45 Best Albums of 2015 So Far - Rolling Stone
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45 Best Albums of 2015 So Far

From Kendrick to Kacey, the best LPs from the first six months

45 Best Albums

Bob Dylan's 'Shadows in the Night' and Kendrick Lamar's 'To Pimp a Butterfly.'

It's nearly half over, but the year of the dueling streaming services has already given us plenty of reasons to press play. Mumford went electric, Dylan went Rat Pack and Mark Ronson went to the top of the charts. D'Angelo made a huge impact on 2015 with his bold return (after 14 years without a new album), which was followed by comeback LPs from Faith No More (after 18 years) and the Sonics (49 years). And of course there has been no shortage of newcomers — indie wordsmith Courtney Barnett, hip-hop's giddy Rae Sremmurd, high-concept dance crew Future Brown — turned heads as well. Here's the best of 2015's first six months.

Mbongwana Star, 'From Kinshasha'

Mbongwana Star, ‘From Kinshasha’

We Say: This heady and high-energy Afrofuturist collaboration unites former members of Kinshasa's crippled Staff Benda Bilili crew and the Irish-expatriate producer known as Doctor L. As agents of change (that's what 'mbongwana' means in Lingala), the seven-member group sounds like the inevitable sequel to the D.I.Y. Congolese techno-folk hybrid pioneered by Konono No. 1 (who guest in "Malukayi"). Distorted guitars, sci-fi synths and roadside percussion sketch strategies far from the sweet rumba and soukous riffs that bubble up and fade away.

Downtown Boys, 'Full Communism'

Downtown Boys, ‘Full Communism’

We Say: This six-piece Rhode Island punk act gets its unabashedly Marxist-feminist message across in ways that are both fun and furious. The group's first full-length album flies by in a boisterous, intoxicating rush, 24 minutes of saxophone-laced noise and radical slogans. Downtown Boys' bilingual lyrics are a powerful statement in their own right, a key part of their mission to invade and upend the traditionally white, male punk scene.

Death Grips, 'The Powers That B'

Death Grips, ‘The Powers That B’

We Say: Once intended to be the death knell of the cagey noise-rap trio, fourth album The Powers that B instead paves a twisted road forward. The first disc treats Björk's elastic voice as a "found object," sampling the singer into electronic drum pads and making her sputter, flicker and hiccup. But the leap forward is on disc two, where the band connects with washed out shoegaze wash, hardcore guitars and colorful noise that swirls instead of shocks. 

Hop Along, 'Painted Shut'

Hop Along, ‘Painted Shut’

We Say: What's up with Philly lately? The most-mocked city in indie rock is suddenly bustling with fantastic young guitar bands like Hop Along. Their second album is a deep dive into raw emotions and ragged melodies.

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