By now you have probably read 5-10 “Best Albums” lists compiled by your favorite music conglomerates. This list is different for several reasons. First, this is a list of my (Arjun’s) personal favorite projects from the year. I did not have to dilute my taste through a group dynamic. This is my unfiltered opinion, which I think makes for a more honest list. Secondly, I did not include any artists for political reasons, which larger sites are prone to do. Lastly, this list is a bit unusual in that it combines albums, mixtapes, and EPs under the blanket term “project,” which in the age of long EPs, free albums, and high quality mixtapes is a necessity.
I am not going to write about every album on the list. Nobody has time for that. Instead, let’s hit the highlights and the lesser known projects.
Cousin Stizz really crafted the 2nd best album of the year. Suffolk County is the type of album that I can see myself returning to in 2018 and saying, “That project represented 2015.” It is such a moment for me. Stizz achieves unprecedented levels of realness on the project, which is the perfect example of how to put on for your city while speaking to an entire generation of misguided youths.
Another indie project that cracked the top 10 was Mic Kellogg‘s Breakfast, an introspective narrative told through the haze of Milwaukee mornings. Rounding out the top 10 is The Neighbourhood‘s Wiped Out!, which feels like the album we expected after hearing “Sweater Weather” for the first time, but the boys had not experienced enough life to deliver yet. Kendrick Lamar‘s critically-acclaimed opus To Pimp a Butterfly is at 15. I know. That is not an album I found myself going back to very often.
Blackbear‘s album Help is one of those rare projects that is so deeply, personally relatable to me that it’s almost concerning. Something clicked for the LA songwriter. He has just figured out how to make cool songs. The Internet‘s Ego Death is a dynamic R&B album that filled the void left by Frank Ocean‘s mysterious exile. Collaborators are utilized flawlessly, and Syd tha Kid’s voice melts over the instrumentation.
Jayaire Woods‘s debut mixtape trees42morrow is the final indie project on the list at 23. The Chicago rapper-singer has one of the most unique deliveries I have ever heard. You can tell that he is just freestyling in the booth, but the tape plays as if he has had all of these thoughts percolating in his mind for so long and has finally figured out a way to express them through music. The rhymes are writing themselves because he has so much to say.
1. Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (Spotify)
2. Cousin Stizz – Suffolk County (Spotify, SoundCloud)
3. Travi$ Scott – Rodeo (Spotify)
4. Skizzy Mars – The Red Balloon Project (Spotify)
5. A$AP Rocky – AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP (Spotify)
6. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (Spotify)
7. Drake & Future – What A Time To Be Alive (Spotify)
8. Tame Impala – Currents (Spotify)
9. Mic Kellogg – Breakfast (Spotify, SoundCloud)
10. The Neighbourhood – Wiped Out! (Spotify)
11. Big Sean – Dark Sky Paradise (Spotify)
12. Mac Miller – GO:OD AM (Spotify)
13. Allday – Soft Grunge Love Rap (SoundCloud)
14. Tyler, The Creator – Cherry Bomb (Spotify)
15. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (Spotify)
16. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf (Spotify, SoundCloud)
17. Blackbear – Help (Spotify)
18. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear (Spotify)
19. Prelow – Why Does Everything Happen So Much (Spotify, SoundCloud)
20. The Internet – Ego Death (Spotify)
21. Earl Sweatshirt – I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside (Spotify)
22. Goldlink – And After That, We Didn’t Talk (Spotify)
23. Jayaire Woods – trees42morrow (SoundCloud)
24. Raury – All We Need (Spotify)
25. Tobias Jesso Jr. – Goon (Spotify)
Conner Youngblood – The Generation of Lift
Pell – LIMBO
Jazz Cartier – Marauding in Paradise
Allan Rayman – Hotel Allan
London O’Connor – O∆