I've seen a lot of people complaining about this being a sub-par year for releases. I call bullshit on that. I can't remember there ever being a year where there weren't at least 20 albums I loved. This year was certainly no exception.
As a general (probably unneccessary) disclaimer, my list contains both LPs and EPs covering many genres. They're ranked not by some sort of arbitrary artistic "importance" or by their influence or sales. It's simply a list of the albums that meant the most to me and that got the most spins.
The only two albums I had no trouble ranking were #1 and #2. There was no question about those and they held the position for the majority of the year. The rest of the list was diffucult to rank, but every album here is brilliant in it's own rite and I hope you find something new here that you haven't heard before!
Stay tuned tomorrow for my Top Ten!
The Roots – undun
undun could have easily been much higher on this list had it not been for it's December release date. I just didn't have enough time to give it more spins. As it stands though, The Roots' concept album is full of life, pain, discovery and some beautifully organic, forward-thinking hip hop.
Peter Wolf Crier – Garden Of Arms
Before hearing "Right Away" I (and probably most people) were expecting another Americana-tinged midwest indie album from the duo of Peter Wolf Crier. The first single changed everything and showed PWC's far more psych-experimental side. That's not to say that the songwriting came loose and and the jams got any less catchy. It's always a pleasure seeing a band you love pull off a move in an entirely different direction.
tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
From my original review: "I use this word "quirky" quite a bit to try to describe some of my musical tastes and while it's hard to define exactly what I mean by it, I feel like it's accurate. In this case, Tune-Yards' new album is lush, heavily produced, and after careful breakdown is entirely made up of things you've heard before. But it has this free-spirited playfulness flowing through it. I love that sentiment in music, because while I'm generally a hopeless romantic, I also love music as entertainment that's just damn fun."
Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R.
Futuristic warfare. Assassins. Time travel. Complex rhymes. Hard beats. IDRIS fucking ELBA!
Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest
If it takes eight years to figure out how to create something so devastatingly beautiful, so be it. I can wait. And I'll wait again for another gem like this.
Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
The first Iron & Wine album I've legitimately connected with (heresy!) beyond just enjoying the sounds coming out of my speakers. "Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me" is the album closer of the year.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – It's A Corporate World
Despite the recycled material from previously released EPs, It's A Corporate World was still an album full of bright and enthusiastic soundscapes. It's accessible electro-tinged pop that doesn't conform to any trendy, synthy, chilly bullshit.
Hezekiah Jones – Have You Seen Our New Fort?
Side A: Uptempo, lively, and chock full of catchy melodies. Side B: Gentle, graceful, and seeping with emotion. It's really a tale of two albums here, but Have You Seen Our New Fort? is bolstered by it's tight instrumentation, solid percussion, and the lovely voice of Raphael Cutrufello.
Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
I overcame the werid taste left by the supremely awkward Girls concert I saw and came to appreciate this album. It's overflowing with ideas and scattered genres but it's tied together by it's honesty and emotion.
Alabama Shakes – EP
The talk of the indie town was a little known band with a different name and 4 songs a mere few months ago when we heard them. For once, this is a buzzband truly worth the hype. I have every expectation of their LP being high on this list next year.
Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong
It pains me to not put Nothing Is Wrong in my top ten, but it wasn't to be. I'm still sincerely loyal to the boys and they have a real knack for putting my emotions in sonic form. Also, one of my favorite vinyl purchases this year.