It’s that time of year again where I claim that albums I listened to for the first time last week are destined to become future classics and where I very quickly run out of adjectives to describe simple musical terms.
20. Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too
19. Ryley Walker – Primrose Green
18. Speedy Ortiz – Foil Deer
17. Everything Everything – Get To Heaven
16. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp
15. Best Coast – California Nights
14. Mini Mansions – The Great Pretenders
13. Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
12. Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon
11. Paul Weller – Saturns Pattern
10. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
Smooth as silk pop-funk that polishes some of the harder edges off UMO’s angular kiwi art-pop for their most accessible album yet.
9. Belle & Sebastian – Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance
Not quite the ‘indie-pop darlings go synth’ album that lead single The Party Line may have implied but it’s probably as close as they’ll get. And it’s not nearly as bad as that headline sounds. Stuart Murdoch is too smart a pop craftsmen to let Ben H. Allen’s glossy production overwhelm another set of catchy pop tunes.
8. Jamie XX – In Colour
The album title says it all. If you take the black and white ‘X’ on the cover of The XX’s classic debut and slowly dipped it into a rainbow stew, you’d get ‘In Colour’, an album that revels in the maximalist electro pop grooves that The XX shied away from but which has enough restraint and variety to keep it from becoming feather light. It’s a party that plays on into the night without fizzling out.
7. The Go! Team – The Scene Between
The Go! Team have moved away from the pop-rap 80s video game sound that made them a mid-noughties buzz band to a more streamline capital-P Pop sound with crunchy guitars and a big, bright 60s throwback aesthetic. It makes for a more consistent if less wildly original album than their previous work.
6. Susanne Sundfør – Ten Love Songs
Beautiful Scandinavian electro pop, moving seamlessly between heartfelt balladry to club-ready fist pumpers. She is surely set to move into the terrain occupied by Robyn and Lykke Li in the years to come.
5. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
Gorgeous and glib in equal measure, J Tillman works his magic once again, bringing together some very out of fashion musical stylings and his usual knack for painfully funny stories about his life and the world at large.
4. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
The queen of Australian rock has returned for a remarkably assured follow up to last year’s uneven yet gem-filled double EP. Once again she proves her talent as the master of the mundane, reveling in the recognisably human thoughts that fill most of our waking lives, both silly and quietly profound.
3. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Taylor Swift BFF and occasional rapper returns with a worthy follow up to 2012’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (which is an achievement in and of itself) with an album that’s bigger, bolder and hits just as hard.
2. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
One of indie rock’s most consistently great rock bands returns from a 10 year hiatus without missing a beat, producing a no-fat rock album that’s fun, tight and endlessly listenable.
1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Ever since Steven’s 2005 masterpiece, Come on Feel the Illinoise, I’ve been incapable of finding another artist to replace him atop my mental list of favourite musicians, even though his output has veered wildly since then from instrumental suites about expressways, to extensive Xmas box sets, to glitchy synth pop LPs and side projects that vary in quality. But ‘Carrie & Lowell’ sees Stevens back at his most emotionally bare, no longer hiding behind folk tales, religious allegory or Americana mythologising. It’s not an easy album to listen to, but it’s entirely accessible and heartbreaking to anyone willing to follow Stevens on his journey to try and understand his mother’s life and mourn her death.
Full Disclosure: I’ve yet to get around to exploring the latest releases from Björk, Vince Staples, Miguel, Natalie Prass, Jim O’Rourke, Laura Marling, Tobias Jesso, Jr and many others.