Two albums are tied for the top spot in my heart this year, one from back in February, one from just a few months ago.
First, there’s the remarkable “Aim & Ignite” by Fun, which is just unprecedented, IMO. They’ve packed more musical ideas into the first song than many bands come up with for an entire album – and each time you think you’ve heard the most amazing hook, here comes another one.
My other #1 this year was an under-the-radar release by Benjy Ferree called “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Bobby Dee, Bobby Dee.” It’s inspired by the godawful tragic story of Disney actor Bobby Driscoll, but the songwriting here is incredible in a manner similar to Fun – there are truly unexpected melodies in abundance, and one great new idea after another. “Fear,” for instance, reimagines doo-wop through some nightmarish, otherworldly filter. (No videos available, but here’s the audio of the song in question.)
Here’s the rest of my list, in no particular order:
David Gray – Draw the Line
Imogen Heap – Ellipse
Joe Henry – Blood From Stars
The Big Pink – A Brief History of Love
Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career
Roman Candle – Oh Tall Tree in the Ear
Paolo Nutini – Sunny Side Up