Midyear Review: Best in Music in 2015

mid year best in music tyfofficial

The first six months of 2015 have gone by, and there are already so many good songs and albums that deserve some recognition, even before the year ends.

The Young Folks team has come together to list the best in Music for the first half of 2015: From Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly to Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color and more, check out our top picks on the next page!


[tps_title]Allyson Johnson’s Top Midyear Picks in Music[/tps_title]

I didn’t think I’d listened to too much new music this year, but I came up with my top five so far rather quickly. I’ll be a lone supporter of the new Tallest Man on Earth album–the full sound simply brings the songwriting into focus, and as someone who’s never really given Sufjan Stevens a shot, his newest was on repeat for a while there. Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear is an instant classic, and Purity Ring checks off the female-led, soft electronica vibe I enjoy so much. However, it’s Turnover’s Peripheral Vision that was the biggest surprise, going from a mediocre pop-punk band to a highly enjoyable shoegaze-influenced unit. Their song “Humming” is a particular highlight.


[tps_title]Brooke’s Top Midyear Picks in Music[/tps_title]







[tps_title]Matt Rice’s Top Midyear Picks in Music[/tps_title]


  1. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)
  2. Jazmine Sullivan: Reality Show (RCA)
  3. Dead Sara: Pleasure to Meet You (Pocket Kid)
  4. The Paranoid Style: Rock and Roll Just Can’t Recall (Battle Worldwide)
  5. James McMurtry: Complicated Game (Complicated Game)


  1. Nicki Minaj (ft. Beyonce): “Feeling Myself” (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic)
  2. Heems: “Patriot Act” (Megaforce)
  3. Jason Derulo (ft. Stevie Wonder and Keith Urban): “Broke” (Beluga Heights/Atlantic)
  4. Ciara: “I Bet” (Epic)
  5. Kendrick Lamar: “King Kunta” (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)


[tps_title]Ryan Gibbs’ Top Midyear Picks in Music [/tps_title]


  1. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope)

Obvious? Probably. It’s hard to listen to these songs as standalone tracks because they work so well together. You know, like an album or something. Standout tracks: “Wesley’s Theory,” “King Kunta,” “The Blacker the Berry.”

  1. Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop/Milk! Records)

Kendrick and Courtney Barnett are a closer 1-2 than you might think. I love To Pimp a Butterfly as an album experience to be taken as a whole, but I like the songs on Sometimes I Sit as stand-alone songs more. At times, It’s hard to listen to some of the songs on To Pimp a Butterfly without the other songs surrounding it, and the music itself demands and deserves your full attention. Barnett? Her record is just fun.  Barnett is a brilliant and often wryly funny lyrical talent, weaving often riveting stories of the mundane that effortlessly mesh with her natural skill as a guitar player. Of special note is “Depreston,” a song about house-hunting in depressing Melbourne suburbs that is probably one of the very best songs of the decade so far. One of the most fully-formed debut full lengths I’ve heard in years. Standout tracks: “Pedestrian at Best,” “Depreston,” “Dead Fox.”

  1. Blur, The Magic Whip (Warner)

You know, I was worried for a second. I was worried that my favorite band would put out an uninspired comeback record with maybe one or two good songs and rest just on standby. As you may remember from my review a few months back, this did not happen, and I couldn’t be happier. Standout tracks: “Lonesome Street,” “Ong Ong,” “I Broadcast.”

  1. Hop Along, Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)

Hop Along’s third album marks them as one of the country’s best guitar bands. Frances Quinlan’s devastating voice, lyricism, and gift for vocal melody are the heart of the record, and Hop Along itself is a well-tuned machine on the record’s ten tracks. The band’s first two records undeservedly flew under the radar, but Painted Shut is so good that it couldn’t be ignored (and it hasn’t!). I once said on Facebook that Painted Shut was “exactly what I needed and all I really need period from indie guitar music in 2015.” Admittedly that was hyperbolic, but this record had an impact on me that few others in the genre have this year. Absolutely enthralling.  Standout tracks: “The Knock,” “Waitress,” “Powerful Man.”

  1. Makeshift Shelters, Something So Personal (Broken World Media)

I’ve been pretty vocal about how much I’ve adored this record over the course of the year. Music critic Brad Nelson brought it up on Twitter and I loved it so much that I wound up buying it off their Bandcamp within the hour. I was hooked. Pop punk, emo and their related genres often get the short end of the stick respect-wise, but there’s so much good stuff coming out the genres right now–particularly from Connecticut’s Broken World Media label–and it’s especially unfortunate that this smart, instantly catchy set of songs didn’t get the love it’s deserved. Sadly, the band recently announced that they had broken up, a shame since there’s so much potential on the terrific Something So Personal; the album sounds like a band that was just getting started to show off what they could do. Standout tracks: “Opposite Directions,” “Lighter Fluid,” “Grayest Places.”


  1. Courtney Barnett, “Depreston” (Mom + Pop)
  2. American Wrestlers, “I Can Do No Wrong” (Fat Possum)
  3. Speedy Ortiz, “The Graduates” (Carpark)
  4. Blur, “Lonesome Street” (Warner)
  5. Screaming Females, “Triumph” (Don Giovanni Records)

[tps_title]Brenna’s Top Midyear Picks in Music[/tps_title]

  1. Jamie xx: In Colour: Jamie Smith plays with minimalism, space, and sound, creating a satisfying collection of songs that is unlike anything I’ve heard before.
  1. Drake: If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late: Drake’s surprise release includes seventeen single-worthy songs that will make you forget this is the artist that coined the phrase “YOLO.” This album is as innovative as it is attainable to mainstream rap fans, which is a difficult feat.
  1. The Wombats: Glitterbug: As always, The Wombats deliver a sweet, indie-pop album laced with timely truths and clever analogies.
  1. Tobias Jesso Jr.: Goon: This debut album is refreshingly simple and honest about love and heartbreak. Jesso has a knack for songwriting, and this album proves that his skill rivals the best that’s out right now.
  2.  Alabama Shakes: Sound & Color: In album number two, the Alabama Shakes continue to push boundaries and make blues rock cool. Sound & Color shows that Brittany Howard’s voice is even more ridiculous, versatile, and incredible than the world originally thought.

[tps_title]Gabrielle Bondi’s Top Midyear Picks in Music[/tps_title]

The number of new albums I’ve listened to is so abysmally small that I was debating whether I should make a Top 5 list at all, but after revisiting some of these new albums, I realized that I liked them all enough to include them in a Best Of list. The main reason I’ve not listened to as many new albums as I’ve liked is because Kendrick Lamar’s new album has been on repeat. While all of these albums have their merits, To Pimp A Butterfly is far and away the best of them all.

  1. To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
  2. In Colour – Jamie xx
  3. Uptown Special – Mark Ronson
  4. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – Florence + the Machine
  5. Sound & Color – Alabama Shakes

[tps_title]Joey Daniewicz’ Top Midyear Picks in Music[/tps_title]

  1. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly

Kendrick Lamar made a mistake. He set out to make the album people asked him to make and created a document contemplating the long history of race through the lens of his short life. Somehow he succeeded, coming at the issue from every possible angle while staying rooted in the long history of black excellence in popular music, from Sly Stone to Ornette Coleman to George Clinton to André 3000 and on and on.

  1. Heems: Eat Pray Thug

It’s less focused than Kendrick’s outing, but when Heems is turning directly toward the way his brown skin shaped his world and how his family and friends were treated with scorn and suspicion in New York City after 9/11, it’s this year’s most impacting art.

  1. Jamie xx: In Colour

I’ve been waiting for this album since “Far Nearer” came out in 2011, and we finally have Jamie’s defining document of his approach to electronic music. Surprisingly, its crown jewel is a pop song with Young Thug and maybe the sickest sample ever.

  1. Shamir: Ratchet

A genderfluid black ex-country singer drifts between Hot Chip and mc chris, and it’s freaking awesome.

  1. Kacey Musgraves: Pageant Material

Some say this is remarkable because of the country tropes it avoids, but Pageant Material is defined by the country tropes it embraces. Don’t let the return of her “HEY” “YUP” choir from “Follow Your Arrow” fool you; she cares way more about people who already listen to country than city-slickers she might win over.

What are YOUR favorite songs or albums in 2015 so far?
Let us know in the comments!




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