It’s become customary to talk about what “an amazing year of music this has been,” and it usually is. But while there were a ton of great songs, this was the first year in a while that I had trouble finding great albums. Still, that’s not to say that there were none for me, and here are five that really hit the spot.
5. Band of Horses – Mirage Rock
Their fourth LP threw a lot of fans for a loop, as it’s based more on acoustic guitars and classic rock leanings than what they’ve been known for in the past. But once you let that settle in, Mirage Rock opens up as a disc full of great stories and songs. In fact, working with Glyn Johns was the perfect move to get this America inspired album to it’s prime sound. I may not heave heard it on the first listen, but it quickly became a touchstone for the year.
4. Chairlift – Something
One of the few bands that’e been able to write something even better than the Apple iPod song that made them famous. Something is drenched in the sound of 80’s fantasy/sci-fi movies, but takes it all to an entire new place, and song by song, has more melody than I’ve ever heard crammed into one record.
3. Ben Sollee – Half-Made Man
I don’t think that Ben has ever written a bad record. I was instantly drawn to Get Off Your Knees, but the most jaw-dropping moment is the soloing in The Pursuit of Happiness. I’ve hit repeat on that moment more than any other this year.
2. Father John Misty – Fear Fun
Completely inventive in both sound and lyrics, J. Tillman’s resurrection as Father John Misty provided an album that can hold your attention whether you reply on story or melody. Plus, there is a “novel” included as the liner notes, and if you’d like to go even further down the rabbit hole, just go watch any interview the man gave this year. They are hilarious, insightful, and unlike anyone else on the planet.
1. Shearwater – Animal Joy
How do you describe a record like this? It’s sweeping, cinematic, smart, proggish at points (without being proggy), thematic, beautiful, tasteful but daring, and completely amazing. And awesome. It sounds like nothing else and still as fresh as my first listen. I play it when I’m running and chilling out. Is it perfect? Pretty damn close.
(a close runner up would have been Sean Rowe’s The Salesman and the Shark. I think if I had more time with it, it may have been even higher. Take it as an extra recommendation for originality, fans of Tom Waits, and other any type of music fanatic. There is much to discover in that one.)
And if you’re interested, I’ve posted my favorite songs of the year over at The Weekly Feed.