I feel the need to preface this post with telling everyone this is a personal list. I have a feeling not everyone will agree with all of my picks, and it also really won’t match up with a lot of other lists that people have made this year. I have a few favorites that were deemed great albums by other music sources, but I tried to base my picks on the albums I listed to the most this year. These are albums I always went to when I didn’t know what to listen to, and therefore, they were my favorite albums of the year. Really, what better way to judge if it was a good album or not.
10. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
This album was one I tossed around doing a review of for a few weeks. I did really like this album this year, but I had a tough time gathering my thoughts on what I liked about it. I think the first song on the album, “Honey Bunny”, really helps to embody what I like most about what they do. They have this surfer / Beach Boy feel to their music. It is however, the Beach Boys brought into the 21st century. You can picture listening to them at a little beach party. These guys can still leave their beach loving sound and create some really well crafted deep songs as well. “Vomit” shows them slow it down, but still have a real good break down in the middle as well. Overall I think this is a great album that really shows off the bands abilities.
9. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
I did actually review this album for the site already. I figured that it was a B overall, which I guess doesn’t really scream one of my top 10 favorite albums, but I consistently came back to this album over and over after the review was complete. I think that really helps to show an album is something I enjoy. These guys play some good ambient rock and roll somewhat reflective of some of rock’s greats. With a singer that sounds somewhat like Dylan or Petty, their slow-paced ambient songs keep you interested without relying on some of the loud overpowering qualities rock has come to have now a days. Spinal Tap made it seem like you have to turn it up to 11, but these guys show you 11 isn’t necessary.
8. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong
I was a little surprised to not see this album on a few more lists. I know it wouldn’t end up near the top of every list, but I really thought it would end up somewhere on the list. I know their first album made a huge splash, and I actually like this album more than their previous album. They have a really good dichotomy between their really soft sung lyrics, and their much louder fuzzy music. I am sure that it isn’t for everyone, but really enjoy the sound that they manage to develop. It personally reminds me of the first time I heard Morrissey. He seems to sound a lot different and almost softer than the rest of the music, but somehow it all fit together. This one will manage to keep your foot tapping even with the extremely softly sung lyrics.
7. Dale Earnhart Jr. Jr. – It’s a Corporate World
This is another album I reviewed at some point during the year. I actually had to have a friend point out how good this album is to me. I downloaded it, gave it one listen, and I never really put it back on again. Thankfully, he told me to give it another try because it became one of my favorite albums of the year. Much different from really any other album on this list, I enjoy the way in which these guys manage to incorporate so much electronics into their music. Electronics are something that I’m never really a huge fan of in music. These guys, however, manage to use it so subtly that it only enhances and doesn’t take over the rest of the music. The singing helps to blend smoothly into the rest of the mix. Really, none of the songs sound like the previous song, which I think helps to make this album really interesting. You almost don’t know what each song will bring to the rest of the mix.
6. Destroyer – Kaputt
I thought most people had forgotten about this album, but then I started seeing it show up on other sites top lists of music for the year. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had enjoyed this one this year. I did actually end up reviewing this one; however, it was much earlier on in my time of having this blog, so I would probably redo that review now. Either way, this is just a great overall album. Dan Bejar creates an album that is soft, subtle, and danceable all in one. The music is all reserved and low key. It manages to hit a little bit of that 80’s feel now and then, but Bejar’s vocals come in with their Bowie-eque feel to really drive that point home as well. Bejar’s breathy easy delivery at first is a little off putting, but as you listen, you really get taken in by the entire composition of the records.
5. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
I was a little mad to see this album left off some people’s favorites of the year; however, thanks to a fellow blogger, I was shown that it made other lists I had not checked out as of yet. The Civil Wars have the perfect unity of male and female vocals, while producing music that is really beautiful as well. The song “Barton Hollow”, however, allows the listener to see how they can make their sound grittier as well. The tale of two people on the run from the law has to be my favorite song on the album. The rest of the songs still manage to show the cohesive unit that these two have become. Their voices blend beautifully together to create one of the best albums of the year, and with this style of music only becoming more popular, I’m fairly certain they are poised to only become more popular.
4. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
I can’t help but feel this comes across a little as a bandwagon pick, but I did really enjoy this album this year. It won’t make it to the top of my list due to the fact that I also manage to find it rather boring at times, but it is definitely one of the best albums of this year. Justin Vernon, the face behind the name, has one of the most interesting vocal deliveries in all of music. I had one friend tell me how seeing him live is sort of strange. You have a somewhat disheveled bearded man walk up on stage and play beautiful music while singing in falsetto. Somehow it manages to work. I really latched onto this album while traveling around Italy. Every time we boarded a train, I put this record on, sat back, and watched the Italian countryside go by. Vernon’s voice, fields of sunflowers, and old Italian architecture really made this album a favorite of mine.
3. The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart
From my bandwagon pick to my “seriously?!” pick. I was happy to see this album come up on a few different lists, but I really didn’t expect to see it on very many. As I said when I review this the first time, there is a stigma to a band that goes on tour with Dave Matthews Band. Regardless of that fact, I still think this is a great album. While they may be a little late arriving at the folk genre, I think they do a fine job of playing music that is not only catchy, but also really pretty good. There are certain songs on the album where I had to check and make sure I was still listening to the same song. They have the ability to take their songs in different directions in the middle of the song. This helps to keep it interesting and show their song writing abilities as well. Aside from a little misfire here and there, I think this is a great album that is flying under a few people radars.
2. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
And now for something completely different. I know this is radio rock and that fact manages to keep it off many people’s list. I have been a Foo Fighters fan since their inception, and it’s that kind of loyalty that keeps me coming back to their albums. I will admit to getting a little scared when they released a rather country sounding single to go with their greatest hits album, but they really managed to redeem themselves with this release. Chockfull of hearty rock songs, this album is really driven forward by what Dave and the gang have done well for years. However, this time, they really went back to their roots. They created just good rock and roll. There are a few of the slower Foo Fighter style songs as well, but “Walk” has been a fairly big hit this year, and they have a couple others on here that complement the record as well. I personally think it’s their best album since “The Colour and the Shape”.
1. The Decemberists – The King is Dead
I was surprised to see this album so high on some people’s lists, and I was sad to see it omitted from others. I, however, thought this was the best album of the year. I won’t lie; I am a sucker for a record that I can almost completely sing a long to, and I have definitely done that with this one. If you can’t get behind that harmonica introduction to the entire record, then I’m sure you won’t like the rest of the album either. This has been my go-to album the entire year. When I didn’t know what I wanted to listen to; I would pop this one on and give it a listen. It never really disappointed me. And, to be honest, I have never listened to a previous album from The Decemberists as much as I have with this one. Meloy’s iconic voice carries most of the songs along, while there is some harmonizing that takes place as well. The music is robust and keeps your foot tapping almost the entire time. I know it may not be the most technically amazing album of the year, and perhaps this band doesn’t have as much indie/hipster cred as they once did. None of that really matters to me. I just want to listen to a record I think is fun.