Re:Piano by Chad Lawson

40. Re:Piano by Chad Lawson

Chad Lawson re-imagines piano composition.

 

Disease by Beartooth

39. Disease by the Beartooth

With an interesting mix of hardcore, pop punk, and hard rock, Beartooth provided the most intriguing heavy music for my listening palate.

 

Black Panther Soundtrack

38. Black Panther: The Album by Kendrick Lamar and Various Artists

I haven’t seen the movie. Hopefully someday. But, the soundtrack is out of this world. Kendrick Lamar’s verse in “King’s Dead,” is probably the rap highlight of my year.

 

Lost Friends by Middle Kids

37. Lost Friends by Middle Kids

This debut shows the songwriting chops of this Australian band. I expect even better as this group matures.

 

Just For Us Francis and the Lights

36. Just for Us by Francis and the Lights

Francis masterfully blends electronic soundscapes with a soft, Peter Gabriel vibe. The syncopation in the eponymous track really grooves.

 

Noonday Dream by Ben Howard

35. Noonday Dream by Ben Howard

Noonday Dream is perhaps the most textured album of the year. Howard eschews catchy melodies for sonic viscosity, mostly successfully.

 

Bruises by Cary Brothers

34. Bruises by Cary Brothers

Cary Brothers hasn’t changed much since I saw him singing, “Blue Eyes,” during his cameo on Scrubs. But, I’m down with his chill, sing-songwriter vibe. So, never change, Cary?

 

's Un-Insides by Sophie

33. OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES by SOPHIE

OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES glitches from song to song to create pop music that’s about as inaccessible as pop music could be while still classified as pop.

 

MxPx by MxPx

32. MxPx by MxPx

At this point, MxPx is a pure nostalgia play. That said, I’m down with Bremerton’s finest punk band. They can deliver to me the nostalgia any day.

 

Offerings by Typhoon

31. Offerings by Typhoon

Typhoon’s blend of indie rock and guitar riffs was a refreshing find in the late winter. Its moods kept the February chill at bay.

 

so sad so sexy by Lykke Li

30. so sad so sexy by Lykke Li

Lykke Li’s so sad so sexy has just enough melancholy to elevate a pop record to a more introspective and creative place.

 

Hell-On by Neko Case

29. Hell-On by Neko Case

Some might find Neko Case’s brand of eco-feminism to be a bit blunt, but I find Hell-On to be current, important, and enjoyable on the ears.

 

Fight the Good Fight by The Interrupters

28. Fight the Good Fight by The Interrupters

The Interrupters are fighting the good fight of keeping ska-punk halfway relevant. Fight the Good Fight is a bundle of energy with a particular focus on the downbeat.

 

Brighter Wounds by Son Lux

27. Brighter Wounds by Son Lux

I had the privilege of seeing Son Lux live this year. Their set was so tight, every cut, syncopated beat, and harmony properly in its place. Yelling the chorus of “Dream State” with the crowd was an out-of-body experience.

 

Providence Canyon by Brentt Cobb

26. Providence Canyon by Brent Cobb

Brent Cobb takes this year’s Chris Stapleton award for “real” country artist making “real” country music. You know, authentic AF, etc.

 

DROGAS WAVE by Lupe Fiasco

25. DROGAS WAVES by Lupe Fiasco

Lupe’s Food & Liquor was the first hip-hop album I listened to front-to-back. DROGAS WAVE is almost 2 hours long, but Lupe is woke as ever.

 

24. Baby Teeth by Dizzy

Dizzy is what would happen if CHVRCHES went downtempo and added a reverb-soaked guitar.

 

Cocoa Sugar by Young Fathers

23. Cocoa Sugar by Young Fathers

Cocoa Sugar is one of those albums that requires repeat, attention-to-detail listens to find the treasure in its verses. At my life stage, that kind of listening is hard to do, but Cocoa Sugar has all the elements of an all-timer. I have a feeling this album will keep climbing this list in the years to come.

 

Cheyenne by Conner Youngblood

22. Cheyenne by Conner Youngblood

Youngblood’s dispatches from his world travels hold layers of folk impressionism. The Yale-educated singer-songwriter hasn’t met an instrument he’s been unable to master and Cheyenne does nothing to dissuade the Bon Iver comparisons.

 

Nearer My God by Foxing

21. Nearer My God by Foxing

This Missouri band is proving that emo doesn’t have to be dead. Also, give Foxing bonus points for recording the “Nearer My God” single in five different languages.

 

't Be Dead by Fantastic Negrito

20. Please Don’t Be Dead by Fantastic Negrito

Please Don’t Be Dead has bombastic guitar riffs and soulful melodies. Fantastic Negrito’s back story provides a bountiful source for the blues.

 

Palms by Thrice

19. Palms by Thrice

Take a quick look at Dustin Kensrue’s reading materials during the creation of Palms and you’ll see a journey toward an inclusive, progressive theology. Much respect for Dustin’s continued pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Also, kudos for the Stranger Things synth in “All of Us.”

 

K. Roosevelt by K. Roosevelt

18. K. Roosevelt by K. Roosevelt

K. Roosevelt’s self-titled album is so smooth. I get a Frank-Ocean-meets-synth-pop vibe out of it. Good for the soul.

 

boygenius ep by boygenius

17. boygenius ep by boygenius

Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers win super group of the year. With boygenius, the trio spins gold out of lo-fi yarn. My only complaint is that I missed the vinyl pre-order, and now it’s expensive.

 

16. Between Two Shores by Glen HansardBetween Two Shores by Glen Hansard

Glen Hansard still has the songwriting chops that helped him win an Oscar. In this installation, Hansard adds horns to his backing band and Between Two Shores sounds strikingly similar to any of The Band’s best work.

 

'll Be Your Girl by The Decemberists

15. I’ll Be Your Girl by The Decemberists

In college during a class on American folk music, a fellow student asked the professor if The Decemberists counted as American folk music. After a moment, the professor, said of all the modern music, The Decemberists would count. I’ll Be Your Girl isn’t the high watermark of The Decemberists catalog, but hopefully it still counts as American folk music.

 

14. Bambi by Hippo CampusBambi by Hippo Campus

This fall, I was spinning Bambi for a friend and made an off-hand comment about how good the singing was, considering the genre. He noted that they have good choirs in the Midwest. Perhaps Hippo Campus benefited from its St. Paul, Minnesota roots?

 

Delta by Mumford and Sons

13. Delta by Mumford & Sons

The latest from Mumford & Sons might not please many. Fans of the banjo don’t get much banjo. Fans of the last record wont get the same energy from Delta. But, I actually quite like this record. It’s reserved where it needs to be. But it also packs a punch at certain waypoints along the record’s journey. For those patient enough to make it to the syncopated ending of “Delta,” the last song, they’ll receive the reward of an anthemic end.

 

12. Village by Jacob BanksVillage by Jacob Banks

Jacob Banks has a voice that gives you all the feels. Nobody had soul this year like Jacob Banks and Village.

 

Evening Machines by Gregory Alan Isakov

11. Evening Machines by Gregory Alan Isakov

When all you have is a guitar and a voice, there’s no place to hide your imperfections. On stage, your music must command the room. The singer-songwriter possesses a difficult task, and with Evening Machines, I await every word from Gregory Alan Isakov with rapt attention.

 

DIrty Computer by Janelle Monae

10. Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer might be the most ambitious album of the year. All respect paid to Prince for laying the groundwork for this album, but Monáe owns every note.

 

Dying Star by Ruston Kelly

9. Dying Star by Ruston Kelly

Sticking with his bad boy bona fides, Dying Star is soaked in all the vices. It’s also super catchy. The guitar riff in the bridge of “Mockingbird” might be one of my favorite musical moments of the year.

 

Earthtones by Bahamas

8. Earthtones by Bahamas

Earthtones exhibits the two signature elements of Afie Jurvanen’s sound. 1. The laid-back surfer vocal laziness of Jack Johnson. And, 2. The smooth guitar riffs reminiscent of John Mayer. “Way with Words” is my favorite tune from Earthtones.

 

Be More Kind by Frank Turner

7. Be More Kind by Frank Turner

“Let’s make America great again by making racists ashamed again. Let’s make compassion in fashion again. Let’s make America great again.”

 

Thank You for Today by Death Cab for Cutie

6. Thank You for Today by Death Cab for Cutie

Thank You for Today feels like a return to form for Death Cab for Cutie. The contrapuntal guitars dance with Ben Gibbard’s evocative lyrics in a similar fashion to times long passed.

 

Love Is Dead by CHVRCHES

5. Love Is Hell by CHVRCHES

Love Is Hell has been the soundtrack to our household, largely because my oldest is a big fan of these synth-pop tunes.

 

By The Way, I Forgive You by Brandi Carlile

4. By the Way, I Forgive You by Brandi Carlile

There’s something about parenthood that re-scrambles your wires and gets you all emotional. Brandi Carlile’s By the Way, I Forgive You has some awesome tunes like “Hold Out Your Hand” and “The Joke,” but the observational lyricism on parenthood in “The Mother” resonates deeply.

 

Hundred Acres by S. Carey

3. Hundred Acres by S. Carey

Bon Iver’s drummer has always flown close to the nest, especially when it comes to a falsetto timbre. But, previous offerings have exhibited S. Carey’s more challenging, avant-garde side. With Hundred Acres, there’s a tighter focus on melody with beautiful results.

 

Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves

2. Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves

Countless times this year, as I’ve discussed my favorite albums, I’ve received an odd look when mentioning Kacey Musgraves. Usually, the look implies that I’ve gone a little crazy to give a country artist this much acclaim. She is a pop-country artist after all. While, yes, she is has her fair share of country songs, dismiss Golden Hour at your own peril. Musgraves dabbles in disco, synth-pop, and even a vocoder in “Oh, What A World.” There should be more country artists like Kacey Musgraves.

 

Caer by Twin Shadow

1. Caer by Twin Shadow

Over the course of this year, Caer kept growing on me. At first, it was a fun album to play at work at the recommendation of a friend. Soon, the album made its way to my weekend drives. Before I knew it, the vinyl appeared on myself and it kept spinning and spinning. It’s gotta be the soulful melodies mixed with a Francis and the Lights vibe.

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