Only a few months late.
So, as I do every year, I’mma list off a few albums that have been blowing my mind this year. Frankly, thought I’m tired of doing only ten, so I’m following my man Evan’s precedent and doing however many I like. Also, his list gave me a bunch more albums that I hadn’t heard that are bloody awesome (The Bad Plus. Holy shit). However, I’m restricting myself in this list to records that I’ve spent more than a week listening to.
So, these are the albums that really, truly, stuck with me this year. Hope you find something you like.
17. Carlton Melton – Pass it On
Really cool, fuzzed out psychedelic guitar sounds from California. Basically, the Hold Steady if they took one too many acid trips.
Favorite track: Sequoia
16. Erland and the Carnival – Erland and the Carnival
After Damon Albarn’s best band ever, The Good, The Bad, and The Queen broke up (and I mean the best ever part seriously,) Simon Tong of Verve fame went on to form this little group. It’s full of great freaky folk songs you’d expect to be sung round a gypsy campfire. The stories will carry you off into another realm entirely.
Favorite track: “You Don’t Have to be Lonely”
15. Murder by Death – “Good Morning, Magpie”
Oh, how I love this band. Think Nick Cave’s slightly deranged son goes out to the Old West, drinks a lot of whiskey and gets into knife fights. But, after the masterpiece that was “Red of Tooth and Claw,” this one doesn’t merit higher ranking. Oh, it’s damned good; but it doesn’t have that same menace that made “Red” such an brilliant record. But, again, absolutely go get it. It’s well worth it.
Favorite track: “As Long As There Is Whiskey In The World”
14. Laura Marling - “I Speak Because I Can”
Beautiful, haunting sounds from yet another ridiculously talented British singer. One of the best-written albums of this year, bar none.
Favorite track: “Rambling Man”
13. Manic Street Preachers – Postcards from a Young Man
Quite frankly, they have absolutely no right to still be this goddamned good. They have a habit of making a dark, broody record and follow it up with a big, soaring chorus album. Last year’s “Journal for Plague Lovers” was certainly dark enough, and so here comes Postcards. Full of choirs, strings, and guest appearances from Ian McCulloch and John Cale, it’s just awesome. Not available Stateside yet, but find a way to get it.
Favorite track: “Some Kind of Nothingness”
12. Jeff Beck – Emotion and Commotion
For the first time I can think of since the legendary “Truth,” Jeff Beck gets some vocalists along with his mind-blowing guitar work in the form of Joss Stone and Imelda May. Lots of slower pieces in this, but his trademark brilliance nonetheless.
Favorite track: “There’s No Other Me”
11. Sage Francis – LI(F)E
What can I say about this guy? He is THE indie hip-hop messiah. Another album full of great rhymes and rhythms and stories.
Favorite track: “Little Houdini”
10. Gayngs – Gayngs
MPLS supergroup. Full of Bon Iver, Doomtree, and other greats. Will make you want to make sweet, 80s-style love on the dancefloor of the prom of your dreams. Yeah, I know it doesn’t make sense, but hell. This is one of those albums I just can’t quantify.
Favorite track: “No Sweat”
9. Roky Erickson and Okkervil River – True Love Cast Out All Evil
When I heard Roky Erickson was back, I knew I had to pick this up. Formerly the lead singer of what is possibly the most underrated band of all time, The 13th Floor Elevators, Roky took a few too many drugs and ended up in a mental institution. Now he’s clean and in good health, and with the River backing his scratchy yet soulful vocals, this album cannot be missed.
Favorite track: “Ain’t Blues Too Sad”
8. Dark Time Sunshine – Vessel
Finally, some hip hop NOT from the Midwest. I kid. But, these guys are from my home and favorite place ever, New York City, and managed to make what is probably one of the best debut hip hop albums ever. This is something that has only rarely left my CD player since its arrival.
Favorite track: “Primor”
7. Lazerbeak – Legend Recognize Legend
This one goes in the same category as Gayngs: I don’t know WHAT the hell is happening here. But it’s damned good. Beatmaster Beak loses his damned mind and makes some spacey electropop-type-thing. Like I said, I just don’t know.
Favorite track: “Dream Team”
6. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
When I saw Gaslight play the House of Blues in Chicago in November (or was it October?) of 2009, with Murder by Death opening, lead singer Brian Fallon said that their new album would be “The Clash meets The Supremes.” Well, that’s about what happened. And it’s magical. I never want these songs to leave my head. Too damned catchy, too damned good.
Favorite track: “Bring it On”
5. Ceschi – The One Man Band Broke Up
Founder and head of the Fake Four label, home to most of my favorite hip hop artists (read: Sole, Astronautalis, Dark Time Sunshine), Ceschi makes what one might describe as folk-hop. Don’t run in fear: it’s damned good. And like you might expect from his labelmates, it’s intelligent and thought-provoking.
Favorite track: “No New York”
4. Astronautalis – DANCEHALLHORNSOUND!!!!
Yeah, I know, it’s a mixtape, but I don’t care. My favorite MC of all takes his stories of railroad thievery and American revolutionism and puts them to popular beats, with a few new tracks thrown in. Pure love.
Favorite track: “Do You Believe in Life After Thugs?”
3. Paul Weller – Wake Up the Nation
Paul Weller has been a hero of mine pretty much since I started seriously listening to music. The Jam were one of my most important formational groups, and his solo stuff has always been good with regular brilliance (Stanley Road, Wild Wood, 22 Dreams). I don’t know if it’s as good as my previous album-of-the-year choice 22 Dreams, but it’s still brilliant. Lots of anger, driving guitar, and lyrics about the downfall of society. So, y’know, typical Modfather.
Favorite track: “No Tears to Cry”
2. Paper Tiger – Made Like Us
While it’s not number one, it would have been but for his labelmate. Without question my most-played album of the year, Paper’s done very, very well his first time out. With appearances from Maggie Morrison and Dessa on vocals, it’s an album that I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of listening to.
Favorite track: “The Bully Plank”
1. Dessa – A Badly Broken Code
Really, honestly, even with the ridiculously high calibre of this year’s contestants, no one was gonna top her. Evan, I don’t give two shits about Arcade Fire or Kanye. Neither album grabbed me in any meaningful way. For Dessa, on the other hand, I hang on every damned syllable like it’s the only fresh air left in the world. She is a whole new level of brilliant and talented. People like her don’t come around too often, but damn, do they make the world richer.
Favorite track: “Seamstress”
That’s it. For honorable mentions, I’d encourage you to check out the albums that Dr. Dog, Midlake, Gil-Scott Heron, Massive Attack, and Gorillaz put out. They’re all excellent, but I don’t think they make this list.
Hopefully, blogging service will resume soon. Posts will most likely be philosophy-related as I work out a thesis for a big paper I’m planning. More soon. Much love.