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Best Albums of 2015: Musician Picks

Best Albums of 2015: Musician Picks

We've already given you a list of the best albums of 2015 according to the Bandwagon staff, which to be honest, was a blast to do. But as knowledgeable as we are about music (or as we'd like to think we are), we're about to hand over the mic to people who really know what they're talking about — musicians!

Here's what some of Singapore's most prominent musicians, producers and DJs had to say about their favourite albums of 2015. The usual suspects abound (coughKendrickLamarcough), but it's the love that these musicians showed for their homegrown contemporaries that really warmed our hearts.

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To Pimp A Butterfly | Kendrick Lamar

This album had some sick collaborators from Thundercat to Kamasi Washington to Pharrell on 'Alright', which is pretty much my ultimate coping mechanism song of life now.

Time/Space | Charlie Lim

I love Charlie because he is thoughtful, poetic, articulate as an artist and every single time I watch him perform live he blows my mind.

Huh/Wah/Aiyoh Fuck Another Beat Tape EP trilogy | FAUXE

3 EPs made in 24 hours each time, released over 3 months, featuring some of the most exciting rising talent in Singapore hip-hop rapping over beats that fuse Asian & Western elements in the freshest of freshest of freshest ways. Mad respect.

Know-It-All | Alessia Cara

Not much pop has made its way into my heart this year except for this track, possibly because of the Isaac Hayes by way of Portishead sample. In a world where the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus dominate the mainstream consciousness – Alessia Cara is a breath of fresh air.

soma | .gif

For me this release had some songs that are familiar and I love, some that point to an as yet unknown but exciting future. I feel sucked into an alternate reality when I listen to Weish and Din. They take me away to some deep, dreamy place where everything feels ok – appropriate album title.  

 

In The Moment (E & F Sides) | Makaya McCraven

Makaya McCraven is a superbly talented drummer, who over the course of one year played 28 improvisational shows with various collaborators and In The Moment is the culmination of those experiences. This has been on repeat for weeks in my car stereo now and its therapy.

Two For Joy | Ruby Rushton

22A can’t do no wrong at all in 2015. Every release from them is on point. The highlight would have to be Ruby Rushton’s Two For Joy though. Paying tributes to the likes of Coltrane, Yusef Lateef and Slum Village, this debut album is sublime and meditative.

Wondem | Dexter Story

Thanks to the incredible Soundway Records, we have been blessed with this incredible release by Dextor Story. If you dig your African music, look no further. ‘Wondem’ is everything you would hope for, and possibly more.

The Epic | Kamasi Washington

Kamasi Washington has been on everyone’s lips this whole year and with no little surprise too. Together with his evolutionary peers Thundercat and Flying lotus, he has managed to attract listeners who might have been previously uninterested in jazz, and given them a relevant perspective into this particular art form. 

Lifeworld | Moon B

Moon B in my opinion, is one of the most underrated artists out there at the moment. Lifeworld is a careful balance between the old and new worlds - a joinery into the spectrum of g-funk, sliced with his signature textures and sounds. Seek this one out.

 

Choose Your Weapon | Hiatus Kaiyote

There are no words to describe how much I love this band. You can’t listen to this on the street and not gasp, groove, scrunch your face in awe. It isn’t just the virtuosity, it’s the overwhelming, raw passion and energy that leaves you breathless. Also listen to Tawk Tomahawk and 2012.

People Eating People | The Psalms

Probably the most underrated band ever. One of the best in the world. Also a must-see live. Favourite tracks are 'Snake and the Mongoose', 'I Keep Silent'.

Time/Space | Charlie Lim

It’s on whenever I’m alone in the car, so I can shiok sendiri and sing along with wild abandon. I connect with Charlie’s music on a very intimate level. I’m sure many other people can say the same… but I’M SPECIAL, OK. In the least creepy way possible. Obviously.

To Pimp A Butterfly | Kendrick Lamar

An all-too-obvious choice for everyone this year. The sophistication and artistry of this album needs no introduction or further elaboration than Daniel has already done here.

The Astral Journey EP | TAJ

Too good, this supergroup. The writing, the performance, everything. They sound just as amazing live, if not more so.

 

soma | .gif

The best thing to happen this year. Strong lyrical content, amazing music and sick vibes.

Beauty Behind The Madness | The Weekend

The album still sounded amazing after he turned pop. Gotta give it up to him for that.

Purpose | Justin Bieber 

The vibes on this album is crazy. It really does pay to have good producers on an album. Never a belieber but this made me change my mind.

Aiyoh Fuck Another Beat Tape EP | FAUXE 

Nothing much I can say other than, FAUXE and those involved are extremely hardworking. it shows in the music. This final one did it for me.

The Incredible New Story | Logic

This album, finally showcased his ability and skills as an artist. Strong concept, good execution. Thumbs up!

 

Escapism EP | Sam Gellaitry

The bass youngling from Stirling, Scotland, releases another orchestral, eastern, ethnic, jazz fusion, trap album.

Like What EP | Tennyson

After being on an hiatus for nearly a year, the sibling duo is back with a full EP - laced with warm sounds that just feels good, and kawaii tuned synths with smashing jazz polyrhythms and harmonies.

Stay Home EP | Submerse

(BRUH HE FOLLOWED ME ON DA SOUNDCLOUD)... nuff' of the fanboyism. He releases a full on R&B, boom bap, juke EP - full of soul and all that black.

Inner Planets EP | GEOTHEORY

Electronic future-Japan beatsmith Geotheory releases this 4-track experience with dabs of UK house with his own modern tweaking.

Soulection White Label: 016 | Monte Booker

Soulection's finest Monte Booker, picks his best releases of 2015 in this one. Small sounds that tingle, contrasting bass elements and soul piano. Zero fatigue.

 

The Switch | Emily King 

This was a pretty underrated/overlooked record this year. Clever songwriting, lush arrangements and effective production. It’s the ideal soul-pop record where nothing is overstated or overcooked, and every musical gesture counts.

To Pimp A Butterfly | Kendrick Lamar 

I’m guessing it’s probably politically incorrect by now to not have this as record of the year, but for good reason. This is layer upon layer of sheer, mad genius across every plane. From a musical standpoint alone, this could be the millennial generation’s version of Voodoo – it’s a dense layered cake, inciting repeat listens for years to come.

Carrie & Lowell | ​Sufjan Stevens 

Such a haunting, bittersweet record, and probably his best yet. I can’t begin to imagine what the writing and recording process would’ve been like whilst dealing with such intensely personal subject matter, but the record’s execution and delivery was distilled into a work that couldn’t be any more poignant.

Thrill of the Arts | ​Vulfpeck 

Loving everything about this band and what they stand for. It’s only been out for a couple of months but it’s been my go-to feel-good record ever since. Also, Blake Mills’ slide playing on the collaborative Rango II is ridiculously tasty.

Fallout 4 Soundtrack (Diamond City Radio) | Various Artists

I’ll take any reason to make the Ink Spots and Billie Holiday relevant again, even more so when re-contextualised as a juxtapositional cue for surviving in a nuclear wasteland. Thanks Bethesda!

 

To Pimp a Butterfly | Kendrick Lamar 

One of the most poignant hiphop release in recent times - "Alright" and "King Kunta" tears the floor up everytime - my other personal faves from the album are "For Free?" and "The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice"

Golden Ticket | Golden Rules

London producer Paul White and Florida rapper Eric Biddines pair up for this quirky, dynamic record. Biddines' high pitched drawl is reminiscent of Andre 3000, which complements well with White's soulful, psychedelic beats. Fave tracks are 'Aunty Pearl's House', 'Never Die (ft Yasiin Bey)' and 'Play Some Luther'. 

Peace, Love and Music | Swindle

Caught him at Worldwide Festival this year and was blown away. Has some pretty interesting collabs with Guerilla Speakerz, Flowdan and Mungo's Hi-fi, and I like his style of live instrumentation and experimentation with dub tempos. Fave track is 'Global Dance' featuring Mungo's Hi-fi and Flowdan.

Suede | Nxworries

One of my favourite record labels, they never disappoint to come up with the freshest, soulful sounds. Anderson Paak, one of the rawest and sexiest vocalist in R&B  and soul right now, teams up with prolific hip-hop producer Knxwledge (who's worked with Joey Bada$$ and Kendrick Lamar) to form Nxworries. 'Suede' is a single from their upcoming album in 2016 - can't wait for that. 

From The Life Of A Good For Nothing | Juju Rogers

Had the luck to catch him live at the All Eyes on Hip-Hop night in Ghent and was hooked. Good beats, great collaborations (Oddisee, JuSoul), and amazing bars. Definitely one of the most underrated releases of the year. Fave track is 'Monkey' (prod by JuSoul).

 

No No No | Beirut

Zach Condon has released like fifty hits by now and still manages to make this record sound new and familiar all at once. He mentions in an interview that it came from a period of personal and creative despair that led him to adopt a basic, piano-trio jamming structure, which No No No's punchy melodies and skeletal instrumentation demonstrate. The album seems to me in many ways a commitment to simplicity.

Carrie & Lowell | Sufjan Stevens

Carrie & Lowell is, for me, the best of Sufjan Stevens' work and one of my favourite albums of all time. It's personal, painful, and puts you through an experience you can feel for without needing to fully understand. Couple that with having seen him perform it live this year in a darkened Le Grand Rex with moving old video footage flashing behind him and the songs in this album now have a very special, specific place in my heart.

Everything Happens | How Sad

I love How Sad. They're like a band of wry pessimists resigned to the disillusionment life offers and finding it nevertheless only meaningful to pass the time feeling every feeling and singing songs about them. The album is a sort of ode to the richness you find in experiences and a celebration of both the weightless joy and comic devastation that can come with it.

Pharmacy | Galantis

These guys make beats like beasts, have badass song titles like 'Peanut Butter Jelly', and are groovy af. I also like that this album is committed to the vibes, but doesn't find ways to keep putting in a hopefully definitive “signature” patch to set itself apart or confine itself to a particular sub-genre. Pharmacy is my funnest album of 2015.

Empty Nest | Mree

Mree is one ex-ukulele-wielding flower girl who's made a great transition into meticulous DIY production that shows itself in moody and rousing ways in this newest album. 'Talkabout' is, in my opinion, the strongest song off the record, with a brave chord progression buoying dynamic vocals and a fierce trap beat. The other songs are mellower but no less affecting.

 

Beauty Behind the Madness | The Weeknd

Favourite album of the year hands down. Abel is the epitome of swag with a nice balance of too-cool-for-u and watch-me-I’m-with-taylor-swift. Killer melodies, killer production and killer songs that hints at all genres yet still manages to be ahead. 

A Head Full of Dreams | Coldplay

Though the teenage girl / young woman in me appreciates Chris Martin's very eudaemonistic and mature view on break-ups and relationships in Ghost StoriesA Head Full of Dreams is chock full of what I love most about Coldplay – their ability to transport me to a world where I feel like my soul is being gently yet fiercely whisked through neon clouds.  

To Pimp A Butterfly | Kendrick Lamar

Widely respected as a game-changer album in terms of its sound, To Pimp A Butterfly (originally titled To Pimp A Caterpillar aka 2PAC) stands out to me because of its content and concept that extends past billboards and social media views.  

Chaos and the Calm | James Bay

It takes a real something to break out as a singer/songwriter in 2015. In this case it was a long-haired swoon-worthy white Brit boy with hot chocolate vocals and an even more impressive ear for melodies. 

Communion | Years and Years

A couple of cute kids who managed to find an interesting and unique sound of their own in this oversaturated pop and EDM world with amazing choices in their melodies. They're a step up compared to many others in this genre.

 

I can’t really say this qualifies as a “best albums of 2015” list, since a few of these were recorded way before this year… but here’s a selection of what I’ve been paying attention recently.

Aria | Sullivan Fortner

One of the leading young voices on his instrument, Fortner has a beautiful sound on the piano and a singular approach to harmony.

Masterpieces by Duke Ellington | Duke Ellington

Never a dull moment. This album is engaging from start to finish.

Black Bottom Stomp - The Complete Victor Recordings 1926 | Jelly Roll Morton and His Red Hot Peppers

I’m a big fan of Jelly Roll Morton. He really paid attention to detail when writing for his ensembles, and his piano playing here is top notch.

Swinging Solos + Soliloquy | ​Erroll Garner

Garner always swings like crazy, and it’s just fun to listen to.

Grown Folk | Butcher Brown

An album of serious grooves that sound new and familiar at the same time. If you’re into this, check out their previous release, entitled All Purpose Music.

 

Work It Out | Lucy Rose

I only just started listening to Lucy Rose a week ago - just in time before the year ends. I like how she experiments with different sounds and textures in this album compared to the first. There are also shades of the "Haim sound", which I love. There’s a tendency these days to overdo the electronic sound but Lucy Rose does it in a very unstated way that still preserves her singer-songwriter identity.

Beauty Behind The Madness | The Weeknd

I can’t help but slow dance alone to this record whenever it’s on. Sorry to put that image in your head. Oh, and that falsetto...

Letters to Ubin | Inch

I first heard snippets of Inch’s new EP at the House of Riot show early this year and the bird chirping riff in ‘Mousedeer’ was stuck in my head for days. I really like how Inch and producer Evan Low merged the sights and sounds of Ubin with the songs using a mix of old and new mediums. Also, 'Dust That Moves' is a total emo banger.

Time/Space | Charlie Lim

The Time/Space double EP was one of the most highly-anticipated records on my list (and many of my peers'). Word about its release was out in 2014 but we had to wait and stream 'Conspiracy' and 'Bitter' on Bandcamp endlessly till mid this year to get our hands on it. But so. worth. the. wait. I am always learning new things about music and what I can do with it through Charlie’s work and the delivery of his craft. This record was no different.

Purpose | Justin Bieber

I struggled a while before deciding to include this because it’s a little embarrassing when one of your favourite albums of the year belongs to the ‘Teen Pop’ category on Spotify. But what a record. Sure, the ‘EDM thing’ has been overdone for a while now but I think his producers have managed to tie different beats and sounds together quite seamlessly in this album. This is also basically everyone in 2015.

 

soma | .gif 

It would take A LOT for me to listen to an album with many, many sing-song lyrics as I'm naturally more of a beat head, but this one this one is just steam each and every time. Not saying it cuz it's on our label but it's true and ya know it!!!

NSFW: Not Safe For Work | Mean

Proud to say that I'm well into the home-grown biz! This is just the beginning…

To Pimp A Butterfly | Kendrick Lamar 

Every tune is shiok.

Compton | Dr Dre

Straight up stylo gangsta. Makes me wanna chop the roof of my car and drive down Joo Chiat with the system boomin', but it might affect the resale of my ride.

The Epic | Kamasi Washington 

There's been differing opinions on this release within the jazz scene but it's 3 hours of bliss that always challenges the cultural conversation about modern jazz.

 

Vulnicura | Bjork 

This was a particularly emotional album for me when it first came out at the start of 2015 - a turbulent time leading to a break up which marked a rather sharp turning point in my life. In true Bjork fashion, she always tugs at the heartstrings with her brutally honest lyrics and lilting vocals. 'stonemilker' and 'lionsong' are probably my favourites because they made me cry. Please don't get judgey.

Wasted Days | Sam Binga 

I really got into the footwork / jungle / juke sound this year and I liked everything about this album. Rogue lineup including Redders, Rider Shafique and Om Unit just to name a few. My favourite track is 'Wasted Days' feat Warrior Queen.

Faze Miyake | Faze Miyake 

This debut album from Rinse FM's own Faze Miyake is grimey as f*ck. Introducing the album with 'Little Nest' feat Little Simz makes for such a banging start! Jesus.

At.Long.Last.A$AP | A$AP Rocky 

Listen to 'Fine Whine' when stoned. or 'Jukebox Joints'. Or all of it. 'Nuff said. But seriously, this whole album was great.

Rub | Peaches 

I love Peaches, and as expected, her album this time around is still unabashedly crude in some places - talking boldly about queer sex, spitting angry lyrics and basically not really giving a sh*t. Her collaboration with Feist, 'I Mean Something' is my fave from the album, with her other tracks keeping some of her usual electro-clash flavours in check, but with hints of other bassy experiments here in there.

 

Work It Out | Lucy Rose

I’ve had a soft spot for Lucy Rose ever since I heard her first album, Like I Used To. She’s always had this great sense of rhythm and phrasing and timing changes that blended seamlessly with her acoustic folk thing, which is something I really admire. This album is a little bit of a departure from that well-worn vein, but all the things I like about her still shine through.

Carrie and Lowell | Sufjan Stevens

This album made me feel so many things - it’s really difficult to put it into words. It was a journey - honest, overwhelming in its quietness, and absolutely brilliant.

Hooves of Doubt | Dry The River

This was the “breakup” giveaway EP of my favourite band, Dry The River. They write about church, childhood, death, love, things and themes that resonate a lot with me.

Jaime Wong EP | Jaime Wong

It has been a tremendous honour to watch Jaime’s music grow into the wonderful thing it is now. I’ve always thought she was a brilliant songwriter - and her honesty and lack of pretension always strikes a chord with me.

Sound & Color | Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes is my favourite musical discovery this year, hands down. Brittany Howard is an amazing songwriter, whose passion and heart in her delivery wins me over every time. 

 

To Pimp a Butterfly | Kendrick Lamar 

Instant classic. From the storytelling to the transitions, almost a flawless album. The musicality on this album is also amazing. 

Trapsoul | Bryston Tiller 

A great 14-track debut LP. Lyrically very personal. Impeccable songwriting without a doubt. 

Beauty Behind the Madness | The Weeknd 

Sonically has very strong melodies. 

Rodeo | Travis Scott 

Good cinematic moments in this album. One of the most hyped projects of 2015.

Compton | Dr. Dre 

A perfect side dish to the new N.W.A biopic. 

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