Everywhere you turn this time of year seems to throw another ‘best of’ list around. See, for example, this Rolling Stone list, or this one from MOJO or this from NME. Well, it’s my turn. There has been a lot of good music released this year, most of which, admittedly, I won’t be able to listen to (or honestly, even like). So here is my personal top 10 albums of the year.
10. Jake Bugg — Shangri La
The English lad’s second album, produced by the inestimable Rick Rubin, starts off strong with scathing indictments of modern society and continues with a mix of social commentary and folk-style pop.
9. The National — Trouble Will Find Me
The sixth album by the New York-based ‘indie’ band continues their sterling brand of dark neuroses, yet finds a new tinge of optimism. Nominated for the ‘Best Alternative Music Album’ Grammy.
6. Vampire Weekend — Modern Vampires of the City
A great title! Gets better with repeated listens. My favourite tracks include ‘Unbelievers’ and ‘Worship You’. Also nominated for the ‘Best Alternative Music Album’ Grammy.
5. Neko Case — The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You
Sweet, honest, emotionally charged and booming, the latest from the big-voiced redhead delivers perhaps her most satisfying record yet. With a few others on this list, nominated for the ‘Best Alternative Music Album’ Grammy.
4. Kacey Musgraves — Same Trailer Different Park
This former Nashville Star contestant delivers a striking debut with traditional country stories, catchy lyrics and upbeat melodies. Nominated for multiple Grammy’s; not a bad way to start her recording career.
3. The Avett Brothers — Magpie and the Dandelion
Have they ever had a bad record? Recorded during most of the sessions of their previous, wonderful The Carpenter, with the ever-present Rick Rubin, this album delivers the same mix of sentimentality, hooks and country-folk with which the band excels.
2. The Airborne Toxic Event — Such Hot Blood
Continues their strong mix of intelligent lyrics and alcohol-infused lamentations on love, loss and life. Their love-affair with England — having performed a month-long residency in various venues throughout the country a few years ago — shines through in ‘This Is London’.
1. HAIM — Days Are Gone
This has been on almost constant rotation since it came out in late September. I never seem to grow tired of the harmonies, synth-pop hooks or infectious melodies from the LA-based sisters. I listened to ‘The Wire’ for an entire day before the album was released, and it’s still my favourite track on the album. I haven’t been this excited about a band in a long time; probably since I first discovered Wilco. (On a related note, good luck to Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy on his ‘Producer of the Year’ Grammy nomination. He’s up against HAIM’s Ariel Rechtshaid.)
There are countless albums that I may, at some point, get around to listening to, such as Arcade Fire’s Reflektor or David Bowie’s The Next Day. At the moment, though, I’m too busy rocking out to HAIM and the rest of this list, and many others not on this list.