Special Honorable Mention: Maniac – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, by ROB
So freaking good I almost included it into my Top 20 proper, but since I’ve never thrown film scores into the list in previous years, I decided against it. Still, let it be known that I may have listened to ROB’s haunting score for the Maniac remake more than any other album this year. Absolutely fantastic, and anyone making a horror movie right now and not at least thinking about hiring this guy to score it is crazy.
20. Mindless Self Indulgence – How I Learned to Stop Giving a Shit and Love Mindless Self Indulgence
MSI aren’t really breaking any new ground on this fan-funded effort (though I was happy that it felt less “dance clubby” to me than 2008’s If), but oh well – I’m clearly not ashamed to admit I’m still into their schtick.
19. Deafheaven – Sunbather
Shoe-gaze black metal sounds like a really bad idea on paper. Deafheaven prove it’s not.
18. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
This one would probably a lot higher on the list if I had listened to it earlier in the year. As is, I just finally gave it a chance a couple days ago, and was very pleasantly surprised with it.
17. David Bowie – The Next Day
The surprise Bowie album none of us expected, coming ten full years after his last effort (after which many commonly assumed Bowie had simply retired). It would have been a real shame if it had sucked. It didn’t. In fact, it was awesome, and a nice reminder of why we loved Bowie in the first place.
16. Waxatatchee – Cerulean Salt
I swear I didn’t pick this one just because of how much fun it is to say “Waxahatchee.”
15. M.I.A. – Matangi
A definite improvement over Maya (which I liked, but often felt alone in defending). I’m not sure it was completely worth the really long wait M.I.A. put us through, but it’s quite good all the same.
14. Chelsea Wolfe – Pain is Beauty
Beautiful music to be sad to.
13. Fuck Buttons – Slow Focus
Come for the funny band name, stay for the excellent electronic post-rock. One of my go-to bands for background music while reading and writing.
12. Eels – Wonderful, Glorious
Eels have long been one of my favorite bands, and I’ve always been frustrated that they’re not a bigger deal than they are. That said, I’ve also often said they haven’t quite yet made the one masterpiece album that I know E has in him. This one, though (their tenth album), gets a lot closer than their last few efforts.
11. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
I’m still not convinced Arcade Fire will ever make another album as good as Funeral, but nor do I yet believe they are even capable of making a bad album.
10. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
Phoenix can always be counted on for great, catchy pop albums. I feel like they could crank these things out in their sleep, which isn’t as much of an insult as I suddenly realize it might sound.
9. The Haxan Cloak – Excavation
Wanna be creeped out? Lay in bed late at night, and put this electronic concept album about the afterlife on in your headphones. It’s fun!
8. The Knife – Shaking the Habitual
I’m still holding out hope for another Fever Ray album, as well, but I’ll never turn down a new Knife offering, either.
7. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
In 2009, Trent Reznor said it was “time to make NIN disappear for a while.” I don’t think anyone was really that surprised to see the hiatus turn out to be short…in fact, with an album this good, I’d guess most of us were quite relieved. I love that Reznor is doing film scores now, but NIN is where he really belongs.
6. Sleigh Bells – Bitter Rivals
With each album, Alexis’ teen-pop past/sensibilities creep a little bit more into Sleigh Bells’ sound. Rather than be a bad thing, though, this is actually leading to real growth from the group – a happier middle-ground between the bands pop and noise elements. Sure, I might somewhat miss the more aggressive feel of their debut, but I won’t complain if they stay this good.
5. Haim – Days Are Gone
This one was worth the really long wait…
4. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
Though I didn’t dig it nearly as much as High Violet, it’s placement on this list just goes to show that even a slightly disappointing National record is still better than most other music out there. And, to be fair, my initial disappointment wore off as I ended up giving this album a lot of listens, and loved it more and more each time.
3. Kanye West – Yeezus
Yep, I still like Kanye West. All his douchebag tendencies take a big backseat to albums this damn good.
2. Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady
If you can’t get into a cute, sci-fi loving R&B/Soul artist who is in the middle of a seven-part series of conceptual albums about androids, can dance like nobody’s business, and interrupts her music videos with mid-video zombie attack breaks, then you and I are just not on the same wavelength.
1. Savages – Silence Yourself
The most excited I’ve been about a debut album in a pretty long time.