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10 best rock albums of 2015

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Alabama Shakes returned, Unknown Mortal Orchestra got weird, and Courtney Barnett made a brilliant introduction. Here are the year’s best rock albums.

10. Metz, Metz II

The Toronto noisemakers’ de facto mission statement comes early in their second set: “Time to spit it out!/Spit you out!” Alex Edkins shrieks. And that’s exactly what Metz do: just 10 songs and 29 minutes of charging bass lines, spastic electric guitars, and throat-ripping screams.—Madison Vain

9. Algiers, Algiers

On their debut, the Atlanta-based crew turned out one of the most best experimental rock records, mixing punk and no-wave noise with gospel, funk and blues. Occasionally, it feels like the whole thing is on the bring of unraveling, which, as it turns out, is exactly what they want. —MV

8. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Multi-Love

The third offering from the New Zealand psych-rockers is as funky an ode to global decline and social decay as you’ll ever hear. Bolstered by shimmering guitars and vibrant synths, frontman Ruban Neilson tackles polyamory (“Multi-Love”), climate change (“Like Acid Rain”), income inequality (“Extreme Wealth and Casual Cruelty”), technological addiction (“Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”), and, in a brilliantly weird narrative turn, overcrowding from the point of view of his infant child (“The World Is Crowded”). –Eric Renner Brown

7. Tame Impala, Currents

Kevin Parker, the Aussie mastermind behind Tame Impala, switches things up for the project’s third album, abandoning the guitar-driven riffs of his earlier work for glitchy electronic detours (“Let It Happen”) and astute dance floor jams (“The Less I Know The Better”). And, as heartbreakers like “Eventually” and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” prove, he is quickly becoming one of the best lyricists around. –ERB

6. Florence + The Machine, How Big How Blue How Beautiful

Florence Welch thoroughly indulged her orchestral impulses on 2011’s Ceremonials, which makes How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful all the more refreshing: Eleven bona fide rockers that display both the gifted singer’s tenderness and knack for the grandiose. –ERB

5. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love

Gone are the vaunted psych-rock explosions of their last album, The Woods, but on their first album in a decade, the reunited trio dished out 10 exhilarating jams that echoed the tightly-wound songwriting craft of their earliest records. —ERB

4. Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color

The Alabama foursome debuted in 2012 with Boys & Girls, a brilliant set of sexy, gritty retro-soul tunes. They could have used that same formula here. Instead, they went bigger, louder, and blessedly, weirder, mixing psychedelic shuffles, eerie strings, and spacey arrangements. —MV

3. Wilco, Star Wars

After 2011’s sonically quirky The Whole Love, Jeff Tweedy and Co. got their groove back on Star Wars, their low-stakes return to form. The 11-song set barely exceeds half an hour but manages to drift from caffeinated glam (“Random Name Generator”) to forlorn folk (“Taste the Ceiling”) to distortion-drenched drone experiments (“You Satellite”). —ERB

2. Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear

Former Fleet Foxes drummer-turned-frontman Josh Tillman delivers an 11-song examination of a complex relationship and all the disillusionment, joy, sorrow, cynicism, heartbreak, and happiness that comes along with it. It’s ugly and raw, but splendidly so. —MV

1. Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

The 28-year-old Aussie breakout endeared herself to listeners with her abundant witticisms — her description of roadkill as a “possum Jackson Pollock” is one of the year’s funniest lyrical turns — but her debut brings so much more to the table, from crunchy alt-rock (“Pedestrian at Best”) to scuzzy blues freak-outs (“Small Poppies”) to pensive ballads (“Depreston”). —ERB

See EW’s best albums and songs of 2015.

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