This has been an odd year in music by all accounts. There have been nearly no big-time rap albums (except arguably Future’s Honest), it’s been a down year for electronic music (just months after I declared 2013 the year dance music became king), and rock music has made an unexpected comeback (with three albums on our list being unabashed guitar rock records). The albums on our list are also decidedly slower, and more relaxed, as I would say half the albums on this list are very melancholy albums (especially our top two). Without further ado, our top ten so far in this odd year of music.
10. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
These Swedish sisters fully realized their potential on Stay Gold, making pastoral folk with impeccable harmonies.
9. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
Existential outlaw country? Count us in. Sturgill Simpson is truly one-of-a-kind, making songs that sound timeless but with an oddness that is uniquely him.
8. Jack White – Lazaretto
Jack White continues his streak of consistency with his angriest and most venomous album of his storied career.
7. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Love it or hate it, Mark Kozelek has made a masterwork in Benji, a folk album more personal than your 6th grade diary.
6. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
Like Jack White, Damon Albarn has taken on so many different bands and sounds, so it’s almost surprising Everyday Robots is his first true solo album. Albarn got his solo debut right, with poignant commentary on how technology affects our souls.
5. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
Sort of the odd-ball album out on our list, the debut from Sylvan Esso, the duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, is twinkling electro-pop that’s like the musical equivalent of Pop-Rocks to your ears.
4. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
St. Vincent has quietly become one of the best guitar players alive, and that, along with her flair for funky arrangements and biting commentary, make her self-titled 4th album her most unique.
3. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
Propulsive and relentless rock music: they just don’t make it like this anymore. Parquet Courts deliver in back-to-back years with Light Up Gold and Sunbathing Animal.
2. Antlers – Familiars
Not to sound creepy, but the Antlers music has a way of getting deep under your skin, into your bloodstream, and completely absorbing you. Familiars does this better than maybe any other album of theirs: lush, sorrowful, and just plain beautiful.
1. Beck – Morning Phase
Beck’s 12-year later follow-up to his 2002 folk masterpiece Sea Change picks up right where it left off. Morning Phase is so carefully constructed with every string swell, drum beat, and guitar strum hitting at just the right time, making this a wonderful and therapeutic listening experience.
Austin – Trophy Scars – Holy Vacants
Austin discovered these guys on a whim, and has absolutely fallen for their versatile and completely bonkers style of rock.
Wes – Lykke Li – I Never Learn
Power ballads never felt so good.
Todd – Death Grips – niggas on the moon
Now defunct, the rage rap duo went out with a bang.