Maybe it’s sign of getting older, or a sign of being more decisive, but this is certainly the earliest I’ve ever committed to a top albums list. With great discovery services like Spotify, social media throwing new stuff at me, living in an area known for churning out bands, and being part of a fantastic online music community, each year my list gets harder and harder to narrow down. Again, I’m ranging across genres from rock to folk to R&B. I know I missed plenty of great albums and probably didn’t even hear others.
What were your favorites? What did I criminally overlook? Leave your thoughts in the comments! (And read all the way through for a link to the Spotify playlist).
Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record
Camper Van Beethoven – La Costa Perdida
Josh Ritter – The Beast in Its Tracks
Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
Johnny Marr – The Messenger
10. Rhye – Woman
I once was briefly involved with a Scottish guy who succinctly described Sade as “shaggin’ music.” There’s really no better way to describe this album either. The androgyny element shouldn’t detract from it being a superb, sexy, dim-the-lights and pour-some-wine album. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
9. Bleached – Ride Your Heart
This album inspired one of my favorite Spotify playlists, Garage Girls of Summer. While poppy and accessible, it doesn’t stray away from darker material – but doesn’t make it its schtick either.
8. Camera Obscura – Desire Lines
Admittedly I wore myself out on this album by binge listening to it, and the rest of the CO catalog, when it came out earlier this year. Smart, witty and beautiful, it doesn’t go to off Camera Obscura formula, which is a good thing.
7. Superchunk – I Hate Music
Out of all the “venerable rock band” albums that came out this year, this is the one I would have been most inclined to listen to if it was a debut release. Fun, solid and straightforward not stale or forced or experimental – just to-the-point rock ’n’ roll.
6. Jagwar Ma – Howlin
Seeing them live sealed the deal. Another oddly overlooked album this year, but perhaps they will end up like contemporaries, Tame Impala, and find more success with their sophomore release. Somehow this album manages to be dancey and almost psychedelic rock-y at the same time, combining the best of both genres, in my opinion.
5. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
Glad to see them getting more exposure. The album to me builds on their previous work, with more Fleet Foxes harmonizing and a non-cultish Polyphonic Spree sense of joy. In fact, even though the lyrics can be cutting and sad, the music feels so spiritually joyful I can’t help but smile when I listen to this one.
4. Janelle Monáe – Electric Lady
Easily my concert of the year, seeing Ms. Monáe with the San Francisco Symphony. It was a gala night, so imagine people dancing in the aisles in ball gowns and tuxes. I don’t think there is a more fresh, energetic or versatile performer in this R&B from Outerspace genre. She channels Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Prince and George Clinton, all while making funk/dance of her own blend.
3. Mikal Cronin – MCII
A near-perfect rock album with a singer/songwriter bend. Quite disappointed it never worked out for me to see this local dude live, but have enjoyed this album thoroughly since its first rec on Postcard, the online music community of which I’m proud to be a part.
2. Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle
The complete opposite end of the musical spectrum, but another woman who has a lot to say. I wish I was that smart at 23. The path of the album struck a chord personally me with the trajectory of my own year and it came out at a really important time for me. It’s simultaneously gorgeous and empowering and I’m happy to see it getting so much year-end love.
1. Heliotropes – A Constant Sea
I knew this would be my top album the second I first played it. It’s been criminally overlooked, but I have hopes this band will hit it with a bigger audience in the future (they were in the Superchunk Void video!). This album simply ROCKS. It’s raw and pure and I just adore it. I was so happy to have the opportunity to see them live and even though they played at like 7 p.m. to a room of about 7 people, they brought it. Since I missed Riot Grrrrl by a couple of years, happy to support the next wave.