The 100 Best Albums of 2015 (all styles, all genres)
Here are my selections for the 100 best recordings of the year.
And here is a link to my selections for the 201 best tracks of 2015.
My 201 Favorite Tracks of 2015
The 100 Best Albums of 2014
The 100 Best Albums of 2013
The 100 Best Albums of 2012
The 100 Best Albums of 2011
I am often asked how I compile my
annual list of the 100 best albums.
Here is some background information.
What styles of music do I include in
I listen to all genres and all styles of
music. I like to listen to music that is
fresh and different, and this spurs me
to search outside the dominant
commercial categories and hit
releases. But I also listen to the
heavily promoted albums from the
How much music do I listen to?
I like to hear new music every day.
During 2015 I listened to more
than 1,000 new album releases.
(The exact number was 1,016.)
Why do I compile this list?
Like any music lover, I enjoy
sharing my favorite music with others.
But in the last few years, a different
motivation has spurred me. I believe
that the system of music discovery is
broken in the current day. There is
more music recorded than ever before,
but it is almost impossible for listeners
to find the best new recordings. The
most creative work in music is
increasingly found on self-produced
projects and releases from small
indie labels— to an extent hardly
conceivable only a decade ago. Very
little of this music ever shows up on
the radio, where formats seem to get
narrower and narrower with each
passing year. Music fans once heard
good new music at indie record stores,
but most of them have closed. Or
they could read reviews in the
newspaper, but both the newspapers
and the music reviews are shrinking or
disappearing. And the big record
labels are the worst culprits of all,
picking acts for their looks or their
potential appeal to fourteen-year-olds,
or some other egregious reason, and
in general jumping on the most trivial
passing fads. On the other hand,
the Internet presents an almost
infinite amount of music and music
commentary—yet where do fans
even begin to separate the good from
the bad and ugly? My personal solution
to this dilemma has been to listen to
lots and lots of music, and try to
identify recordings of quality and
distinction. I share my list because
I know, from past experience, that
many other listeners are frustrated
with the broken system of music
discovery, and are also looking for
good new music.
What criteria do I apply?
I have no axe to grind. My list is
filled with music I enjoy, and suspect
others will too—especially if they
have a reasonably good ear, and
an open mind. I like recordings that
show some flair and creativity, a
sense of style, solid musicianship,
and an emotional commitment to
the moment of performance. I
appreciate it when an artist
possesses a sense of musical
tradition; on the other hand, I don’t
want to see slavish imitation of the
past. When music strikes me as
too formulaic or contrived or cold,
I start to lose interest. Like any critic,
I want my readers to think that I am
cool and hip and oh-so-up-to-date,
but I learned some time ago that
many of the best recordings are
decidedly uncool and unhip. So if
you want to laugh at me for honoring
a Broadway musical or the soundtrack
to an action moive, go right ahead.
But also check out some of the lesser-
known titles on the list...you might just
be pleasantly surprised by what you hear.
Are any recordings excluded from
consideration for this list?
If I played any role in the release of a
recording—for example, wrote liner notes
—they are excluded from consideration
for my end-of-year lists. For this reason,
For One to Love by Cécile McLorin
Salvant is not included here. Also, I
compile the list at the end of November,
and by necessity cannot consider
albums released in December.
Click on title or album
cover to purchase.
Selected articles by Ted Gioia
available on the web