Tame Impala- Currents
Tame Impala’s third album is their best work yet, using synths with guitars to implement a very unique set of ideas. While the rest of the album doesn’t seem very interesting when compared to the incredible 7 minute opener in “Let It Happen”, the album maintains a high standard throughout. Kevin Parker’s remarkable experimentation with ultra-melodic music has earned him much-deserved praise in his Australian homeland and beyond. Currents peaked at #1 in Australia, and at #4 in the United States, backing up Tame Impala’s critical acclaim with mainstream popularity. Tame Impala, founded in 2007, is a fairly new entity in music. Their first album, 2010’s Innerspeaker, gained some critical acclaim. Tame Impala may have a very long discography ahead of them.
Modest Mouse- Strangers to Ourselves
For the first studio album in eight long years by Modest Mouse, one might expect Strangers to Ourselves to be a throwback album meant to please past fans. Strangers to Ourselves, however, is far from that. This album is great for returning fans and first time listeners alike. The music, held against the band’s earlier albums, serves as a great final result in terms of how the band has changed over the years. A diverse set of musical principles guide the album, which is as good towards the end as it is in its opening. Although after eight years, that’s the least some might expect.
Viet Cong- Viet Cong
The debut album from Canadian rock band Viet Cong, this self-titled album is one of the more unique on this list. Viet Cong is a dizzying collection of rock noise. Under pounding drums and heavy guitars is set an album with vague themes of war and conflict, as evidenced by the album’s name. Despite these incredibly heavy elements in the music, some of the tracks are quite catchy, such as “Bunker Buster”. This album won’t be to everybody’s taste, but expands upon interesting ideas about rock music in a way worthy of note.
Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly
Named “Hottest MC in the game” by MTV in 2012, Kendrick Lamar first found commercial success that same year with Good Kid, M.A.D.D. City, and returned facing high expectations. Lamar subsequently blew them all away. To Pimp a Butterfly peaked at #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. when it was released in March. Lamar’s heavily emotional and relevant performance combined with very creative instrumentals has helped to continue to cement rap as an art form worthy of critical analysis.
Blur- The Magic Whip
Coming off of an even longer hiatus than Modest Mouse, The Magic Whip is the first album by English rock band Blur in 12 years. Here, the band presents a wonderful assortment of new musical ideas without completely dismantling the identity they had built before their hiatus. Combining the best elements of pop and rock, Blur has created an album high in terms of both quality and accessibility. Almost certainly the best release from the U.K. this year, The Magic Whip peaked at #1 in the UK and Ireland, but was not met with as much success in the U.S., peaking at #24.
Panda Bear- Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper
The 5th solo album by Animal Collective member Panda Bear, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper is an interesting listen. It combines Panda Bear’s unique vocal talents and flair for erratic music that is simultaneously melodic and staggeringly complex. This was Animal Collective’s greatest strength towards the latter half of their discography, and Panda Bear retains this property while alone. One might expect that this album would be largely similar to most of Animal Collective’s releases, but Panda Bear’s instrumentation is noticeably different solo, relying extensively on electronics to drive the album home. It peaked at #2 on the US independent albums chart.
2015 isn’t over yet, and multiple anticipated releases are still just over the horizon. Whether or not these albums will stand the test of time remains uncertain