1. Adele – 25
Adele has returned in a big way with her newest album, 25. What struck me most listening to the album is the confidence that seems to ooze out of every note of every song. Filled with rich piano ballads and glorious gospel choruses, 25 proves that even when Adele is singing about tragic heartbreak and pain, she’s doing so with the self-assurance of someone who knows how to turn that pain into raw power. Deeply nostalgic and yet utterly triumphant, 25 is a reminder to us that when Adele sings “Hello, it’s me”, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to shut up and listen.
2. MADE IN HEIGHTS – Without My Enemy What Would I Do
I know Heather already posted about this album (which makes sense since it’s truly incredible), but I thought it was worth noting because our reasons for it being one of the best albums of 2015 are slightly different. This is one of my favourite albums of the year because it served as somewhat of a soundtrack to the last 6 months of my life. Coming out just two days after my 20th birthday, it was an incredible gift that I felt like was simultaneously universal, and also, aimed just at me.
“I love the lines we draw, amber and indigo / Oh my baby love, you make the heavens show” and other rich lyrics swam in my head as I was falling in love with people and places so vibrant it hurt. And when I was learning the beautiful and painful adventure of falling in love with myself, Kelsey Bulkin’s ethereal voice melting into synth heavy and utterly modern beat sequences spread out in front of me and led the way.
I guess all I’m trying to say is that Without My Enemy is an album that pays attention to seemingly small moments in life and acknowledges how these moments remind us of what it means to be human: “I’m alive, Yes I am alive / I can feel it running up and down my spine.”
3. James Bay – Chaos And The Calm
I fell in love with James Bay’s sentimental sound when I saw him open for Hozier in Seattle last year. And maybe it’s the fact that we have the same hair, cheek bones, and penchant for wide-brim hats, or the fact that James Bay’s voice sounds like dancing in the rain with the person you love, but either way, I’ve felt a deep connection to him and his sound ever since.
Thus, I was obviously beyond delighted when he dropped his album this year, and boy was it worth the wait. With gripping melodies and strong rhythm you can stomp your foot to, James Bay effortlessly weaves yearning, regret, ambition, and hope together in a way that seems familiar to us, like a friend telling us an intimate story.
4. Zella Day – Kicker
Zella Day’s new album is dreamy and magnetic, interlacing at turns contemporary pop vibes with classic tones that are reminiscent of the American Midwest. Kicker is more than just a dreamy indie pop album though. Its intricate and sometimes sinister lyrics, combined with gorgeous layered vocals, creates an album that is both innocent and impossibly sensual, simple and yet mysterious. Kicker wraps us up and brings us on a journey to a place where our souls cannot help but unravel to the sound of Zella Day’s alluring vocals.
5. Seinabo Sey – Pretend
Seinabo Sey’s Pretend is a gorgeous and impressive debut album that ties together soulful vocals with beats that hint at pop, hip hop, and funk influence. The Gambian/Swedish singer’s lyrics are also wise and magnetic, showcasing her huge range of talent as not just a singer, but also a magnificent songwriter. Mixing together the rawness of her vocals with the carefully produced synthetic beats and animated hand-drums present throughout, Pretend is a powerful jumping-off point for Seinabo Sey, and I’m excited to see where she goes next.
Marian Hill – Sway
Ryn Weaver – The Fool
SonReal – Of The Town EP
Josh Garrels – Home
VÉRITÉ – Sentiment EP
Jacob Banks – The Paradox