The 10 Worst Albums of 2015

The 10 Worst Albums of 2015


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Last week we offered up 25 reasons why the album, as a creative force, is alive and kicking. From pop (Grimes’s Art Angels) to rock (Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit) to R&B (Miguel’s Wildheart) and hip-hop (Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly), 2015 saw no shortage of artists shaping—or reshaping—the format to make statements about love, sex, depression, and institutionalized racism. But there was also no dearth of new and established acts churning out indulgent, grating, and otherwise ill-conceived albums. From paint-by-numbers new age to crass rap to retro-obsessed pop, we’ve assembled a list of 10 albums we hope you won’t find under the tree next week.

The 10 Worst Albums of 2015


Enya, Dark Sky Island

Even by the standards of “Orinoco Flow” or “Caribbean Blue,” Enya’s Dark Sky Island is turgid and portentous and empty, setting platitudes like “Only time keeps us apart” and “There is wisdom waiting to be found” to the same handful of sonic backdrops she’s been recycling every five years or so. It’s been 10 since Amarantine, with only a stop-gap Christmas album in between, and the absence has seemed to make critics feel kind, earning Dark Sky Island Enya’s best reviews since 1995’s supposed classic The Memory Tree. Unless you’re afflicted by the same nostalgia, though, it’s hard to imagine being enamored with, say, that plucking violin sound from 2000’s “Only Time” being given an almost note-perfect recreation 15 years later (on “Echoes in Rain”) or the new-age-y made-up language of the title track. In other words, Enya’s latest will appeal to fans of other Enya albums and no one else. Sam Mac

The 10 Worst Albums of 2015


The Dead Weather, Dodge and Burn

Jack White’s umpteenth side project, the Dead Weather, has always been a repository for his most unimaginative and grating musical tendencies, but with Dodge and Burn, the band has taken their riffless brand of sludge rock to a new level of rifflessness and sludginess. Led by Kills frontwoman Alison Mosshart, Dodge and Burn sees the perpetually leather jacket-clad band once again attempting to imprint their laughably contrived brooding badasses image onto record via cement-mixer distortion and cringe-worthy “tough” lyrics like “And if you stand in my way/I’m gonna bully bully bully/Bully till I’m free.” It’s telling that the best song on this tuneless album, “Three Dollar Hat,” features White straight-up rapping. The song’s most redeeming quality? It doesn’t sound anything like the Dead Weather. Jeremy Winograd

The 10 Worst Albums of 2015


Tyler, the Creator, Cherry Bomb

Cherry Bomb tries to get back to a sound Tyler, the Creator clearly isn’t feeling anymore, having already abandoned the uncompromising anger of Goblin for the blissed-out, toked-up vibes of 2013’s Wolf. Mainly the rapper just seems to be out of ideas, compensating for a lack of engaging lyrics or melodies with sheer punishing volume in a way not even the abrasive sonics of Goblin ever quite succumbed to. And when that isn’t working, he reverts to the more chilled grooves of Wolf, in the process proving himself to be rap’s least convincing loverman. Sample lyric: “FaceTime your clit/I will jack off my dick.” Mac

The 10 Worst Albums of 2015


Ringo Starr, Postcards from Paradise

When considering the prospect of acquiring a Ringo Starr solo album, one must always keep in mind that the Funny One’s peak as a songwriter was “Octopus’s Garden.” Forty-five years later, he may very well have hit his nadir with the title track from Postcards from Paradise, composed of three basic chords and lyrics consisting of a succession of Beatles song titles (sample lyric: “I know you told me yesterday/You’ve got to hide your love away”). The rest of the album isn’t much better, and certainly isn’t enhanced by Ringo’s obviously Auto-Tuned vocals, which sit damningly at the center of the mix among a bunch of soulless guitar twiddling and cheap-sounding synths. Winograd

The 10 Worst Albums of 2015


Neil Young and Promise of the Real, The Monsanto Years

Counting his efforts with Buffalo Springfield and various iterations of Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, The Monsanto Years is Neil Young’s 46th studio album, and even with that kind of prolificacy under his belt, it’s easily one of his worst efforts to date. The lyrics are so ham-fistedly overt in their politics (“In the streets of the Capitol, corporations are taking control/Democracy crushed at their feet”) that they make Young’s previous protest songs, like “Ohio,” sound like “I Am the Walrus” by comparison. Almost every one of the album’s nine tracks are big agribusiness screeds so grating and unsubtle that one could easily get better (and more lyrical) insight on the issue from a half-decent YouTube vlogger. Winograd