My favorites in music for the year.
Top 10 Albums
10. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
With more prevalent guitars then you sometimes get with Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool is a gentle, elegiac, thoughtful reminder of how music can affect your mood, or let you wallow in it. Thom Yorke’s unique vocals and the band’s quiet arrangements are a nice alternative to their sometimes-heavy production.
Best Track: “Present Tense,” which feels like the closing credits to every movie I’ve ever loved.
09. Green Day – Revolution Radio
A nice return to form for the band after their three-album misstep of 2012 (Uno! Dos! Tre! Or Nada Mucho! as I like to call them). Aggressive and urgent, with thoughtful messages wrapped in three-chord hooks.
Best Track: “Still Breathing,” with its tight harmonies and pounding refrain is punk pop goodness.
08. Ingrid Michaelson – It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense
I have a thing for the piano-playing chanteuse, and Michaelson’s latest is a worthy entrant into that lexicon. With songs that jump around from kiss off anthem, to relationship requiems, Sense seems to track the schizophrenic emotions surrounding a break-up.
Best Track: “Drink You Gone,” with Michaelson’s delicious voice on full display, along with the heart on her sleeve.
07. Grouplove – Big Mess
The album has a seductive bounce and an 80s synth-pop sensibility amidst the bubbly arrangements and breezy vocals.
Best Track: “Do You Love Someone,” evoking an urgent need to consistently sing along.
06. Tribe Called Quest – We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
Q-tip has always one of the most interesting voices in hip-hop and it’s high lilt pairs wonderfully with Phife Dawg’s more aggressive tone. The album takes on a more thoughtful tone given Phife’s death prior to its release. A welcome return for a group that always called its own shots in their genre, eschewing the bluster and posturing of their musical compatriots.
Best Track: “The Donald,” which skips along to a slow groove and offers a thoughtful goodbye to Phife, whether intentionally or not.
05. Tegan and Sara – Love You to Death
The Canadian twin sister duo offers an amazing compilation of pure power pop music. Against synth beats and with delicate vocals, Love You to Death, is their strongest collection of songs to date.
Best Track: “100x,” a slow, melodic stunner.
04. Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings
Double albums usually offer a few hits sprinkled through an astounding amount of filler, but Lambert’s Wings, strums through twenty-four songs each one an integral piece of the whole. Straddling the thoughtful reflections and empowered anthems that have long been her calling card, Weight dips a toe deeper in the classic country waters than her previous works, to tremendous success.
Best Track: “Keeper of the Flame,” a slow burner of a song that strums along to her reflective vocals.
03. Beyonce – Lemonade
With Lemonade, Queen Bey has thoughtfully and aggressively moved on from being a pop-music diva and evolved into a true force of nature. Lemonade hops along from soulful ballads to country tinged toe tappers to forceful musical call to arms, weaving in and out genres with ease and purpose. It’s her best album to date, and demonstrates a confidence that she has well earned.
Best Track: “Sorry,” with its frolicking beat, shifting vocals and confessional lyrics, it’s a powerhouse.
02. The Head and the Heart – Signs of Light
The indie-folk rockers have crafted another batch of catchy tunes with jangly guitars and sweet vocals, that trod along on thoughtful lyrics and delicate harmonies. From the opening track to the closing notes, it’s wall to wall goodness.
Best Track: “All We Ever Knew” soars along with its passionate vocal performance.
01. Regina Spektor – Remember Us to Life
Backed with a piano that shifts through emotions, sounds and styles, Spektor’s latest highlights her deep yet chirpy voice, which feels at home in the sweet moments (“The Light”) as well as the unexpected ones (“Small Bill$”). Spektor has grown as a songsmith, crafting a collection of tunes that veers back and forth through a variety of emotional depths, a journey that is sometimes uncomfortable, but always amazing.
Best Track: “The Visit,” a simple throwback, that hides a raw, emotional power.
And my Top 10 Singles
10. “Over” – Rachael Yamagata
Yamagata’s sultry, soulful voice over a darkly rhythmic tune.
09. “False Alarm” – The Weeknd
With heavy production, shifting sensibilities, and a forceful vocal performance, this tune is the standout on The Weeknd’s latest album.
08. “Even Though Our Love is Doomed” – Garbage
It’s a dark tune that always feels like it’s just about to unleash but never does. It just slowly burns its way into your brain and provides a thoughtful reminder why the veteran band is still capable of creating an accessible and engaging tune.
07. “Cleopatra” – The Lumineers
The title track of the folk rock band’s latest is an insistent toe-tapping tune with impassioned vocals and a singalong sensibility.
06. “Bury It” – Chvrches with Hayley Williams
This electronic thumper is elevated by Williams’ additional vocals which merge perfectly with the bands performance.
05. “Go Off” – M.I.A.
M.I.A. is always good for an interesting beat, her voice is always killer and the added “run-pama pama’s” of the refrain solidify the track as a welcome return for the British rapper.
04. “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” – Japandroids
From the opening fade up of the rollicking drums, this song is an ear worm that never wavers. Timeless in that it sounds like it could have a welcome home on a classic rock station, as it would in the 80s, or obviously present day.
03. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Justin Timberlake
It’s almost expected to hate a song that feels like it was made in a lab to be the song of the summer, but I spent entirely too many mornings dreading the day until this song came on and I was bouncing along with a sudden smile on my face. Excellent tune with a solid vocal turn from Timberlake.
02. “Hurts” – Emeli Sande
This song grabbed me from the first moment I heard it. The breathy vocals, the urgent beat, wrapped in the lilting refrain, all coalesce into a stellar track.
01.“Fire Escape” – Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness
Impassioned vocals. Check. Bouncy pop hook. Got it. Enormously fun theme. It’s all there. McMahon is firing on all cylinders as his particularly endearing and earnest performance as singer, songwriter and musician are all at peak levels. I knew this was a favorite from the first listen and it hasn’t wavered in my estimation since.