Really the only measure of my favorite albums from the year is how often I’ve played them. I get enough new music every month, that it’s just survival of he fittest around here. Whatever compels me to listen and get to know it the most is gonna lasts, the shallower stuff, or the stuff that just doesn’t catch my fancy, won’t be on this list.
El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
Common, Aesop, Mos Def, Kweli, Dizzee, Jay-Z, even Ghostface and Wu-Tang put out hip-hop albums this year and “I’ll Sleep” is the only one that really matters to me. It’s definitely the record I played front-to-back more than any other. I saw El-P live twice and he was amazing.
Bloc Party – A Weekend in the City
This album came out in February. I still love it. It starts with the line “I am trying to be heroic.” How could I now love it? We saw them live on my birthday. It was unreal. They even played one just for me. But, the album, it’s passionate, loud, restless, sing-along anthems all the way, with a little more pop than last time. It’s okay. As long as they stay on this path, they’ll stay my favorite band of the decade.
Handsome Furs – Plague Park
They’re an off-shoot of Wolf Parade, my favorite new band of the the last few years. Contains an anthem of my particular midwestern/urban take on angst called “Cannot Get Started”.
Once – Original Soundtrack
One of the best movies of the year contains a lot of my favorite songs from the year. Glen & MarkÃ©ta are a great duo, and their passion bursts out of every note.
Menomena – Friend and Foe
There were weirder records than this that I liked, but this is the weird record that also had the jams I liked to play in the car. Weirdness you can sing.
Jason Lindner – Live/UK
Jazz is back for the fall. Actually, I picked this one up over the summer, but it’s been on really heavy rotation since October. His live set at the Wex was killer. A lot of new jazz recordings are weak, largely because they rely too much on days gone by (and because horn players have weak tone, but that’s a whole other thing). This is one of two or three records this year that shattered that mold.
Battles – Mirrored
Instrumental bad-asses. I’d love to make theatre that feels like this. It’s grumpy and raw and head-banging.
Fionn Regan – The End of History
This year’s Bob Dylan must be the closet yet. He’s like Damien Rice on ginseng with a book of Ginsberg in his bag. I read a couple books because of this record.
Phronesis – Organic Warfare
See “Live/UK” above and then think wider, foreign thoughts. Phronesis is bass heavy and wide open, and they meld like fingers on a single hand. It’s easy to put yourself in their heads, and awesome to just get lost in this album.
Beirut – The Flying Cup Club
I can’t escape this album, it’s been playing in just about every coffee shop I’ve stepped into since it came out. And wouldn’t you know it, I end-up singing along everytime. Fionn Regan makes you read books, Beirut makes you write them.
Prefuse 73 – Preparations & Interregums
Prefuse 73 is one of my top 5 artists of the last 5 years or so. This album is no let down, with beats that stutter and stop and start again, melodies that grow out of nowhere, and a healthy dose of attitude. It’s also the best album cover on this list.
Kanye West – Graduation
El-P’s record matters to me and this one doesn’t. But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t played this one again and again and again. I tried to put it down, but I couldn’t. It’s the true crack rap, and I love that Coldplay song.
Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
This album has the dubious honor off being played twice through as I went drove to Bowling Green to pick-up my wife after she crashed a rental car. Ugh. There is, however, a good reason I played it through and through that night. It’s gorgeous.
St. Vincent – Marry Me
Marry Me is one of the top 5 songs of the year. It’s ambiguous, heart-breaking, aching, and stunning. The rest of the album picks-up from there and ex- p – a — n — d s.
Rufus does Judy at Carnegie Hall
I just played this album for 4 straight days. My friend Gabe said it made him feel the gay-est he’s ever felt. (And Gabe’s gay.) It’s a great record of a really remarkable performance and a hell of a lot of fun.
The Bad Plus – Prog
The Bad Plus are a conundrum. Do they suck? Are they amazing? They’ve certainly got a shtick, and they’re shtickin with it. What I do know is that this album is highly listenable, and that’s what counts for me these days. Fuck yeah, Tom Saywer.
That’s all folks. Return in March for my favorite movies of the movie year.