There were a lot of great albums released this year, many of which didn’t make the Top 25. After the list, there’s an alphabetical list of the albums that didn’t make the cut for one reason or another.
25. Battles Mirrored
24. Justice ✝
23. Les Savy Fav Let’s Stay Friends
22. Klaxons Myths Of The Near Future
21. Kanye West Graduation
20. Spoon Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
19. Sea Wolf Leaves In The River
18. Datarock Datarock Datarock
17. The Hold Steady Boys And Girls In America
16. LCD Soundsystem Sound Of Silver
15. Feist The Reminder
14. Mark Ronson Version
13. Bat For Lashes Fur & Gold
12. Thurston Moore Trees Outside The Academy
11. Charlotte Gainsbourg 5:55
10. Arcade Fire Neon Bible – I have a love/hate relationship with Arcade Fire. I love them for their artistic integrity and ability to consistently make incredible music the way they want to. I hate them for not being more open to whoring themselves out. Truth be told, it’s totally selfish. I want to work with this band more than any other band in modern music. Even more than Radiohead. Refocusing on the album, if only for a couple of sentences, I’ll say that there’s no reason that this album won’t go down as one of the best albums of the last decade. It’s innovative, pioneering, strangely beautiful and smart. And let’s face it, if you don’t have this album, it’s quite likely you’ve let yourself go in the music department.
9. The Good, The Bad & The Queen The Good, The Bad & The Queen – The Good, The Bad & The Queen are a supergroup. Let’s just establish that straight away. Damon Albarn (Blur/Gorillaz), Paul Simonon (The Clash), Tony Allen (Africa 70/Fela Kuti) and Simon Tong (The Verve) mix everything from dub to African to Brit rock to Reggae and soul. Oh, and they transcend decades of music styles just to keep things interesting. While the album could be described in more ways than I care to go into, at the core are a bunch of really talented musicians having a good time and calling it an album. Bob Marley said it best, “Music is music.”
8. Cherry Ghost Thirst For Romance – I haven’t really seen anyone else talking about this album, at least not in the States. If you’re a Wilco fan, which I will be again when they make a good album, you’ll recognize where the band’s name came from. And it might give you a small indication of what you’re getting into before you put the album on. There’s something to be said for a band that just makes good music. Thirst For Romance could have been released 10 or 20 years ago and it would still be a compelling album and there aren’t many others I could honestly say that about.
7. Okkervil River The Stage Names – Can I be honest with you about something really trite? I hate the band’s name and I was late to the game because of that. You’re rolling your eyes, aren’t you? Look, I’m not proud of it and I’m coming clean so how about you cut me some slack, hipster. This album has Austin written all over it, and incidentally, that’s where they hail from. And while there’s an undeniable yet faint twang, you’ll be be hard-pressed to call this anything but alt-country. Gorgeous layers of guitar, piano, strings and, well, happiness keep me listening to this album over and over. Am I the only one who thinks they sound a lot like the Old 97’s?
6. Band Of Horses Cease To Begin – I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that was worried about a sophomore slump for this band. Their debut was critically acclaimed and there was quite a bit riding on their follow-up. When I first listened to the album, I wasn’t taken by it. There wasn’t anything that particularly stood out to me, but damn if it didn’t grow on me. Seeing them live really sealed it for me as well. There’s enough hope in the music to keep me from thinking something bad is gonna happen, but the excitement of not knowing for sure keeps me listening more intently than I normally do. I still haven’t figured it out, but that’s ok.
5. Menomena Friend And Foe – If I wasn’t paying attention to release dates, I would have totally passed this one over. Menomena first appeared on my monthly mixes last year, thanks to my friend Van at Barsuk (their label), but the album was released in January. I digress… Friend And Foe was the first time I heard Menomena and it’s the only album I can tolerate. I’m a little at a loss for words on how to describe why I like this album so much. The rhythm is unconventional and the song structure isn’t what I’m normally drawn to, but maybe that’s why this particular album is so appealing to me. Somehow, through all of the asymmetries I find the music compelling, if not just short of brilliant. And if I sound a little like a scientist trying to apply logic to my fondness for this album, you’ll understand when you listen to it. It should also be noted that despite working in an office with people that are musically ambivalent (not you, Mara), everyone enjoyed it when I played this album. I’m just sayin’.
4. Radiohead In Rainbows – I can’t bring myself to justify Radiohead’s inclusion on my list. If you don’t understand, there’s nothing I can say to change your mind.
3. The National Boxer – I think I might be in the minority with regards to not placing this album at the top of my list, and I feel a little guilty about it. Simply put, this is one of the most exceptional albums I’ve heard in years. If Boxer was a sweater, it will be tattered, pilled and in dire need of replacement. There’s something inexplicably gorgeous about lead singer, Matt Berninger’s voice and the finely balanced instrumentation. There isn’t a song worth skipping on this near-perfect album.
2. Maps We Can Create – I’m a sucker for electronic and rock music in a blender. And I’m not talking about repetitive rave kind of electronic music. We Can Create is sonic euphoria. An epic album that mixes psychedelia, pop and electronica with precise balance. When I listen to this album, I feel free. There’s an unmistakable familiarity that brings me comfort and makes me feel as though everything’s going to be alright.
1. Kings Of Leon Because Of The Times – I’m hard-pressed to find a band that records a better sounding rock n’ roll record than the Followills. The album hasn’t left my car CD player since it came out. They put on one of the best shows I saw all year and while they rarely dive deeper than sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and god, they’ve got the magic formula down. This album is fun. It’s probably not an album you’ll sit down with to ponder life, but sometimes you need a vacation from the bullshit. Because Of The Times shall serve as your guide.
The ones that got away
Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger
Against Me! – New Wave
The Bees – Octopus
Beirut – The Flying Club Cup
Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
Blonde Redhead – 23
Brother Ali – The Undisputed Truth
Caribou – Andorra
Common – Finding Forever
Dan Deacon – Spiderman Of The Rings
Dean & Britta – Back Numbers
Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond
Dungen – Tito Bitar
Editors – An End Has A Start
El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
Fink – Distance and Time
Grinderman – Grinderman
Jay-Z – American Gangster
Lil Wayne – Da Drought 3
M.I.A. – Kala
Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Kate Nash – Made Of Bricks
Fionn Regan – The End Of History
Rilo Kiley – Under The Blacklight
Soulsavers – It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s the Way You Land
Bruce Springsteen – Magic
Taken By Trees – Open Field
UGK – Underground Kings
White Rabbits – Fort Nightly
Amy Winehouse – Back To Black