THEESatisfaction, Courtney Barnett, Telekinesis, Chance the Rapper, and Blur are some of the highlights of 2015.

Every year around this time, people who write about music professionally and amateurishly (and in many cases, both) are beset by the temptation to summarize the preceding 12 months into organizing principles of meaning. The year of the this. The year of the that. What the success of Adele proves. What Kendrick Lamar's artistic triumph augurs. Why both musical theater and contemporary country music aren't necessarily the worst anymore maybe.

The impulse is understandable and frequently entertaining. But it's also sort of wishful—magical realism as the new new journalism. I read the hell out of these lists, partly because I'm still that kind of nerd, and partly because they are a useful primer on all the records I didn't have time to encounter when they came out. But they make me long for the days when time wasn't such a fucking asshole, before having a job meant having a job and not three-for-the-price-of-one-if-you're-lucky, when the question "What do you mean you haven't heard the new ____ record?" didn't have such an easy and obvious answer.

There was no one year in music in 2015. It felt like there were dozens. That killer Missy Elliott song that showed up out of nowhere a month ago that you couldn't stop listening to? It's already an oldie in internet time, and it turns out that you could. How old does that make Sleater-Kinney's No Cities to Love (which came out last January)?

Social media and streaming services allow us to share and share alike, but they also make it easy to do so without listening. I don't mean "really" listening or listening closely—I mean literally listening at all. In the same way people are forever commenting on and sharing news-feed stories without actually reading past the headline, I suspect the phenomenon of "this"-ing new songs by given artists is increasingly a function of self-decoration, affiliation without obligation, an Instagram heart followed by an unkind Tinder swipe. In every conceivable sense, it costs you nothing.

The result of this is canons that are necessarily subjective. And who ever heard of a subjective canon? Oh, wait, we all have. They're called playlists.

As I noted in a Slog post about two local releases I liked a great deal (by Telekinesis and Say Hi), one week in September saw the release of 380 albums. It wasn't an exceptionally busy week, either. A soft 300 to 400 new records every seven days is, to borrow language the media applies to mass gun killings, "the new normal." Multiply that by 52 and you have... well, I can't find the calculator app on my phone anymore, but waaaay more records than you or I will ever even hear of, much less hear. And that's before you factor in all the extra-musical music-precluding things you're expected to keep up with—podcasts, films, TV shows, audiobooks, real books, magazine articles, the occasional human interaction...

Music isn't a world anymore, it's a multiverse. And thinking too hard about why the same 30 to 40 records wind up on almost every list leads to more troubling thoughts. Those thoughts become all the more troubling when I realize that my own new-music diet frequently consists of this same microcanon. But as a wise man once shouted on a record that hasn't been new in 23 years or so (though it still sounds good to me), I'm tryin', I'm tryin', I'm tryin', I'm tryin', I'm tryin', I'm tryin', I'm tryin', I'm tryin', I'm tryin'... I listened to a lot more new music in the past year than I had in the previous five, but it's going to take a few years to figure out which ones are going to matter tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are those lists you've been clamoring for. It is December, after all. We're not barbarians.

—Sean Nelson, Stranger Arts & Music Editor


Top 10 Albums of 2015 (Official)

1. La Luz, Weirdo Shrine (Hardly Art)

2. Silas Blak, Editorials: (War Tunes) (Cabin Games)

3. Chastity Belt, Time to Go Home (Hardly Art)

4. Blur, The Magic Whip (EMI)

5. Pony Time, Rumours 2: The Rumours Are True (self-released)

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

7. Sleaford Mods, Key Markets (Harbinger Sound)

8. Telekinesis, Ad Infinitum (Merge)

9. Industrial Revelation, Liberation & the Kingdom of Nri (self-released)

10. THEESatisfaction, EarthEE (Sub Pop)


Top 10 Singles of 2015 (Official)

1. Future, "I Serve the Base" (Epic)

2. Grimes, "REALiTi" (demo)

3. Courtney Barnett, "Pedestrian at Best" (Mom+Pop)

4. Young Thug, "Best Friend" (YSL)

5. Chance the Rapper, "Angels" (Chance the Rapper LLC)

6. Childbirth, "Let's Be Bad" (Suicide Squeeze)

7. Thundercat, "Them Changes" (Brainfeeder)

8. M.I.A., "Borders" (Interscope/N.E.E.T.)

9. Titus Andronicus, "Dimed Out" (Merge)

10. David Bowie, "Blackstar" (Columbia)


Top 10 Albums of 2015 That Are No Less Good Than the Top 10 Albums of 2015, but We Committed to 10 for Some Reason

1. Protomartyr, The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art)

2. Aphex Twin, Soundcloud Demos (self-released, then deleted)

3. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love (Sub Pop)

4. OCnotes, Color Wheel (self-released)

5. Vince Staples, Summertime '06 (Def Jam)

6. Titus Andronicus, A Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge)

7. Chelsea Wolfe, Abyss (Sargent House)

8. Ahamefule J. Oluo, The Honorable Chief (self-released)

9. Raz Simone, Cognitive Dissonance Part II (Black Umbrella)

10. The Game, The Documentary 2 (Ca$h Machine)


Top 10 Singles of 2015 That Are Every Bit as Good as the Top 10 Singles of 2015 but, Again, We Decided on 10, Sooooooo...

1. Malitia MaliMob, "Wake Up Call" (Black Umbrella)

2. Childbirth, "Nasty Girls" (Suicide Squeeze)

3. Drake, "Hotline Bling" (admit it!) (Cash Money)

4. Erykah Badu and André 3000, "Hello" (Motown)

5. Courtney Barnett, "Depreston" (Mom + Pop)

6. Deerhunter, "Snakeskin" (4AD)

7. Joanna Newsom, "Sapokanikan" (Drag City)

8. Phoebe Bridgers, "Killer" (Pax Am)

9. The Weeknd, "Can't Feel My Face" (XO/Republic)

10. Screaming Females, "Ripe" (Don Giovanni)


Top 10 Records of 2015 That Would Be on Every Critic's Top 10 List If Dave Segal Were King

1. Donato Dozzy, The Loud Silence (Further)

2. Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe/Ariel Kalma, FRKWYS Vol. 12: We Know Each Other Somehow (RVNG Intl.)

3. Natural Information Society & Bitchin Bajas, Automaginary (Drag City)

4. The Necks, Vertigo (Northern Spy)

5. Co La, No No (Software)

6. Circuit des Yeux, In Plain Speech (Thrill Jockey)

7. Valet, Nature (Kranky)

8. Heather Leigh, I Abused Animal (Ideologic Organ)

9. Eternal Tapestry, Wild Strawberries (Thrill Jockey)

10. Obnox, Boogalou Reed (12XU)


Top 10 Records of 2015 That Dave Segal Dares You to Check Out If You Think You Can Even Handle It

1. M.C. Schmidt, Batu Malablab (Megaphone/Knock 'Em Dead)

2. Vibracathedral Orchestra, Rec Blast Motorbike (VHF)

3. Viands, Temporal Relics (Midwich)

4. High Wolf, Growing Wild (Leaving)

5. Hagerty Toth Band, Qalgebra (Three Lobed)

6. Tyondai Braxton, HIVE1 (Nonesuch)

7. My Disco, Severe (Temporary Residence)

8. Daniel Menche and Mamiffer, Crater (SIGE)

9. Innercity, ABABABABABABAS (Blue Lion Child) (Further)

10. William Selman, Picture of the Climates (Hausu Mountain)


Top 10 Albums of 2015 That Are Really Excellent but Make You Feel Like the Next One Is Going to Be Even Better

1. Girlpool, Before the World Was Big (Wichita)

2. DoNormaal, Jump or Die (self-released)

3. Mackned, Female (Thraxxhouse)

4. The Ghost Ease, Raw (Cabin Games)

5. Strange Wilds, Subjective Concepts (Sub Pop)

6. Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Style (Matador)

7. Tenement, Predatory Highlights (Don Giovanni)

8. Bully, Feels Like (Columbia)

9. Julien Baker, Sprained Ankle (6131)

10. Pure Bathing Culture, Pray for Rain (Partisan)


Top 10 Records of 2015 We Liked a Lot and Might Have Put in the Top 10 Records of 2015 If Only We'd Made a Little More Time to Spend with Them So We Could Be Sure. But Time Is Precious and Finite, and There's a Lot of Music in This World and Only So Many Hours in a Day. Sorry. GOD!

1. Hop Along, Painted Shut (Saddle Creek)

2. Julia Holter, Have You in My Wilderness (Domino)

3. Lower Dens, Escape from Evil (Ribbon)

4. Romaro Franceswa, Balance (self-released)

5. Levantis, Romantic Psychology 1 (Technicolour)

6. Grace Love and the True Loves, Grace Love and the True Loves (self-released)

7. Oneohtrix Point Never, Garden of Delete (Warp)

8. Talib Kweli, Train of Thought: Lost Lyrics, Rare Releases & Beautiful B-Sides, Vol. 1 (Javotti)

9. Chris Stapleton, Traveller (Mercury Nashville)

10. Jenny Hval, Apocalypse, Girl (Sacred Bones)


Top 5 Albums of 2015 We Downloaded but Never Quite Got Around to Actually Listening To. The Year's Not Over Yet, Though!

1. Ryan Adams, 1989 (PaxAm)

2. Fetty Wap, Fetty Wap (300/Atlantic)

3. Wilco, Star Wars (dBPM)

4. The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness (XO/Republic)

5. Weird Al Yankovic, Mandatory Fun (RCA)


Top 5 Albums of 2015 You Can Feel Okay About Pretending to Have Loved Even If You Never Made It All the Way Through Them

1. Bjork, Vulnicura (One Little Indian)

2. Joanna Newsom, Divers (Drag City)

3. Beach House, Depression Cherry (Sub Pop)

4. Beach House, Thank Your Lucky Stars (Sub Pop)

5. Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)


Top 5 Albums to Recommend to Your Friend Who's Roughly Your Age and Hasn't Been Paying Attention for the Past Few Years but "I Totally Need to Catch Up. Fuck, I Feel So Old!"

1. Hamilton Original Cast Recording (Atlantic) ("It really sounds like hiphop used to sound, before the producers took over!")

2. Speedy Ortiz, Foil Deer (Carpark) ("It really sounds like Pavement, but with a woman singer who can sing and write great songs!")

3. Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp (Merge) ("It really sounds they just stepped out of a college radio in-studio in 1990, but like together.")

4. Blur, The Magic Whip (EMI) ("No, it's new! It's like Blur meets 13 meets The Great Escape!")

5. Lower Dens, Escape from Evil (Ribbon) ("It's like if the '80s had actually been good!")


Top 10 Auto-Tuned Notes of 2015

1. Ab/G#

2. D natural

3. C#/Db

4. F natural

5. A natural

6. C natural

7. Eb/D#

8. E natural

9. G natural

10. Bb/A#


Top 10 Adjectives Used to Describe Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015

1. Dense

2. Contradictory

3. Provocative

4. Layered

5. Searing

6. Blistering

7. Epic

8. Ambitious

9. Forceful

10. Essential


Top 10 Hiphop Albums of 2015 You Can Safely Use to Fill Out Your Top 10 Albums List of 2015

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

2. Hamilton Original Cast Recording (Atlantic)

3. The Internet, Ego Death (Odd Future, Columbia)

4. Drake, If You're Reading This, It's Too Late (Cash Money)

5. Future, DS2 (Epic)

6. Drake & Future, What a Time to Be Alive (Apple Music)

7. Vince Staples, Summertime '06 (Def Jam)

8. A$AP Rocky, At. Long. Last. A$AP (RCA)

9. Travis Scott, Rodeo (Epic)

10. Meek Mill, Dreams Worth More Than Money (Maybach Music Group/Atlantic/Dream Chasers)


Top 5 Country Artists You're Now Allowed, and in Some Cases Expected, to Like or at Least to Pretend To Like of 2015

1. Chris Stapleton

2. Kacey Musgraves

3. Sturgill Simpson

4. Miranda Lambert

5. Whitey Morgan


Top 10 Local Hiphop Artists You're Going to Brag About Having Been Into in 2014 in 2016 of 2015

1. Nacho Picasso

2. Porter Ray

3. THEESatisfaction

4. DoNormaal

5. Gifted Gab

6. Key Nyata

7. Mackned

8. Ugly Frank

9. Raz Simone

10. Malitia MaliMob


Top 10 Potential Subjects for a Hamilton-Style Rap-Based Musical About an Incongruous Historical Personage of 2015

1. John Donne

2. William of Ockham

3. The guy who invented Pez

4. Priscilla Mullins

5. Jesse Helms

6. Shigeru Miyamoto

7. Sigmund Freud

8. The making of The Matrix

9. Lewis & Clark & Sacagawea

10. Margaret Thatcher


Top 10 Reissues of 2015

1. Bob Dylan and the Band, The Basement Tapes Complete (Columbia)

2. John Coltrane, A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters (Verve)

3. A Tribe Called Quest, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (JIVE)

4. Ariel Kalma, Open Like a Flute (Black Sweat)

5. Sun City Girls, Torch of the Mystics (Abduction)

6. Built to Spill, There's Nothing Wrong with Love (Sub Pop/Up)

7. Lamartine, Reportage (Finders Keepers)

8. Savant, Artificial Dance (RVNG Int.)

9. Six Organs of Admittance, Dust and Chimes (Holy Mountain)

10. Unwound, Empire (Numero Group)


Top 10 Sentences by Larry Mizell Jr. of 2015

1. "It does not bang in any sense—Ryan Lewis's productions don't really do that—and is a too-many-tabs-open mess of musical ideas." (re: Macklemore's "Downtown," Aug 28)

2. "More importantly, you never get the feeling that Kendrick is going to tell you racism is a thing of the past (like Kanye or A$AP Ferg have) or that black folks needed to 'extend their hand in love' and 'forget about the past' to fix it (as Selma soundtrack Grammy- and Oscar-winner Common fixed his face to say recently)." (To Pimp a Butterfly review, April 1)

3. "Every new name crossed out by the police—or the unlicensed, unbonded white terrorists who drink from the same well as the cops—is another invitation to be traumatized, to be filled past bursting with bile, frothing over like shook-up soda." (My Philosophy, Dec 2)

4. "Do you sit on FB commenting on scary-ass status updates bemoaning 'Somali gangbangers' on Pike Street while ignoring the fact that 300,000 of your neighbors can't send money home anymore because of the war on terror?" (My Philosophy, re: Malitia MaliMob, March 4)

5. "Let the record show that the week this album dropped: (1) Starbucks publicized a ham-fisted initiative to make their least-paid employees attempt to discuss race with their customers in the two minutes before they get their morning fix (let's hope they were insured against any resulting third-degree facial burns), (2) a black UVA student had his head beat bloody on the concrete by beverage control officers for allegedly using a fake ID; (3) a middle-aged black man named Otis Byrd was found lynched in a tree behind his own house in Mississippi, and at press time is still considered the prime suspect in his own death." (My Philosophy, re: To Pimp a Butterfly, March 25)

6. "To a lot of trad rap heads—who historically keep the finger they would otherwise keep on the pulse of what's going on right up their fuckin' asses—most ATL rap is identical gibberish with triplet hi-hats (and being only half-right is not being right, IMO), and rap's keynote weirdo Young Thug is pretty much the Antichrist, given his fuckless gender-flouting gangster persona." (My Philosophy, Oct 7)

7. "Something I don't mind telling you: I had an Everclear T-shirt." (Everclear preview, Nov 7)

8. "Compare that to Compton, which, despite some nice hooks, beats, and guests (especially Anderson Paak), smacks too much of the high-tech, hermetically sealed melodrama of an Eminem album—WHY ARE WE YELLING?—and too little of the creeping, laid-back menace-funk that Dre practically invented." (My Philosophy, Aug 12)

9. "If you really like rap—and not just the way that rap informs your self-image, and not only the rap you or your friends make, or the rap you grew up on (or the shit that just sorta sounds like it, which you also might make yourself)—well goddamn, you really might just be enjoying all this good shit dropping in 2015 right now." (My Philosophy, July 22)

10. "Batten down the hatches, batches!" (My Philosophy, Nov 11)


Top 5 Albums of 2014 That Have Remained in Steady Rotation All Through 2015

1. Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal)

2. Flying Lotus, You're Dead (Warp)

3. Shabazz Palaces, Lese Majesty (Sub Pop)

4. D'Angelo, Black Messiah (RCA)

5. Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar)


Top 5 Albums from 2014 That Haven't

1. The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian)

2. Sun Kil Moon, Benji (Caldo Verde)

3. Future Islands, Singles (4AD/Hostess)

4. Ariel Pink, Pom Pom (4AD)

5. Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence (Interscope)


Top 5 Songs on D'Angelo and the Vanguard's Black Messiah That Made You Either (a) Fuck or (b) Want to Fuck in 2015

1. "Ain't That Easy"

2. "Sugah Daddy"

3. "Really Love" (1:30-end)

4. "Betray My Heart"

5. "Another Life"


Top 10 Surreptitious Vape Crannies in Seattle Clubs of 2015

1. Between the sound booth and backstage entrance at Barboza

2. Left side upper seating area at the Showbox

3. Everywhere at Chop Suey

4. Between the merch booth and showroom doors at Neumos

5. Stairwell at rear of showroom at Neumos

6. Corridor between showroom bar and bathrooms at Sunset Tavern

7. Hallway between front room and back room at Lo-Fi

8. That one alcove at the Tractor Tavern

9. Everywhere at Kremwerk

10. Next to the sound booth at Crocodile


Top 5 Songs That Should Be Banned from Karaoke Bars for a Period of No Less Than 12 Months, Starting Yesterday of 2015

1. Adele, "Hello"

2. Miley Cyrus, "Wrecking Ball"

3. Drake, "Hotline Bling"

4. Bonnie Tyler, "Total Eclipse of the Heart"

5. Do we even have to say it? (Rhymes with "gurney, won't drop a bleedin'"?)


Top 5 Top 10 Albums of 2015 Lists of 2015

1. Pitchfork, page 5

2. NPR Music

3. Ann Powers (personal)

4. Stereogum, page 5

5. Jeremy's Top 10 Albums of 2015 at metalinjection.net


Top 5 Songs You Can Listen To to Take Your Mind Off What a Drag That New With Bob & David Series on Netflix Was

1. The Beach Boys, "Don't Worry Baby"

2. Matthew Sweet, "Nothing Lasts"

3. Public Enemy, "Welcome to the Terrordome"

4. Harry Nilsson, "Don't Forget Me"

5. X, "I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts"


Top 5 Albums You Can Expect to Hear Us Going On and On About When They Come Out in 2016 of 2015

1. Gazebos, Die Alone (Hardly Art)

2. Ty Segall, Emotional Mugger (Drag City)

3. Raz Simone, Trap Spirituals (Black Umbrella)

4. Deep Sea Diver, Secrets (High Beam)

5. La Sera, Music for Listening to Music To (Polyvinyl) recommended