Because I graded 154 albums this year and a whopping 94 of them were recommendations of some order, I'm quite excited to give you -- for the first time -- my top fifty albums from 2015, judged purely on the basis of personal taste and level of constant rotation at home. These recommendations are heartfelt; when we get into the ones that personally made me swoon the most in 2015 the records are bolded, and of course the top ten is separated with links and stats. Here we go:
50. Lonelady: Hinterland (Warp)
49. Jazmine Sullivan: Reality Show (RCA)
48. Mbongwana Star: From Kinshasa (World Circuit)
47. The Internet: Ego Death (Columbia)
46. Shopping: Why Choose (FatCat)
45. The Foreign Exchange: Tales from the Land of Milk and Honey (s/r)
44. Jim O'Rourke: Simple Songs (Drag City)
43. Björk: Vulnicura (Megaforce)
42. Ghost Culture (Phantasy Sound)
41. The Underachievers: Evermore: The Art of Duality (Brainfeeder)
40. Janet Jackson: Unbreakable (Rhythm Nation)
39. Darkstar: Foam Island (Warp)
38. Charli XCX: Sucker (Atlantic)
37. Alex G: Beach Music (Domino)
36. Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld: Never Were the Way She Was (Constellation)
35. Lower Dens: Escape from Evil (Ribbon Music)
34. Surfer Blood: 1000 Palms (Joyful Noise)
33. Susanne Sundfør: Ten Love Songs (Warner Bros.)
32. Four Tet: Morning/Evening (Text)
31. Kwabs: Love + War (Atlantic)
30. Beach House: Thank Your Lucky Stars (Sub Pop)
29. Thee Oh Sees: Mutilator Defeated at Last (Castle Face)
28. Carly Rae Jepsen: E-MO-TION (Interscope)
27. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly (Interscope)
26. The Mountain Goats: Beat the Champ (Merge)
25. Laurie Anderson: Heart of a Dog (Nonesuch)
24. The Chemical Brothers: Born in the Echoes (astralwerks)
23. Jamie xx: In Colour (Young Turks)
22. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Ba Power (Xango)
21. Pinkshinyultrablast: Everything Else Matters (Shelflife)
20. Meg Baird: Don't Weigh Down the Light (Drag City)
19. Ryley Walker: Primrose Green (Dead Oceans)
18. Ghostface Killah & BadBadNotGood: Sour Soul (Lex)
17. Chastity Belt: Time to Go Home (Hardly Art)
16. Leon Bridges: Coming Home (Columbia)
15. Alabama Shakes: Sound & Color (Rough Trade)
14. Built to Spill: Untethered Moon (Warner Bros.)
13. Deerhunter: Fading Frontier (4AD)
12. Tame Impala: Currents (Interscope)
11. Beach House: Depression Cherry (Sub Pop)
10. Yo La Tengo: Stuff Like That There
(Matador) | A- | review
9. Royal Headache: High
(What's Your Rupture?) | A- | review
8. Twerps: Range Anxiety
(Merge) | A- | review
7. Heems: Eat Pray Thug
(Megaforce) | A- | review
6. Lady Lamb: After
(Mom + Pop) | A | review
5. The Wave Pictures: Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon
(Moshi Moshi) | A | review
4. Ezra Furman: Perpetual Motion People
(Bella Union) | A | review
3. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
(Mom + Pop) | A | review
2. Joanna Newsom: Divers
(Drag City) | A+ (upgrade) | review
1. D'Angelo & the Vanguard: Black Messiah
(RCA 2014) | A+ (upgrade) | review
So I know what you're thinking, which is: that's a very strange list. Because this is the second consecutive (and hopefully the final) year in which I'm extremely overdue posting a year-end list, only completing it well into the following year, we have the unusual opportunity of comparing it to Pazz & Jop and every other individual and aggregate poll published of 2015 albums. Obviously it's an outlier for several reasons. You don't come to someone's personal blog, I would hope, to expect some general reprocessing of the consensus, though there have been times (2010 and 2013, for two) when I was pretty closely aligned with the wider perspective of people who are actually professional about this stuff. I normally wouldn't try to make a defensive case for my list, but in some sense I'm not entirely pleased with it. I don't mean the records themselves; I stand by them all and honestly love every one of them from #21 onward, and there's every reason to guess that others below that line will one day gain even more respect from me. I suppose what I'm displeased with is how my own taste seems to be gradually breaking away from the records that are considered -- and even that I think are -- socially important.
The essay to follow is not a "State of the Union," so to speak; others are far more qualified than I am to expand on what is happening to your music and why. I have no interest in trying to understand the economics of streaming or the eternally conflicting reports on how sustainable it is to be a professional musician in the mid-2010s; it's not that I don't like reading about all that, but what we're about to breathlessly analyze has nothing really to do with anything except me and why I feel the way I do about the big totems of this past year. I'm aware this has very little chance of being interesting to anybody but me, so feel free to move on with your week.
The innocent version of all this is that I fell back in love with guitar music this year; that's innocent and it's true. The beautiful vinyl package of D'Angelo's record comes with this gigantic glossy photo of him clutching an axe and ever-so-subtly sneering, echoing Gene Vincent in both senses. The photograph is strikingly powerful and erotic, an effortless depiction of rock & roll as a force that feeds and expands on itself. Black Messiah also contains an intriguing note explaining, in essence, that it's a political album -- about race, class and injustice -- whether you want it to be or not. In that spirit it seems undeniable that my choices of what music made me sing and dance in 2015 is politically charged, regardless of whether I want or intend it to be, and not progressive in the sense I would like.
In 2014, hip hop topped and covered my list, mostly alt-leaning music that challenged and thrilled me: Cities Aviv, clipping., Shabazz Palaces, the Underachievers, and of course Kate Tempest, who recorded the third consecutive album in the genre that became my top choice for the year. I think this blog has a good track record of taking pop, R&B, hip hop and other genres as seriously as indie and alternative, which are inevitably -- because of how and when I grew up -- my "home base," so to speak, as far as contemporary popular music goes. But this year, hip hop I designated as highly recommended is pathetically thin on the ground; I have no one to blame but myself. I at least sampled every major release of 2015 and most minor ones, solely excluding those by artists like Drake who are hopeless lost causes for me, but somehow I emerged unmoved. Were the above list provided by a publication I would rail at its overwhelming whiteness and its focus on "rock"; it's somewhat less offensive since it's a personal list and I don't believe in judging the politics behind what individual people enjoy listening to, but as someone who does bristle at predictability and tokenism, I do somewhat regret that we only have one rap record in the top ten and only two records whose primary artists are not white.
But these lists I publish here have only ever been rigorously honest, and I work hard on them. I just want to stress that the absence or low placement on the relevant albums here isn't a reflection on their vitality. Rather, as I get farther into my thirties, it may be a reflection on me and my retreat into relative comfort and complacency; regardless of how devotedly I continue to seek out new music, perhaps the things I come back to are destined to become narrower in scope. Try as I might, I can't get anything except relative boredom out of Vince Staples' Summertime '06, and I know it's a significant artistic statement by a lot of measurements. Similarly, can it be a symptom of much except my becoming older and grouchier that I get no pleasure out of Future's music? With DS2 in particular, I have a full awareness of why it's good, the troubled and zonked-out brilliance in it, but as with a lot of music driven so much on chemical highs and lows, it's not something I enjoy listening to at all. That's the sort of priggish statement that's made me roll my eyes at some older critics, and I always hoped as I got older and kept writing about music that I would be one of the Cool Ones who was constantly a-OK and philosophical when it came to the music of the youths, or of democratic and cultural origins totally unrelated to my sheltered status. Maybe this isn't something I can fully control after all.
As a result of all this you might reasonably expect that my cup of tea would be drunken with the likes of Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment and Anderson Paak and THEESatisfaction, all of whom exemplify the spirit of conscious Afrocentrism and sometimes sheer dumb happiness. I support those things and I like Paak a fair bit, but in the other two cases while listening I have the strange feeling I'm in school, which was also the case with some of the recordings from the early to mid-'90s to which they're constantly compared. Still, a love of 3 Feet High and Rising, Blowout Comb and The Score and an aversion to male aggression that crosses all genres and artforms (I don't like Ernest Hemingway, N.W.A. or Martin Scorsese) could easily pigeonhole me as a weedy white hipster unconscious of his footprint of flagrant privilege, blasting Tribe on the headphones and buying brownstones in Bed-Stuy. What could I say to really correct this picture? Nothing, that's what, except the hope that the zillions of words I've written here have made my heart at least kind of trustworthy, and maybe they haven't.
Weirdly, exhibit A in this whole internal crisis -- Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly -- is the item whose placement I can most readily defend. For one thing, while I heard Staples and Future's albums (and Young Thug's, and lots of others) multiple times, I lived day and night with Pimp for weeks. I will unquestioningly tell you it's an accomplished, often masterful and emotionally slash politically righteous recording that I simply found bloated and musically frustrating. I'm not the first to point out that while I'm sure Lamar is flattered by the praise he's received from the mainstream, his music is not designed to speak to us. And by "us" I mean the white music press but also white music listeners as a whole, and that's what gives To Pimp a Butterfly a lot of its revolutionary-sounding power. It's thoughtful but confrontational, in the vein of the Clash. Lamar is a phenomenal artist; there's a certain undeniability to that and it transcends personal taste.
But personal taste is still there. Lamar's previous LP good kid, m.A.A.d. city was another example of something that almost transcended both the fractured culture and the various unpredictable contradictions in my own digestion of music. It showed up in my headphones very late in 2012, after I thought I'd long since decided on my top two or three albums, and almost without debate it immediately topped the list as soon as I was swept up in its intricate, cinematic, redemptive storytelling. The album remains glorious, believable, and impressively well-judged, but it was already an outlier for me in terms of my personal taste: I've always tended to feel annoyed by albums that have "plots," so to speak, but Lamar's entry as well as Tempest's are both exceptions that prove the rule, because they're something else disguised as records. It's probably instructive that Lamar billed good kid as a "film," and that Tempest is turning Everybody Down into a novel. Neither album expands or redefines its form exactly, but both refine and make art of ideas that have been unsuccessfully tested by others before them. In both cases I come away liking a lot of the songs (I don't like a single song on good kid as much as I like "King Kunta" and "How Much a Dollar Cost" from his new one, but I like the older album infinitely more because its cumulative impact is simpler and greater for me; the best songs to hear out of context on Tempest's record are the two or three that don't advance the story, plus the summation "Lonely Daze"), loving the albums, but more than anything overwhelmed by admiration for the two young, gifted artists, capable of so much I could never even think of accomplishing.
All that goes double for To Pimp a Butterfly; offer me any bite-sized sample of it and I'll tell you I'm hearing a tremendous writer and performer operating at peak, full of moral righteousness and zeal and the mere grace and showmanship of all great pop music. Yet whereas good kid -- which allowed Pimp to exist in its messy, uncompromised form -- was a small and modest story with grandiose implications, this is an album of the world, and there's something subtly limiting in this limitless achievement. Even so, it's beyond gratifying to find a creation like this meeting with so much praise and success, and yet again, you must know who it is you're reading: I like Stand! more than There's a Riot Goin' On, like Here, My Dear and Let's Get It On more than What's Going On, and vastly prefer The Conversation to the Godfather movies. I'm not saying this to tell you I'm a contrarian; I hate that sort of logic. I'm telling you this to demonstrate that Lamar's epic construction is already at a disadvantage with me because epic constructions of universal import make me a little queasy; they're just too big for me to get myself fully around them. Much as concept albums bug me but Lamar's last one was so good that you know it means something if I say it's aces, the fact that I have so much admiration for this record that is too overwhelming for me to process and appreciate should indicate something of its value.
Another factor to mention about this list is that it is almost certainly informed by what happened in my personal life in 2015. I moved from an apartment in a small but noisy city to a dead-quiet house in a coastal tourist community that's nearly empty in winter, on stilts and hidden behind a bunch of trees. I got married after a six-year relationship that changed everything about my life and outlook already. Conditions in our very mellow shared quarters are extremely favorable for the likes of Deerhunter, Tame Impala, a reconfigured pure-acoustic Yo La Tengo and, well, Beach House. Ghostface Killah fronting a jazz combo is somehow ideal. Things have become quieter, even as I've also been wrapped up in what feels like a flurry of activity -- though it's a very un-rock & roll flurry, like going on vacation with my parents and getting my teeth fixed and taking the bunny to the vet. It doesn't look to me like this is a list of boring-old-man music, but were that an argument you wanted to make you'd sure as fuck have a lot of ammo.
Let's go back to that guitar, though. This is the first list I've done in a long time dominated to this extent by guitar bands, and what a terrific crop of them it is. There's also a curious overrepresentation of Australia; even with Tame Impala just missing the top ten, Royal Headache, Twerps and Courtney Barnett all show up in the final countdown. Twerps and Royal Headache are pure throwback but both are impressively versatile, and in what seems to be the theme this year, their records are driven chiefly by songs rather than a sound -- indeed, both of them are quite prepared to turn on a whim into another band entirely if the song calls for it.
Another trend, however, dominates from the seventh position on up: these are albums that are about words as much as music. D'Angelo buries his words and vocals however momentous, and Joanna Newsom's sentiments are obtuse and enigmatic, wilfully puzzling, for as smart a wordsmith as she is, her choice is to hit hardest in nonverbal terms. I don't think my life would've been the same in 2015, though, without the things I learned from the poetic rants and raves of the other fine artists in our top ten. Lady Lamb's document of the aforementioned fractured culture, "Billions of Eyes", has a touch of personal pain and apprehension but also an eagerness to share something with the world. That yearning runs across all of my favorite albums this year: Barnett's elevation of mundane day-to-day existence to a ramshackle celebration of life itself, occasionally chided by even some of her champions as some sort of embodiment of privileged millennial self-importance, draws portraits of strange normal lives so convincing and often so refreshingly miniml that they can make you think differently about the way you approach your commute, your best and worst moments, your conversations with your friends, your coworkers, your spouse. (Lady Lamb sings about seeing an old woman yawn on a bus and suddenly wondering why it's just now dawning on her that people are such a bizarre conglomerate.) If a simple house-hunting excursion and idling talk about coffeeshops can turn into a song as deeply moving as "Depreston", built wholly on the conflict of internalized thought and externalized communication, are we not all potentially architects of such dreams? There are only two chords in "Depreston" and even I can play it, sort of.
Dave Tattersall, lead singer and usually lyricist of the Wave Pictures, said in an interview early in 2015 that "I don't believe in stream of consciousness but I do believe that lyrics are everywhere." It became almost comical, I'm sure, to witness my long vendetta against Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon in the last eighteen months, so irritated was I by his new approach to writing completely unfiltered lyrics that were glorified LiveJournal entries. (I'm happy to say that the reception to his 2015 album Universal Themes suggests the world has caught up with me.) The difference between what Kozelek does and what Tattersall and Barnett do is down to the pure curation of art from normalcy. Kozelek simply reguritates, like a motion-capture model of an actor. Barnett and Tattersall are like animators, rendering expressive lines from traces of real life drawn upon by creativity and enthusiasm. So Barnett can talk in aching detail about staring at shapes on the ceiling while longing for someone far away and the various curiosities accompanying that longing. And Tattersall can turn an odd, fleeting experience he had at St. Pancras Station into a two-line fantasy about one woman in a green coat who stands out because everyone else in sight is dressed in black.
The Wave Pictures' words can be lofty, they can be juvenile; they are consistently real and bracing, and delivered in a sharp but emotive manner calling back to the Only Ones, and not just because there are a lot of songs about pets and other animals. "We Fell Asleep in the Blue Tent" might be the most beautiful love song of the decade so far, a chronicle of a scrappy sleepover that includes the immortal sentiment "I saw your handwriting written on everything, and I liked it." Musically, the band is punkish but professional; much as Barnett calls to the classic riffs and yelps of Nuggets-phase garage, they unabashedly nod to classic rock of the late '60s, going so far as to cover Creedence Clearwater Revival not once but twice. The Pictures are an established band in the UK, they've recorded a lot and enjoy a sizable cult that's almost nonexistent in America, but they've been at this a long time and sound relaxed and casual in a manner that doesn't remotely affect their capacity to connect or to communicate passion.
"Passionate" is another fine word for these terrific albums that don't have much to do with one another but strangely still seem to belong together. Certainly Ezra Furman and Heems, each of whom recorded a phenomenal and all but completely ignored album this year, qualify as two sides of a certain coin. Heems is the first former member of Das Racist to record a proper studio album, and while he wanders off on experiments and twice gives the floor to the painful realities of being brown in America after 9/11, his album is at bottom about coping. He and Furman both have talked openly about suffering from depression, and both have spun it into mature work that's often masterful. Nothing on Perpetual Motion People hits as hard as the closing lines from Eat Pray Thug, documenting the deportation of a dad whose daughter won't be around to correct his bad English at the dinner table anymore, and the resulting pressure in Heems' own family to be quiet, keep your head down and don't make trouble.
But Furman also turns his pain around on us, heartbreakingly so. As on each of the top four albums, the highlights are so numerous and so refreshingly different it's a task to determine what to mention here. There is "Ordinary Life," about losing the will to live and trying to find it again; or "Body Was Made," about owning one's identity. There's also "I'm gonna get old so goddamn fast / pass me that bottle with the XXX." But just as frequently as they form distress into the catharsis of universally relatable pain, Furman and Heems approach their work with astounding charm and humor. The personality crisis Heems describes on "Sometimes", wrapped up in lofty self-analysis and obsessively minute detail, is both harrowing and eerily familiar to any adult human. Furman, meanwhile, can engage in black comedy smack-dab in the middle of his moments of hard-living false retribution. His levity is musical as well as lyrical, too, filling every song with hooks and wacky rock & roll arrangements that are equal parts New York Dolls, Phil Spector and Platters. He's wobbly, but the music sees him through. It's not a requirement that those who suffer from mental illness of any sort make accessible art about it that's full of disarming warmth. It's not a requirement that one be troubled or have known instability to create great art. But it is most assuredly impressive as hell when someone is able to pull that off. Perhaps nothing bothers me more at the end of this year than how little attention these two albums received. (The widespread celebration of Barnett's genius is, to some degree, a compensation, but let's not wear her out on public exposure just yet -- I'm sure her best work is still to come.)
To a lesser extent that same fate has befallen Joanna Newsom's Divers; it's received ample praise from the expected quarters, but perhaps as a result of its absence from streaming services, it seems to have made less of an impact than her first three albums. This is an injustice; as time has gone on, it's become clear to me as her finest work to date and the first to truly fuse the most instantly arresting qualities of her songcraft, so evident on the invariably enchanting songs of her debut The Milk Eyed Mender, with her command of wildly ambitious and fascinating arrangements and production. Like Have One on Me, the album has marked divisions that become clearer with more exposure. Its florid, busy first half eventually falls into a mournful, resigned back end that offers some of her starkest arrangements and most straightforward words ever. Even setting apart her clever, busy and cautiously worked-over lyrics for a moment, the sad shake in her voice is obvious even when the album's at its most playful. It's a record of layers, though, as easy to appreciate as simply a beautiful collection of folk music as it is an endlessly revealing box of secrets. It does need time, but less than you expect, and soon enough every single cut reveals its magic, and the funny, despairing, scholarly, reference-filled lyrics will endear themselves to you after a while, but long before that you'll already want to live in that voice and in the clear emotional peaks, like the title cut with its near-magic, balletic feeling of timelessness. In every moment you can hear Newsom's hard work to meld her emotional inner life into something complex to donate to the world.
"Timeless" effectively describes Newsom and D'Angelo's albums equally well. Though it wasn't immediately obvious, both have come to feel like masterpieces to me. Black Messiah is a cheat since it actually was released in December 2014, but that placed it past our window for last year's list -- which, if I'd the proper time to come to fully appreciate it, it would easily have dominated. Divers and Black Messiah feel in many ways like albums that could have been released in the '70s, still the best decade for the long-player. What this might reveal is that even the stick-in-the-mud, aged-out feeling we talked about earlier might not prevent me or anyone from recognizing when someone transcends their era, transcends even the very idea of an era in this microscopic portion of history. These two truly great albums could belong in any time; both boast awesome power, worthy of hushed reverence. Both are exquisitely romantic, sad, worried. Only one, however, is also a banged-out, blissfully rhythmic orgasm of hearts, bodies and minds in an hour-long collision.
The only thing instantly obvious about Black Messiah when you first hear it is that it will take a bit of unpacking. The many years it took to create have paid off more than in just the rigorous, infallible quality-control. (Once again, virtually every track is perfect.) The grooves and hooks are buried under dust, and after a while even the dust becomes intoxicating. Like few albums since the heyday of Parliament-Funkadelic, Exile on Main Street and Sly & the Family Stone, this is a record that becomes markedly different every time you hear it. That's how rife it is with detail and intricacy, but never in the proggy jammed-out sense that sometimes inspires such grand statements. The songs are carefully, immaculately crafted, and though most of them stretch into the four-to-five minute range, were you to strip them down to an acoustic guitar and a voice, they would entrance in their slow, ethereal beauty. It could be funeral music. It could be the music of seduction. It sometimes feels like it contains every iteration of what popular music can be.
It's also a band album, so much so that D'Angelo's frontman status almost seems irrelevant; he willfully recedes more often than not. (This has been turned around as a criticism, actually.) The interplay isn't just an enhancement here, it's the story. That puts the album in good company with the likes of Sign o' the Times and Maggot Brain, but in at least one sense I think Black Messiah has a leg up on its ancestors: its pure, unadulterated, melted-heart beauty. That's not the classic pop beauty of simply a well-turned hook or a lush ballad. It's the beauty of something hard-won, a savior behind the chaos. Chaos dominates the foreground of Black Messiah and, like To Pimp a Butterfly, it emphasizes funk as an expression of and a battle against that chaos. The most important feature of D'Angelo's record, though, is how it perverts funk's formal standards -- On "The Charade", vocal lines that are deliberately abrasive just as George Clinton's once were slowly form into a swirling cacophony that, melded with the band's propulsive plugging away, attain a fevered, almost religious power. It transforms confrontation into sensuality without lulling us as the audience into some sort of passive acceptance. The same basic tenet goes for my favorite moment in all the music I heard in 2015 -- about three minutes into "Till It's Done", when a solo vocal line unexpectedly broadens into a chill-inducing cry. It's among many moments when Black Messiah rushes past even its most obvious and very worthy pursuits, protest and love and sex and everything else, and becomes just inexpressibly sublime. It's also one of those magical moments, so rare but not as rare as some who've not let their ears open in decades will try to tell you, when it dawned on me without question: I will be listening to this for the rest of my life. What a thing for someone to give us.
APPENDIX: Recommended 2015 albums that didn't make the list of 50
Shamir: Ratchet (XL)
The Spook School: Try to Be Hopeful (Fortuna Pop!)
Songhoy Blues: Music in Exile (Transgressive)
Ghostpoet: Shedding Skin (PIAS)
Erykah Badu: But You Caint Use My Phone (Motown)
Advance Base: Nephew in the Wild (Orindal)
Tuxedo (Stones Throw)
Talib Kweli & 9th Wonder: Indie 500 (Jamla)
Hot Chip: Why Make Sense? (Domino)
Blackalicious: Imani, Vol. 1 (OGM)
Sleater-Kinney: No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)
Twin Shadow: Eclipse (Warner Bros.)
Floating Points: Elaenia (Luaka Bop)
Ducktails: St. Catherine (Domino)
Ty Dolla $ign: Free TC (Atlantic)
Young Fathers: White Men Are Black Men Too (Big Dada)
Blur: The Magic Whip (Warner Bros.)
Rachel Sermanni: Tied to the Moon (Linear Labs)
Della Mae (Rounder)
Apollo Brown: Grandeur (Mello Music)
Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)
EL VY: Return to the Moon (4AD)
The Very Best: Makes a King (Moshi Moshi)
Helen: The Original Faces (Kranky)
The Bird and the Bee: Recreational Love (Rostrum)
Dutch Uncles: O Shudder (Memphis Industries)
Bilal: In Another Life (eOne)
Logic: The Incredible True Story (Def Jam)
Wolf Alice: My Love Is Cool (Dirty Hit)
Knxledge: Hud Dreems (Stones Throw)
Wire (Pink Flag)
Curren$y: Pilot Talk III (Jet Life)
Nils Frahm: Victoria OST (Erased Tapes)
Natalie Prass (Columbia)
Widowspeak: All Yours (Captured Tracks)
White Reaper: White Reaper Does It Again (Polyvinyl)
Bully: Feels Like (Columbia)
Young Ejecta: The Planet (Driftless)
Roots Manuva: Bleeds (Big Dada)
Valet: Nature (Kranky)
New Order: Music Complete (Mute)
Wilco: Star Wars (Anti-)
Stealing Sheep: Not Real (Heavenly)
Sarah Cracknell: Red Kite (Cherry Red)
APPENDIX 2: EP THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN IN THE TOP TEN ABOVE IF IT HAD BEEN AN ALBUM
Kelela: Hallucinogen (Warp)
APPENDIX 3: OTHER GOOD EPs IN 2015
AFX: Orphaned Deejay Selek (Warp)
The Paranoid Style: Rock & Roll Just Can't Recall (Worldwide Battle)