Friday, December 29, 2017

Best Albums of 2017

I can't say it was the most the exciting year for music, but there were plenty of great albums released nonetheless. So, here goes:

Narkopop artwork

25. Gas


Hug of Thunder artwork

24. Broken Social Scene

Hug of Thunder

Capacity artwork 

23. Big Thief


Rocket artwork 

22. (Sandy) Alex G


Flower Boy artwork

21. Tyler, The Creator

Flower Boy

Kelly Lee Owens artwork

20. Kelly Lee Owens

Kelly Lee Owens

Aromanticism artwork

19. Moses Sumney


Turn Out the Lights artwork

18. Julien Baker

Turn Out the Lights

Love What Survives artwork

17. Mount Kimbie

Love What Survives

Rest artwork

16. Charlotte Gainsbourg


I See You artwork

15. The xx

I See You

Process artwork

14. Sampha


A Deeper Understanding artwork

13. The War on Drugs

A Deeper Understanding

No Shape artwork

12. Perfume Genius

No Shape

Pure Comedy artwork

11. Father John Misty

Pure Comedy

Sleep Well Beast artwork

10. The National

Sleep Well Beast

Key Track:  "The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness"

Big Fish Theory artwork

9. Vince Staples

Big Fish Theory

Key Track:  "Love Can Be"

Slowdive artwork

8. Slowdive


Key Track:  "Star Roving"

Plunge artwork

7. Fever Ray


Key Track:  "Red Trails"

A Crow Looked At Me artwork

6. Mount Eerie

A Crow Looked At Me

Key Track:  "Real Death"

The OOZ artwork

5. King Krule


Key Track:  "The OOZ"

Crack-Up artwork

4. Fleet Foxes


Key Track:  "Third Of May / Odaigahara"

Masseduction artwork

3. St. Vincent


Key Track:  "Los Ageless"

DAMN. artwork

2. Kendrick Lamar


Key Track:  "PRIDE."

American Dream artwork

1. LCD Soundsystem

American Dream

Key Track:  "Call the Police"

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Best Albums of 2016

2016 wasn't quite on par with 2015 in terms of quality, but it was still a hair better than 2014. There were plenty of really good albums released this year, just not a lot of truly amazing ones. Two albums that certainly deserve a mention among the best albums of the year are The Marches' I Shall Stand Like David Until Death Makes Me Marble and The Galaxy Electric's Everything Is Light and Sound. I vowed long ago not to include friends' albums on my list (it just gets too complicated), but I would be remiss if they didn't at least get a mention considering I listened to them more than half of the albums listed below. Also, I've omitted numbers 26-50 this year. There's just so much music released on a yearly basis at this point, I've decided to focus on the top tier only (although, if you're curious about the bottom half of the list, message me and I'll send it to you). There's also a special bonus at the end. With that said, here we go:

25. Mitski

Puberty 2

Key Tracks:  "Happy", "Thursday Girl"


24. Weyes Blood

Front Row Seat to Earth 

Key Tracks:  "Diary", "Used to Be"

23. DIIV

Is the Is Are
Key Tracks:  "Under the Sun", "Valentine" 

22. Hamilton Leithhauser/Rostam

I Had a Dream That You Were Mine

Key Tracks:  "1000 Times", "1959"

21. Nicolas Jaar


Key Tracks:  "The Governor", "History Lesson"

20. Jenny Hval

Blood Bitch

Key Tracks:  "Conceptual Romance", "Period Piece"

19. Danny Brown

Atrocity Exhibition 

Key Tracks:  "Really Doe", "When It Rain"

18. Parquet Courts

Human Performance 

Key Tracks:  "Human Performance", "Steady on My Mind"

17. PJ Harvey

The Hope Six Demolition Project

Key Tracks:  "The Community of Hope", "The Wheel"

16. Kendrick Lamar

untitled unmastered.

Key Tracks:  "untitled 6", "untitled 7"

15. James Blake

The Colour In Anything

Key Tracks:  "Radio Silence", "Choose Me"

14. Anderson .Paak


Key Tracks:  "Put Me Through", "Celebrate"

13. Blood Orange

Freetown Sound

Key Tracks:  "Desir", "Hadron Collider"

12. The Avalanches


Key Tracks:  "If I Was a Folkstar", "Harmony"


Key Tracks:  "Drone Bomb Me", "4 Degrees"

10. Chance the Rapper

Coloring Book

Key Tracks:  "Finish Line/Drown", "Blessings"

9. Angel Olsen

My Woman

Key Tracks:  "Not Gonna' Kill You", "Never Be Mine"

8. Beyonce


Although there are moments on this album that definitely venture into guilty pleasure territory (see “Daddy Lessons” for example), overall this is a surprisingly solid effort, Beyonce’s second in a row. Also, who knew Jack White’s most inspired performance this decade would be on a Beyonce album?

Key Tracks:  "Pray You Catch Me", "Freedom"

7. Bon Iver

22, A Million

Key Tracks:  "29 #Strafford Apts", "8 (circle)"

6. A Tribe Called Quest

We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
Key Tracks:  "The Space Program", "Dis Generation"

5. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

 Skeleton Tree

It’s deeply encouraging that Nick Cave has released what might be his most well received album to date over thirty years into his career, even though the circumstances surrounding its release are pretty heartbreaking (the album was written largely in response to his son’s tragic and unexpected death). Cave has quietly become one of the most consistent artists of our time, and this work is on another level in terms of artistry.

Key Tracks:  "Jesus Alone", "Skeleton Tree"

4. Solange

A Seat at the Table

In my opinion, Solange has always been the more adventurous of the Knowles sisters. And yet despite featuring multiple collaborations with artists like Dave Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors, ASATT feels more like a classic RnB protest album than the genre hopping excursion Lemonade. Still, this album has more gravity and is far less gimmicky, making it easily the more satisfying of the two (not that it’s really a competition, but this is a ranked list). It feels timeless.

Key Tracks:  "Cranes In the Sky", "Scales"

3. David Bowie


Is Blackstar the masterpiece that others are raving it to be or is it simply receiving this kind of attention because of the timing of its release? Time will tell. What I can say is that this is certainly Bowie’s best album since at least Scary Monsters (that’s three and a half decades mind you!). The work of an artist still pushing himself into the unknown even in his last days.

Key Tracks:  "Blackstar", "I Can't Give Everything Away"

2. Frank Ocean


With the extensive and varied list of collaborators that Blonde boasts-- ranging from James Blake to Johnny Greenwood— as well as the extended wait time for the album’s release, one might expect an album that announces itself as a big deal. In actually, Blonde is quite understated and subtle, slowly uncoiling itself to the listener over time. Eventually though, it all makes perfect sense and the more nuanced pleasures turn out to be more rewarding than if he had simply thrown them in the listener’s face.

Key Tracks:  "Nikes", "Self Control", "Pink + White"

1. Radiohead

A Moon Shaped Pool

A big part of me feels like it’s a bit of a cop out to put Radiohead at number one. This band has been churning out critically acclaimed music for over two decades now, it’s not exactly like we’re talking about something fresh and exciting here (and truth be told, if this album came out in 2015, it would have ranked number three). But let’s face it, no one in 2016 made a record this elaborate and with this much precision. That’s not to say Radiohead completely ran away with the album of the year title, it actually wasn’t an easy call. And yet, I still return to this album again and again. It’s the band’s most meditative record to date, and arguably their prettiest.

Key Tracks:  "Burn the Witch", "Daydreaming", "True Love Waits" 

Is it just me, or was there an abnormal high quotient of overlap between 2016's most acclaimed albums? This chart is just the connections I was able to make off of the top of my head (I'm sure there are plenty more). If you think of any others, please be sure to leave them in the comments. The artists in green had an album on this list, the artists in red did not but were featured several times on albums on this list: 

Blonde features James Blake, Andre 3000, Beyonce, Johnny Greenwood (Radiohead) 
The Colour in Anything features Frank Ocean, Bon Iver
Lemonade features James Blake, Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, The Weeknd
We Got it From Here... features Kendrick Lamar, Andre 3000, Kanye West, Anderson .Paak
A Seat At the Table features Q-Tip, Beyonce, Andre 3000
Coloring Book features Kanye West, Bon Iver
Wildflower features Danny Brown
Atrocity Exhibition features Kendrick Lamar
The Life of Pablo features Chance the Rapper, Frank Ocean, Andre 3000, The Weeknd, Beyonce