Best of 2015: 40-31

-40: Hop Along- Painted Shut

These guys remind me of Hospitality, in the way that on paper they aren't doing anything super unique but they knock it out of the park. Palpable angst, with the songwriting chops to back it up. I would have eaten this up in high school.

-39: Public Service Broadcasting- The Race For Space

Cool concept that transcends the gimmick- songs built around speeches and recordings from the space race, which add context. But man, the instrumentals really shine on this- some of my favorite passages in recent years buoyed by the storylines presented. 

-38: Ibeyi- Ibeyi

Groovy and polyrythmic souly stuff from French-Cuban twin sisters. I get a Sylvan Esso vibe, but a little more natural and a little more organic and interesting. 

-37: Tame Impala- Currents

At first I was put off by the synth overload. I really enjoyed the hooks and psych guitar from their last one, but over time this album has grown on me and it may ultimately be more listenable. 

-36: The Staves- If I Was

If you'd like, ignore the fact that Justin Vernon has his hand in this and just accept the harmonies and songwriting for what they are. This is some brilliant somber harmonic folk.

-35: Mountain Goats- Beat the Champ

Duh, it is a concept album about professional wrestling. The story arc reduces the repeat value of the back half, but it's focused and brilliant and everything we should expect from a Mountain Goats record. While it isn't my favorite of theirs in recent years, John Darnielle is such a reliable producer of music that the ability to experiment with stuff like this will only bring positive results. 

-34: Deafheaven- New Bermuda

Simultaneously more punishing and atmospheric than Sunbather. Slightly less soaring / glorious but still some fantastic crossover black metal for a guy like me. 

-33: Blackalicious- Imani Vol. 1

10 years later, an impressive return to form that doesn't feel nostalgic or dated. As good as or better than The Craft from the dudes who first got me into hip-hop. Probably doesn't quite touch Blazing Arrow but these are different times and I'm still glad to have them around.

-32: Will Butler- Policy

I sat on this for a while, but it's a nice collection of rootsy new wave talking heads style rocknroll songs. Helps me pinpoint his voice in Arcade Fire songwriting, but this is definitely his own animal. 

-31: Lupe Fiasco- Tetsuo & Youth

Political, conscious hip-hop that was stirring lyrically and instrumentally. It's really hard to get those things all right at once, and to have it flow together as an album so well is a bigger accomplishment.