Just like every other person on the planet who has listened to some music this year I will go ahead and rank my favorite albums of the year. This year was an especially great year for music. Looking back to last year, there were only a few albums that I still listen to on a regular basis. But I feel like I’m going to be spending much more time with this year’s crop. This list isn’t supposed to be an objective list of which albums are the “best” but just my opinions on what I like more. Some albums may be highly rated critically but they just never connected with me.
20. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires in the City
Maybe it’s just me but I really like older VW much more than this one. Not quite as catchy as I’m used to. With that being said “Step” and “Diane Young” are two fantastic songs.
19. Man Man - On Oni Pond
These guys put on one of the most amazing live shows I’ve ever been too. So much intensity and feeling, it’s a shame the album doesn’t quite capture that in the same way. But nonetheless a great collection of songs.
18. Queens of the Stone Age - …Like Clockwork
I’m a big fan of how they stay fresh on every album. You know it’s gonna be loud and gonna rock hard but the extra bells and whistles keep it interesting. “My God is the Sun” is my personal favorite.
17. Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
This album feels like a perfect time capsule from the ’60s. If you told me it was that old I would have probably believed you. A great mixture of Bob Dylan, Velvet Underground and the Beatles. But so much more than some easy x+y+z=Foxygen equation may have you believe.
16. How to destroy angels_ - Welcome oblivion
After listening to The Social Network and Girl With the Dragon Tattoo soundtracks it makes perfect sense these are the next songs Trent Reznor made. The songs give the same feeling of paranoia, dread and existential crisis but now with lyrics! The album is a bit long in the tooth, a few of the last songs could be cut, but overall very good.
15. Wavves - Afraid of Heights
I wanted to like this more than I really do. The first few songs are fantastic but then the album drags during the songs “Dog” and “Afraid of Heights” but then picks up again and finishes strong.
14. The Strokes - Comedown Machine
When I first heard the lead single “One Way Trigger” I was a bit confused, “is that Julian Casablancas singing in falsetto?”. Well, once I got over that I realized the album is sounds very natural and organically created. Just a group of dudes getting together making some enjoyable music.
13. Darkside - Psychic
I just learned of these guys mainly from the subbreddit, Let’s Talk Music (which is an great place for real music discussions) and I was instantly hooked. The music is a strange amalgamation of quiet, sparse dark electronica and 70s era guitars. Like nothing else I’ve heard before. Also the coolest album cover of the year.
12. Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe
These guys are one of those Pitchfork approved groups I had seen hyped about and kind of wrote them off without ever listening. But once I decided to actually give it a try, I discovered my hesitations were entirely unfounded. Great bit of 80s retro pop/rock. I have a feeling there are only getting started and will be huge one day.
11. Atoms for Peace - Amok
It took me awhile to really get into this but like anything by Thom Yorke it really unfolds itself after a few listens. I really looking forward to the next Radiohead album which should be out in a year or so, if history is any indication.
10. Tyler, the Creator - Wolf
Just like any Tyler album it’s about 3-4 songs too long, however we do see a maturation of Tyler as a lyricist. Now songs are about unrequited love and father issues without the rape and murder imagery. I love the song “IFHY” the beat is terrific.
9. My Bloody Valentine - m b v
Their version of Smile, took years to make and in the end it’s a really great album but just something feels like it’s missing. All of the songs are vintage My Bloody Valentine (with the notable exception of the immensely skippable “Nothing Is”) which is to say great music that feels physically textured.
8. Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience
Part 1 is an amazing pop album, part 2 is awful full of filler. I’m surprised he even released that one. However, I’m just ranking part 1 on this list so let me say that every song is great. ”Blue Ocean Floor” is a hauntingly beautiful closer. Justin also puts on a great live show. He ran circles (almost literally) around a quite old and tired looking Jay Z.
7. A$AP Rocky - Long.Live.A$AP.
It was a great year for mainstream hip hop if this was only my 4th best rap album of the year. Tons of fantastic songs and I just love the hazy, foggy aesthetic of all the songs. “LVL” a real standout (as is anything produced by Clams Casino). I’m looking forward to what he has next. Maybe the future we will learn more about who Rocky really is and not just the party persona.
6. Drake - Nothing Was the Same
I applaud the decision to make this an almost entirely solo affair, only a handful of singers and only 1 other rapper (Jay Z). Every song thematically fits together quite well. I actually really like “Started from the Bottom” and like that Drake is trying new things, though my two favorite songs are “Furthest Thing” and “Own It”.
5. Danny Brown - Old
I dare you to listen to the ratchet second half and not want to dance around. Though Danny also balances the crazy and bonkers with the personal A side which is fantastic in its own right. There was a lot of expectations here, and I think he exceded them all.
4. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
This completely changed the game. Many other artists are probably going to try and copy the retro vibe. But seriously no one will be able to make disco cool again except for Daft Punk. “Doin’ It Right” is probably my favorite song of the year but I’m very biased towards anything Panda Bear does.
3. Volcano Choir - Repave
This album was by far the most surprising in my mind. Their debut album had a few real “songs” on it, but mainly I just used it to read to. When I first heard these collection of songs (which could have easily been called a Bon Iver album) I was hooked. The hooks and choruses are so epic and catchy. You can’t help but sing along. It also makes great reading music to Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving. The feeling of winter and isolation really connects the two.
2. James Blake - Overgrown
I think even more than his debut album James Blake, this one captures the feeling of nighttime. I love driving around at night and listening to this, not to mention the understated bass crushes my car stereo.
1. Kanye West - Yeezus
You either love it or you absolutely hate it. I may not like the man (or his politics) very much, but damn if this isn’t the best album in a very crowded year. Nothing else in rap (or music for that matter) really sounds like this and that’s what makes this album so interesting. It’s hard to go back and listen to older Kanye since none of it bangs like this one.
Haven’t really listened to the new Arcade Fire. I’ve only listened once all the way through. It didn’t exactly grab me the way their previous albums had. But maybe it’ll end up on my list once I give it a proper listen. Also I’m excited to hear Childish Gambino's new album since I really enjoyed his last. Also I've really getting into Oneohtrix Point Never recently but haven’t heard much of the new album yet.
Most overhyped album:
Lorde - Pure Heroine
Everyone’s heard Royals by now and it’s a really catchy song. The problem is the rest of the album sounds almost exactly alike. Now it’s a pretty decent similar sound. But I couldn’t really tell the difference between any of them (besides Tennis Court, which I really like).
Most dissapointing album:
The Weeknd - Kiss Land
I really liked this album the first few times I listened, but after a while the shine wore off a bit. You get the feeling Abel tried to make some songs to get serious radio play (I’m looking at you Wanderlust!) and aren’t quite as weird as his amazing trilogy of mixtapes.