My favorite songs often differ from my favorite albums, though some collaboration may exist. There are some albums that I really enjoy from start-to-finish but don't really have a stand-out track on them. Yet, it's still one of my favorite albums. Conversely, there are some songs that locate themselves on albums that are just terrible. If not for one great song, the album would be terrible. So, the following is a list of my favorite albums of the year [in order]:
- Typhoon: White Lighter
Typhoon is an indie symphony of terrific melodies, dynamic instrumentation, and aggressively cynical yet hopeful lyrics. And I love everything about it. This may be my favorite album of the last five years even. I was able to see Typhoon in Chicago in September and they were equally great in concert.
- Volcano Choir: Repave
I'm a big fan of Justin Vernon. Not only is an accomplished front man and songwriter of Bon Iver, he's also a pretty great producer. He produced one of my favorite albums of last year; Kathleen Edwards' Voyageur. While the similarities to Bon Iver are fairly labeled against Volcano Choir, it's no doubt that through a few listens that this is something different. It's indie rock at its finest.
- Radical Face: The Family Tree: The Branches
I first fell in love with Radical Face after the 2007 release of "Ghosts." I love Ben Cooper's voice, his percussive use of instruments, and the poetry he weaves throughout his songs. Beautiful and lovely stuff.
- Caitlin Rose: The Stand-In
This album harkens back to the wonderful country and western singers that predates my time. Rose is like a more talented Zooey Deschanel [don't shoot me, oh violent She & Him'ers, because it's true.] I'm surprised at how under-the-radar that she's stayed, especially since this is her second great album.
- Hey Marseilles: Lines We Trace
It's a band composed of a gentle and subdued vocals, an often prominent accordion player, and flowing violin and cello parts, among other things. You can tell that the band isn't just influenced by modern indie rock, but classically trained musicians that light up other worlds known to modern listeners. This all results in songs of depth in an increasingly shallow indie-rock world.
- Josh Ritter: The Beasts in the Track
I'm a big Josh Ritter fan. His music has been foundational to my emotional development over the years. Perhaps I'm being a bit too overdramatic, but still. He's been a constant in my headphones for quite some time. He's one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the modern generation. He writes of love, loss, war, peace, and everything in between. He's worth a listen.
- Jake Bugg: Jake Bugg
I'm in love with 50's and 60's rock and roll. If you've got to the 70's and 80's, then you've went too far for me. Jake Bugg was 17 or 18 years old when he recorded his self-titled debut album. Yet, his vocals, song structures, and lyrics are reminders of the great songwriters from your grandparents age. Hipster-warning: This album is probably best listened to on vinyl.
- Keaton Henson: Birthdays
Henson is reportedly a slightly reclusive sufferer of stage fright. Most of his performances are in small art galleries, clubs, and/or museums. He sings in a falsetto in many of his folk-rock songs, yet it comes together in beautiful ways. His music is fragile and delicate, but stands strong in the face of whatever he's writing against... love lost, painful pondering, and lies being told.
- The National: Trouble Will Find Me
The National's albums are meant to be dissected. They are meant to be enjoyed all the way through, from the first beat to the last lyric. When I was first listening to their latest album, I liked some of the songs but nothing really jumped out at me. Admittedly, I have a very high standard for one of my favorite bands. However, when I let the entire album play over and over again, I started to understand the flow and appreciated it in a new light. I really, really like this album.
- Mikal Cronin: MKII
Mikal Cronin came out of nowhere to me. I think he was one of the great Spotify recommendations that I followed throughout the year. For those more versed in indie music, he's not new. I've loved listening to this indie rock album. It's well-thought, not overly produced, and refreshing in a crowded indie-rock genre.
Other albums I've enjoyed but didn't make the top-10: Air Review [Low Wishes], Arcade Fire [Arcade Fire], Bombadil [Metrics of Affection], Brooke Waggoner [Originator], Evening Hymns [Spectral Dusk], Five Iron Frenzy [Engines of a Million Plots], Foy Vance [Joy of Nothing], Frightened Rabbit [Pedestrian Verse], Leagues [You Belong Here], Lily Kershaw [Midnight in the Garden], Little Green Cars [Absolute Zero], The Lone Bellow [The Lone Bellow], Mandolin Orange [This Side of Jordan], Noah & the Whale [Heart of Nowhere], The Olms [The Olms], Penny & Sparrow [Tenboom], Phosphorescent [Muchacho], Shad [Flying Colours], Twenty One Pilots [Vessel], Villagers [Awayland],