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Top Albums of 2015

Top 25 Albums of 2015

 

  1. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly


It’s difficult to know where to begin when writing about Kendrick Lamar’s
To Pimp a Butterfly. Since its release last spring, the album has been the subject of numerous articles, blog posts and think pieces, with audiences and critics alike trying to process all the layers and subtexts present in the music and lyrics. A consensus on the album’s message has has proved almost impossible to find, as the topics covered are complicated, uncomfortable and flat-out difficult at times. Meanwhile, the music fuses multiple genres such as jazz, R&B and soul; music crafted more to make a statement than to be played on the radio. Lamar uses his story-both his upbringing in Compton and his newfound fame-to create a narrative used to address subjects from greed, celebrity, depression to racial injustice and the ongoing struggles black citizens face in America through the lens of his faith in God. The lyrics are tough because the subjects addressed are tough. These are real problems, that real people face and Kendrick uses his life and voice to speak the truths of these hurting people. For listeners who know Kendrick’s struggles, To Pimp a Butterfly offers solace. For those who don’t share his experiences the album provides a comprehensive and honest look at the struggles others face. Albums of that are this prolific in popular-culture are rare. We should cherish the uncompromising artistic vision that Kendrick Lamar brings to life on To Pimp a Butterfly, but above all we should listen, allow ourselves to be challenged and learn. - Jordan Petersen

Album highlights: “King Kunta,” “Alright,” “The Blacker the Berry”

  1. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

With Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens sheds off all his previous pretensions of fiction or historical study and instead presents his most vulnerable and naked album yet. Dealing with the death of his mother, who abandoned him at a young age, this treatise on the mystery of grief is often unflinching and uncomfortable. Sufjan asks raw questions about death that cannot be answered – which makes his expressions of faith powerful and audacious.  

The album’s height of intimacy can be found in “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross.” Accompanied only by his own harmonies and a Simon & Garfunkel-esque guitar, Sufjan confesses his unhealthy response to death – full of sexual regrets, mental illness and addiction. In the mix is a rumbling air-conditioner – putting us right in the immediacy of someone writing music, in the heat of summer, to stomach an event so sudden and unexplainable. - James Li

Album highlights: “Should Have Known Better,” “Fourth of July,” “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”

  1. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

On first impression, Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett’s debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit seems endearingly low-effort: Barnett drifts through life, apathetically speak-singing about deciding whether or not to go to a party, a missed connection at the swimming pool, and endless kilometers of highway driving.  However, Barnett’s frequently hilarious wit and charming sincerity elevate this album above mere slacker-rock.  Barnett is a master at the guitar, drawing heavily from blues and grunge to create simple yet deceptively catchy songs.  In her fiery single “Pedestrian at Best” Barnett effectively says “Yeah, well, y’know, that’s just like your opinion, man,” while delivering some of the year’s best burns and wordplay.  Elsewhere, cosmic revelations come from finding dead things washed up on the beach in “Kim’s Caravan,” and “Depreston” is a ballad about house hunting in the suburbs that ends contemplating the meager existence of a previous tenant.  Courtney Barnett finds bursts of color in grey, drawing meaning from little observations of our mundane, depressing everyday lives.  Ennui has never been so engaging. -Matthew Schepers

Album highlights: “Pedestrian at Best,” “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party,” “Depreston”

  1. Grimes - Art Angels

“I don’t want to just be the face of this thing that I built, I want to be the one that built it,” Grimes told Fader in a recent interview. Following a period of intense touring, indie stardom, and internet controversies, Canadian artist Claire Boucher reclaims the enigmatic creation that is Grimes through Art Angels by taking the reigns completely. In working on her previous album, Boucher felt disillusioned by the music industry, which largely ignored her technical skills as a producer and sound engineer, causing her to feel sexualized and infantilized, used as a prop for music because of her “girly voice.”  In response, Art Angels is aggressively Grimes: written, produced, and performed exclusively by her, with vocal collaborations on only two tracks-- “SCREAM” featuring female Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes and “Venus Fly” with Janelle Monae. Art Angels is an insanely catchy and clever pop album, with the ability to stay true to the genre all the while subverting it from the inside. “I’m only a man, and I do what I can” Grimes sings sarcastically on “Kill V. Maim.” “B-E-H-A-V-E, Arrest us,” she taunts with the confidence of a woman finally in control of her own destiny, no longer subjecting herself to others’ opinions. - Kendra Kamp

Album highlights: “California,” “SCREAM,” “Kill V. Maim”

  1. Father John Misty -  I Love You, Honeybear

Father John Misty is subversive, cynical, sarcastic, and passive aggressive. He sings folk songs with charm, but give his songs a close listen and you might be repulsed. But in his roughness, there is honesty; in his vulgarity, there is truth. I've tried to pin-point exactly why I like this album so much and it's tricky. I think musically, it's confident and self-assured, but lyrically, he's nervous and unsure. To me, that's comforting and relatable. Come for the mariachi band; stay for the laugh track. - Mike Lentz

Album highlights: "Chateau Lobby 4," "When You're Smiling and Astride Me," and "Bored In The USA."

  1. Adele - 25

The return of Adele was nothing short of momentous. Due to her low profile and spotlight avoidance in the years following her last album 21, the announcement of a new Adele album was like a rediscovery. Expectations mounted, and Adele delivered with 25. Though the topics explored on 25 are not noticeably different than on previous efforts, the songs feel like the result of 4 years of maturing. The music brings the songs into some new directions for Adele, embracing pop music more than ever before. The most overtly pop song on the album, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” serves as a counterpart to 21’s hit “Someone Like You.” The song, produced and co-written by Max Martin (Taylor Swift, Katy Perry etc.), says goodbye to lost love, but instead of the melancholy sentimentality found in “Someone Like You,” the narrator in “Send My Love” isn’t going to waste time with hypotheticals; the relationship is done, it didn’t work, now let’s move on. It’s moments like these that prove that Adele is older, wiser and perhaps more jaded than she was on past records. Overall, the songs on 25 are written from a much more experienced tone, still showcasing Adele’s unparalleled vocal talents. - Jordan Petersen

Album highlights: “When We Were Young,” “Hello,” “Million Years Ago”

  1. The Mountain Goats - Beat The Champ

Beat The Champ is about pro wrestling. With references to specific wrestling legends, particulars and terminology of the sport, garish retellings of urban legends, and subtlety personal anecdotes, The Mountain Goats have pinned a certain kind of experience and a collection of emotions: the exhilaration, fear, danger, and heroism of struggling with an opponent under the eyes of spectators. The ethos of pro wrestling seeps through every track, but the experience is not exclusive. In this album there are heroes and villains, there is betrayal, there is murder, there is childhood hope, there are costumes, there are winners and losers. Come for the foreign objects; stay for the heel turn. - Mike Lentz

Album highlights: "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero," "Animal Mask," and "Stabbed To Death Outside San Juan."

  1. Son Lux - Bones

Since his live performance debut at Calvin’s 2007 Festival of Faith and Music, Son Lux has remained mostly the solo endeavor of Ryan Lott, despite having collaborated with a wide variety of artists ranging from Lorde to Sufjan Stevens. Only once Lott developed a touring company for 2013’s Lanterns was he able to find musicians that weaved seamlessly into his royal and expansive sound. Son Lux has since added virtuoso drummer Ian Chang and guitarist Rafiq Bhatia, who contribute dizzying instrumentation to Lott’s lilting vocals, further fleshing out the sonic scenery of each song. Bones clearly showcases growth for Son Lux, both in songwriting and sound. In previous releases We Are Rising and At War With Walls and Mazes, Lott drew from the prayer practice of Lectio Divina, in which a small but meaningful phrase is repeated many times and meditated upon. The lyrical structure on Bones is more conventional, although the words remain poetic and vague. Lott still says the most important messages he conveys are told sonically. The maturation of Son Lux’s sound is clearly heard in Bones, an album that only adds this artist’s upward trajectory. - Cotter Koopman

Album highlights: “You Don’t Know Me,” “Change Is Everything,” “I Am the Others”

  1. Beach House - Depression Cherry

Beach House is a band that knows how to be a band.  Their commitment to consistency over the past nine years has given Beach House mainstream success and critical acclaim.  They tour the world relentlessly and have put out not one but two full-length albums this year.  Hey, maybe they could even afford a moderately sized Beach House at this point.  The first of those two LPs is the cascading and lush Depression Cherry, which rose to #8 on Billboard.  The band said in interview, “In general, this record shows a return to simplicity, with songs structured around a melody and a few instruments, with live drums playing a far less role.” Baltimore’s dream pop heroes, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have made a triumph out of the simplicity.  Their influences include a wonderful swirling concoction of Cocteau Twins, Brian Wilson, and Big Star and the result is an ambient eddy of sound.  Vocals from Legrand underpin the soundscapes with melancholy and yearning.  Let Beach House take you away day-dreaming. “I wrote a thing that no one will read. No one cares.” - Grant Stiles

Album highlights: “Space Song,” “Sparks,” “Levitation”

  1. Torres - Sprinter

Torres dives into the darkness on Sprinter, but all Baptist-raised Georgia native Mackenzie Scott asks is that you dive with her, that you face the fear of drowning together. The album’s swirling sounds envelop the listener in multi-layered lyrics and drowsy rage. Sprinter comes out of Scott’s own biographical complexities, ranging from relational heartbreak to the search for belonging in the context of her adoption. Mostly, however, Torres wrestles with the faith in which she grew up. She has seen the brokenness within herself and from the inside the church, and although tempted to leave it entirely behind, she can’t help appreciate what it's done for her. “There's freedom to, and freedom from. Freedom to run, from everyone. While what I did, is what is done. The baptist in me chose to run. But if there's still time to choose the sun,” she sings on the titular track, ultimately concluding that she can’t hide, deciding at the end of the album to step into “The Harshest Light.” -Kendra Kamp

Album highlights: “Sprinter,” “Strange Hellos,” “Cowboy Guilt”

  1. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment - SURF

Part of what makes this record so enchanting is the lore behind it. The group itself independently released SURF for free online.  Described by Chance the Rapper, a central contributor, SURF is the product of a bunch of friends hanging out, making music, and being free to collaborate and experiment. What results is a charming and captivating soup of hip-hop, neo-soul, jazz, gospel, and R&B that is both ambitious and forever playful. Despite featuring unnamed contributions from big, headlining artists like Big Sean, Jeremih, Busta Rhymes, Migos, and J. Cole, (to name a tiny few,) the album never takes itself too seriously. SURF always maintains an accessible, down-to-earth and whimsical allure—a sound NPR’s has called “nice boy rap.” Gospel singles like “Sunday Candy” radiate familial love and explicitly reference the Eucharist. Funk hits like “Wanna Be Cool” encourage self-love in an age where many industries, including music, capitalize on insecurity. These themes are not just oppositional for their own sake, or evidence of a “hip to be nerdy” mentality. Rather, they reflect Chance’s genuine philosophies of the importance of roots and being yourself. If nothing else, SURF is a sincere piece of art. - Cotter Koopman

Album highlights: “Sunday Candy,” “Slip Slide,” “Wanna Be Cool”

12. Leon Bridges - Coming Home

It’s hard to believe that this is the debut album from 26-year-old Leon Bridges. It’s even harder to believe that Coming Home was recorded this year and not in the 1960s. In a time when some artists sound fresh by finding new sounds and ideas, Leon tried to achieve the same result by making a soul album that sounds more like something your grandparents would listen to than something that you might. Musically and lyrically, it harkens back to a time when “doo-wop” was king. Recorded using live takes, the album features several classic sounds:  piano and saxophone, a gospel-esque backbeat, and female vocals providing backup. Leon uses these sounds to sing of his dedication to his lover (“Better Man”), offer an ode to his mother (“Lisa Sawyer”), and repent and seek salvation (the closing song “River”). Though it would be nice to hear more innovation next time, it’s hard to be upset at Leon Bridges, largely due to his sheer talent. - Joel Gustafson

Album highlights: “Smooth Sailin’,” “Better Man,” “Lisa Sawyer”

  1. Girlpool - Before The World Was Big

Sometimes simple is strongest, and this is the case for Girlpool duo Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad. With Tucker on guitar and Tividad on bass, they perform everything in unison — simultaneously singing their angsty lyrics in child-like rhythms on top of simple guitar riffs … all without the help of a drummer. The result is delightfully minimal.

In their self-titled EP from 2014, Girlpool explored themes such as sexuality and gender issues, but in the 10 songs and 24 minutes of Before The World Was Big, they capture the essence of growing up. Despite their ages, Tividad (19) and Tucker (18) reminisce about “wearing matching dresses before the world was big” and explore other mundane yet formative scenes of their youth with an awareness that comes with years of experience and growth. Their unapologetically simple songs suggest there is power in the act of recollection, and singing and strumming side by side, they explore that power together. - Hailey Jansson

Album highlights: “Before The World Was Big,” “Magnifying Glass,” “Crowded Stranger”

  1. Liance - Bronze Age of The Nineties

Bronze Age of The Nineties, the debut album from Liance (musical vehicle of Calvin Senior James Li), is an album about death. It is an album that claims life is a collection of interactions with death. It is an album that tells of particular deaths: the death of a friend's mother, the death of a relationship, the death of a stranger buried in a lake, the death of hopefulness and naiveté of youth, among others. It is not hard to find death; it is hard to find reasons to live in the midst of death. Comforting acoustic guitars, angelic piano, and complex vocals are notable elements that carry this album. Li's voice is rarely alone on these tracks and the layers and harmonies insist that life is a journey best traveled with a friend, with those who can help to sort out the complexity of human experience. Come because you're human; stay because you're paralyzed with emotions. - Mike Lentz

Album highlights: "Pine Rest," "Mt Vernon, OH," and "KZ Earthquake Tremor"

  1. Jamie xx - In Colour

Early in the year, Jamie Smith -better known to the world as Jamie xx- released “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” a banger single with a danceable beat that what many thought would set the tone for his rumored first full LP. But the first track on In Colour, already sets the table for something much more than just a party album. “Gosh” is reminiscent of Boards of Canada’s work. With a minimalist vibe, Jamie layers loop after loop on top of each other, exactly where they need to be. It detaches the listener from this world and pulls them into the album. Once in, it’s a fantastic tour of sounds, tones and voices that highlight the range of possibilities electronica can offer. “Obvs” incorporates steel drums with steady base that brings the listener down to earth while “Just Saying” immediately pulls them into space with its atmospheric synth. Its flexibility is one of the album’s strongest suits; it makes you want to sit and think but also offers the opportunity to get up and move at any second of any song. Jamie masterfully clashes these two urges throughout In Colour, pulling at the listener from all emotion angles and creating an experience that changes with every mood and listening. - Derrick Kamp

Album highlights: “Gosh,” “Obvs,” “Stranger In A Room”

  1. Chvrches - Every Open Eye

The sophomore release from Scottish synthpop trio Chvrches, Every Open Eye, does not disappoint, perhaps even surpassing their debut. The rightful heirs to the UK’s anthemic electronic pop crown, Chvrches refreshes a sound reminiscent of New Order and Depeche Mode while staying musically relevant in 2015. Their music remains a prime example of pop without compromise.  

This album’s production is a little cleaner, but still holds the edge that provides their indie credibility. They make you want to dance, and their melodies grab you in even the first listen, but the music is personal. Writing and producing the album themselves, they offer broad appeal without watering themselves down to match a sanitized pop landscape.

I spent a lot of time this year listening to Chvrches while riding my bicycle. At precisely two minutes and fourteen seconds into “Clearest Blue.” I become the fastest cyclist in history. I am Lance Armstrong and Chvrches is my Erythropoietin (a steroid Lance used, I looked it up). Lead singer Lauren Mayberry makes me feel like a strong independent woman, and I’m a man. - John “Moose” Williamson

Album highlights: “Leave a Trace,” “Clearest Blue,” ”Afterglow”

17. Noah Gundersen - Carry The Ghost

Sometimes, artists change their sound. Other times, their sound evolves. On his follow-up to last year’s stellar Ledges, Noah Gundersen practices the latter, drawing more comparisons to Jeff Buckley than Mumford & Sons. While all the songs started out being written on an acoustic guitar, Carry The Ghost finds Noah and his band adding a few new sounds to their collection. Electric guitars and synthesizers, along with the usual folksy instruments, are used to add more depth to the sounds behind Noah’s thoughtful lyrics. Whether he’s lamenting lost love (“Show Me The Light”), celebrating it (“Jealous Love”), or questioning religion (“Empty from The Start”) and himself (“Selfish Art”), Noah Gundersen brings out a beauty that comes from being vulnerable and honest with the listener, whether they come to the same conclusions as him or not. - Joel Gustafson

Album highlights: “Blossom,” “Heartbreaker,” “Selfish Art”

  1. Deafheaven - New Bermuda

After the release of 2013’s breakout album Sunbather, Deafheaven found themselves in the middle of a debate they most likely never intended to be in: Is it ok for the genre of metal to have crossover appeal? What’s the line between innovation and selling out? Once the dust settled and the voices announcing the death of metal music faded, Sunbather could be regarded simply as what it is: a great album. Which brings us to this year, in which Deafheaven released the awaited follow-up to Sunbather. Speculation surrounded New Bermuda the second it was announced, threatening to open the can of worms that is metal music validity yet again. The six tracks on New Bermuda could be more accurately defined as movements rather than songs. Each 8-10 minute piece holds an arc that hits just about every emotion, which, for the record, features some of the most “metal” moments that can be found on any album this year. Along with these moments, the music features ethereal soundscapes, piano interludes and post-rock influences. The scope of New Bermuda is broad, seamlessly weaving in and out of different sounds and moods with mastery reminiscent of Sigur Ros. It’s music that leads listeners to a feeling, rather than telling them how to feel using whatever sounds necessary to do so. But forget genre labels, let’s look at New Bermuda as simply what it is: A great album. - Jordan Petersen

Album highlights: “Brought to the Water,” “Come Back”

  1. FKA twigs - M3LLI55X

M3LLI55X (pronounced “Melissa”) is the latest release by multi-faceted, dancer/director/producer/choreographer artist FKA twigs. A strong continuation of her previous work, M3LLI55X debuted in August of this year with a corresponding, 16-minute long music video featuring incredible visuals and dance. Through music and movement, FKA twigs is provocative, exploring sexuality and femininity in an artful and nuanced way. M3LLI55X’s narrative follows the artist, born into a life as an object, rise to find herself empowered by her ability to create as a fully realized individual self. Symbolized in the video as a pregnancy conceived out of another’s lust, FKA twigs reclaims the darkness, giving birth to dancers in a burst of colorful mesh. The final act of the short film shows FKA twigs presiding over and engaging in a powerful celebration of improvised dance, fully realized and complete. - Kendra Kamp

Album highlights: “Glass & Patron,” “Figure 8”

  1. Filmloom - Perennial

In April, Grand Rapids-based band Filmloom released their first and last album, Perennial. It is a stunningly rich and sonically ambitious record – evocative of grand landscapes and human psychology. The second track, “Fog Magic”, begins with minimalist piano before blossoming with stirring electronics, trumpets and breathy falsettos. Another standout track, “Persona”, starts off as tilted jazz before unexpectedly swelling into glitch-fueled electronic pop. Perennial is an album that extols life through the beauty of music itself. - James Li

Album highlights: “Fog Magic,” “Surreality,” “Appaloosa”

  1. Palehound - Dry Food

Intimate and melancholy, Palehound’s Dry Food is a product of isolation. 21 year-old Boston singer-songwriter Ellen Kempner perfectly captures post-breakup gloom in this lo-fi, lonely album. Kempner displays a remarkable talent for guitar, laying fuzzy guitar riffs over smooth fingerpicked melodies.  Opening track “Molly” is an angsty look back at a sour relationship filled with frantic power chords while smirking, glitzy “Cinnamon” is an embrace of all the self-destructive tendencies we engage in with the newfound freedom of being single. In titular track “Dry Food,” Kemper goes to the core of a self-loathing slump, where nothing feels right: You made beauty a monster to me, so I’m kissing all the ugly things I see.” Dry Food is an album full of world-weary introspection. Kemper’s songs are absolutely hypnotic, allowing a listener to share anxieties about adulthood, her stomach tied in knots while retching into a Dixie cup. Dry Food is bittersweet, relatable, and cathartic, an album for when one can do no better than a sigh.  -Matthew Schepers

Album highlights: “Molly,” “Dry Food,” “Dixie”

  1. Carly Rae Jepsen - E•MO•TION

2015 was a good year for justifying the guilty pleasure I assume we all have in Carly Rae Jepsen. She had a standout SNL performance and released E•MO•TION in August. According to her manager, Carly wanted “to stop worrying about singles and focus on having a critically acclaimed album." And she largely succeeds. Over 200 tracks were pitched by the likes of Max Martin and Jack Antonoff, but the album trades these collaborators for different styles. Sia, Devontè Hynes and Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij contribute to E•MO•TION’s pedigree, and it shows; there’s a maturity in the music not commonly found on typical Top 40 pop hits. That doesn’t mean that Carly loses her sense of fun though. The 80’s pop infused beats make ya wanna groove a little while Jepsen sings about love for a good chunk of the album. She sets her own terms for love in her relationships; no one can tell her she’s supposed to do. Though it’s still something that she wants, she’s not going to call any old fling “love.” To her, love is something great, but it doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy what she finds during the search. Check it out, you may find you really really really really really like it. - Derrick Kamp

Album highlights: “Warm Blood,” “Emotion,” “I Really Like You”

  1. Kurt Vile - b’lieve I’m goin down…

Kurt Vile is our generation’s Neil Young. Critics and fans have caught on. Kurt’s authentic and brilliantly conceived records strike the same cord heard in Young’s music. The latest from Vile, b’lieve I’m goin’ down… adds to his mythos. Vile’s voice may not make a lot of sense in the year 2015, a time where social media has turned us each into “personal brands” and self-worth and identity are tied to online avatars. Vile’s music, however, holds a timeless quality. He doesn’t try to sound like right now and he refrains from falling into the knee-jerk revivalist tendencies of lesser artists. Vile builds off of the music of the past. He doesn’t “revitalize” or “reinvigorate” or any other gross words. Vile’s work is important because he carries the torch of rock music.  His newest album sounds like no other album on this list because it wasn’t made for people who read online lists. It’s a record that wasn’t made for a specific time or place.  Those things are for you to decide. - Grant Stiles

Album highlights: “Pretty Pimpin’,” “I’m an Outlaw,” “Dust Bunnies”

  1. Wilco - Star Wars

At this point in their careers, the announcement of a new Wilco album can bring about any of the following three reactions. 1.) How can the band increase or even maintain the quality of their previous releases? 2.) Oh no, more dad-rock, and 3.) Who is Wilco? In the digital age Jeff Tweedy and Co. are a rare case: kings in some circles and virtually unknown in others. How can a band who has achieved some of the highest critical praise of any band in the past 15 years-- a band fronted by one of the greatest American songwriters of all time, but also a band whose name would likely sound more like a television program for children than a prolific rock band to the average young person-- get past all of the noise around these expectations and non-expectations and just release an album? The answer is to not let anyone know that it’s coming. And to put a cat on the cover for no reason. And to name it Star Wars for no reason.When music fans awakened on July 16 to a new Wilco album that no one knew was happening, people listened rather than talking first. Star Wars is the sound of six seasoned musicians forgetting any outside pressure and simply writing great songs. The album is fun, light and obscure in parts, while still hitting the contemplative, solemn moods that only Jeff Tweedy can hit. It is comforting to know that 20 years into a career, a great band can block out everything else and channel a passion to make great music, and have a lot of fun in the process. - Jordan Petersen

Album highlights: “EKG,” “Random Name Generator,” “Magnetized”

  1. Drake - If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late

For an album rumored to be solely put together to fulfill a contract, and originally dubbed a mixtape, Drake’s fourth album If You're Reading This, It's Too Late delivers a much more confident, possibly arrogant Drake. These 17 tracks have a more cohesive and harder hitting sound. The seductive Drizzy is all but gone and has been replaced by a Drake who goes off about all the fortunes afforded him by his success such as "10 bands," Jordan’s, and hookups with models.  There’s a darker undertone throughout the album, stemming from his growth over the past few years. As Drake has evolved as an artist he’s become more cynical of the industry, his fellow rappers, who he disses throughout the album, and his social network in general. Drake is unafraid to call out behavior he sees as fake, with one song condemning people who are too busy worrying about his Wi-Fi password than actually hanging out.  The music matches Drake’s cool confidence, using subtle piano and R&B in the background throughout the album. Drake’s sound has developed into a well-engineered R&B/hip hop experience with swiftly delivered lyrics. - Gabi Nye

Album highlights: “Energy,” “Jungle,” “No Tellin’”

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