Well this has been QUITE a rollercoaster of a year for music. Dance music was HUGE, indie acts crossed over, and rap..still sucked. But there were a few gems that slipped through the incredibly thin cracks. All in all, this was a great year for music. My ears for the most part were pleased, and so were my speakers whenever I played something with heavy basslines. Overall I give the year a B+. Now some of you will completely disagree with my choices. That’s fine. Some of you might not have even HEARD of these bands. And that’s what I’m here for I believe. So expand the mind a little will ya? So buckle up and hold on for a random, random list..While I am not a writer by any stretch of the imagination, I follow my tapping feet and my shaking booty. They lead the way. So sit back, relax, and rant and rave or smile at my choices. Don’t worry, you won’t be quizzed on this later.
30. Niki and the Dove – The Drummer
While this is just an EP it packs quite a wallop truth be told. Swedes do it best it seems and the trio provides a loud pulsating sound that grabs onto you and puts you in a trance and throws in a little r&b for gits and shiggles. You don’t know which way to go all you know is you want them to lead the dance way.
Key Tracks – The Drummer, Last Night
29. Pack A.D. – Unpersons
This album really blew me away. With a combination of rock and blues, they are definitely the quinticential garage band’s garage band. You can easily hear The White Stripe’s influence, as well as Flat Duo Jets with the growls and and the hollers. What else do you do when the relationship goes down the drain? Sing the pain away and get your growl on. Seek your revenge. Call the person out. Make the rock loud. And they did all of the above. You break up with someone? Put this album on. I guarantee you will feel better.
Key Tracks – Haunt You, Rid of Me, Seasick
28. Blood Oranges – Coastal Grooves
I don’t know much about Dev Hynes other than he loves rhythmic melodies and is completely influenced by 80s dance and new wave. It’s got great guitar lines and his voice is strong. It’s a cd that can be played after winding down after clubbing. It can be played in your car, or even at a party. Dev does most of the guitar strumming and a wonderful player he is. The music is clean and fun. And sometimes after the day is done, that’s all we need, something fun.
Key Tracks – Champagne Coast, Instantly Blank (The Goodness), I’m Sorry We Lied
27. Luke Bryan – Tailgates and Tanlines
While I’m not a big fan of country, there is usually an artist in the country department that makes the list for me. Luke Bryan, in addition to being easy on the eyes, has concocted a perfect pop country album. There is nothing particularly earth shattering about this album, but what he does he does well, just providing melodic country music that sticks with you and gets the feet tapping.
Key Tracks – Country Girl (Shake it For me), I Don’t Want This Night to End, Harvest Time
26. Mint Julip – Save Your Season
This album is difficult to discuss. The music is incredibly haunting. And incredibly mismatched. One minute you want to dance on the table and the next you want to..well.. hug someone followed by a “I love you man.” It’s just a great sounding record. Just listen for yourself.
Key Tracks – Days Go By, Save Your Season, Letting Go
25. The Kooks – Junk of the Heart
This is anything but junk. It’s kind of different from their previous albums. It sounds a bit more mainstream, but that’s not a bad thing at all. They’re not reinventing the wheel, they just want to make a good album you can listen to again and again. So far, no complaints here.
Key Tracks – Mr. Nice Guy, Taking Pictures of You, Is It Me
24. Foster the People – Torches
Ok, Pumped Up Kicks aside, this is an EXCELLENT record. Absolutely. It’s upbeat. It’s quirky, and gets my toes tapping. I mean, what else do you need? And it’s got piano. They make piano sound cool. Heck yeah!
Key Tracks – I Would Do Anything for You, Don’t Stop, Miss You
23. Mister Heavenly – Out of Love
Melodic harmonies, hard rock, and yet kinda sounds like it could be played in the 50s. I even detect a wee bit of the rockabilly. I was thoroughly surprised. The band is made up of members of Modest Mouse, the Shins, Man Man, and Unicorns. I guess with that cosmic slop, I should have known it was going to be good.
Key Tracks – Harm You, Charlyne, Doom Wop
22. Penguin Prison – Penguin Prison
Just makes me wanna dance dance dance. For reals. The new wave pays a visit. Synths, done in the right way, can really make an album stellar. And this.. was done in the right way.
Key Tracks – Don’t Fuck with My Money, Something I’m Not, Pinocchio
21. The Kills – Blood Pressures
Listening to this band makes me OWN blood pressure go up. It’s very loud, dark, and dirty. Just plain dirty.. with a hint of blues. This duo never disappoints. I just wish it was longer. Just an excellent album. I leave it with my jaw to the floor.
Key Tracks – The whole damn thing.
20. Zola Jesus – Conatus
Zola makes the best choir in the world sound miniscule in comparison. Her voice is just overwhelmingly loud. It’s beautiful music. Not music to be heard everyday, but she is definitely definitely quite the treat to listen to. Her music is atmospheric, etheral, and romantic. My dream? To put her in the studio with Florence and the Machine. Can you IMAGINE what will happen?
Key Tracks – Vessel, In Your Nature, Swords
19. Rihanna – Talk That Talk
Aaaah yes. RiRi. She has returned. Again, with another set of r&b and dance hits. They hit harder with every album. On this one she definitely explores the club scene a little more than previous efforts as well as the sexual bravado… And her voice fits perfectly with the beats. She’s come a long way from her first album and I look forward to hearing where she takes her music next. “Drunk on Love” has been on repeat on my pod for days.
Key Tracks – Where Have You Been, We Found Love, Drunk on Love, Roc Me Out
18. The Chain Gang of 1974 – Wayward Fire
I’m kinda an 80s junkie, even though I remember the 90s more vividly from beginning to end. This album could easily have been played in heavy rotation in the 80s. It’s a great combination of new wave, rock, and guitars that made the 80s what it was. Plus, it’s a fantastic title for a band no? Chain Gang of 1974. I mean, who DOESN’T love this name??
Key Tracks – Devil is a Lady, Heartbreakin’ Scream, Matter of Time
17. Childish Gambino – Camp
Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, is a nerd. And he illustrates that in this album. He illustrates how he grew up, fitting in a world that didn’t necessarily accept him because he wasn’t the stereotypical Black person one sees on tv or the media or in music. He loves his parents, he realizes how lucky he is, and he’s funny. I can kinda relate to that;-) It’s funny, it’s refreshing, and I like it. I hope he sticks around for a long time.
Key Tracks – Bonfire, LES, You See Me
16. Designer Drugs – Hardcore/Softcore
SO. LOUD. I CAN. BARELY. HEAR. MYSELF. DO. ANYTHING. MUCH. LESS. TYPE!!
Key Tracks – Leather Gang, Crazy for You, Riot
15. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
The Shredding Queen on this one… she is an excellent guitarist. It’s a break up record. Or the picking up the pieces after breaking up with someone. It’s quite quirky. It’s beautiful. It’s perfect. Thank you Annie. I could go on and on about this, but I won’t. It’s good. It’s very very good.
Key Tracks – Cruel, Cheerleader, Champagne Year
14. Antigone Rising – 23 Red
The ladies from Long Island, NY, have returned with a very upbeat and incredibly catchy collection of songs of rock and a twang of country. It’s a feel good album that was perfect for the summer whether relaxing at the beach, driving with friends, or doing your best air guitar and air drumming in your living room. The quartet possesses high energy, beautiful melodies, and heartfelt songwriting. It’s a treasure and a must have..
Key Tracks – No Remedy, Everywhere is Home, You Say You Want to Leave (Circles), Gracefully
13. Washed Out – Within and Without
The man is Earnest Green. The album? Beautifully textured and layered. It leaves you with a push and pull between summer lounging and dancing.
Key Tracks – Eyes Be Closed, Far Away, Within and Without, Call it Off
12. Camo and Crooked – Cross the Line
If you like drum and bass, and needle drops, this one is for you. The end:-) Thank me later.
Key Tracks – Funk You, Make the Call, Portal
11. Lisa Bianco – Momentum
The long awaited second cd was worth the wait. The crunchy guitars make you want to jump up and slap yourself, your mom, and the little dog that keeps yapping. She’s loud, bold, and unapologetic. From beginning to the end of this record, you are taken on an emotional ride of hope, love, frustration, and satisfaction. Big thumbs up from me.
Key Tracks – Breakin’, Erase You, Big City Lights, Low
10. Lady Gaga – Born this Way
The Ga doesn’t disappoint on her second full length masterpiece. She returns proving (as if there was any real doubt) that she has the chops, and the right production team behind her to carry her voice into the world. I kinda dig it. More power to her.
Key Tracks – Government Hooker, Marry the Night, Heavy Metal Lover
9. Wild Flag – Wild Flag
This is not a superteam. It’s a combo of great musicians from Helium, the Minders, and Sleater-Kinney, who happen to be friends. They’re in your face, they’re loud, they are awesome. Period. If you listen to Wild Flag, you are left twitching on the floor wanting more of the wails and crunchy sounds of guitarists Mary Timony and Carrie Brownstein. One word to describe it? Incredible.
Key Tracks – Romance, Glass Tambourine, Electric Band
8. The Black Keys – El Camino
The Ohio boys return again for a new album. It mixes garage rock, soul, and a bit more rock edged than Brothers. It’s fast paced and if anyone can make the loud, it’s these two. Dan’s guitar wailing just makes it even MORE worthwhile.
Key Tracks – the whole damn album
7. Swedish House Mafia – Until One
Whaaaat? I can’t hear you!! That is what I usually say when I listen to this album because the beats are so loud and addictive it’s hard to concentrate. The whole album is just wonderful from beginning to end. I turn up the volume and twitch again with glee. The synths make this album and the mix is just perfect. All hail the new Kings!
Key Tracks – the whole album, especially In the Air
6. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
It’s gorgeous, it’s lush it’s 80s revisited just on a grander dance scale. It’s a great gem to the ears.
Key Tracks – Intro, Midnight City, Claudia Lewis, Year One, One UFO
5. Mute Math – Odd Soul
Cheesus Crust I love this album. It’s loud, unapologetic, rocky, melodic.. the adjectives can go on and on. They really upped the ante with this album. And it shows. The production is sleek in some areas and distorted in others. But yet it completely works. This could easily have been played in the 70s and they could have easily opened for Led Zep in LZ’s heyday The lead singer, Paul Meany, shouts like he found himself some religion and wants to share. It’s just a beautiful work of art to dance to. Get on the good foot, and get this album.
Key Tracks – Aliens, Odd Soul, Equals, Pyrtania
4. Betty Wright w. the Roots – Betty Wright: The Movie
Betty returns from a ten year hiatus with a wonderful r&b album with the Roots in tow. The production is completely old school for the most part, and there is nothing wrong with a little old school. Her voice hasn’t skipped a beat. While there are a few guest stars on the cd (Lil Wayne and Joss Stone), Wright is still in control, singing about happiness, heartbreak, and maturity. R&B singers of today should take a page from Betty’s book. They could learn a thing or two.
Key Tracks – Whisper in the Wind, Grapes on a Vine, So Long, So Wrong, In the Middle of the Game
3. Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials
Well, Florence and the gang returns. Her vocals are as bold as ever, accompanied by organs and drums. You get the feeling that you are listening to hymnals but you only WISH church hymns were as exciting as Florence makes them sound. She’s empowering, elegant, and at times completely melancholy and dramatic. But all the while ALWAYS entertaining. And she’s only 24.
Key Tracks – Shake it Out, What the Water Gave Me, Breaking Down, Seven Devils
2. Lupe Fiasco – Lasers
For a man who didn’t want this album to be released due to record company interference, this was a stellar set. Lupe writes about triumph over tragedy, fighting for what is yours, problems within inner cities, and the government, while maintaining his own sanity and dealing with his place in life and in music. It is quite a feat to take on, and Lupe does it tremendously well. This was quite the stand out, in a year where rap music was in major yawnapalooza. Thank you Lupe, thank you.
Key Tracks – Words I Never Said, Till I Get There, The Show Goes On, Break the Chain, All Black Everything (a particular gem, where he creates a fantasy of what ifs..)
1. TIE. Friendly Fires – Pala; Adele – 21
Before you say it, yeah I have a tie for #1. I love these albums equally. Friendly Fires saved my summer with an upbeat, dancey, r&b influenced collection of songs that got the butt shaking and the brush in my hand doubled as the best mic in the world to sing along to their music. It is the best pop dance album this year hands down. And Adele, well.. when you can convey heartbreak as powerful and emotional as Adele can, you are most definitely.. winning. Her voice is just stunning, absolutely stunning and tugs at the heart strings like nothing else I’ve heard this year. This was her year, as it should have been. Perfect mix of soul, emotion, and pop. FF and Adele delivered in two different ways, but equally just as effective, to me anyways.
Key Tracks – Friendly Fires’ Pala: Show Me Lights, Hurting, Pala, Live Those Days Tonight, Blue Cassette
Adele’s 21: Rollin’ in the Deep, Someone Like You, Rumour Has It, Set Fire to the Rain, Take it All, I’ll be Wating
Aaand a little round of applause for the ones who JUST missed my list but deserve a serious shout out:
Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
Feist – Metals
DJ Shadow – The Less You Know, the Better
The Roots – Undun
Yuck. Yes there is a band called Yuck. And they’re not yuck. not in the least.
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger. Gotta love the pop. The sweet sweet pop. #TeamClarkson
Whew. That was a LOT of music to narrow down to 30 choices. My ears hurt. My brain hurts. But if next year is anything like this year, then I’m definitely looking forward to it. I’m going to have some wine and listen to these albums again.
Rock on everyone. Happy new year.