The Best Albums of 2015

By Nathan G. O'Brien

Hey there friends, how's it going? No, seriously, how's it going? Leave me a comment or send me an email (thee.n.o.b at gmail) or a Tweet or whatever and let me know how you're doing. I hope you've had an incredible holiday season, and that the new year will be off to an even incredible-er start. (PS-I basically just copy 'n' pasted this from last year [and the year before that] but I am genuinely interested in what you've been up to and wish you nothing but the best.)

I've run year-end best-of lists addressing punk/HC, reissues, comps, mixes, etc., and rap/hip-hop so far. In the coming days you can also expect an all-cassette one (which will be narrowed down from this master list.) In the meantime, here's 25 of my favorite records from the past year. Thanks for checking it out.

1. G.L.O.S.S. – Demo (Not Normal Tapes)
You will not have heard a more urgent and powerful recording this year, no matter what genre or format, than the debut cassette by Olympia’s hardcore punk outfit G.L.O.S.S. It stands for Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit. Lest you be confused, here’s a quote from their “New Blood” feature in Maximum RocknRoll Magazine… 

“I think we were all tired of the totally substance-free white boy ‘slimy creep’ thing — all these dudes whose identities are reflected everywhere but who see themselves as outcasts.  We’re tired of punk catering to white men, and excluding all others. We want to make jocks feel uncomfortable and targeted. We’re not trying to be weird, we are just actual outcasts of society — queers, trans women, women of color, gender queer femmes, feminists, etc., and we love hardcore and are sick of being sidelined and misrepresented, so we are representing ourselves.”

2. Apollo Brown – Grandeur (Mello Music Group)
All the signature dusty soul loops you’ve come to expect from this beast behind the boards, and with a bevy of lyricists in tow; among them are Evidence, Vinnie Paz, Your Old Droog, and the recently deceased Sean Price. Building upon the foundation laid by Pete Rock, Preemo, and Large Pro, Brown is without a doubt in the upper echelon of current beat-makers.

3. Dawn of Humans – Slurping at the Cosmos Spine (Toxic State Records)
Queasy, rhythmic sounds from NYC that challenges the notion of "punk." I get a little sick to my stomach every time I listen to it. In a good way though. Super trendy right now but not for lack of reason.

4. Guilty Simpson – Detroit's Son (Stones Throw Records)

5. King Khan & BBQ Show – Bad News Boys (In The Red)
Their most punk outing to date. Still plenty of that good old fashioned primitive rock 'n' roll in there, but a bit more spit and snarl than previous releases. And of course, a healthy dose of humor too.

6. Barcelona – Extremo Nihilismo En Barcelona (La Vida Es Un Mus Discos Punk)
Malicious hardcore from Spain. So goddamn great you'll want to puke. Read my review here.

7. Starvin B – The Foreigner (Sickside)
'90s East Coast boom-bap worship up and down. Starvin B spits all rugged and raw like over some hard-ass bap and dope cuts. Heavy-bumping beats, record scratching, and skilled lyricism like this will always trump other variants of hip-hop.

8. Institute – Catharsis (Sacred Bones)
Anarcho post-punk, Krautrock, psychedelic proto-punk, and other far-out sounds. This is the first official full-length for these Austin regulars. Certainly you've heard of them by now. And if not, well get on it while they're still cool. They're only a few melodic numbers away from being massively well-liked by the H-word set.

9. Malik B & Mr. Green – Unpredictable (Enemy Soil)
Classic sounding boom-bap from the East Coast. All raps by Malik B, who was in the Roots all those years ago. He’s still bringing that live-from-the-streets vibe too. Beats and cuts by Mr. Green, whose got nimble fingers on the cross fade and a knack for hard drums.

10. La Misma – Kanizadi (Toxic State Records)
Intoxicating punk via a quartet of New York women. Allure furthered by all-Portuguese lyrics. If you had told me this was recorded in 1983 I’d have no choice not to believe you. You’ll cry when you listen to it because you know you’ll never hear something this good again.

11. Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge – Twelve Reasons To Die II (Linear Labs)
The sequel to their 2013 project, this round is noticeably more focused on the storytelling front. It features narration from RZA as well as numerous appearances via Raekwon. Younge turns in another striking soundtrack, furthering an impressive string that includes the first Twelve Reasons and the 2014 Souls of Mischief album The Future is Now.

12. Gay Kiss – Preservation Measures (Sorry State)
A violent ripper, front to back from this Phoenix quartet. Closes out with, of all things, a Nine Inch Nails cover. And a damn fine one at that. Read my review here.

13. Grand Invincible – Menace Mode (Megakut Records)
This very well could be the best work from both of these dudes to date. Luke Sick’s lyricism and delivery is wholly realized. He comes straight gully, spitting mean-mugged, blunted rhymes; ripe with clever wordplay and cultural references that will have you hitting the rewind button like, hold up, what’d he say? And DJ Eons One has fully arrived; a master craftsman when it comes to production. His vinyl-culled beats are so vintage in sound you can practically hear him blowing the dust of the records. Smudgy, horn-filled loops and hard drums, accented by ill audio ephemera samples and inspired scratching results in a boom-bap odyssey-like soundscape. And on cassette too.

14. Red Death – Permanant Exile (Grave Mistake Records)
The debut album from a four-pack of DC dudes. Pop quiz: Did you like Sick Of It All when they weren't a caricature of themselves? Did you like Corrosion of Conformity before they went all Southern-fried metal on your ass? Do you have a worn out copy of AC/DC's '74 Jailbreak somewhere on the floor of your car under all the empty bags of Chili Cheese Fritos and Slim Jim wrappers? Do you sometimes wear long underwear under a pair of shorts? If you answered yes to any of these questions you'll love this.

15. Czarface (Inspectah Deck and 7L & Esoteric) – Every Hero Needs a Villain (Brick Records)
Placing hip-hop’s longstanding love affair with comic books and pro-wrestling at the forefront, Esoteric and Decks’ battle raps and clever banter works in perfect synchronicity with 7L’s boom-bap production, record cuts, and pop-culture samples. Quality guest spots from Large Professor, MF Doom, and R.A. the Rugged man to boot.

16. Diat – Positive Energy (Iron Lung Records)
The first time I listened to this I did so as I often do: laying on the floor in front of the stereo, with headphones on, and my eyes closed. My wife said it looked like I was having an orgasm. There's so many bands doing post-punk now that when you come across the really good stuff it's hard not ruin your undies. Surprising too that they're from Germany, which is something I'd normally hold against a group of white dudes.

17. DJ EFN – Another Time (Crazy Hood Productions)
Miami mixtape maestro DJ EFN's latest features hand-picked production from nine different producers and over 60 rappers. It' on some cypher outside the corner store, beats blasting from a Jeep nearby, rockin' baggy sweats and cigarillos-type shit.

18. Broken Prayer – Misanthropocentric AKA Droid's Blood (Sorry State)
Another can't miss boundary-bending album from these Chicago strange-oid punks. Difficult to describe but I did my best to do so here.

19. Gangrene (Alchemist & Oh-No) – You Disgust Me (Mass Appeal)
As usual these two producers-come-rappers are on the blunted, LSD-soaked, heady tip. Not the most dexterous emcees but they do enough to get by, and bring in heavyweights like Sean Price, Havoc, and Action Bronson to fill in the gaps. Their production is the real star here; mucky psychedelic beats enhanced by dusty movies samples and other scary as fuck audio clips.

20. Decades/Failures – Goodbye (Dead Tank Records)
Outstanding gothic, dark, synth-punk made by one, or maybe two guys (I should probably check on that) that live in sunny Florida. I was playing this for my 60-something year-old dad who had this to say: "Why would anyone celebrate such deliberate sadness?"

21. Paul Nice & Phil Most Chill – Fabreeze Brothers (AE Productions)
This is on that throwback tip, undeniably. Apart from one another these two have been in the game for a minute, so it’s no surprise that this new joint—their long-awaited collaboration—has that crate-digging, break-beat, verbal deftness sense that recalls the early-to-mid-‘80s days in hip-hop development. It’s not archaic, rather archetypal. And holy shit is ever refreshing.

22. L.O.T.I.O.N. – Digital Control and Man's Obsolescence (Toxic State Records)
Imagine a punk heckling the band from the audience. "Where's the drummer?” He'd yell. The singer screams back from the stage, "We don't need a drummer. THIS IS THE FUTURE!" Well this is indeed the future and it sounds incredible. Goodbye Humans.

23. Ratking – 700 Fill (XL Recordings)
On the heels of a brutally cold winter this New York trio dropped a free EP named after the famed North Face winter jacket model. Nine tracks recorded in as many days, which lend it a unique and improvisational ambiance. Sporting Life’s beats—post-trap, maybe, or rather, probably—compliment emcee’s Hak’s aloofness and Wiki’s nasally, battle-ready exorcisms.  

24. Vaaska – Todos Contra Todos (Beach Impediment)
This Austin-based band's versatility is really impressive. D-beat is at the core but surrounding that is a whole load of scorching axe work, agile drumming, and rock ‘n’ roll attitude. Read my review here.

25. No – Treating People Like They Don't Exist (La Vida Es Un Mus Discos Punk)
Loud fast rules crew from London. Unique in a way that's hard to put into words. I think due to the guitars. Very angry. Whenever I listen to this on my bike I get wherever I'm going like twice as fast. 

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