20. Jamie xx - In Colour
This is consistently a pleasure to listen to thanks in large part to its marketing, Jamie’s guitar settings, Young Thug, and “Gosh.”
19. Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
Turns out his merlot smirk as he faints over his own wit and passion is charming, even if (or especially because) it is also what music writers like to do.
18. Earl Sweatshirt- I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside
Necromantic scrolls that read “The club is for cowards.”
17. Oneohtrix Point Never - Garden of Delete
Best music for staring at people on the train and convincing yourself that the city you live in is a simulation and it’s best to try to escape.
16. Pusha T - King Push — Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude
Pusha T raps like if Droopy Dog was a serial killer. I like the sound of his voice more than any one.
15. Jessica Pratt - On Your Own Love Again
Time-bent stories of heartbreak and the few partly sunny days around them.
14. Yvette - Time Management EP
Full disclosure: This rips.
13. Natalie Prass - Natalie Prass
To say so much while hiding in the songs is a delicate but underrated trait (Or: Vodka gimlet as music).
12 . Hop Along - Painted Shut
This, of course, is the opposite. Wrote a little about this here.
11. Holly Herndon - Platform
The scrim between IRL/URL and the transdermal art applied to it is still engaging, I guess, but I also think Platform is the peak, and it will prove difficult for other albums to code/weave something as good as this.
10. The Armed - Untitled
Perfect art hardcore that makes me want to eat a tire and throw a couch into the sky.
9. Fred Thomas - All Are Saved
So tuned, detailed, and manic that he can undermine it all when he sings that it’s “a series of IRL moments cloaked in the vagueness that songs give.”
8. The Mountain Goats - Beat The Champ
Great stories, untold before and never to be told again. The only album to make me feel amazed like I imagine a kid should and happy like I imagine an adult should.
7. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
6. Viet Cong - Viet Cong
You know when a song comes on the radio and your brain accidentally turns the 1 into the 2 and you're hearing the song off-beat and with new, backwards ears a second? That's the kind of joy I get listening to this album over and over.
5. Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
All the little stuff made big.
4. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
All the big stuff made bigger.
3. Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color
I don't know what cheap poison people drank that made this album land so low on so many year-end lists. It's spectacular. Brittany Howard's voice is hall of fame, the songwriting is sharp and cosmic, and the band carve a new path in that subtle, transcendent way that Vampire Weekend and Spoon did with their last albums. Sawdust with luster.
2. Tame Impala - Currents
Wrote a long piece about this album here, but will always reiterate, "She was holding hands with Trevor/ not the greatest feeling ever" is GOAT.
1. Joanna Newsom - Divers
Here's a loose, very macro thesis that I'll close this year out with because it's what I believe to be important: Music is a function of architecture, and with a foundation buried deep within the earth, it should outlast the march of our lives.
That is, if its structure sturdy, if it is sound, and well crafted, then it can withstand a flood. The form of music (the article "music") is stronger than whatever cagey scenes it spawns from, than its ego, than its botched rollout, that the press surrounding it, than whatever capitalistic systems it functions in. To Pimp a Butterfly, Currents, Sound & Color, and Divers are four albums built in ornate defiance of temporal whims. They are classics, within and without time. They are new wonders that stand as bridges, statues, and obelisks on this earth that offer a place of secular study or religious worship. They are monuments.
Cultural cachet, as it exists as we move into the second half of this decade, should also be imbued into new artifacts that will outlast us. Let our disillusionment with everything drift away from the lol nothing matters gif and cheap flights to "the void" and move to a logical next level as we face certain ecological and political despair, and praise also that which works beyond the character limit and the default tone of bemusement of our collective art intellects.
Pour our respects into anything that makes us crane our necks and laud pieces of art are so vast that we cannot even begin to see our ego reflected in it. With whatever brief history we have left to record, we should also honor the craft of music, as a tradition and even a vocation, and use that to erect brilliant displays so that there is something left of us that is not just the truly privileged whinging our lives away in circles that seem to grow bigger but realistically stay imperceptibly small. What will be our monuments?
And I also wrote more about Divers here.
Alex G - Beach Music (listening to this album makes me feel exactly two things: pleased and that his next album will be spectacular)
Carly Rae Jepson - E*MO*TION (undeniably the high bar for pop set by pastiche and proletarianism. half the songs really show up, the others are just fine, but her songwriting is way too spelled out (or syllabled out, blammo!) for me to strain for deeper meaning or do something more than honestly appreciate.)
Circuit Des Yeux - In Plain Speech (for those few among us who live and die by Haley Fohr’s voice, the Adele of the underworld)
Dr. Yen Lo - Days With Dr. Yen Lo (would spend hours locked in concrete chambers with Ka’s voice dripping onto my forehead)
Foals - What Went Down
Protomartyr - Agent Intellect
Sheer Mag - II EP (also one of the best shows I saw this year)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Multi-Love
Vince Staples - Summertime '06
The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - Harmlessness
yMusic - Balance Problems (poseur new classical pick)
Young Thug - Barter 6