WHILE WRITING THIS LIST:
FAVORITE PROJECTS I DIDN’T PUT IN THIS LIST BECAUSE I WANTED TO LIMIT IT TO TEN BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT YOU DO EVEN THOUGH THERE WERE LIKE A MILLION GREAT RELEASES THIS YEAR
Future – DS2
Future – Beast Mode
Miguel – Wildheart
Royal Headache – High
Mura Masa – Someday Somewhere
Sporting Life – 55 5’s
Grimes – Art Angels
Chris Stapleton – Traveller
Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Style
Alex G – Beach Music
Mas Ysa – Seraph
Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down
A$AP Rocky – AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP
Ducktails – St. Catherine
Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
Hudson Mohawke – Lantern
Young Thug – Barter 6
Young Thug – Slime Season
Justin Bieber – Purpose
Beach Slang – The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us
Ty Dolla $ign – Free TC
Martin Courtney – Many Moons
Selena Gomez – Revival
Fetty Wap – Fetty Wap
Drake & Future – What A Time To Be Alive
Mick Jenkins – Wave[s]
Tame Impala – Currents
Meek Mill – Dreams Worth More Than Money
Sheer Mag – I and II
Holly Herndon - Platform
FOUR RECORDS I THINK WERE PRETTY OVERRATED AND I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK BECAUSE GODDAMNIT I’M TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT THESE SORRY I’M NOT SORRY
Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment - Surf
Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Adele - 25
The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness
THE RECORD I LISTENED TO A LOT BECAUSE DUH BUT ULTIMATELY THIS WAS THE YEAR THAT MADE ME REALLY, REALLY DISLIKE DRAKE
Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
BEST SONG ABOUT SAYING FUCK YOU TO AN EX
ARTIST WITH A SHITLOAD OF BUZZ THAT I FELL FOR INITIALLY BUT ULTIMATELY WAS DISAPPOINTED WITH
Tobias Jesso Jr.
THE FOUR WORST MOMENTS ON THE TWITTER TIMELINE IN 2015
Daylight Savings Time ending
When Drake released What A Time To Be Alive on his Beats1 show
The Week After SXSW
SNACKS IN THE VICE OFFICE, RANKED
4. Hummus and pretzels package
3. Yogurt (not peach)
1. Colby Jack String Cheese
BEST DANCE MOVE OF THE YEAR THAT I WILL NEVER DO PUBLICLY
WORST DANCE MOVE OF THE YEAR THAT I WILL NEVER DO PUBLICLY
BEST STORY I EDITED THIS YEAR
Jeff Weiss’s 12,000-word opus on seeing The Grateful Dead’s final shows in Chicago of the Fourth of July.
BEST STORY I WISH I EDITED THIS YEAR
The Fader’s extensive profile on Zayn Malik, in which we learn that he’s entering his Howard Hughes phase and his next record is probably going to be incredible.
BEST ESSAY I EDITED THIS YEAR
Kyle Kramer’s kickass argument for why Future was 2015’s Artist of the Year.
BEST ESSAY I WISH I EDITED THIS YEAR
Jia Tolentino's beautiful exploration of Carly Rae Jepsen on The Awl about how she uses her mysticism to capture us.
BEST WEED SONG OF THE YEAR (AND EVERY YEAR FOR THE REST OF TIME)
WORST SONG OF THE YEAR
BEST RECORD TO DANCE RECKLESSLY TO IN THE CLUB AT ANY TIME SERIOUSLY IF YOU’ER A DJ ALL YOU GOTTA DO IS PUT THIS SHIT ON SHUFFLE
Rae Sremmurd – Sremm Life
BEST SHOW I SAW THIS YEAR
Kanye West performing 808s & Heartbreak in full at the Hollywood Bowl. I’d tell you about it, but I already wrote 2,200 words on the concert.
BAND I WISHED RELEASED A RECORD THIS YEAR SO I COULD PUT IT ON THIS LIST
BEST QUOTE I GOT FROM AN INTERVIEW SUBJECT THIS YEAR
“Sometimes I lose myself thinking about why people like things.” –Panda Bear
BEST RECORD I REDISCOVERED THIS YEAR THAT DIDN’T COME OUT THIS YEAR
Steely Dan – Aja
BEST DAN OZZI TWEET OF THE YEAR
WORST DAN OZZI TWEET OF THE YEAR
BEST SELFIE I TOOK WITH AN ARTIST THIS YEAR:
BEST SONG ABOUT BEING A CLASSIC MAN
Eric Sundermann is Noisey's editor-in-chief. Follow him on Twitter.