Listen to This: Best of the Year (So Far)

For this first installment of my new music column, I’ll begin with an important disclaimer: Aside from my self-proclaimed expertise on the experimental rock band Radiohead (which I’ve been obsessed-beyond-belief with since age 12), I’m not claiming to know more about music than the average person. So think of this column as a weekly list of my personal music suggestions, and I’ll try to be as intellectual about it as possible — in a good way.

We’re three-quarters into 2015, and I would say it’s been a pretty stellar year for album releases (even though Frank Ocean lied to us again). These are my favorite albums of the year so far, ordered by their release dates.

Panda Bear // Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
I hated this album when I first heard it. I was annoyed by the amount of things going on in my ears that all seemed to be contradicting one another; the dramatic, choral vocals combined with the bubbling sounds you’d normally hear coming from a fish tank combined with pulsing synths. It was too much. But somehow I wasn’t annoyed enough to stop myself from playing it a second time, and by the third listen I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t annoyed, just confused. And now I love it. Great explanation, right? Anyway, try it out, but be patient. It’s weird.
Best tracks: “Boys Latin,” “Mr Noah”

Father John Misty // I Love You, Honeybear
What I love about this album is its confidence. Father John Misty’s (Josh Tillman’s) lyrics are the sweet, strange and intensely personal type you’d expect to be paired with the soft strum of a guitar and little else, but his musical arrangements are adventurous and unexpectedly upbeat. Though I still consider myself a Fleet Foxes fan, I’m glad Tillman split off from them. He was clearly meant to fly solo.
Best tracks: “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt.,” “Chateau Lobby #4”

Kendrick Lamar // To Pimp a Butterfly
It seems practically useless to write about this one since so much has already been said about its impact, but I couldn’t leave it off of my list. This is by far my favorite album of the year; as much as I loved Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d. city,” “To Pimp a Butterfly” displays his talent for lyricism like nothing else he’s released. I also have a weak spot for albums that tell a story by blending one song into the next, and TPAB does that beautifully.
Best tracks: “Momma,” “How Much A Dollar Cost”

Earl Sweatshirt // I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
The title of this album alone probably would have landed it a spot on my list, but the musical content is just as good. Earl Sweatshirt is one of my favorite young rappers, and I’m a little sad that this quietly fantastic release seemed to go mostly unnoticed. It’s an understated, 30-minute-long record with few embellishments that at times just sounds like an ultra-impressive freestyle rather than the meticulously planned piece of work that it is. And I mean that as a compliment.
Best tracks: “Wool,” “Huey”

Tame Impala // Currents
I fell in love with Tame Impala upon hearing the first few notes of “Lonerism” (2012), and this latest release reminded me why they’re so fun to listen to. “Currents” is more of a pop album than its predecessor; songs like “The Less I Know the Better” and “Reality in Motion” almost sound like they belong at a disco. Every single track is unbelievably catchy.
Best tracks: “New Person, Same Old Mistakes,” “Eventually”

Beach House // Depression Cherry
This is the album I spent most of the year waiting impatiently for and then completely geeking out over once I finally heard it. Beach House has, in my opinion, never put out a weak album. “Depression Cherry” is like listening to a daydream. The songs are slow, but bold and theatrical, and Victoria Legrand’s vocals have never sounded stronger.
Best tracks: “Levitation,” “PPP”