It became a tradition here: every year, at the end of December, I publish a top 10 of the albums that marked my year the most. It reflects my musical taste, so I insist it isn’t an objective review like those music magazines and websites attempt to do.
These 10 albums are those that inspired me and impressed me the most, that I found more unique and innovative. I will probably still listen to them in 5 years, and in my head, they will always be linked to memories from the past 12 months.
Now, let’s count down!
10. Tyler, The Creator – Cherry Bomb
He still swears a lot, his humour is still absurd: Tyler grew up but he didn’t change, and I think I like it this way. Even though it’s slightly more mature than its predecessors, Cherry Bomb still has this raw, brutal energy that defines Tyler. This time, it even got upgraded with a whole bunch of first-class featurings (Schoolboy Q, Pharrell, Kanye West…).
9. Action Bronson – Mr Wonderful
The ginger bearded rapper, known and respected like no other in the indie rap scene, has struck hard this year: his album is a true masterpiece! His trendless, personal, inimitable sound is compiled in 13 timeless tracks that sound like Canned Heat in a convertible in the desert, except it has lyrics shouted on it like some good old school gangsta rap.
8. Brodinski – Brava
Brodinski might be a real star in nightlife all around the world, but his album wasn’t exactly what you might call a commercial success. And while I understand why, I have to say that personally, I was completely into it. Halfway between electronic music and hip-hop, the Brava sound is unheard before, and it just works. Patience, Brodi, hopefully the world will wake up in ten years and give this album the love it deserves!
7. Shlohmo – Dark Red
Dark Red was one of my first album-crushes this year: the genius producer Shlohmo let his creativity run free, and delivered some sort of amazing musical UFO, somewhere between ambient, hip-hop and drum’n’bass. And it’s as perfect as it sounds.
6. The Shoes – Chemicals
If you’ve been reading my blog for long enough, you know how much I love The Shoes. And you can guess how much I’ve missed their music. Their last album Crack My Bones came out in 2011 and has had an incredible impact on my life, so I was beyond excited to discover its follower. Produced in London, Chemicals is the result of over a year of hard work, and turns out to be plain genius. I have never heard anything like it. Every song is so complex, you can recognise so many different influences, from so many different genres, and yet, everything seems to work together effortlessly. Vocals are taken care of by, among others, Esser, Petite Noir and Sage. The album has so many listening levels that I’m still going to need a while to “finish” it – hopefully long enough to keep me waiting until the next one…
5. Hudson Mohawke – Lantern
I had been waiting for this one for a while, too… and I wasn’t disappointed! I admire HudMo for his capacity to create such a unique sound, to mix influences like no one else, and deliver a result that is accessible, yet fundamentally experimental. After spending over a year producing for others, the scottish prodigy eventually managed to focus on his own work, and put all his heart and brains in it. Lantern is a rather short album (47 minutes), but efficient. Every track has its own identity, and contributes to a perfectly comprehensive ensemble. Nothing is superfluous: no fillers, no useless crap. I read in an interview that I can’t find back right now that HudMo initially had a very long list of tracks he wanted to use. He then proceeded to submit this long list to a few critics (including Mark Ronson and Zane Lowe) that had to break it down to the essentials. It’s the kind of work that I find very honorable: good results require time, effort and humility. And it all pays off.
4. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness
Proof that commercial doesn’t necessarily mean bad: this year, The Weeknd made it to the top of the charts without having to format to the standards of American pop music. Beauty Behind The Madness is crude, full of weirdness, and yet, it’s an amazing example of how much r’n’b still can evolve today. The album invites you to dive into the Canadian singer’s universe, leaving you overwhelmed with Abel’s emotions, questioning, fears, wounds, ego and self-hatred. I just can’t wait to see him live on July 23d, which is when I’ll drive to Lille to watch him perform along with Rihanna and Big Sean.
3. AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP – A$AP Rocky
I might as well just come out of the closet now: I’ve never really been a fan of A$AP Rocky. Everything he did seemed superficial and useless to me, his contribution to hip-hop meant nothing to me, he was just a poser. Luckily, my boyfriend is somewhat less judgemental: it’s thanks to him that I took the time to listen to AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP and fell in love with it. It’s a true masterpiece of contemporary music, it goes beyond hip-hop, beyond genres. You gotta have some balls to try something like this: Rocky challenged himself, he dove head first into the unknown, and made sure he had the best buddies around him to help him deliver a result that would match his expectations. This album is the unexpected first born child of rap music and seventies psychedelic rock: it sounds vintage, but it couldn’t have been made at any better time than now. It’s a small earthquake in rap music, which is all I ever ask anyway. Oh and Rod Stewart sings with Rocky on Everyday, so yeah, I don’t really know what else you could possibly need to be happy.
2. FKA Twigs – M3LL155X
Okay, I’m slightly cheating here: M3LL155X is “just” an EP. My blog, my rules! What you should notice here instead, is that this 5 track EP was better to me than almost any album this year. And that’s pretty damn impressive. Who else than FKA Twigs could do something like that? She keeps amazing me. M3LL155X came out together with a long, disturbing, hypnotic video and, well, it was all produced, interpreted, directed, danced and conceived by her. This girl is a goddess. She can do everything and she does it all perfect. She has an incredible gift for beauty and an amazing sense of aesthetics. She’s a true artist, devoted to her passion and her mission. Forget about Madonna, Lady Gaga, even Beyoncé: SHE is the shit, and I don’t know why she doesn’t have a “Queen Of The World” crown on her head yet.
1. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
Ah, Drake. I think it’s safe to say 2015 was his year. At least for me. To be completely honest with you, I had never really been completely convinced by his music before (yeah, I guess I can be a hater sometimes – I’m just very difficult). I wasn’t really digging his style, he was too whiney, it didn’t sound right, it was too much. But it was just a matter of balance, because then, If You’re Reading This… came, and nothing was the same anymore (see what I did there?). Every artist needs time and experience to find themselves, and in Drake’s case, there will clearly be a before and an after If You’re Reading This… The lyrics are so good, they hit just right, the productions are minimal but efficient and obsessive, the attitude is definitely on point. One simple thing that I think is worth mentioning: every two weeks, I have a new favourite song, I just can’t decide on one, even two. And when that happens to me, it’s usually a good sign: it means I don’t get tired of it.
Voilà! I hope I managed to share my enthusiasm with you, hopefully you even discovered a few things. Honestly, 2015 was really an exceptional year for music. My only regret is that two of my favourite artists didn’t manage to release their albums: Kanye, Frank Ocean, please, bring it all in 2016! It’s been too long…