Frank Ocean "Channel Orange" - I kind of hate to agree with, well, everybody, but Ocean’s record was an achievement in poetic, thought provoking, and relatable songwriting as well as a throwback to the sort of unpredictable, adventurous R&B I grew up with. It’s weird, but still accessible.
Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun “Wildfire” - From the opening notes of “We Were Wild” this Atlanta indie-rock quartet conjured ghosts of bands like Lush and Whirlpool with female vocals that hinted at the Breeders and Belly. It easily stayed on repeat.
Shovels and Rope “O’ Be Joyful” - The South Carolina couple’s record is one of the best-sounding albums of the year. Its crisp folk and lively spirit simply jumps from the speakers. I knew from the first listen in June it would make the list come December.
Diamond Rings “Free Dimensional” - The musical alter-ego of Canadian John O’Regan created some of the catchiest old school dance tunes of the year with new wave synth-meets-guitar-rock tracks that recall a mix of Depeche Mode and Interpol at their bounciest.
Bad Veins “The Mess We’ve Made” - Another pair doing more than you’d think a duo capable of. Its second album is full of lovely harmonies and quirky, loveable pop songs.
Sleigh Bells “Reign of Terror” - I bought this after hearing it over the sound system at Manifest while I was shopping with my kids. With its strange marriage of clunky dubstep distortion and ethereal pop vocals this duo made one of the easiest, yet harshest listens of the year.
Japandroids “Celebration Rock” - With the urgency of Superchunk and the working class energy and delivery of Avail, this duo (another duo?) lit up the rock world with some of the best tracks of the year in “The House that Heaven Built” and “Fire’s Highway.”
Marina & the Diamonds “Electra Heart” - On the surface she’s a Welsh pop diva whose voice does sometimes (annoyingly) merge Shakira and Florence and the Machine. But listen closer and there’s a feminist layer of intellectualism and social concern beneath the bubblegum dance tunes.
Beach House “Bloom” - This chill collection paints a mood that reminds me of Cocteau Twins with more discernible lyrics or my beloved Siouxsie Sioux at her gentlest.