It’s a new year and since I’ve finally covered every album I wanted to, I thought I’d start things by finally rank my favourite albums of the year. Here’s 20-11!!
20. Karen O – Crush Songs
Karen O isn’t exactly known for being quiet but on her new acoustic album she toned it down from her usual Yeah Yeah Yeahs craziness. Although the acoustic sound is a little weird for the usually loud Karen, her punk attitude comes through on the lo-fi production and short song time.
19. Phantogram – Voices
It seems like the best pop groups right now are the ones who are crossing the alternative-pop line like Lorde. Phantogram’s new album mixed experimental guitar with hip-hop drums and some great electronics to make one of the most potent pop albums this year.
18. Foxygen – …And Star Power
Foxygen’s second album was one of the best albums of 2013 but their latest effort couldn’t keep up. The singles’ songwriting is some of the best retro-pop-rock I’ve heard since the 70s music they’re emulating. Unfortunately between the 23 songs they put on this album, the greatness only really comes through on about five songs, making the whole thing feel like it should’ve been an EP.
17. La Roux – Trouble In Paradise
La Roux has been off the radar for a while but her latest album joined the current canon of disco-revival that Daft Punk, The Ting Tings and Pharrell. She’s still on top of her game though, the vocals are amazing, the production is great and some of the moments on here are goosebump inducing.
16. Tacocat – NVM
Seattle feminist-punk rockers Tacocat finally took their first steps into recognition this year. The singles on this album are some of the best I’ve heard all year and their lyricism on songs like “Crimson Wave” makes the allusions of most bands seem petty.
15. She & Him – Classics
She and Him have been doing covers since their first album and even went so far as to do a cover album with their A Very She & Him Christmas, but this year they decided to trade in Christmas song for American standards. While a few songs fall flat, and some lyrics seem extremely corny and dated, the duo’s chemistry and ability to give goosebumps out of nowhere is as strong as ever.
14. Asteroids Galaxy Tour – Bring Us Together
Danish jazz-pop stars Asteroids Galaxy Tour had two stellar albums and their third album was almost as good. Nevertheless the band’s willingness to experiment helped add some modern dance music into their more jazz-fueled sound. While it won’t outdo their older work it’s a great steppingstone for them to become the new masters of dance-pop.
13. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
Rap and hip-hop aren’t usually my thing but every so often a group keeps me open-minded. RTJ2 is by far the best hip-hop album this year and several of the tracks here are my favourites of the year. The duo’s killer production, amazing lyricism and viciousness makes every track feel very real. On top of this Killer Mike’s points on Ferguson this year really gave me more respect for him and the group as a whole. This album also has BY FAR the best opening of any album this year with Killer Mike exclaiming his excitement to record the album with “I’M GOING TO BANG THIS B*TCH THE F*** OUT,” a line that hits me with energy every time I hear it.
12. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
It seems strange for an artist to self-title their fourth album but considering how Annie Clarke reinvented herself for this album it seems granted. The album is truly one of the best of the year, the guitar sounds are astounding, Annie’s truly the best female guitarist around right now, and every track works here except for maybe “I Prefer Your Love,” but tracks like “Huey Newton” counter this with grand breakdowns that are boiling with excitement. Unfortunately my only real problem with this album seems to be the same one I have with Annie’s new live show, the whole thing seems a little too robotic and disingenuous, making it an album I know is really good but just don’t completely connect with (unfortunately like Annie now) or necessarily go back to. It seems like while David Byrne helped her experiment he also gave her his lately lifeless persona.
11. Warpaint – Warpaint
On the opposite side of this coin is Warpaint, whose (also) self-titled album I initially only pulled one track off of but over the year came back to so many times that I slowly fell in love with it. The band’s cinematic quality really takes the tracks to the next level, making every song feel like more of a sonic journey than just a rocking tune or background music. The use of vocal effects is truly interesting and the band’s tightness is unbelievable, especially considering a handful of the parts they throw in here. It’s a very spiritual and heady album, and I find I can very often envision a place or narrative to go with each song. They even have the best female bass player around with Jenny Lindberg in contrast to Annie.
Coming soon: 10-1, Honorable Mentions, 2015 hopefuls