I did not listen to as many albums this last year as normal.  My guess is that I purchased roughly 60-70% as many albums, which is odd as I didn’t set out too.  Part of it is the fact that many of the bands I listen to didn’t have new stuff dropping, part of it is that I’m just busier.  Putting together top tens is actually getting harder and that’s not a good thing.  Hopefully it doesn’t become any worse or I may have to go to a top five!

Honorable mentions are Silversun Pickups — Carnivas, Alt J — An Awesome Wave

Regardless here are my picks for last year in order of good to goodest:

Beirut: Rip Tide

I’ve listened to Beirut off and on for some time.  A few people who listen to really good music have recommended his work and I picked up the Gulag Orkestar some time back, but that album was too hit and miss.  It’s odd because it’s a very interesting album musically that relies on pulling things together with heavy drum Eastern European themes which are cool, but it made the album too hard to listen to.  The Rip Tide is much more cohesive and ultimately has more songs with lyrics which make it more valuable for me personally.  You can easily see Zach Condon growing and realize his potential.  He already has his own sound and seems unafraid to tread new waters.

Nirvana: Unplugged in New York

Yes, this album is 20 years old.  But it’s one of the best live albums of all time.  And it covers songs in a way that Nirvana never really approached in the studio on major releases.  It’s cohesive, melancholy and a great encapsulation of a tortured soul at his creative peak.  It’s as sad sort, at this point, realizing that Kurt could and would have done so many great things out side of grunge, but it also provides a swan song for his impeccable talent.  RIP.

Front Bottoms: Talon of the Hawk

New Jersey based Front Bottoms put out fantastic high energy indie rock.  Their songs are pretty simple and straight forward, with many sounding somewhat similar, yet their album is always fun to listen to and has a ton of energy.  They are a fun band to sing along with and get weird looks from other drivers, if you’re into that (and I am.)  The lead singer has an interesting voice and honest song writing that matches their simplicity in a very positive manner.  Recommended for people who like guitar rock and loud music.

Andrew Jackson Jihad: People That Can Eat People Are the Luckiest People in the World

From Arizona, AJJ are a quirky folk indie acoustic outfit that put out fast paced heart on their sleeve songs that both question our morals and bluntly examine human nature.  This is truly a unique band and awesome music for those unafraid to venture off the beaten path.

Volcano Choir: Repave

Justin Vernon’s other project put out an amazing LP, even if it’s only seven songs.  It clocks in at a good time.  Teresa complains that this album makes her sleepy, and I’ll agree that it is a slower pace.  It’s my favorite album to play on weekend mornings to relax to.  Pick this up if you like any of Bon Iver’s work or need an intro to Vernon at all.

Bob Marley: Songs of Freedom

Bob Marley is a legend for good reason.  While I was travelling in New Zealand in Wanaka, I heard much of his music outside of his Legend LP which is very common and it was all great.  Marley has so much music that is so fitting for any time or place.  You hear it all over the world, including in Belize on all the islands and coast lines.  This box set is a fantastic addition to any library and goes high wide and deep throughout his career.  I wake up to this music every day and it puts me in the right mood to get going.

Middle Brother: Self Titled

Fans of Deer Tick must pick up this album, and if you are not a fan of the beer and sweat sound of Deer Tick, I feel for you.  This is a super group with three members from Dawes, Deer Tick and Atlas Genius.  This is a great folk focused album with a lot of different sounds, but altogether sounds cohesive and well written.  Listen to the title track for a good representation of their faster paced sound.

Eminem: Marshal Mathers LP2

This isn’t really a popular pick.  Well not for me anyway.  Most “main stream” tunes don’t make it on my radar, and Em is definitively main stream at this point.  You could argue he’s as main stream as any recording artist.  And in all truth, I don’t really like hip hop that uses female vocalists for hooks most of the time.  I like hip hop with raw gritty sounds and intelligent lyrics.  Em doesn’t do a lot of the former, but he slaughters rappers on the latter.  Simply put he’s absolutely in the discussion of best rapper of all time.  He’s a menace.  And no one wants anything to do with him in the game outside of collaboration, he’s ended the careers of many people already.

Technically speaking, Marshal Mathers sets the bar(s).  This album is stacked.  Get the extended version as the additional tracks could easily be first cut (especially Ground Hog Day.)  Though his lyrics are often outside of acceptable for man, especially the misogynistic and homophobic appearing lines (he’s addressed this many times and I won’t dig into it) — his technical ability is on a level very few can say they’ve done.  I think his ability is still at a peak, but the culture surrounding pop hip hop has changed and he may be a half step behind where he was a few albums back, but this is an album I’ve listened to tens of times now and there are many more spins to come.

Tokyo Police Club: Elephant Shell/A Lesson In Crime

I had purchased their last album a few years back and really enjoyed it.  I had meant to go back and pick up their earlier stuff, but didn’t do it for some odd reason.  Then during the mid point of this year there was a lull in good sounds for me, so I picked up their first two releases.  I was shocked.  These albums were even better than their last.

The reason is that they are more raw and energetic, with lots of differing sounds and a lot of sing along chants/chorus.  That sounds good in rock and they do it extremely well on these two albums.  I’ve already written about them on this blog so won’t waste any more time on it, pick them up.

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Father John Misty: Fear Fun

I’d never listened to Joshua Tillman before picking up this release.  He’s been around the block and actually did a stint with the Fleet Foxes for a small amount of time before rededicating himself to his solo stuff.

It took me a few listens to start enjoying this album, but once it grabs you it will not let go.  Father John starts the album with a slow and steady Fun Times in Babylon.  From their the album continues to go in and out with great songs like Nancy From Now On, Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings, Ladies Man and more.  The album is eccentric, being written after a drug induced bender which illustrates the advancement of all things in time and space during his time in Southern California.

It’s amazing.  It’s well thought out and there are so many good songs that if you haven’t heard it, it will take you weeks to really grasp the levity of the album.  It may take some time to sink in, but when it does, you’ll be far better off for it.