Narrowing my list down to just ten was quite a task this year. But it was a problem I am grateful to have. With a year so heavily saturated with good new music, it has made it extremely difficult but tons of fun to come up with a list of my favorite albums of year, which I am happy to present to you today.
10. Regina Spektor – Far
She can be a little kitschy but she is so stinkin’ talented. Her vocal abilities never cease to amaze me . And she has cooked another great batch of interesting, contemplative, and downright enjoyable pop tunes. I think this album is exactly what you’d expect from Regina and more. It’s goofy, but you’re her voice will knock you off your feet. She’ll bark like a seal, and then slap you up side the head with one of the most profound lines you’ve heard all year. Don’t ever stop paying attention to this girl. She ain’t just messin’ around.
9. Gomez - A New Tide
This veteran indie pop band has finally hit its stride. I was actually really suprised that this album stuck with me. I just assumed that it would be just another pop record that I would just eat up and then allow to fade into the noise. But that was far from the case. I have had this album since February and it only gets stronger with time. A New Tide just has a really fun and diverse sound. But there is also a lot of depth to these songs. If Britain doesn’t want to claim them anymore we’re more than happy to sing their praises here in U.S. of A.
8. Bat For Lashes - Two Suns
Natasha Khan may have outdone herself on this one. Those who have heard a track or two off of this record might find its inclusion on this list slightly puzzling. That is because this album is more than just a collection of singles. It is an experience. Khan has invited us into a world inhabited by her “desert-born spiritual self” and her “destructive, self-absorbed, blonde femme fetale” alter ego, Pearl. Take a moment to sit down and put this record on from start to finish. The stories and the music that Khan brings to us are just absolutely mesmerizing.
7. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
Neko Case has one of the most beautiful and soothing voices I have ever heard. Thank goodness she’s also one hell of a songwriter. I’ve been a fan of this New Pornographers collaborator for quite some time now, but Middle Cyclone has turned me into an enthusiast. This was her first solo venture away from her alt-country roots. Not that she left her sound behind, but she simply infused the power pop that she learned from her good buddy A.C. Newman into her own musical stylings. And what we get is a simply wonderful album, through and through.
6. Bad Veins – Bad Veins
The debut album from this little known indie rock band from Cincinnati has been probably the biggest surprise for me. Not surprised that I like it. I knew it would be on this list before the first track was even over. What I’m surprised by is that this album is still virtually unknown. I have yet to see this record on another year-end list and that is a shame. There is a lot of depth to the music being played in this record, music that I believe will stay with me for a long time.
5. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
“From the mess to the masses.” That is where French pop band, Phoenix has gone with their 4th studio album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. This album is a pop masterpiece. Easily one of the catchiest records of the year with the two most danceable songs I heard all year (“Lisztomania” & “1901″). They have come leaps and bounds since their 2006 “breakthrough” album, It’s Never Been Like That. Not only have they created some of the best musical hooks of the year, but I am so jealous of their lyrical ability, especially for a group that is writing in their second language. I am eagerly anticipating what they will give to us next.
4. The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
One of the best folk groups of all time have just completed what may be looked back upon as their masterpiece. With the help of producer Rick Rubin, this album is much more polished than any of their previoius works, much to the chagrin of their hard-core fans. I actually enjoy the change in flavor. But I could take it or leave it. The reason this album makes this list is because of the words. Seth and Scott Avett have a way with words that in the past decade has gone completely unmatched. This album picks up where Emotionalism left off, with brand new batch of personal, heart-wrenching ballads that speak to the very core of what it means to live and to love. I urge you all to head to your local record store and pick up this album. For one of the greatest aspects of this record is the epic poem about love that Seth wrote and included in the album insert.
3. Fanfarlo – Reservoir
This band has drawn comparisons to several of my favorite indie acts of the past decade, from Beirut to the Arcade Fire to the National. Let’s use that as a reason for you to listen, and that alone. For these guys have no reason to exist in their shadow for even a moment longer. What they have accomplished on their debut album, Reservoir, is worthy of all the fame and accolades of the aforementioned acts. This album is sweet. It’s hypnotic. It’s bombastic. It’s grandiose. And it is simply gorgeous. Some of the best string and brass arrangements of the year. And to think that I got all of this for only a dollar.
2. Passion Pit - Manners
I have been absolutely in love with these guys from the moment I first heard “Sleepyhead” off of their 2008 debut EP, Chunk of Change. I loved it, but I wasn’t excited about what they would release next. Rather, I was nervous, because Chunk was an accident, nothing more than a Valentine’s Day present for lead singer Michael Angelakos’ current girlfriend. I was worried they wouldn’t be able to recreate the magic. Fortunately for us they couldn’t but they were able to make something even better. The best indie dance-pop album of the year was born in Manners.
1. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
How can an artist that has never had a record so much as graze my top 20 all of sudden create what I consider to be the best album of the year? The answer is simple they started channeling the spirit of my favorite artist of all time (Brian Wilson). The vocal arrangements and overall production quality of this album are absolutely breathtaking. The vocal harmonies on this album are incredible and to a quality rarely achieved outside of Brian Wilson and his surfin’ buddies. Two weeks is one of the catchiest and most enjoyable song of the year, but outside of that, this album needs a little room to grow. So give the time it needs and you won’t regret it.