As you know I do this every year. No greatest hits, and no soundtracks.
5. Lower Dens – Escape from Evil
Originally I had Father John Misty slotted in this spot. The more and more I thought about it though, I came to realize that the Lower Dens is a permanent staple in my playlist and deserves to be mentioned in the top 5 this year. One thing that really stands out in this album is the distinct voice of Jana Hunter. It’s a delivery that plays so well with the mood of the album. There are tiny bits of multiple genres of music played here. Sprinkle of Caribou, dash of New Order, and a tiny bit of XX. The album really shines with it’s ability to balance the guitar work with the tone that the album is really trying to show off. By far the top point of the record is To Die in LA. The keyboard gives it a feel of a ’80s John Hughes movie, but the rest of the song feels like it’s the transition from 80’s to 90’s. Escape from Evil is a solid play from top to bottom. It’s mixed well, and the instruments flow together seamlessly. It’s an unexpected pick for my top 5, but my iPod doesn’t lie.
4. Tame Impala – Currents
What can you say about this band that hasn’t already been said. They are able to change styles throughout each album without missing a beat. They still have a bit of their psychedelia in this album, but have really raised the bar when it comes to synths and keyboards. Tame Impala have grown up. The filler on each song isn’t just a band-aid for the song. It’s a well thought out sound that mixes beautifully with each tune. Kevin Parker has also raised the bar for his vocals. Not only using his soft voice for feel, he now uses it as an instrument to in each song. He is able to change tones to match the identity of the song. There is only one tiny draw back to the complete change of style. The drums have been practically removed. Mind Mischief off of Lonerism has one of the best starts of a single in recent memory. There are points of this album that I miss that sound. Currents is not only a beautifully sounding album; it gives you a certain feeling. You can’t put your finger on it, but the songs are calculated perfectly and the talent of this band really shows up on this record.
3 – Jose Gonzalez – Vestiges and Claws
I try not to be bias when I write my top 5. It’s very difficult to do this when your favourite artist constantly puts out masterpieces regardless if he is solo or with Junip. Classic guitar style with maybe the best voice in the business. There is having high-hopes for an album then there is what I had for this record. Jose is a magician on the acoustic, and the weird thing about it – he makes it look so easy. Like he just sat down on his couch and came up with a song in 10 minutes. If you enjoy acoustic of any sort and haven’t really had a listen to his catalog of music. Give yourself a full day to be submersed into his world. Every single thing about the album gives me chills. Whether it be the smoothness of each note, to his outstanding ability to lull you into a dream without actually putting you to sleep. The only reason why this isn’t number one is because it’s an extension off of his previous solo stuff. It’s gorgeous and will make you feel fantastic.
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell
Welcome back Sufjan. You ventured off in a different direction. I applaud you for broadening your horizons, but we really need you back. The Age of Adz was a good album, it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I understood why people enjoyed it. Stevens has a magical way of making his music sound like everything that you would want an orchestra to be. Using instruments that would be odd for others, but for him is just another way to process what’s going on in his head. It’s difficult to describe to other people what Sufjan sounds like. You either get it or you don’t. Throw on Illinoise for details. Carrie and Lowell is a striped down back to earth album. It’s using everything that works without going to far off of the tracks. Stevens voice is absolutely gorgeous throughout this album. Pausing and expressing tones at perfect times within the record. After listening to Carrie and Lowell I expect to feel sad, but it’s actually the complete opposite. Beautiful album that cannot be rushed through.
- Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin Down
You ever sit down and start to just think of lyrics without actually jotting them down? They sound absolutely perfect in your head. You have a sound that you want the guitar to make that would sound wonderful with what you just wrote, but then you actually begin to play, and you can’t make it work. Kurt Vile made it work. This album is a masterpiece. It’s a story that was written without a pause or a second thought. Like a slice of your life that was cut out and somebody made a soundtrack to it. His guitar work is perfect. Vile has always been great at creating a mood for his music, but there are times when he can be a bit to dark. This album is a weight on your subconscious. It’s not something that you can just throw on in the background at a party. It needs your full attention from top to bottom. Have a listen to “That’s Life Tho,” It’s the best song of the year, and this the best album of the year hands down.