So, it’s Thanksgiving, and prior to feasting on copious amounts of food and seeing family and friends I wanted to look back at this year and use this opportunity to highlight the 5 albums that really meant the most to me this year. We saw a lot of new releases from bands across the spectrum since January, so picking five has truly been a labor of love.
(These are in order, from best to well, fifth best.)
1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
As a follow-up to the breathtaking debut album For Emma, Forever Ago this record absolutely proved that Justin Vernon can take Bon Iver wherever he wants – the sky’s the limit. Where For Emma was lonely and painful and a perfect winter album, this album is a soaring, expansive endeavor into an ethereal summer journey, and proved to be undoubtedly my most listened to album through the summer months.
Standout tracks: Holocene, Hinnom, TX, and Towers
2. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
This long awaited follow-up to Fleet Foxes’ debut album does not disappoint. From the opening track, it is very clear that while this album is still very much a Fleet Foxes album, it stretches boundaries, takes extraordinary risks, and expands the core Fleet Foxes sound into uncharted territory. On top of all those things, it’s just downright fun to listen to. Like, really, really fun. I wasn’t sure this album could live up to the expectations, but it met them and surpassed them.
Standout tracks: Sim Sala Bim, Helplessness Blues, Lorelai
3. City and Colour – Little Hell
There’s not a whole lot to say about this album. It’s Dallas Green doing what he does best. Passionate, deeply resonant, well written songs and Green’s grittily beautiful voice giving each song exactly the weight and tone they deserve. It’s clear that Green put his heart and soul into this album, and then took the time to make sure it was perfect. A must have from this year, no doubt.
Standout tracks: Little Hell, O’ Sister, At The Bird’s Foot (vocal)
4. The Decemberists – The King is Dead
For most of the year I truly believed this would be knocked off my top 5 list. At first listen, I felt a bit like I was getting a watered-down Decemberists, so intent on making a “successful” Americana album that they lost the joyful spirit that made them so enjoyable in the past. As months passed, however, I found myself coming back to this album over and over, finding new, exciting moments in each listen. It has become abundantly clear to me that this album has a staying power that I didn’t initially anticipate. It earns it’s place as an album representing a new chapter in The Decemberists’ phenomenal career.
Standout tracks – Down by the Water, June Hymn, This is why we Fight
5. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
This was probably the most complicated decision, but this album earned this spot against all odds. It’s a genre I rarely listen to (dream-pop/electronic), from an artist I had never heard of, and it’s essentially an ambient music album, but it’s just SO good. This is probably the second easiest album of the year to turn on track one and forget what you were doing until the last moments of the outro. It’s beautiful, it’s magical, and it transcends the limits of electronic-pop in a way that astounds me – the only contemporary comparison I can draw is to James Blake. Anyway, It’s a phenomenal album and deserves a place on this list.
Standout tracks – Just listen to the album straight through.
St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
Feist – Metals
If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing these albums yet this year, you still have a month left! Go out, eat your turkey and stuffing, come home and buy some new music!