Top Albums of 2015

I’ll spare you the pre-amble: for the past two years, I’ve said that this would be the last year we’d do this list. So why break with tradition? i’m proud to announce Noise Narcs’ ultimate (or pen-ultimate or pen-pen-ultimate or…) top albums of the year list.

Below find a quick run-through of our voter awards, and then our consensus top 20. But as always, if you’re a nerd, you can check out our ranking methodology. And if your nerd handicap comes in a geographic flavor, you can talk shit on each other cities here with a sadly west coast flavor. Individual voter pages are here, and the entire top to bottom list is here. You could also check out last year’s list, or those from 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, or 2009.

Most Influential/Biggest Sheep Award

It’s hard to be a tastemaker. There’s the relentless texts you send throughout the year to strategic voters hipping them to your favorite albums (hi, album #10!). There’s the shaming of albums you think might make the top ten ahead of your darlings. But most importantly there’s the part where you get to choose who counts as a voter and come up with a shady algorithm that year after year seems to heavily include your favorites. Our impreachable editor: David Goldfarb, everybody!

Iconoclast Award

Some say fatherhood has changed Phil M. Others would say that fatherhood stopped him from listening enough to that Father John Misty album we all know he wants to love. Others would note that he refuses to give in to the Pichfork hegemony. But me? I’ll just point out his second favorite album of the year was Emotion.

Most Albums Listened To/Cushiest Desk Job Award

I demand a recount! For the first time in Noise Narcs’ history, Cydney Alexis joined David Goldfarb by listening to all 47 albums. Both of you should get lives.

Biggest Philly Homer of the Year

Not a great year for Philly music, but somehow Greg W chose two Philly albums without voting for Kurt Vile.

Biggest Traitor to the City of Angels

All zero of you who will read the geographic breakdown will know that this was the year of the L.A. album. And unlikely just another lost angel from the City of Night Chris T voted for four L.A.-based albums.

Bravest/Greatest Jokester

When Mike I, nominated Wolf Alice to the album list, I thought he was making a pretty great joke. After all, the album is execrable, and he defended his choice by noting that it had been nominated for a Mercury Prize. There are worse things in life than the Mercury Prize, but I dare you to name three of them that aren’t Noise Narcs annual album lists. So, I was sure he was, as this Mercury Prize shortlisters say, taking a piss. But then he ranked it #1, noting “Feel like I’m going to get shit for making this #1.” So who is the joke on now? Mike. It is on Mike. Because that album is terrible, and you are terrible. But hey, you are brave in your terribleness!
Honorable mention: Everyone who voted for the Donnie Trumpet album.

20Floating Points: Elaenia

Total Votes: 2; Highest Ranking: #6

Choice comment: “Silhouttes (I,II,III)” redeems an entire genre whose raison d’etre was to soundtrack terrible 2000’s Asian fusion lounge restaurants.David Goldfarb

19Dr. Dre: Compton

Total Votes: 3; Highest Ranking: #2

Choice comment: But this has some of the best work from all the key guys emerging from West Coast rap over the past couple decades, even Xzibit.Cameron LP

18Waxahatchee: Ivy Tripp 

Total Votes: 3; Highest Ranking: #2

Choice comment: Listened to this more than any other album this year, I think.Mike I

17Lower Dens: Escape From Evil

Total Votes: 2; Highest Ranking: #3

Choice comment: A slow burn, but impossible to ignore once you get there.Cydney Alexis

16Deerhunter: Fading Frontier

Total Votes: 4; Highest Ranking: #4
15Miguel: Wildheart

Total Votes: 3; Highest Ranking: #4

Choice comment: An album with heart, if not consistency.Cydney Alexis

14Sleater-Kinney: No Cities to Love

Total Votes: 4; Highest Ranking: #3

Choice comment: Time to quit your Portlandia day job, Carrie.David Goldfarb

13Vince Staples: Summertime ’06

Total Votes: 3; Highest Ranking: #3

Choice comment: Double album without any stray tracks.Cameron LP

11 (t)Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment: Surf

Total Votes: 4; Highest Ranking: #3

Choice comment: Feels rare to find albums so full of sincerity and joy.Cameron LP

11 (t)Made in Heights: Without My Enemy What Would I Do

Total Votes: 3; Highest Ranking: #2

Choice comment: As I think Steffel said in her comments, it’s like Purity Ring built a machine that surpassed its creator. Matt K

10Viet Cong: Viet Cong

Total Votes: 3; Highest Ranking: #3

Choice comments: So not the Sunday morning let the day slowly unfold with a cup of coffee and crossword puzzle album.Ryan M

This is the sound of a band marching to inanimate bleakness.David Goldfarb

09Grimes: Art Angels

Total Votes: 4; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comment: Late contender for album I listened to most this year.Cameron LP

08Alabama Shakes: Sound and Color

Total Votes: 5; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comments: A good album, I think. But also a winner by default.Matt K

Funky grooves and soul that bounce from Athens, Alabama to outer space and back again.Matthew Simone

07Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell

Total Votes: 5; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comments: Childhood pain, despair and anguish soothed sweetly in a gentle falsetto and acoustic accompaniment.Ryan M

Damn you, Subaru.David Goldfarb

06Kurt Vile: b’lieve i’m goin down

Total Votes: 8; Highest Ranking: #3

Choice comments: Not as strong as his others and still stronger than most.Cydney Alexis

Damn you, Kurt Vile. Also, so uncool that you wouldn’t let me buy you a beer that one time at Boot & Saddle becacuse you “needed to get home to your daughter.”David Goldfarb

05Father John Misty: I Love You, Honeybear

Total Votes: 9; Highest Ranking: #2

Choice comments: Yo, Father John, what’s with the snark?!?!Ryan M

I bet this album annoys the shit out of some people, but it does it for me in a pretty serious way.Mike I

Most awesome comments: Everything in this Facebook thread between Phil and me.

04Jamie xx: In Colour

Total Votes: 8; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comments: Listened to “Good Times” about 200 very good timesMattK

Lush and dense with enough creative flourishes to distance him from the rest of the house djs.Matthew Simone

So yeah, I kind of liked “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” a little bit.David Goldfarb

03Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly

Total Votes: 10; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comments: Not quite at good kid’s level, but more adventurous and willing to push what a modern hip hop album can look like.Cameron LP

Could there be an album more vital and necessary to the current state of America?Matthew Simone

Got into this one initially when I needed to add some new music to my running playlist, which is perhaps the whitest sentiment I’ve ever expressed in my life.Mike I

And as much as I’m for ambitious rap concept albums, a lenthy interspersed poem directed at 2-Pac and then 10 minutes of a fake interview with him… […] But mostly I was dissapointed by the return to ’90s jazrap. Please, let this album stand alone as masterful throwback and close that retro door. Oh yeah: much of this album was excellent.David Goldfarb

02Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit

Total Votes: 11; Highest Ranking: #1

Total Votes: 10; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comments: And I was fearful her wordplay would lead straight to Jason Mraz cleverosity.Ryan M

I have trouble describing the simple genius of this record because it transcends almost any one-sentence summary. (However, that’s no reason for David not to go ahead and include the full album title.) [Ha. Fixed. -Ed]Trent W

Sometimes I love it, and other times it gets on my nerves. But I keep re-listening, so that’s got to count for something. Right?Mike I

“Depreston” isn’t quite “Avant Gardener” (though, hell, few songs are), but it’s probably the best song ever recorded with a bad portmanteau for a title.David Goldfarb

01Tame Impala: Currents

Total Votes: 13; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comments:
This album makes me want to pick up drums again.Cydney Alexis

Given their history, the initial listen was like an early season plunge in the sea.Ryan M

With impeccable production and vision Kevin Parker takes psychedelic rock to places it’s never been before.Matthew Simone

I don’t read about music on the internet, but I’m sure I’m not the first person to say this album (way more than their last) sounds eerily like mid-70s John Lennon.Matt K

Kind of wanted to hate this album, just to be a contrarianMike I

Kevin Parker is a goddamn genius even though he appeared on that Mark Ronson album.David Goldfarb