11. Gonjasufi - A Sufi and a Killer
Backed by two of my new favorite producers, Gaslamp Killer and Flying Lotus, Gonjasufi sings twisted soul in the midst of dense and disorienting electronics.
10. Frightened Rabbit - Winter of Mixed Drinks
I guess there's nothing quite like a thick Scottish accent to make sadness feel authentic. These guys are going to make the young girls swoon if they keep writing songs like 'Swim Until You Can't See Land'. Driving rhythms, hooky melodies and eclectic arrangements overshadow the occasionally over-earnest lyric. FR feels like sipping whiskey in a warm chair by the fire.
9. Janelle Monae - The Arch Android
A protege of Big Boi, Janelle Monae's album is the most over-the-top and ambitious of the year. She attempts a slew of genres- and invents a few of her own in the process. Her voice is absolutely insane and she's short and adorable. Also my vote for best album cover of the year.
8. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the Good Friday tracks
With Kanye, the highs have always been stunningly high, and the lows have been embarrassingly low. That is still true with MBDTF, but songs like 'Power', 'All of the Lights', 'Monster' and 'Runaway' are the best of his career. I could do without the Chris Rock monologue, but Kanye makes up for the unlistenable stuff with almost another album's worth of great tracks for free on his website (the GOOD Friday tracks). Here's one of my favorites:
7. Deerhunter - Halycon Digest
I have always flirted with liking this band, but previous albums have been inconsistent and immature. Halycon Digest, on the other hand, slays on almost every track. Neil Young meets Sonic Youth, with absolutely killer production. A headphones masterpiece:
6. Vampire Weekend - Contra
I drank the Kool-Aid. Contra is a great album and such a leap forward in terms of production, with a lot of new colors for VW's pallate that surprise and complement their established sound. There are still some embarrassing lyrics here and there, but Contra proves that Vampire Weekend is in it to innovate. Here's one of my favorite tracks:
5. Field Music - Measure
Field Music's third album is an embarrassment of riches. Twenty songs and every single one is impeccably written, arranged, played and produced. A modern XTC with a hint of Big Star - I like to imagine if I was a math major and british, this was the music I'd make.
4. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
Just when I was on the verge of tiring of Sufjan and his ever-angelic anthems, this crucial work in the Stevens oeuvre appears, on the heels of the less impressive but still entertaining All Delighted People EP. The Age of Adz is not always a soothing listen - it's often dissonent and cacophonous - but it is nevertheless a welcome change of pace and a thrilling ride. This is a long player in the epic sense. As some have commented, the closing 20-minute track 'Impossible Soul' alone has more exciting musical ideas than most other albums that came out this year.
3. The Walkmen - Lisbon
This is their simplest record and most unified statement. Drawing inspiration from Sun Studios, the arrangements are spacious, warm and simple. Hamilton Leithauser croons like he's never crooned, the guitars chime with honeyed distortion and the Walkmen continue to sound like absolutely no one else. Lisbon is calming, invigorating, fresh and classic all at once. The money shot on this song comes at 2:28:
2. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
The best hip top album of the year. Thick, southern, purple and funky. This track says it all:
1. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
This year, I fell in love with LA's beat scene, of which Flying Lotus is sort of the godfather. Conceived as a 'Space Opera', Cosmogramma feels to me what I imagine it must have felt like to hear jazz for the first time. It has served as quite the gateway drug, introducing me to Gaslamp Killer, Teebs, Shlohmo, The Take, Baths and more. Total eargasm.
Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings
Maps and Atlases
The Soft Pack
Swim Until You Can't See Land - Frightened Rabbit
Shadow People - Dr. Dog
Rill RIll - Sleigh Bells
When The World Comes To An End - Dirty Projectors
Shutterbug - Big Boi
Tightrope - Janelle Monae
Power - Kanye West
Coronado - Deerhunter
Norway - Beach House