This was the year to take a long look in the mirror; a year when hip-hop acts largely moved toward the political without neglecting to examine their role in the big picture; when punk acts refused to pigeonhole themselves in a genre almost reductive by definition; when indie artists released concept albums about their family relationships; and when successful icons sang about their failed marriages.

It was a year of successful comebacks, when a handful of veteran artists came together after long hiatuses to offer some of the best work of their careers. It was also a year that, more often than not, benefited from a general lack of restraint — when rappers, indie rockers and black metal bands alike didn't think twice about releasing 90-minute albums with scores of collaborators and hundred-layer symphonic arrangements, often all in the service of a single gleaming pop song. It also seemed to be a very good year for saxophones.

Take a look back with us in the gallery above as we examine the best 50 albums of 2015.

More From