In no particular order, these are the tunes that worked their way most into my year:
1. Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium
So this is Will Sheff's album about growing up. It helps that he made an 8-bit videogame to accompany the whole thing. It's the record I returned to most during the year. Past Okkervil records have taken me time to absorb, but this registered right away. I like to imagine the band playing in my living room, ala the wonderful Tiny Desk Concert above.
2. PHOX - Confetti
A bunch of friends from Baraboo, WI get together and record sprawling pop songs with piano, banjo, electronics and clarinet solos... Yes, it's overly ambitious, but Monica Martin's beautiful vocals hold it all together.
3. Ian Ball - Unfold Yourself
The guy from Gomez - not the low gravelly voice Revo-LU-tionary Kind guy, not the goofy-Jouh-Lennon-looking guy, the OTHER singer - makes a solo album heavy on synths and pure pop. He financed this through a PledgeMusic campaign, and apparently didn't have any money left over for videos.
4. Jason Isbell - Southeastern
From the Capital-S South, Jason Isbell quit drinking Jack, moved to Nashville and settled down with a wife. The Ex DB Trucker's music is a little more heartfelt, a little more tender. In a good way. He's apparently establishing his grown-up Southern bona-fides by playing Garden and Gun magazine sponsored events.
5. The Weeks - Dear Bo Jackson
Let's keep it in the South. The Weeks look like goofball dirtbag teenage delinquents, but play like polished pros. Mississippi Y'allternitive rock.
6. The Fatty Acids - Bolero
A Hot Milwaukee Mess. Awesome 70's tech video to boot. A little more to it than one might think on multiple listens, but yeah, pretty much just a party.
7. Lorde - Pure Heroine
My daughter and the whole of pop culture and I all agree on Lorde. (I have to look past some of the Depeche Mode drum machines she must have picked up at the '80 flea market) But don't you want teenagers making pop music with lyrics like "I'm kind of over getting told to throw my hands up in the air"? I do. Go girl(s)!
8. Foxygen - We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
At their best when barely holding together multiple influences, references and time changes in a single song. Great show in Milwaukee early this year.
9. Volcano Choir - Repave
OK, so mostly the swelling arena choruses of "Byegone" and the oddly mesmerizing fluorescent tube tree video...
10. Phosphorescent - Muchacho
OK, so mostly the endearing "Song for Zula" and the way it sticks inside my head.
- Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
- Lucious - Wildewoman
- Valerie June - Pushing on a Stone
- James Blake - Overgrown
- The Olms - s/t
- Jake Bugg - Lightning Bolt (single)
- Jagwar Ma - Howlin'