With no new albums that I have been looking forward to (or will even probably hear) coming in the next couple weeks, it seems like a pretty safe time to put up my list of my twenty favorite albums of the year. Note: I said “my favorite,” not “the best.” I don’t feel as strongly about music as I do movies, nor do I feel as knowledgeable about the subject. This list is just based entirely on which albums I loved and listened to on multiple occasions this year.

20. …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead

After a few underwhelming misfires, Trail of Dead finally comes close to replicating the total awesomeness of 2002’s Source Tags & Codes, an amazing album that I still (perhaps somewhat unreasonably) hold as the standard for every subsequent release. So, no, this one isn’t quite as good as that album, but it was still a much welcome return to form.

 

19. Andrew Jackson Jihad – Knife Man

I think it’s probably a little too easy to just dismiss Andrew Jackson Jihad when you hear the corny sounding “folk punk” label, but give em a listen and you’ll find it’s hard to deny how entertaining their lyrics are.

 

18. Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams

The coolest all-female rock band around right now? Yup. Though the whole “retro garage rock” think seems to be somewhat dying off the last couple years, I still really dig it when its done well. And it definitely is here.

 

17. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

At first I was a little disappointed in this album as a whole, because none of the other songs grabbed me the same way “Get Some” did. But, thankfully, I gave it a second and third chance, and I’m glad I did, because it grew on me. I still think “Get Some” is by far the best track, but I came to really appreciate the album as whole, as well. Definitely a big improvement over Youth Novels, her debut album.

 

16. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

This is one of those albums that I love to put headphones on and listen to while laying in bed, drifting to sleep. I mean that in a good way.

 

15.  Fucked Up – David Comes to Life

I guess a certain contingent of Fucked Up fans were put off by some of this album’s more experimental flourishes, but it’s their loss. In fact, this album is further proof that Fucked Up is really one of the few hardcore bands out there worth paying attention to, thanks to their efforts to try new things and expand their sound. Though I didn’t really care about the “story” of this concept-album (something about a guy bombing the light-bulb factory he works at after falling in love with a political activist), it’s still a great listen.

 

14. Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne

One of those albums where you kind of figured there was no way it would actually be able to live up to the hype. But, hey, it kind of did, actually. Good for them.

 

13. Yellow Ostrich – Mistress

While they’ll probably never able to top the undeniable awesomeness of their Morgan Freeman EP (an EP in which every song is inspired by the life and career of Morgan Freeman), this is a pretty darn good album in its own right.

 

12. Mister Heavenly – Out of Love

Alright, yes, I at first only heard about this band because of Michael Cera’s brief tenure as their touring bass player. But if you can look past that, this is actually a pretty fun album with a number of catchy tunes. Kind of reminds me of the best We Are Scientists stuff.

 

11. Zola Jesus – Conatus

Fever Ray, EMA, Bat For Lashes and PJ Harvey – I’m a pretty big fan of the dark and moody female artist scene, when I stop to think about it. Zola Jesus is certainly one of the reigning queens of that movement. Though definitely not abandoning her gothic, electronic sound, Conatus is still a more notable accessible album than her previous efforts, thanks to some really striking and memorable songs that also embrace more traditional pop elements.

 

10. Panda Bear – Tomboy

After Avey Tare’s 2010 solo effort left me a little cold, I was glad that Panda Bear’s second solo album was closer to what I enjoy about Animal Collective (even though he did say the album was meant to be a big departure from his signature sound). Just a really good “driving around late at night” album.

 

9. Death Grips – Exmilitary

I know Watch the Throne was the rap album everybody was talking about this year (including me, I guess), but personally I was much more transfixed by the debut mix-tape from this California hip-hop group. Some might be put off by their harsh style, particularly when it comes to the vocals (MC Ride often seems to be aggressively shouting his raps right into your face), but I think that’s what makes them so unique, especially when most hip-hop has gotten so similar and boring (in my opinion).

 

8. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints

Leaving behind the weird “drone folk” of her group Gowns, Erika M. Anderson turned to this solo effort, the sort of album that makes me wish I was better at describing music. I’ve seen it referred to as “noise-folk,” which I guess is an OK description, though it seems to ignore the obvious rock elements. Well, whatever it is, it’s awesome, and I loved it.

 

7. Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness

Romance is Boring was #2 on my “Top 20 Albums of 2010” list. So they’ve fallen a few spots this year, but I hope they don’t take it too hard. Still another great album from them, although I still can’t help but think there’s a complete masterpiece type album hidden inside this band that they just keep missing.

 

6. Cults – Cults

I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty worried about this one. After listening to the hit single “Go Outside” for what felt like forever before finally getting the actual album release, you couldn’t help but wonder if the album would actually be able to live up to the sheer good-time feeling of that song. Thankfully, the whole thing enjoyed the same sort of old-fashioned fun, and turned out to be excellent summer music.

 

5. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

For the very first time, Okkervil River sounded like a band trying to fill an album with catchy, radio-type singles. Normally, this would be a bad thing, but you know what? It actually sort of worked for them. They’re just that good.

 

4. tUne-yArDs – w h o k i l l

Yes, I understand Merrill Garbus’ style and voice aren’t for everyone, but I don’t care. I don’t care how “weird” you think she is. All I care about is how fascinating and enjoyable I find the music she’s making. I was a pretty big fan of her self-produced, lo-fi debut album Bird-Brains – with w h o k i l l, it was great to hear her style could be retained and even improved upon with a full band and actual production.

 

3. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

I really didn’t expect to like Harvey’s musical tribute to England as much as I did, but this album absolutely dominated the first half of the year for me. I had sort of forgotten about Harvey and unfairly written her off in my head, but this was a strong reminder of how powerful a songwriter she can be.

 

2. Tom Waits – Bad As Me

Tom Waits’ first album of new material in seven years, and worth the wait. Or should I say, “worth the Waits.” Hahahahaha….I’m sorry.

1. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

Not only does St. Vincent take my #1 spot, but this year she also officially passed Regina Spektor as my current #1 music crush. I’m sure both of those accolades are equally thrilling to Ms. Clark. Anyway, St. Vincent (Annie Clark) keeps getting better with each album. Strange Mercy is her most complex and experimental album yet, and yet somehow also her catchiest. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.

Album that just missed the cut:

Florence + The Machine – CeremonialsIf I had listened to this one a few more times, it’s possible it might have crept its way up into the top twenty. But, really, it didn’t strike me the way I thought it would on my first listen, and I haven’t really revisited it yet. It’s not bad or anything, but nor is it the powerhouse the first album was. Kind of feels like Florence might be trying a little too hard to replicate the success of that album.

Most Disappointing Album of the Year:

Das Racist – Relax = The first commercially released album from Das Racist was OK, I guess, but nowhere near as much fun or memorable as the two mix-tapes that preceded it.

Best Soundtrack of the Year:

Drive. Nuff said.

Best Comedy Album of the Year:

Lou Reed & Metallica – Lulu = This was supposed to be funny, right?

Album I can’t figure out if I like or not:

David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time = At times, Lynch’s debut album of electro-pop sounds just as baffling and misguided as Lulu. But at other times, it’s actually quite decent and even somewhat captivating. And really, shouldn’t a David Lynch album be weird and goofy as hell, anyway? I’m sure this is just a temporary experimental indulgence from an artist who seems to have grown bored with his primary medium, but it’s sort of fascinating and always entertaining, even if it’s not always for the right reasons.

Trev

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