#10. Ones and Sixes– Low
My favourite albums go beyond being merely a pleasant listen. They make me evaluate and re-evaluate my preconceptions and my emotional stature; these albums are the ones that justify my spiritual connect to music. Ones and Sixes was the first such album for me in 2015. The project as a whole is glacial and epic, imbibing a sense of sweeping melancholia and despair, albeit tinged with glimmers of hope. The production is minimal and never overwhelms, but there is a mass and power to it upon which the haunting, blending vocals waft to stunning highs. For me, this album was one of the most emotional listens of the year, and I am indebted to Low for this musical experience.
#9. Carrie & Lowell – Sufjan Stevens
In my opinion, Sufjan Stevens is one of the best songwriters of this generation. His words are intensely personal, yet universal in their relevance. Carrie & Lowell is an autobiographical project detailing Sufjan’s strained relationship with his mother, Carrie and the bright spot that was his stepfather Lowell. The stripped down atmosphere here is insular; the light strings and keys firmly in the background to Sufjan’s vocal presence. Themes of burdensome pain, sadness, loss and death permeate this album; it’s far from an uplifting piece of music. It’s catharsis; therapeutic art for Sufjan, that the listener has been allowed to share in. In its own dark way, Carrie & Lowell is a testing foil to life.
#8. Summertime ’06 – Vince Staples
Vince Staples’ USP as a rapper is straightforward: he will never bullshit you. The Long Beach native refuses to glamourize the harsh, hard life he’s known growing up amongst broken homes, gangs, drugs and stifling poverty. The stories he weaves are intricate, incisive, and almost depressively real, and they leave you hanging on every word. Vince’s voice is unflinching, detailing his teenage life with a disconcerting detachment, which lends credence to the idea that while that life is very much a part of him, he wants no part of it. Aided by dark, foreboding production, Vince on Summertime ’06 is the sound of the streets; blood-stained, gravelly and cold.
#7. Currents – Tame Impala
Currents is that obligatory entry in nearly every musician’s discography: the breakup album; albeit so much more nuanced than your average Taylor Swift album. Running the gamut of emotions from conflict to yearning to acceptance, this album is frontman Kevin Parker’s declaration that he’s a “brand new person” who will deal with love and loss on his own terms. In many ways, this path is reflected in the production. And the production, handled by Kevin himself, is nothing short of a revelation. There is no sound quite like this. Expansive, emotive and mesmerizing, this is psychedelia at its absolute best. Electronics buzz around, eclectic sonic textures cohere into sounds that invoke the perfect reaction at the perfect moment, while Kevin’s surreal vocals alternatively soar and coalesce into the bed of music he lays so well. Tame Impala’s current is unlike any other, and every listener is privileged to be astride for the voyage.