NOW’s top albums of 2015

It wasn't a notable year for rock 'n' roll, but a rock band still snagged our number-one spot, while experimentalists of all stripes made the strongest showing. Here's our critics' collaborative list.


1. Tame Impala – Currents 

Currents is so dazzling and infinitely listenable, it got the Aussie rockers to the top of our list. Buoyant psych-lite textures and tenderly soulful melodies add up to a fresh, forward-thinking take on dance-floor-friendly jam rock.

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2. RóisÍn Murphy – Hairless Toys

The third album by the pop star for the art-house set eschews club bangers for more restrained, slow-burning sounds and atypical lyrics about things like queer “family-ness” and the joys of reading. We can’t get enough.

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3. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

The dude oozes sex appeal: a “hallucinating Casanova doused in sentimentality and hooky melodies,” wrote Samantha Edwards in her 5N review. Sounds questionable on paper, but he’s so very good on record and in concert.

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4. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly 

The Compton rapper’s third album was perfectly in sync with 2015’s year of social activism. Searingly political and musically dizzying, it reflects a young musician at the top of his game – and changing it.

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5. Floating Points – Elaenia 

Known for his left-field house contributions, the UK DJ/producer surprised and impressed us with a debut album full of nods to psychedelic jazz and post-rock, with plenty of analog warmth and a timeless, elegant feel.

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6. Tenement – Predatory Headlights 

Ambitious pop punk? A double album’s worth? The Wisconsin band broke all the rules with Predatory Headlights, dishing out moody, textural embellishment (strings!), razor-sharp songs and melodies that just won’t stop. 

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7. Grimes – Art Angels

“A major victory for deep weird,” wrote Matt Williams in his 5N review. Indeed, Claire Boucher hit a home run with her rabidly anticipated Art Angels, gutsy in its chameleonic vision, sturdy with (fleeting) pop hooks and utterly unique. 

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8. Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell

An album about your deceased mother’s mental illness and substance abuse could be a grim affair, but the Brooklyn indie folkie’s deeply moving ode to his ma (and stepfather) focuses more on love than tragedy. 

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9. Björk – Vulnicura 

The Icelandic musician’s broken-hearted ninth album put off a lot of critics and fans, but we love its agitation, stark vulnerability and lyrical specificity, which verges on vitriolic. More an excavation than a breakup album.

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10. James Elkington And Nathan Salsburg Ambsace

This instrumental acoustic guitar album by two American pickers was the year’s best surprise: a collection of mesmerizing, elegant, unusual folk that comes down not on the side of melancholy, but of cheeriness.

Dig through 2015’s Albums of the Week here!

music@nowtoronto.com

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