10 standout music albums in 2015
2015 was a big year for music. There were major releases from the likes of Madonna, Coldplay, Mumford And Sons, One Direction, Justin Bieber and Janet Jackson; as well as much-anticipated comeback albums from The Libertines, New Order and Blur.
On the local front, artistes like Hujan, OAG, and Nicholas Teo made a return after long hiatuses, Wings celebrated its 30th anniversary, Yuna popped back in for a long-awaited Malaysian concert, and Penny Tai became the first Malaysian artiste to win two awards at Taiwan’s Golden Melody Awards in consecutive years.
But the title of biggest music artiste of the year can only go to one person – Adele, who heads the Entertainment Desk’s list of best albums of the 2015.
Four years after almost disappearing from the public eye, Adele emerged with this “make-up record” in November, which broke sales records all over the world, and proved that the Queen Of Heartbreak is still very much in business.
Standout song: When We Were Young is a beautiful song that soars through layers of melody, with Adele’s voice hitting an impossibly inspiring high at the end.
To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar
This was the critics’ darling in 2015. One of the best rap albums to be released in years, it deservedly got the most nominations for next year’s Grammys – seven in total, including Album Of The Year.
Standout song: Alright, an infectiously catchy protest song with hard-hitting lyrics about police brutality, and some truly inspired rap from Lamar.
The Magic Whip, Blur
Blur’s first album since 2003’s Think Tank was not even supposed to exist. The album consists of songs that were recorded in 2013 when they unexpectedly had five days to kill in Hong Kong, and is a triumphant comeback for a band that had been in the doldrums since the death of Britpop.
Standout song: New World Towers’ dreamy melody and Albarn’s almost world-weary vocals are combined into a haunting tune that you’ll be humming unconsciously for days.
Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens
Full of lush, melodious songs, Stevens’ haunting, gentle vocals lend an emotional weight to the poignant stories his lyrics tell. Inspired by the death of his mother, Carrie, in 2012, this is arguably Stevens’ best album since 2005’s Illinois.
Standout song: Should Have Known Better starts out simple, but evolves into a beautifully layered and lush song with a melody that washes over you like a warm wave of ocean water.
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, Florence + The Machine
Florence + The Machine’s latest shakes out the drama, drums out the emotion, and gives frontwoman Florence Welch a wonderfully passionate collection of new songs to set her mighty voice to. How big, and how beautiful it turned out to be.
Standout song: Third Eye, with its “ooh-wah, ooh-wah-ooh” intro, handclap beats, and Welch’s voice soaring to such great heights.
Emotion, Carly Rae Jepsen
We really, really, really, really like Jepsen’s second record, which is easily one of the best pop albums of 2015. In fact, you’d be surprised at how addictive this album is – filled with memorable catchy pop songs that, thankfully, won’t annoy you as much as Call Me Maybe.
Standout song: The obvious choice is the earworm I Really Like You, but we actually really, really like All That more – a slow-burning ballad with shades of a 1980s big love song.
Currents, Tame Impala
The third album by this Australian psychedelic rock group is a real doozy – listenable, danceable, full of dreamy soundscapes and scintillating synths, as well as some of frontman Kevin Parker’s best melodies yet.
Standout song: Cause I’m A Man will “distract you with their otherworldly dreamy sound and you’ll forget all about why you were upset about men in the first place”, according to our reviewer Angelin Yeoh.
Beauty Behind The Madness, The Weeknd
Also nominated for the Album Of The Year Grammy, the second album from Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, melds the best of R&B, dance, pop and rock, and is full of dramatic, thumping slow grooves, Michael Jackson-esque vibes, and catchy hooks.
Standout song: Can’t Feel My Face is a funky, catchy, foot-tapping song that brings to mind the best of Thriller-era Jackson.
I Love You, Honeybear, Father John Misty
Joshua Tillman (a.k.a. Father John Misty) calls this a concept album about himself, and he sounds as though he is baring his soul to the world with this record of passionately crafted songs about “regrettable behaviour”, the world’s ills, and his relationship with his wife.
Standout song: Bored In The USA. A plaintive lament that Tillman calls a “sarcastic ballad”. Includes a laugh track that brings to mind many a wasted night watching unfunny American sitcoms.
A Head Full Of Dreams, Coldplay
After the dreary post-conscious-uncoupling Ghost Stories album, Chris Martin returns to form with a collection of infectiously carefree songs that will have you cartwheeling with happiness. As our reviewer Kenneth Chaw wrote, “A Head Full Of Dreams is a celebration; whether or not life gives you an occasion to celebrate.”
Standout song: Up&Up is one of the least bombastic songs on the album, but has an irrepressible choir-led chorus that will fill your heart with joy.