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Stephen Thompson's Top 10 Albums Of 2015

Joan Shelley's <em>Over And Even</em> is Stephen Thompson's favorite album of 2015.
Courtesy of the artist
Joan Shelley's Over And Even is Stephen Thompson's favorite album of 2015.

If 2015 has felt musically overstuffed, that's at least in part because the year's many highlights seem to spring from every musical direction. This is just one writer's list of favorites — fueled by a unique set of biases, personal circumstances, genre preferences, neuroses and disorders — and yet it's broad enough to include dreamy folk-pop ballads, a hip-hop opus, a wordy poet finding her inner megaphone, a young country singer's latest crop of mission statements, a veteran band that's transformed spare ingredients into a career highlight after a dozen albums and a minimalist punk duo whose abrasiveness cloaks bracing beauty.

It's been a year full of music that feels not only great, but necessary: These 10 albums plumb emotional depths, deliver powerful messages and, just when you need them most, soothe worried minds in a year when a bit of calm is a priceless commodity.

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Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson is a host, writer and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist and guest host on All Songs Considered. Thompson also co-hosts the daily NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created with NPR's Linda Holmes in 2010. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)