Both on this blog and in everyday conversation, I use music analogies to an almost uncomfortable degree. In large part I do this because music is an important touchstone to me; I spend quite a lot of my time with some kind of music playing. These ten albums are only the tip of the sizable iceberg of stuff I listened to last year, but they’re my favorites by a long stretch.
10. The Next Day – David Bowie. A David Bowie album with Tony Visconti producing, and Bowie in top songwriting form. More artists should release albums out of the blue like he did at the beginning of the year.
9. mbv – My Bloody Valentine. I was actually dreading the thought of a new My Bloody Valentine album, in large part because I didn’t know how you top Loveless. Thankfully, they didn’t try, instead producing a strangely warm, intense, fog of emotion to act as a lovely counterbalance to their previous masterpiece.
8. No Blues – Los Campesinos! If you’re only familiar with their song “You! Me! Dancing!,” you owe it to yourself to listen through their catalog, and particularly this most recent release. Hearing them refine their sound while staying true to the energy of that first single is remarkable.
7. Magic Hour – Luscious Jackson. Luscious Jackson was sort of washed over in the wave of Nineties Alternative acts, but their clever songwriting and ease at crafting hook-laden songs always made them stand out for me. I’m glad to see them still putting out new stuff that’s as sharp as their earlier output.
6. Hesitation Marks – Nine Inch Nails. After so many years at the cutting edge of industrial and electronic music, Reznor shouldn’t have to prove he’s the equal of younger acts. I’m glad he recognizes that and uses that knowledge to focus on being surprising with his albums, rather than trying to overwhelm.
5. Days Are Gone – HAIM. I’ve been waiting for this album since “Forever” came out LAST YEAR, and I’m thrilled the rest of it’s just as catchy and quick as that song.
4. Muchacho -Phosphorescent. I only discovered this closer to the end of the year, but wow, is it a good record. Just listen to “Song for Zula,” where the vocals have the same perfect mix of understatement and strength you’d find all over Astral Weeks era Van Morrison, while the band builds to something approaching majesty.
3. Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend. Speaking of catchy, Vampire Weekend put together a true gem of a record this year, with all kinds of energy and verve.
2.The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You – Neko Case. Neko Case has one of the most grand, magnificent voices in music today, and the harmonies on this album are nothing short of perfect.
1. Stay Reckless – Austin Lucas. This is a record that’s probably going to be forgotten among the heavier hitters that came out this year, and that’s a real shame. Austin Lucas puts out country music more influenced by Husker Du than Hank Williams, but with an authentic voice that really resonates beautifully. With Glossary – another favorite band of mine – backing him up, he hits a stride here that really deserves a lot more attention than he’s getting. This is my small contribution to the effort to get him in more people’s ears.