Entertainment & Arts

The Top 10 albums of 2015

Some of the albums that made the Top 10
Image caption The Top 10 was compiled from 20 critics' lists

Jazz, hip-hop, chart pop, folk and literate punk all rub shoulders in a "poll of polls" to find the top 10 albums of 2015.

The BBC looked at 20 of the "best of 2015" lists in music's most influential publications - including the NME, Rolling Stone, Vice, Billboard and Q Magazine - to find the highest-ranked albums of the year.

Read about the Top 10, and what the critics had to say about each of them, below.

10) Miguel - Wildheart


Image copyright RCA

Like Prince on Purple Rain, R&B star Miguel ventured into rock territory, splicing flame-throwing guitar riffs on to his tales of bedroom conquests, salvation and damnation.

  • "An hour long audio escape, the musical equivalent of a long motorcycle ride with your lover." [Mashable]
  • Watch Miguel perform Coffee on Later... With Jools Holland [YouTube]

9) Carly Rae Jepsen - E•MO•TION


Image copyright Polydor

Most people had written off Canadian Idol winner Carly Rae Jepsen as a one-hit wonder after Call Me Maybe, but she proved them wrong with this collection of world-class, 80s-referencing pop.

  • "E•MO•TION is one of those rare albums where every song sticks—and will still sound fresh a decade from now." [Entertainment Weekly]
  • How Carly Rae Jepsen shrugged off Call Me Maybe [BBC News]

8) Grimes - Art Angels


Image copyright 4AD

Canadian artist Grimes, known to her parents as Clare Boucher, spent two-and-a-half years streamlining the sound of her fourth album, a futuristic collection of uncompromising pop. "The whole time I had this feeling like it might all blow up in my face and people might hate it," she told Billboard.

  • "Art Angels was not so much the sound of an artist trying to fit into the pop landscape as one trying to shape it in their own image. The best album of the year, from the most exciting artist of a generation." [NME]
  • Watch the video for Flesh Without Blood [YouTube]

7) Sleater-Kinney - No Cities To Love


Image copyright Sub Pop

Emerging from a 10-year hiatus, US rock band Sleater-Kinney worked in secret on their eighth album, retaining the stabbing energy of their self-titled debut.

  • "With Janet Weiss's forceful drumming anchoring them, guitarist-vocalists Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein trade sinewy guitar riffs as tough as shark skin and spit out lyrics that are casual in their devastation." [Time]
  • Watch Sleater-Kinney perform at the BBC 6 Music Festival [YouTube]

6) Sufjan Stevens - Carrie and Lowell


Image copyright Asthmatic Kitty Records

A long, intimate conversation with death, Carrie and Lowell is named after Sufjan Stevens' mother and stepfather - but is principally concerned with the former, who died of cancer in 2012. Over the record, he dissects their relationship - she abandoned him as a baby - and tries to reconcile his feelings of grief, loss and love.

  • "Somehow, it never feels heavy-handed, with moments of hope as common as those of despair." [Consequence of Sound]
  • Listen to Should Have Known Better [YouTube]

5) Tame Impala - Currents


Image copyright Fiction

Tame Impala vocalist Kevin Parker is probably more familiar as a guest vocalist on Mark Ronson's Uptown Special, but his band's third album is an equally-accomplished expedition into trippy psych-pop with some of their strongest melodies to date.

  • "Tame Impala's third album is their best because its soul actually lies in Motown." [Spin]
  • Watch highlights of Tame Impala's set at the Reading Festival [BBC Music]

4) Jamie xx - In Colour


Image copyright Young Turks

Jamie Smith's first solo album pillages dance music's past to create something approaching a new genre - quiet rave.

  • "In defiance of its title, In Colour can at times be murky, minimalist and ghostly, offering up a distant and dislocated take on the last two decades or so of London club culture." [The Guardian]
  • Jamie xx performs Loud Places in Radio 1's Live Lounge [YouTube]

3) Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear


Image copyright Bella Union

Former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman penned his second album as a love letter to his wife, Emma. But don't be fooled by the title - the record is caustic, explicit and full of prickly putdowns, which focus as much on his own shortcomings as his passion for his bride.

  • I Love You, Honeybear jokes about its own sappiness, but it's the moments of sincerity that make the biggest impression... Even misanthropes fall in love" [AV Club]
  • Watch highlights of Father John Misty's Glastonbury performance [BBC Music]

2) Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit


Image copyright Marathon Artists

With a title inspired by a poster in her grandmother's toilet, Courtney Barnett set the tone for her debut album - a selection of sloppy punk-pop grounded by her witty, conversational lyrics.

  • "Barnett's ability to pack her songs about nothing with vivid imagery and insight, literary detail and political insight, is astonishing". [Rolling Stone]
  • Listen to Courtney Barnett in session for BBC Radio 2. [BBC Music]

1) Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly


Image copyright Polydor

A hip-hop album built on visionary jazz and gritty funk, To Pimp A Butterfly is dizzying at first - as Lamar tackles race crime, faith, sex and his own hypocrisies, often in the space of a single track. But with repeated listens, it coalesces into a startling, compelling document of fame and fear in modern America.

  • "To Pimp a Butterfly is the record of a generation - something so courageous and thoughtful and progressive and explosive that we'll never see anything like it again." [Vice]
  • Watch the video for Alright [YouTube]

The 20 best of lists surveyed appeared in: Amazon, AV Club, Billboard magazine, Consequence of Sound, Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian, Mashable, Mojo, NME, Paste, Q Magazine, Rolling Stone, Spin, Stereogum, The Sun, Time, Time Out London, Time Out New York, Uncut and Vice.

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