Cripes, 7 years of sharing the best albums I’ve heard with you. Gee, thanks for reading, Mum (I’m assuming you’re the only person who does read it, massive welcome to anyone else!)
As per, the main event is the shortlisted top ten(ish) which is this playlist:
One of these years it’ll be ten songs, and we’ll know that was a pretty crappy year for music, but as it was, there was no way to trim these down more without losing something pretty amazing from the year.
So mostly in order of how they sounded listenable together:
1. Richard Swift – The Hex
I love this record. I’d been listening to Richard Swift more and more, and news of his death this year was obviously a blow as he just seemed to be getting better and better. So this posthumous release was the only thing that came close to consolation for the loss of a great singer/songwriter.
2. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
While their name may not trip off the tongue, this is a supremely easy to get into album, and once you’re in, it’s hard to stop playing it. Their previous album seems to have remained their most popular if you believe Spotify, but I think this is far more competent and well crafted. Perhaps it’s too pop for some tastes.
3. Noname – Room 25
Wow, what a debut! Utterly beguiling raps drop over jazzy laid back tracks that sound part live and part mixed. The smart lyrics only serve to reinforce what a punchy first album this is. Blaxploitation and Self are particularly good, but the album is excellent as a whole.
4. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
Parquet Courts began their career sounding like a Pavement tribute band that hadn’t caught up with the changing of the decades, and in fact felt like they were leaning even more heavily on the New York sound of Television et al. But it’s been an impressive evolution for this band, bringing more and more elements into their sound and really developing a sound and energy all of their own. This is probably how exciting Coldplay think they are.
5. Swamp Dogg – Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune
This is more than a comedy album, even if it does sound ludicrous to begin with. This is not what Cher discovering auto-tune (and believing in it) sounds like. Well worth listening to some of his older albums as well, and on this track he even convinced Bon Iver that he’s legit enough to play with!
6. Field Music – Open Here
Field Music often are disparaged through comparison to the bands in whose shadows they often are, Talking Heads, Steely Dan, and with this last album, The Beatles as well. Alongside the Richard Swift and Khruangbin albums, this has to have been my most played album on this list. It just smashes it from start to finish. I was a massive fan of their Commontime album, and the few before, but I think this may well be their best to date.
7. Damien Jurado – The Horizon Just Laughed
I think every review I’ve read of this states he’s doing Rockwellian portaiture with this self-produced record. I assume they mean Norman Rockwell, rather than the fairly naff pop singer, Rockwell.
Either way this is a great record from Jurado, slightly stripped back compared to his last outings and with less of the soul influence, but a thing of beauty with some hints of British Invasion in the lyrics.
8. Low – Double Negative
As every pathetic comedian since the dawn of time has chirped, “I’ll have what they’re having!” That said, the heady blend of psychedelics or koolaid that created this album is quite mindblowing. I’ve been a fan since pretty early on, but the creative shift to create this album is impressive. If you haven’t heard them before, it’s a great album, if you know their stuff, it’ll slightly blow your mind! Check out this one.
9. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
If I’d been lucky enough to hear this and appreciate it when I was younger, I genuinely think I would have wanted to grow up to be Kamasi Washington. What an insanely talented dude. Sigh, I didn’t, maybe I’ll start handing out the records to kids on the street, hmm, could get pricey.
As with the Epic this is a revitalising of jazz with a bit of be bop worked into his maximalist dramatic stylings and alongside the London scene (more to come on that) is making modern jazz one of the most exciting genres of music right now.
10. Mount Eerie – After (Live)
One of the most heart-rending albums I think I’ve ever heard. I’ve been a fan of many of Phil Elverum’s projects, particularly the microphones, and have been enjoying this recent run of Mt./Mount Eerie albums, but stripped back to acoustic guitar the lyrics really hit home. Recently bereaved of his wife, this is an album all about healing and not in a trite way, or even in a way that you’ve ever probably heard before. For instance it begins:
Death is real
Someone’s there and then they’re not
And it’s not for singing about
It’s not for making into art
When real death enters the house, all poetry is dumb
Breath-taking writing, check out the full album.
11. Tommy Guerrero – Road to Knowhere
I was lucky enough to hear Tommy Guerrero’s first album basically when it came out and I’ve been listening to everything he’s done since. He’s just got this wonderful sense of a pop hook on a guitar, but somehow infuses it with the essense of dirt and travel and excitement. The last few albums had gone off the boil with a lot of collaborations that tended not to work that well for either party, but he’s back to what he does best here. Instrumental guitar trips.
12. Sons Of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile
Shabaka Hutchings has been at the heart of the London jazz scene pushing it forwards in extremely satisfying ways. This album melding afrobeats and Ethio jazz with some more traditional elements from the be-bop era is superb. The Twi-Life album from Marcus Strickland is also fantastic, but was edged of this year’s list by Sons of Kemet, Kamasi and Charles Lloyd (see below).
13. Yo La Tengo – There’s a Riot Going On
Yo La Tengo doing an above average Yo La Tengo album, which basically makes it an utter classic immediately. This album should be consumed whole on Sundays, regularly.
14. Charles Lloyd & The Marvels – Vanished Gardens
There are some beautiful instrumental tracks on this album, but it also features the stunning voice of Lucinda Williams which is a game changer. Another Sunday-ish album, but because you have to have the time to appreciate it. It’s too subtle for the headphones-while-you’re-working scene.
15. Cat Power – Wanderer
The last time I saw Cat Power play I was left wondering if she’d ever play again. She was wasted and obviously very distressed, which she was more than happy to share with the audience at large. But how fantastic to be proved wrong and with incredible style, this album has class and a wherewithal that only a mature artist can deliver. She also managed to squeeze in a beautiful cover of What The World Needs Now that rounds off the mix on Spotify, so I hope you enjoy that, and this!
I already covered Marcus Strickland above, and this may be the first year Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s done an album and it hasn’t made the list… It is an excellent album, but as it’s just stripped back covers of his earlier works, it didn’t seem to merit the list.