Adem’s Top 50 Albums of 2015

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Just as you stopped giving a shit about lists from the year that was, here are my Top 50 Albums of 2015. My Top 100+ Songs of the same year will go live in a week or two. 

Let’s just say that it was a really great year for Pop Music and 2016 is already starting to look like it’s going to deliver goods as big as these.

In my honest opinion, here are the 50 best, most played records of 2015. I love every single one of them (but I love the #50 entry a little less than all the others – more on that later) so I hope you enjoy reading the list as much as I’ve enjoyed writing and compiling it.

Please Note: Music is subjective and if you don’t like this list, the albums on this list or the order the albums are in, I could honestly give a shit.

01. MADONNA “Rebel Heart”

Madonna’s strongest album since Confessions on a Dance Floor was also her most ambitious since Erotica. Rebel Heart came with its own detrimentally chaotic bullshit (its demos leaked in 2014, then more leaked not long afterward, with the release date eventually moved from April to March due to the finished product also leaking at the start of 2015), but underneath all of the drama there’s an incredibly diverse and exciting pop record.

Rebel Heart is responsible for bringing Madonna; the Storyteller back into our lives (“Ghosttown”, “Living For Love”, “HeartBreakCity”). It’s also responsible for giving Madonna; the Comic Genius an opportunity to stick her tongue firmly within her cheek again (“S.E.X”, “Body Shop”). But perhaps the most welcome aspect of Rebel Heart was the way it brought Madonna; the Ballad Queen back into our lives. Songs like “Messiah” and “HeartBreakCity” are some of her best ballads to date and prove Madonna can still move mountains with her voice.

Then there’s the brilliance of “Living For Love” – easily the best song of 2015, the irreverence of “Bitch I’m Madonna” and the wonderfully sonic values of the Kanye West produced monster “Holy Water”, co-written by Natalia Kills, which has already given us the greatest live performance of both 2015 and 2016. Interesting features from the likes of Chance the Rapper, Mike Tyson, Nicki Minaj and Nas ensure that Rebel Heart boasts much better street-cred than, say, 2008’s Hard Candy, and achieves that desired Ghettodonna effect with much greater success. But the point of Rebel Heart is that it’s so much more than just an album where Madonna executes trap and urban sounds. It’s an album that manages to take every genre she’s ever toyed with to showcase an artists with many tastes and inspirations. I think some of that message was lost after the leaks; originally, “Rebel Heart” was meant to be a two-disc affair – disc one representing the ‘Rebel’ and disc two the ‘Heart’. Those harping on about Madonna making “a trap record” (which is only an element to this album, not the central motif) may have benefited from that two disc distinction.

But no matter where the tracks sit, there’s no denying that “Rebel Heart” was the best, most exciting and interesting album of 2015.

02. YEARS & YEARS “Communion”

Communion was my choice for Album of the Year for most of 2015, a title that it almost retained had it not been for Madonna releasing an album that was such a giant ‘grower’. Communion, however, gave an instantly gratifying fix, which is perhaps why I fought so long trying to choose which of these two stellar records would make my top pick.

Communion saw this phenomenal three-to-four-piece act deliver one of the most impressive and intricately produced debuts of all time, with some of the most melancholically-euphoric pop moments of the last decade. Chilling album opener “Foundation” is wildly different in its structure to the rest of Communion, kicking off with darkness submerged by light; that light, of course, being Olly Alexander’s unforgettable voice. And while Communion may have a lot within its walls to dance to, a lot of the time you’re dancing with tears in your eyes – which is perhaps my favourite kind of pop-dance hybrid.

03. MARINA & THE DIAMONDS “Froot”

Froot, above all things, served as Marina’s Drowned World/Substitute For Love moment; just without giving birth (thank God). If The Family Jewels was the neurotic introduction into an outcast striving toward fame, then Electra Heart was the aftermath of those wishes; the woman who’d found fame (or ‘love’ as it came across on the surface) and had been engulfed almost entirely by it (it’s not all that hard to hear the hidden messages when listening to a song like “Valley of the Dolls” or “Fear and Loathing”).

Froot displays a very different woman to her first two records. Tellingly, Marina sings on the corker “Forget”, perhaps of her fame (and perhaps of her love on the surface), that she’s “bowing out”. The most telling of lyrics within “Forget”? “Yeah I’ve been dancing with the devil, I love that he pretends to care – if I’ll ever get to heaven, when a million dollars gets you there. All the time that I have wasted, chasing rabbits down a hole.” Sure, it’s a love song… or is it? Maybe Marina’s finally found her sound, as the cliché goes. Maybe, just maybe, the desires of Electra Heart and The Family Jewels are desires past. “When I was born to be the tortoise, I was born to walk alone. Forget about it.”

04. LANA DEL REY “Honeymoon”

Lana promised a “return to pop” ala her debut, and instead trolled everybody waiting on a pop return by gifting us all a hip-hop referencing, shoegazing affair that continued Del Rey’s passionate plea for a Life in Mono. Read my original, lengthy review here.

05. TINA ARENA “Eleven”

Possibly Queena Arena’s greatest album to date, with some of the biggest hooks, turns and choruses of her entire career. “Karma” needs to be a single; it’s the biggest song she’s recorded since “Symphony of Life”.

06. KENDRICK LAMAR “To Pimp A Butterfly”

A profoundly brilliant album that made me take interest in Lamar beyond his leaked duet with Gaga. “King Kunta” is a proper revelation and an instant classic.

07. JACK Ü “Skrillex and Diplo present Jack Ü”

Skrillex and Diplo joined forces to become Jack Ü, recording the album with some of the biggest names in music, creating a flaw-free rave that spanned over nine tracks and multiple noisy genres.

08. PETER WILSON “Utopia”

Australia’s own Peter Wilson is one of my favourite pop stars, and his fifth studio album “Utopia” is brimming with a certain blend of pop that is mostly missing from today’s music climate. If you love the hits of Stock/Aitken/Waterman then chances are “Utopia” is going to resonate with you even more than Kylie Minogue’s debut did. A truly impressive masterstroke of pop that manages to marry modern beats with classic construction to proper perfection. The second greatest Australian album of 2015.

09. MAJOR LAZER “Peace Is The Mission/Extended”

An album so good that it came in two parts.

10. RAE SREMMURD “SremmLife”

An eleven-tracked Urban/Hip Hop/Grime hybrid from brother duo Rae Sremmurd that soundtracked a large portion of my year. Their live show was one of the craziest gigs I’ve ever been to – not since the space was used for hard dance raves in the early 2000s had I ever smelt so much weed up in smoke within the venue as I did that night.

11. MILEY CYRUS “Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz”

2015 saw Molly Cyprus make the album Kesha’s been dreaming about creating for years. This might be higher on the list if we actually had a version of it that gave us a higher MP3 bitrate than 128 FFS MILEY IT IS 2016 NOBODY GOT NO FUCKING TIME FOR MP3s WITH A 128KPS BITRATE.

12. ENYA “Dark Sky Island”

An absolute delight, “Dark Sky Island” is the type of album I play when all the noise of the world gets too loud. Enya’s always been able to bring me out of that kind of headspace, and “Dark Sky Island” is starting to look to me as being one of her most breathtaking achievements.

13. GRIMES “Art Angels”

WHAT A RECORD. There’s a few songs here I’d have left off if I’d been a part of the track list selection (“California” is beyond annoying, for example) but overall this was a pretty spot-on dance-pop-indie hybrid of a record. Many have commented that “Art Angels” sounds very “2007”, but I’d almost argue that only one half of it does, whilst the other half takes a stab at mid-to-late 90s trance, and probably does it more convincingly than anybody else did in 2015.

14. DANIEL JOHNS “Talk”

Australia’s Johns returned with an album that was a cool, slick and incredibly different beast to the sounds we’ve “come to expect” from him as the front man of Silverchair. Easily his most polarising effort yet, but one that feels right. Johns also looks and sounds more comfortable than he’s looked our sounded in a very, very long time. And is it just me or is he even sexier now than he ever was before? Phwoar.

15. CARLY RAE JEPSEN “E•MO•TION”

Unpopular Music Opinion: I thought “E•MO•TION” was a fantastic album and Carly Rae is a phenomenal pop star, but was it worthy of being heralded Album of the Year? Hell no. Mostly brilliant, but the unforgettable fillers make this – for me at least – a very unrealistic choice for Album of the Year.

16. A$AP ROCKY “At. Long. Last. ASAP”

Rough as guts and a total blast, I actually think A$AP’s a bit of a genius and “At. Long. Last. ASAP.” proves this effortlessly. A little underrated – don’t get me wrong Rocky’s a huge star but this incredible album proves he should be bigger. Oh and I definitely would without question; what an absolute SPUNK.

17. PARRALOX “Aeronaut”

Australia’s Parralox continue to blow my mind with albums that get better and better with each release. A truly dazzling moment in electropop glory.

18. ONE DIRECTION “Made in the A.M.”

Typical that One Direction’s last ever album was not only their most cohesive, but the one that sounds least like it’s jam-packed with album filler. “Never Enough” should have been a single over almost ANY of the choices made before their bust, but this time next year we’ll be celebrating Zayn’s solo album so none of this really matters any longer.

19. ALASKA THUNDERFVCK “Anus”

The best non-Ru Drag Race album in HERSTORY.

20. BONNIE McKEE “Bombastic EP”

A bloody bonza EP that nobody bar myself, my BFF Michelle and Bonnie’s mom bought. Watch the ace video for “Bombastic” to see what you’re missing out on. This talented singer and songwriter could be the next big thing but y’all playin’.

21. PEARL “Pleasure”

Drag Race alumni albums are nothing new, but a purely EDM/Dance album from a Queen with basically no lead artist vocals, mostly samples and deep, driving dance floor twists? ME LIKEY. I met Pearl last year and she was such a delight. During her performance of The Presets “Are You The One?” (I NEARLY FUCKING DIED, FYI – I LOVE THAT SONG SO MUCH AND THE AUSSIE PRIDE WAS REAL), Pearl took my mobile phone from me in the audience and filmed herself lip syncing to the song. I think she saw how nuts I was going for the song itself as well as her performance and just came for me. It was one of the most wonderful moments I’ve ever had at a drag show! Pearl is a seriously promising producer with a lot of grunt to his art – a talented drawer, music producer and drag queen with a serious knack for fashion. And the first Drag Racer to release an album with his pace on display, no drag? Well, when you’ve got a face like that…

22. FKA TWIGS “M3LL155X”

The EP that was also a long form music video. Read my original review here.

23. BRANDON FLOWERS “The Desired Effect”

A wonderful album from Flowers that came at the start of the year and then… vanished?!

24. ANGEL HAZE “Back To The Woods”

MIXTAPE OF THE YEAR! Angel Haze brings issues worth discussing to the forefront, does so intelligently and does it all without inciting a world war on social media. Haze does it without using hate speech, let alone enforcing that hate speech upon everybody as though it was the word of God. Haze does it without calling people racist and ignorant – whilst displaying racist, ignorant and hypocritical traits themselves. Angel does it all without making a mockery of Art. Yet for some bizarre reason, in a world where Iggy Azalea can take the piss out of an entire culture and still create a legitimate impact, and in a world where Azealia Banks’ mouth and Twitter timeline can more often than not overrule any good she’s done with her music, Haze is virtually an unknown, yet the material is leaps and bounds better than that to come from any of the aforementioned.

25. CARRIE UNDERWOOD “Storyteller”

Country realness from Carrie Underwood, this was the first of her albums to really resonate with me – now I’m a fully-fledged fan.

26. ROISIN MURPHY “Hairless Toys”

Hairless Toys” saw Murphy return to the obscure world of Moloko moreso than any of her previous solo endeavours. Word on the street is that she has another album due this year – I await with breath that is baited.

27. RuPAUL “Realness”

RuMixes and RuRubs, “Realness” took Ru out of the shiny pop world and took her back to her roots, so to speak, with an album pulsing with 80s and 90s dance, house and techno NOSTALGIA.

28. DR. DRE “Compton”

A killer record from an unforgettable movie.

29. SAY LOU LOU “Lucid Dreaming”

Lovely stuff.

30. NANNE “Drama Queen”

My favourite Swedish pop star (after the ABBA ladies, of course). Technically this was released in 2014, but I only caught wind of it at the start of 2015 so it stays on the list because it really is a bloody banger.

31. WILLAM BELLI “Shartistry In Motion”

Ride For AIDS” could be the most awesome offensive song of all time and “Shartistry In Motion” was one of the more inspired album titles of the year.

32. FRIDA “Something’s Going On (Remastered)”

ABBA’s Frida had a bit of a solo revival in 2015. First of all, this stunning album was remastered, and the lead single “I Know There’s Something Going On” was not only used in an episode of Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk’s Scream Queens, it was also re-released with a brand new remix package, bringing Frida into the new millennium with absolute grace. “Something’s Going On” was a killer album when I first discovered it about 10 years ago and remastered it’s an even BIGGER beast.

33. DURAN DURAN “Paper Gods”

A true return to form; their best LP in god knows how long. Features the speaking prowess of Lindsay Lohan (?!?!) on one track!

34. NEW ORDER “Music Complete”

Another true return to form; also their best LP in god knows how long.

35. BEACH HOUSE “Cherry Depression”

The definitive 2015 album release from Beach House. Their second album for 2015, “Thank Your Lucky Stars”, was an okay effort but kinda felt like it was just more of the same. “Cherry Depression”, however, is where it’s at.

36. CHVRCHES “Every Open Eye”

Like a kaleidoscope of electronic sounds. As exciting as their debut was.

37. ADELE “25”

An album whose songs are mostly great, but 280 billion-trillion-gagillion sales in an hour great? I don’t think so. Anybody who says Mums “of a certain age” don’t buy CDs anymore are lying to you.

38. JANET JACKSON “Unbreakable”

Half-killer, half-filler, which seems to be the norm for Janet these days but “Unbreakable” leant more toward the ‘killer’ side of things than Jackson has in about ten years.

39. JUSTIN BIEBER “Purpose”

The non-fanatic, casual enjoyer of pop music’s choice for album of the year. Okay, sure.

40. BJORK “Vulnicura”

Another one everybody seems to have forgotten when compiling their lists. The first truly great from-start-to-finish Bjork album since 2001’s “Vespertine”.

41. SHAMIR “Ratchet”

The weird and wonderful world of Shamir was one of my go-to records every Friday night after work for a number of weeks. Proper uplifting.

42. DOE PAORO “After”

Track #2 “Nostalgia” is the pick of the bunch on an album full of greatness.

43. COURTNEY BARNETT “Sometimes I Sit & Think, Sometimes I Just Sit”

JUST LOVELY.

44. TOVE STRYKE “Kiddo”

An excursion into unapologetic pop brilliance. From Sweden; of course.

45. LITTLE BOOTS “Working Girl”

Executive Realness Pop Music in its boldest phase.

46. RuPAUL “Slay Belles”

Christmas with Ru! With interludes that feature Michelle Visage! How can you say no to this?

47. SHARON NEEDLES “Taxidermy”

Not as instant as her debut PG-13, but moments like “Dead Dandelion” and “Supernature” make up for it. And that album artwork is to die for.

48. TOTALLY MILD “Down Time”

Sunday Vibes from an Aussie/Melbourne act to watch. Shout out to my mate Adam who got me onto this wonderful record on Facebook a few months back.

49. PAUL KALKBRENNER “7”

In 2015 Paul Kalkbrenner – one of my favourite dance producers – released his most accessible album since his “Berlin Calling” soundtrack. “Feed Your Head” is proper genius and needs to be heard on either a loud system or spectacular headphones for full effect.

50

50. DISCLOSURE “Caracal”

I like half of this album! Which is why I’ve placed “Caracal” at Number 50 because the half that I love is genuinely incredible. The other half, however, is long gone from my iTunes library and that Sam Smith feature can make like him and just FUCK RIGHT OFF.

Bubbling Under…

5SOS “Sounds Good Feels Good”

ALEXIA “Tu Puoi Se Vuoi”

ALISON WONDERLAND “Run”

BEACH HOUSE “Thank Your Lucky Stars”

CHRISTMAS QUEENS “Christmas Queens”

DRAKE “If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late”

DUSKY “Ordinary World EP”

HAZELL DEAN “Nightlife”

HILARY DUFF “Breathe In, Breathe Out”

HOT CHIP “Why Make Sense”

HURTS “Surrender”

JEWEL “Picking Up The Pieces”

KYLIE MINOGUE “Kylie Christmas”

KYLIE MINOGUE & FERNANDO GARIBAY “Kylie + Garibay”

MELANIE MARTINEZ “Cry Baby”

NATALIE IMBRUGLIA “Male”

NINA KRAVIZ “DJ-Kicks”

SARAH CRACKNELL “Red Kite”

TAME IMPALA “Currents”

V V BROWN “Glitch”

Thanks for playing!

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