It’s completely official and the first three-quarters of the year have faded into memory and now the fall season is in full swing and the holiday months are upon us. In order to kick off all the candy, thankfulness, and giving, I thought it would be nice to share my Top 10 albums of the year (so far).
I have a big caveat that I will NOT rank them at this time. Also, some albums yet to debut may sneak into the list, but you can be sure that this group is going to make the end of year Top 25-50 (depending on how much typing I feel like doing).
So, without further introduction or blathering, here is the list of my Top 10 Favorite Albums of the Year (so far):
Don’t be fooled by the first track and single off Wampire’s album Curiosity called “The Hearse”. Although darker elements pervade this debut album from the Portland group, their synth-pop music has a 70’s/80’s new wave feel that hits the right hooks with a dash of comedic whimsy. I really liked this album and enjoyed the hookier tracks like “The Hearse”, “Giants”, and “Trains.”
This has been a favorite of mine all year. I have been frequently coming back to the smooth, yet dissonant and slightly strange R&B of Arthur Ashin, the man behind Autre Ne Veut. This reads like an R&B album, but the tracks have a distinct other quality that is different than most R&B you are going to hear. It is Marvin Gaye mixed with a sort of Ziggy Stardust and M83 quality to it. It’s like Duran Duran but a lot less 80’s pop and sexuality. It’s cool stuff and is one of favorite albums of the year. Check out “World War”, “Play by Play”, “Don’t Ever Look Back”, and “Ego Free Sex Free.”
When I want to bring things down a bit and still enjoy what I am listening to, Ducktails’ album, The Flower Lane, hits the spot. It is such beautiful, mellow indie pop LP. Matthew Mondanile, a member of Real Esate, started this as a side project in 2009ish, and has put out some real quality albums, this one being the pinnacle, so far. Every track has such a dreamy sound that mixes well and sounds so good. The overall album is one of the best of the year. Check out tracks “Ivy-Colored House”, “Planet Phromm”, and “The Flower Lane”.
Ah, Yo La Tengo, steadily going strong after twenty years in the business. They cast a long shadow over indie music and the whole industry with tons of great albums over the years. Fade is no exception to their expansive discography. This album is such a beautiful, well-made lo-fi with a brighter edge than past albums. I was not too familiar with Yo La Tengo before this, but now I feel like I have known about them for years. Check out “Ohm”, “I’ll Be Around”, “Well You Better”, and “You Can Have It All.”
Where did this album come from?!??! A friend was discussing the Foals third album and the only song they were really known for before this was that weird “Cassius” song from 2011. It is a complete change from what this band was, and all you can really say is the sound has grown up and become much more emotive and spacious while also developing a harder edge to their indie rock. Love this album and can’t enough of tracks like “Inhaler”, “Bad Habit”, “Providence”, and “My Number”.
I will tip my biased hand; I love Vampire Weekend. They are probably one of my favorite bands in the current musical landscape, and I can’t enough of their music. However, the sign of a great band is one that is able to move on from past success and continue that success while not simply re-hashing previous material. Vampire Weekend has done this with Modern Vampires of the City. Moving past the more college-rock, ska and punk influenced numbers of their past albums; they manage to keep their musical identity while developing a maturing lyrical quality. Tracks like “Worship You”, “Diane Young”, and “Unbelievers” are classic Vampire Weekend tracks, but have a deeper quality than previous offerings. My favorite song that is a little different is “Ya Hey”.
Seriously, who doesn’t like a good, rough, distortion-filled punk rock album? While Savages album isn’t really a 90’s/early-2000s era punk album, it listens more like an updated The Clash album. Lead singer Jehny Beth brings a pile of attitude to their post-punk sound and bring the noise to their first full-length album. The bass lines are raucous and energetic, while the guitars add a soundscape that grates and squeals in all the right ways. Check out songs “City’s Full” (my favorite on the album and one of my favorite individual songs of the year), “She Will”, and “I Am Here”.
Sputnik music puts this so much better than I ever could. “Carrier, finally, brings that emotional subtext to the front, and the result is a Dodos record that is thrillingly translucent and crushingly intimate, almost uncomfortably so. It’s love and loss, as straightforward as you please.” Previous albums have fallen short, which surprises me considering their last album has a better Metacritic score than this one, but Carrier manages to take the Dodos sound to where it is meant to go. The songs have an almost Beatles Revolver-like quality to them, and it is so good to listen to and a more emotional listen than previous stuff. I enjoyed “Transformer”, “Confidence”, “Stranger”, “Substance”, and “Destroyer”. Heck, this whole album is just good.
The internets and music biz is all a buzz about CHVRCHES debut album. The Scottish Dance-Pop trio drops a seriously awesome debut album with a unique blend of deep, emotional lyrics while having music that is just plain good to listen and dance to. The real stand outs on this album are “The Mother We Share”, a song I am still digging deeper into; “Gun”, “Tether”, and “Recover”, which was a part of their EP from earlier in the year. Just a hint, this one is near the top and will stay that way. I can’t get these songs out of my head.
The soulful, grassroots funk of the Roots (ha!), which has come to define the grooves of the Roots, blend perfectly with the biting voice and brit-pop-rock sounds of Costello. Great tracks like the radio-friendly ‘Walk us UPTOWN’ and the funky ‘REFUSE to be Saved’ stand out in contrast to the more soulful, reflective sounds of songs like ‘TRIPWIRE’ and ‘Wise Up GHOST’. This is the best thing I have heard from Costello in a long time and deserves the high marks it is getting.
Just Missed the cut…seriously, it was painful
Man Man – On Oni Pond
The Lone Bellow – The Lone Bellow
On and On – Give In
Volcano Choir – Repave (sorry Justin)