The Oscar nominations were released today and the Grammy award show is in a month! Here are my top 10 favorite albums and movies of 2015.


Albums:

Honorable Mentions: Beauty Behind The Madness – The Weeknd; Art Angels – Grimes; I Love You, Honeybear – Father John Misty; Surf – Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment; Summertime ’06 – Vince Staples; and Blackstar – David Bowie [RIP, Starman]

10. Honeymoon – Lana Del Rey This album is, by far, Lana’s most mature one, which in theory is good in some ways and bad in others. It’s much more gloomy (and less catchy) than Born to Die and Paradise, even Ultraviolence, but it’s worth a good listen when you’re relaxin’ on your laptop in the evening or trying to make it through a rainy day. It’s cohesive, Lana is freer than ever, and she really explores the American soul in a seemingly unique way. 7.8/10

9. Chase The Light – Palace While not quite as excellent as Palace’s first album Lost in the Night, Chase The Light gives us another enticing glimpse into the band’s indie blues Kings of Leon type sound—one that’s hip, mysterious, chill, and—again—signature indie. Hopefully, Palace will break onto the American music scene in time for next year’s festival season. 8.1/10

8. In Colour – Jamie XX A modest 42 minutes of a listen, In Colour is a nice boost of colorful electronic energy, one that you can dance to and chill to, much like Odesza’s music. Yes, this is the guy from the band The XX, by the way; a visionary artist, he relishes the imperfect past of the electro scene but paints some bold strokes for its future too. 8.2/10

7. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit – Courtney Barnett As the album title suggests, Barnett pretty much sounds like she’s daydreaming out loud over everyday garage-band instruments, but it’s crazy fun music that surprisingly percolates a lot of peculiar details about Barnett’s witty thoughts and overall life story. 8.4/100

6. Thank Your Lucky Stars – Beach House I’m biased for two reasons: first of all, I’m absolutely obsessed with Beach House; moreover, this was the second album (shoutout to Depression Cherry) they released in a matter of months and nobody expected it, which made the listen even more rejuvenating and exciting. Thank Your Lucky Stars is the perfect music for late night chats and chill hangouts on the back porch with friends, drifting into melancholy thoughtfulness/sleep, and for “dream pop,” the genre many consider Beach House a focal member of. Not an album for everybody (like most brilliant albums anyway), but I certainly recommend it. 8.6/10

5. Black Messiah – D’Angelo This is perhaps the most important R&B soul album ever made and it went over many peoples’ heads, including mine (even now). I wish I were more into this album than I actually am, but, regardless, it’s very obvious how painstakingly crafted and fluidly elegant this work is—wedged harmoniously right between rhythm and melody. To quote the critics, it’s very spiritual, political, and existential, so keep this in mind when checking it out. 8.7/10

4. Carrie & Lowell – Sufjan Stevens Sufjan probably has the most widespread talent as a musician out of any living artist and has already produced several of the best indie albums ever, and this one is the culmination of the heart and emotion he pours into his music. It’s a difficult, bittersweet album, but also an instrumental masterpiece with intimate lyrics that pull you into Sufjan’s peculiar, but quite relatable, life. 8.9/10

3. Currents – Tame Impala This is a perfect title for an album that takes you through a peculiarly beautiful rollercoaster ride of psychedelic trance states, melodic, unearthly pop riffs, acute, melancholy observations of the human condition, and quite phenomenal acoustic and vocal ranges. As I will say for Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly: don’t look this album up on Spotify and give the top songs a brief whiff; listen to all of Currents from front to start.  9.1/10

2. Sound & Color – Alabama Shakes You’re lying to yourself if you don’t feel a sudden burst of energy and enthusiasm every time you hear Brittany Howard’s vociferous, powerful words amped over chaotic guitar jams, unsuspecting xylophones, and choreographed southern soul. I personally think that the aforementioned lead singer Brittany Howard is on a much higher artistic level than the band, and I liked plenty of other 2015 albums more than this one, but, at the end of the day, Sound & Color is an album that all audiences will enjoy in all settings—this is what sets it apart. 9.2/10

1. To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar This is the best album I’ve ever heard, and I don’t know how I can describe its brilliance in one run-on sentence (just for the sake of ill-advised experimentation), but here’s my attempt: it’s a masterful, genius jazz/funk/soul/neo-rap manifesto that subdues the elitist, affluent, white lens through which many of we who hail from HP, BU, and Dallas—microcosms of the majority of this country’s people as well as its media and other proponents of spoon-fed culture—view things and conveys Kendrick’s struggles and highlights, from ubiquitous racial and socioeconomic issues he faces, like the notion that black men only achieve fame through sports and rap, the presumption that hip-hop can only be good if suitable for raucous college parties, and racism (which I believe is the worst thing in the world right now), injustice, police brutality, growing up in the ghetto, gang life, etc; as well as his personal issues, including depression, trauma from witnessing the deaths of his brothers and friends in 90’s & 2000’s Compton, and inability to find self-worth… all the way to Kendrick’s more optimistic, good moments: e.g. the fact that many music critics and rap scholars are considering him the best rapper of all time (after only two major album releases), finding pride in his heritage and identity, and learning to love himself for whom he is. If you have a free hour and a half, listen to this album from beginning to end. 9.9/10

P.S. The only reasons I won’t give TPAB a 10/10: like almost all hip-hop it contains plenty of profanity, an understandable turnoff for many people; there aren’t many individual songs that stand out, but rather, it’s the album as a whole that blows minds away; and finally, also, although rewarding, it’s not an easy listen—it’s a vastly complex album, a form of brilliant lyricism that you have to think about (and can’t listen to as background noise), one that I and many others initially overlooked. Want to read more? Here’s a phenomenal album review: http://www.theverge.com/2015/3/19/8257319/kendrick-lamar-album-review-to-pimp-a-butterfly


Movies:

Honorable Mentions: Amy; Carol; Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Room; Brooklyn;  Bridge of Spies; and Love & Mercy.

10. The Revenant Incredible acting, directing, cinematography, fluency, eeriness, thrill, and artistry. In my humble opinion, it didn’t deserve a Best Picture award at the Golden Globes and probably won’t end up getting anything too special at the Academy Award, but I hope Leo DiCaprio can finally get an Oscar (Tom Hardy did a phenomenal job too). 8.1/10

9. The Big Short A pretty entertaining take, filled with a star-studded lineup, on an important but slightly dull topic: The Housing Bubble Crisis of 2007-2008 that eventually led to the world’s economic depression, which impacted all of us for several years. In this, Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt predict the crash and bet against the US economy, which leads to several interesting dilemmas.  8.2/10

8. The Martian We’re hitting that point now where I’ve already talked about—on this blog—all the remaining movies. Anyway, as you may recall, The Martian was number two in my October post and is a great film for all audiences, one that’s hilarious, captivating, interesting, educational (though you can’t actually fly into space with nothing more than a tarp over your ship), and fun. 8.3/10

7. Spotlight A smart, subtle, mature, and earnest movie that examines the touchy topic (pun intended) of child molestation by priests in the Catholic Church. It’s not biased, but rather, it’s a journalistic approach, filled with great actors, to criminal activities, ones that shouldn’t be neglected or covered up merely because of the perpetrator’s status. Spotlight wasn’t the most sought after movie of 2015, like most recent Best Picture winners, and it shouldn’t be a big surprise if this movie finishes on top. 8.5/10

6. Sicario This movie is an ambush of Mexican drug cartels, US foreign policy, border life, betrayal, murder, drugs; it’s surprising, socially conscious, and very reflective of the world we live in today. Be warned, however, that these ideas are indeed amplified by the film’s goriness. Also, check out my last movie post for more on this movie, as well as the above film Spotlight and also Creed. 8.6/10

5. Mad Max: Fury Road This movie is the perfect dystopian action film, packed with exhilarating sustained action, rich drama, solid comic relief, metaphorical ideas about our world and its people, and even a sense of feminism, though the movie is much easier to enjoy for guys than for girls, which by the way is the only reason this film isn’t higher up on my list. 8.8/10

4. Ex Machina An original movie about artificial intelligence, something you don’t see too often. Well-cut, low-budget, and quite indie, this movie tests a manipulative, enticing AI who ends up more clever and cunning than the man who created her as well as the boy who falls in love with her. This project doesn’t reach for the heavens, but it definitely soars at the top of our modern, technological world. 8.9/10

3. Creed  This film looks back with earned nostalgia (concerning the Rocky series) but also stands alone as a strong, young solo piece, one that will be sought after for extensions to this legendary series. Ryan Coogler is a phenomenal director, Michael B. Jordan is an excellent up and coming actor, and I’m so excited to see what the future has in line for them. Old, young, hyped-up, exciting, catchy, visually dynamic, loaded with applauded modern music-Creed has entertainment value in store for everyone. 9.1/10

2. The End of The Tour This indie bromance (but not actually) is so great that it convinced me to read a 1079 page book. Jason Segel finally put in a good performance in a movie, Jesse Eisenberg showed again his ability to play the role of a cynical, overly-educated, analytical, nerdy young adult, and the screenplay provided us with plenty of singular pleasure in its acute observations regarding life, happiness, relationships, art; it’s, to quote The Hollywood Reporter, “a film about existential emptiness, and yet it’s beautiful and alive.” Turn it on with an open mind and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. 9.2/10

1. Inside Out Inside Out is the only animated movie I’d put on a level with Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, and it’s perhaps Pixar’s best—a beautiful, original, emotional, intellectual, and imaginative movie that every single person in the country should see. ‘Nuff said. 9.6/10


P.S. I will be taking a break from the blog this semester so that I can focus on “rushing” a fraternity and getting a 4.0—but you’ll see me again in May! Thanks for reading and please squeeze those precious seconds of your day to like, comment, reblog, and follow if possible.