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All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2015

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All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2015

Best Music Of 2015

All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2015

All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2015

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Clockwise from upper left: Bjork, Torres, Kendrick Lamar, Missy Elliott, Courtney Barnett, Lin-Manuel Miranda in the Hamilton musical, Sufjan Stevens Courtesy of the artists hide caption

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Courtesy of the artists

Bob loves it. He hates it. He's on the fence about it. Lyrics from Courtney Barnett's "Pedestrian At Best," from Bob Boilen's favorite album of 2015, could also stand in for his feelings about the music he listened to all year. But today we're here to celebrate the best of the bunch. On this week's All Songs Considered, hosts Bob and Robin Hilton are joined by NPR Music's Ann Powers and Stephen Thompson for an attempt to digest the entire year in music in just 90 minutes, in a discussion of the albums that stood out to them and the ones they just couldn't ignore.

Robin was thrilled with the return of some of his favorite artists. At the start of the year, Sleater-Kinney emerged from a 10-year hibernation with what might be their most accessible, confident record yet; near its end, Missy Elliott returned with a bangin' new single. Bob's biggest surprise, Girlpool, had the smallest sound (just two guitars and no drums) but the duo, teens when they made the record, make bare-knuckled songs. Bjork released a genre-blurring gift-of-an album that just keeps on giving and Joanna Newsom made Ann's year with the stunningly complex Divers. For Stephen, it was a great year for lyricists like Kendrick Lamar, whose resonant To Pimp A Butterfly hyped him up, and Joan Shelley, whose soothing, beautiful voice calmed him down. And 2015's biggest pop moment, Adele's 25, has its broad audience to thank for record-breaking sales just in time for the end of the year.

Hear the discussion and the rest of the songs on the show, and look out for NPR Music's list of our 50 favorite albums of 2015, coming soon.

Songs Featured On This Episode

Cover for Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit [LP]

Pedestrian at Best

  • from Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit [LP]
  • by Courtney Barnett

"This will be, for sure, my favorite record of 2015. This song, 'Pedestrian At Best', [Barnett] wrote at the very last minute. She basically sang this song for the very first time in the recording session. She wrote songs over the course of a year, but held them back from the band in order to keep it fresh. I think you get all of that when you hear this record." --Bob Boilen

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Song
Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit [LP]
Album
Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit [LP]
Artist
Courtney Barnett
Label
Mom + Pop Music
Released
2015

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Cover for Vulnicura [LP]

All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2015

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Mouth Mantra

  • from Vulnicura [LP]
  • by Björk

"It is just this raw, intense, confessional music, but also, because it's Bjork, it's musically experimental, it's highly orchestrated and just a deep plunge into a black lake and you surface on the other side. A gorgeous record. A surprising record. A deep record that just keeps on giving." --Ann Powers

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Song
Vulnicura [LP]
Album
Vulnicura [LP]
Artist
Björk
Label
One Little Indian
Released
2015

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Cover for No Cities To Love

All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2015

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Price Tag

  • from No Cities To Love
  • by Sleater-Kinney

"I think they put together their most accessible record that they've ever done. It's a confident, furious, aggressive, super tight record." --Robin Hilton

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Song
No Cities To Love
Album
No Cities To Love
Artist
Sleater-Kinney
Label
Sub Pop
Released
2015

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Cover for To Pimp A Butterfly

King Kunta

  • from To Pimp A Butterfly
  • by Kendrick Lamar

"If you were to name one Album Of The Year, this is kind of the album of the year, right? In terms of albums where people will be talking about the quality and messaging and content and just the amount of ideas that are stuffed into [it], and the statement that this record represents." --Stephen Thompson

LANGUAGE ADVISORY: This video contains profanity.

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Song
To Pimp A Butterfly
Album
To Pimp A Butterfly
Artist
Kendrick Lamar
Label
Universal
Released
2015

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Cover for Carrie & Lowell

All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2015

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John My Beloved

  • from Carrie & Lowell
  • by Sufjan Stevens

"[Stevens] gets put through the ringer on this record, trying to make sense of everything that's happened to him, and concludes, 'I'm not going to be bitter. I'm going to have love.'" --Robin Hilton

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Song
Carrie & Lowell
Album
Carrie & Lowell
Artist
Sufjan Stevens
Label
Asthmatic Kitty Records
Released
2015

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Amazon

07Crowded Stranger

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    Song
    Crowded Stranger
    Album
    Before The World Was Big
    Artist
    Girlpool
    Released
    1969

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Crowded Stranger

  • from Before The World Was Big
  • by Girlpool

"It's probably the simplest sort of music out there in terms of it's just two players, bass and guitar. Like the Sufjan record, there are no drums, which I thought made their sound stand out and made their words stand out more." --Bob Boilen

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Song
Before The World Was Big
Album
Before The World Was Big
Artist
Girlpool

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Cover art for Pageant Material.

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All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2015

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Dime Store Cowgirl

  • from Pageant Material
  • by Kacey Musgraves

"I just came back to this record again and again for these incredibly charming, beautiful, very melodically sound little mission statements. [Musgraves] is all about telling people to mind their nosy beeswax in song after song while still kind of establishing this very distinct identity." --Stephen Thompson

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Song
Pageant Material
Album
Pageant Material
Artist
Kacey Musgraves
Label
Mercury Nashville
Released
2015

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Cover for Sprinter

All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2015

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Sprinter

  • from Sprinter
  • by Torres

"When I saw [Torres] live earlier this year, at the end of that show I though, she's going to be huge. She is going to be really huge someday. I hope it happens for her because she is such a force." --Robin Hilton

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Song
Sprinter
Album
Sprinter
Artist
Torres
Label
Partisan Records
Released
2015

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Cover for Star Wars [LP]

All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2015

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Magnetized

  • from Star Wars [LP]
  • by Wilco

"Ten years from now I'll still be reaching for this record. [Between] this record, Star Wars, and the Tweedy record last year, I think Jeff Tweedy's doing some of the best songwriting of his life right now." --Robin Hilton

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Song
Star Wars [LP]
Album
Star Wars [LP]
Artist
Wilco
Label
Anti
Released
2015

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All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2015

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Flagship

  • from Something More Than Free
  • by Jason Isbell

"This new album, Something More Than Free, not only is a triumph artistically, really such a profound, beautifully crafted set of songs about Southern life, about family life, about personal changes, but also, it was a major commercial accomplishment. Jason topped the rock, Americana and country charts all at the same time with this album." --Ann Powers

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Song
Something More Than Free
Album
Something More Than Free
Artist
Jason Isbell
Label
Southeastern Records
Released
2015

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Cover for Over And Even

Easy Now

  • from Over And Even
  • by Joan Shelley

"For me, this was just my favorite album of the year. This was the record I listened to the most. It was one that I turned to when I'm just always looking to calm down a little bit and this was the album that did it for me." --Stephen Thompson

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Song
Over And Even
Album
Over And Even
Artist
Joan Shelley
Label
No Quarter
Released
2015

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Cover for Hamilton

02Cabinet Battle #1

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    Song
    Cabinet Battle #1
    Album
    Hamilton
    Artist
    Cast Recording
    Released
    1969

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Cabinet Battle #1

  • from Hamilton
  • by Cast Recording

"People who really love hip-hop managed to respect it and think that it was actually done very well, and people who don't normally listen to hip-hop found themselves loving it. Just smart songwriting, great rhymes, powerful characters." --Robin Hilton

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Song
Hamilton
Album
Hamilton
Artist
Cast Recording

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Cover for Divers

11Time, As a Symptom

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    Song
    Time, As a Symptom
    Album
    Divers
    Artist
    Joanna Newsom
    Label
    Drag City
    Released
    2015

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Time, As a Symptom

  • from Divers
  • by Joanna Newsom

"For me, listening to an album like Divers gives me a space. It gives me a space to contemplate the important things in life. And I'm really grateful to Joanna Newsom for giving that to me." --Ann Powers

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Song
Divers
Album
Divers
Artist
Joanna Newsom
Label
Drag City
Released
2015

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Cover for 25

Hello

  • from 25
  • by Adele

"The overall response and reviews to this record were really very mixed across the board. I expected universal love and if you go to a site like Metacritic and look at the average, the average score is basically a C for this." --Robin Hilton

"One of the things that speaks to the popularity of it is the width and breadth and scope of the kinds of people who go and listen to Adele. All sorts of ages, all sorts of people of all different races and all different backgrounds. There's something to what she does that speaks to a broad cross-section, unlike almost all of the artists we've picked here today." --Bob Boilen

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Song
25
Album
25
Artist
Adele
Label
Columbia
Released
2015

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Cover for WTF (Where They From)

WTF (Where They From)

  • from WTF (Where They From)
  • by Missy Elliott feat. Pharrell Williams

"I'll just say that no one compares [to Missy Elliott] and I'm ecstatic to have her back." --Robin Hilton

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Song
WTF (Where They From)
Album
WTF (Where They From)
Artist
Missy Elliott feat. Pharrell Williams

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