It has become an annual tradition for me to write up a list of music I liked in a given year. Now I am not one lightly to break with tradition but the truth is I have not been able to keep up as I have in years past, so I was planning on skipping this year. But I’ve had several requests to write it up anyway so here we go. Given the limitations, this year’s list doesn’t push my listening habits very far so forgive me if it’s a bit ‘conservative.’ Let me know what albums I missed or how wrong my choices are. The hierarchy beyond the top 10 is mostly arbitrary, because how can you really compare an R & B record to a punk record? You can’t.
1) Benji, Sun Kil Moon: Profoundly melancholy. Rich storytelling. “I Watched The Film The Song Remained The Same” a top song of the decade
2) Morning Phase, Beck: Earlier praised, later neglected. Slow, majestic, dramatic. Like Sea Change but the minimalism is starker.
3) Atomos, A Winged Victory For The Sullen: More strings and complex arrangements than (also delightful) debut. Ethereal, romantic, sweeping
4) Run The Jewels 2, Run The Jewels: I’m not a reliable reviewer of rap, but this lp was gripping. Aggressive, powerful, big synths
5) Home, Like Noplace I Know, The Hotelier: Tapping into multiple classic emo sounds while avoiding cliches or sounding like high schoolers
6) Shriek, Wye Oak: A strong shift from previous guitar-driven sound. Bass & synth dominate. Bass licks off the chart. Melodic and moody
7) Lost In The Dream, The War on Drugs: Perfecting the ‘dad rock’ sound. A laid back ‘post-punk’, owing more to Springsteen than The Ramones
8) They Want My Soul, Spoon: To make a record this good after being around 20+ shows just how important this band is. Full swagger rock&roll
9) In Conflict, Owen Pallett: Extraordinarily high levels of song writing. Not entirely sure how to classify it. Chamber rock?
10) Sylvan Esso, Sylvan Esso: Unlikely joint effort of an appalachian folk singer and a dj. Beautiful, airy, with hooks that sink deep
11) Are We There, Sharon Van Etten: A woman, a guitar, a soaring voice, and heartache
12) Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, Sturgill Simpson: All philosophers need to know’s the opening track is “Turtles All The Way Down”
13) Ruins, Grouper: Stunning, ethereal, ambient, piano music. Drifts now in, now out, yet lp goes quickly. Opposite of ‘background’ music
14) LP1, FKA twigs: Thoroughly contemporary art pop by UK singer. Universally praised for good reason.
15) Black Messiah, D’Angelo: Suddenly & unexpectedly released after most lists compiled. Soulful, guitar-centric, r&b frm established artist
16) Built On Glass, Chet Faker: Another progressive r&b record. I’m dreaming of a Faker, Frank Ocean, James Blake team up.
17) Too Bright, Perfume Genius: Significant artistic growth for him. Gay pride; sensitive soul; sweet voiced piano ballads
18) Asleep Versions, Jon Hopkins: Just a small remix EP, yet eloquently, patiently, painstakingly, & expertly done. Moar King Creosote plz!
19) Sea When Absent, Sunny Day in Glasgow: Sometimes a wall of guitar, sometimes a wall of synth, often catchy; a classic shoegaze record
20) In The Lonely Hour, Sam Smith: My bae. The year’s unrequitted love LP. He got popular for a reason
21) Punk lps of the year are a close tie: Say Yes To Love, Perfect Pussy; More Than Any Other Day, Ought; Sunbathing Animal, Parquet Courts; Here And Nowhere Else, Cloud Nothings; 1984, Ryan Adams; Courting Strong, Martha; and Eagulls, Eagulls – All worth checking out
22) Guilty of Everything, Nothing: Like last year’s Deafheaven, a combination of shoegaze w/ metal, but less black metal, more nu metal
23) It’s Album Time, Todd Terje: Before it’s cool again, an analog synth lp w/ 80’s influence. But not nostalgic, quite synthetic & creative Let’s add Shrink Dust, Chad VanGaalen to the punk records. Because it’s just as good, sort of belongs, and it’s my list
24) Love Fail, David Lang: Intelligible vocal work in modernist classical tradition, drawing on older sacred styles (seems to me).
25) Wuss rock lps of the year: Heart Murmurs, Jeremy Messersmith: Local boy makes good. Lyrically playful, rich, and inclusive; When I Was Younger, Colony House; Strange Desire, Bleachers; and Youth, Wild Cub
There are plenty of other records worth listening to this year. Some are probably better than those on this list but it’s hard to make one of these without second guessing yourself. You can follow my year lists on Spotify and figure out for yourself which ones you like. My list will undoubtedly expand as I listen to more LPs from this year. Cheers!