It’s the second most wonderful time of the year! The time to take stock of all of the fantastic music we’ve been able enjoy thus far in 2015.
But the most important thing is that you can find a way to listen to these albums before you decide to purchase them, and make sure your streaming experience is as fluid as possible.
How to Stream the Best Albums of 2015 So Far
As you are no doubt aware, Apple Music is planning to make a serious grab for Spotify’s audience. Even if they’ve experienced a bit of static on account of Taylor Swift demanding that they pay artists for streams that occur during Apple Music’s three-month free trial period, they do seem poised to (possibly) make a real dent in Spotify’s status.
While Spotify is available in Western Europe, the Americas, and Australia and New Zealand, remember that if you travel outside that area or are headed to Asia, you will lose your connectivity to Spotify. If you want to maintain that connection while you travel to Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Instant and more, make sure you check out a VPN service like IPVanish– a tier 1 only provider that owns all their own servers or the uber-popular budget option PrivateInternetAccess. A VPN service allows you to maintain a connection on your devices as if you were back at home while your travelling.
Then there’s Google Play Music, which just launched a free version of their streaming site. Granted, the free version is a lot more like internet radio than a proper free streaming site, but it’s still worth a look.
Still, for free limited access to the albums and songs you wish to stream (including the top albums of 2015 so far below), or for unfettered access at a low cost, Apple Music and Spotify are the two to beat…for now.
Top Wireless Routers for Streaming the Best Albums of 2015 So Far
In order to ensure for yourself the best streaming music experience, you’re going to want a premium performing router like a FlashRouter. What’s a FlashRouter, you ask? Watch this brief video and learn…
What we do is take already strong routers and supercharge them with replacement firmwares like DD-WRT and Tomato. These firmwares boost the functionality on the routers immeasurably, allowing the user to access advanced security features, enhanced networking stability, extend their wireless range, and control how their bandwidth is allocated.
Want to make sure you avoid skips and buffering while streaming the best albums of 2015? A FlashRouter is the way to go with its enhanced firmware to support superior stability and wired/wireless speeds.
Take a look at some of our favorite DD-WRT routers of 2015. You’ll find top-notch, thoroughly affordable home devices like the Wireless-N workhorse Linksys E2500 TomatoUSB and the Netgear AC1450 DD-WRT, as well as network-revolutionizing behemoths like the TP-Link Archer C9 DD-WRT – 1 GHz processor & AC1900 speeds and the AC2400 Asus RT-AC87U DD-WRT.
No matter what ails your wireless network, it’s nothing a FlashRouter can’t cure. And now back to the music!
The Best Albums of 2015 So Far
10) Shamir – Ratchet
Shamir’s got a knack for killer club hooks – that much should be obvious to anyone who’s heard “If It Wasn’t True” or “In for the Kill” – and when his songs climax, he practically sky-writes with his synthesizers. In short, he’s destined for massive popularity, but here’s hoping bigger audiences don’t suck the personality out of his music. After all, it takes a wonderful lack of guile to write a line as powerfully stupid/awesome as “Don’t try me/I’m not a free sample.”
Key Track: “On the Regular”
9) Jamie XX – In Colour
Mood-setting has always come easy for Jamie XX, even if, for some (including this writer), that mood has typically been lethargic. Without betraying his fondness for spare compositions, Jamie XX has made a considerable artistic leap on In Colour (the title seems to reference a shift for the young producer not entirely different than the one experienced by the movie industry in the 1930s). It’s a lovely, radiant album by anyone’s standards, and these polychromatic gems should be enough to turn around even the most ardent Jamie XX skeptic.
Key Track: “SeeSaw”
8) Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
The whiplash-inducing charm of Courtney Barnett’s debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, is one of the album’s greatest liabilities: Barnett’s one-liners come quick and regularly, and are usually amusing, but it occasionally makes the album feel like it will amount to little more than a well-worded lark. Fortunately, Barnett’s got talent beyond a way with a quip, as her limber shredding on “Small Poppies” more than proves, and jangly bummers like “Depreston” shows that her already inimitable writing can work in a variety of moods. That said, this won’t go down Courtney Barnett’s best album. There’s better coming. You can just tell.
Key Track: “Pedestrian at Best”
7) Hot Chip – Why Make Sense?
Hot Chip have always been at the top of the singles game, and frankly, we’d be inclined to put them on this list if all they released this year was the luminous banger, “Huarache Lights”. But once the high from hearing that as the opener of Why Make Sense? wears off, it’s replaced with the sort of buzz that comes from hearing one immaculately tasteful dose of dance-floor catnip after another. Even though “Huarache Lights” finds Hot Chip bemoaning the sense that they’re being replaced by younger musicians with newer machines, Why Makes Sense? makes a stronger argument for their vitality than any outright complaining ever could.
Key Track: “Huarache Lights”
6) Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Simple, unadorned folk songs are nothing new to Sufjan Stevens (we all remember the shattering “Casimir Pulaski Day” of Illinois) , but it’s certainly unusual for him to sideline his facility with complicated arrangements for the length of a full album. Of course, when you’ve written an album’s worth of emotionally devastating songs eulogizing your late mother, the impulse to keep things muted is an understandable one. All the better to highlight the melodic beauty propelling every song, and Stevens’ unmistakable rawness as he toughs his way through each one.
Key Track: “Fourth of July”
5) Bjork – Vulnicura
It’s not that Bjork has never been personal before, but yeesh, Vulnicura is one seriously open wound. It should come as a surprise to no one that her separation from Matthew Barney has taken a turn for the contentious given the intimate details spilled forth on this lush, eerie, and determinedly sad record.
But rather than sleazily digging through the extra-textual stuff, we could just look at what Bjork offers freely on Vulnicura; it depicts a long-term relationship – that obviously means very much to both people in it – as it reaches it’s unfortunate conclusion when seemingly both people lose the will to fight for it. Bjork’s melancholy is memorably rendered through weeping strings and visceral electronic drums, but the one thing that really makes your heart ache for her has been her greatest asset throughout her incredible career: her otherworldly but still achingly human voice.
Key Track: “Black Lake”
4) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
There’s no doubt that Kendrick Lamar’s dense albums encourage the stuffiest analyses that music critics can offer. Characters recur over the course of his discography, with Lamar’s typically empathetic writing style allowing him to slip in and out of assorted personae. It’s all very heady work, and worthy of deep scrutiny. Now he’s offered To Pimp a Butterfly, an album that finds Lamar complete uneasy with his massive fame and how it relates to his status as a young black man in this day and age. And the think pieces kept coming.
Again, totally understandable, but what gets lost amidst all this chin-stroking is just how much fun Lamar’s music is. If you’ve been waiting for a natural forebear to Outkast’s mixture of textural grit and freewheeling musical adventurousness, then get happy, because it’s absolutely Lamar. To Pimp a Butterfly is sorrowful, to be certain (particularly in its second half), but that’s one of many shades on an album that pinballs from wobbly funk, delirious big band jazz, and low-riding G-Funk while still retaining a distinct overriding personality to connect it all. That’d be Lamar, of course.
Key Track: “The Blacker the Berry”
3) Sleater Kinney – No Cities to Love
It’s an unavoidable fact of modern pop-cultural life that Carrie Brownstein is on a shit-hot streak. There’s Portlandia, the ever-popular sketch show she co-created and co-stars in with Fred Armisen, intended to satirize Portland’s bohemian culture, but she also shows up in the immediately beloved Amazon drama, Transparent. She even popped up in a recent episode of Archer.
Still, even a seriously promising acting career can’t trump Brownstein’s contributions to Sleater Kinney’s reunion album, No Cities to Love. The whole band sounds fired up: Corin Tucker’s typically wild vocals are used in service of some of the catchiest material the band has ever written. Janet Weiss, with her inventive fills and ten-ton drumming, have been so very missed. But it’s Brownstein, lighting up the blank spaces with licks that are electric in every conceivable way, who seems positively thrilled to be back with her two musical soul mates again.
Key Track: “A New Wave”
2) D’Angelo – Black Messiah
Yes, this was released in 2014. Specifically, D’Angelo’s Black Messiah was released on December 15th, 2014. Most of us had our best of 2014 lists finalized and laminated by then, so it’s fair game.
Yet many critics managed to get this sucker on their lists, not out of rash panic, but because the greatness of Black Messiah is apparent on the first listen. The grooves are timeless but imbued with fresh life. Sadly, the same could be said of the issues that drive this righteous album’s engine. D’Angelo notoriously took his sweet time getting this album out (Voodoo, his breakthrough, came out in 1999), and Black Messiah somehow manages the tricky feat of seeming like the result of a patient incubation and a sudden urgent rush of inspiration.
Key Track: “‘Til It’s Done”
1) Viet Cong – Viet Cong
From the dissolution of essential Calgary-based art rock group Women comes Viet Cong, a fearsomely gifted crew whose instinctual marriage of their pop and avant rock instincts gives us the most flat-out thrilling album of the year. Opener “Newspaper Spoons” proffers nightmarish thunder that gives way to glimmering light. The sighing guitars on the chorus of “Continental Shelf” are perfectly belied by the roaring central hook. “Death” wastes nary a second of its eleven captivating minutes. Frankly, there’s not a bad moment on the album, but it really all comes down to the centerpiece, “March of Progress”, which spends its first three minutes in a whirling, dizzying thrum, shifts to hypnotic psychedelia marked by perfectly synced guitars, and ends in an ecstatic rush. The song of the year on the album of the year (so far).
Key Track: “March of Progress”