This year brought lots of phenomenal shows out on the road. Touring is becoming so important for an artist’s livelihood, so be sure to keep an eye on tour schedules and go see all of these guys this year… they put on some incredible live shows.
1. Other Lives
3. Sufjan Stevens
4. Active Child
5. Kishi Bashi
7. Punch Brothers
8. The Antlers
9. Sharon Van Etten
10. The Shins
In comparison to past years, I didn’t make listening to new albums a huge priority. I love being exposed to new music, but I think to a degree it can become sort of taxing- always trying to find the best new stuff can become a bit tiresome. This year I was just content listening to what I was compelled to listen to and left the other stuff for later. Maybe this makes me less of a music connoisseur, but despite not listening to every new release, I still found some gems that will become staples in my music catalogue.
I can’t truly rate them 1-10, simply because every album has it’s place and has been equally valuable to me in different ways this year.
Poliça - Give You The Ghost
Poliça produced some of the best jams of the year. Channy Leaneagh’s auto-tuned vocals paired with the bass and drums create for the perfect atmosphere for an evening drive or an impromptu dance party. Excellent contrast between the intensity in the beats, lyrics, and the clarity of Channy’s voice.
Frank Ocean- Channel Orange
If I were to put this album into a genre, I would put it in the “Sassy Bluegrass” category. This album 1) Contains incredible musicianship and therefore sounds beautiful and 2) Is so, so sassy from a lyrical standpoint. If you just look at Chris Thile’s twitter you’ll quickly catch onto his wit and sarcasm. Because of the humor, it’s a really fun album, but it’s also balanced out by a couple songs that are a little bit more relaxed.
Here We Go Magic- A Different Ship
This album was produced by Nigel Godrich, a longtime collaborator with Radiohead, if that’s any indicator that it might be a good one. It’s a clean sounding album that contains some groovy beats that give it a nice poppiness while maintaining super solid bass lines and overall sound.
Usher- Looking 4 Myself
I’m somewhat surprised I love this album as much as I do, but knew it would be a favorite the moment I first heard the song “Climax”. I can’t say that every song on this album is noteworthy (it’s got 18 songs…) but there are definitely enough to earn a spot on this list. This is a diverse album, Ursher incorporated dub-step sounding elements, piano bits, electronic beats, pop-heavy songs and hip-hop-heavy songs.
Andrew Bird- Break It Yourself
This album took on a more organic, homegrown sound in comparison to some of Andrew’s previous albums. There’s more upright bass and personal lyrics, and less electric guitar and scientific talk. Somehow this album sounds homier, more inviting and lighter than some of his other work.
Kishi Bashi- 151A
K Ishibashi aka Kishi Bashi arrived on the scene this year with his first full length album that came about through Kickstarter fund. His main instrument is the violin, but he also utilizes loops for his beat boxing, vocals, and violin. The album is full of bright, happy sounding orchestration and the occasional japanese lyrics. Kishi Bashi is definitely doing something new and I’m excited to see where he takes his work in the future.
Lord Huron- Lonesome Dreams
Lord Huron took darn long enough to release their debut record, but it was worth the wait. Their EPs are just as good as the album and in Lord Huron style, it’s a great mix of beachy folk and whimsical pop.
Dirty Projectors- Swing Lo Magellan
This album is quirky and catchy. The Dirty Projectors are always doing something interesting and this album is perfectly poppy, perfectly rocky, and perfectly orchestrated with the help of the ever-so-excellent yMusic. Beautiful harmonies, weird sounds, and fantastic lyrics.
Sufjan Stevens- Silver & Gold
Yep, it’s a Christmas boxset, and yes, it’s a collection of 58 songs (doesn’t quite fall into the category of “album”), but I can’t not have this on my list. The five EPs inside are a representation of music he made for friends and family during the holidays each year from 2007-2011. This album is full of ridiculous quasi-christmas songs as well as some lovely renditions of classic Christmas songs. Put it on your list for next year’s Christmas music.
Here are a couple releases from this year that I plan to spend some more time with in the coming months: David Byrne and St. Vincent- Love This Giant, Grimes- Visions, Perfume Genius- Put Your Back N 2 It, Liars- WIXIW, Grizzly Bear- Shields.
Nickel Creek has been one of my favorite bands for quite a while now, but they sadly broke up back in 2007. Each member’s musicianship is not something I can easily ignore or forget, so I like to check in and see what the three members are up to every now and then.
My favorite member to keep up with though has to be Chris Thile. He’s worked with so many people (including Yo-Yo Ma) in the last couple years making fantastic music all while cranking out great albums with his band the Punch Brothers.
In 2006, Chris helped start Punch Brothers, a progressive bluegrass band with all the traditional bluegrass instruments; upright bass, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and acoustic guitar. Their third album Who’s Feeling Young Now was released in February and it has definitely been an album I’ve really enjoyed this year.
From all accounts I’ve heard, they put on an incredible show, simply because their talent becomes even more apparent as you watch them live. The last time I saw Chris Thile perform was on the closing Nickel Creek tour in 2007 and I could not be more excited to see him perform again with the rest of the Punch Brothers.
“Movement and Location” has been one of my favorites from their new album, check it out below or listen to the album on Spotify.