40 – The Cat Empire – Cinema
This is perhaps the horniest album on the list. And by that I mean it is loaded with horns. And hooks. Supposedly they are a ska band, but I don’t get that vibe from this album. This Australian group packs in a pile of energetic songs filled with groove that gets you going from the inside out. Reminds me of some mid 70’s groove based classic rock at times.
39 – Gogol Bordello – Trans-Continental Hustle
If you ever get a chance to see these guys, go. Their live performances are killer and crushingly energetic. This album on the other hand shows some form of restraint, and I think it is better for it. A slightly less punk album than its predecessors, but it still gets you dancing. The best slavic punk band out there.
38 – David Ford – Let the hard times roll
Another stellar release from David Ford. This East Sussex singer put out another album full of genre hopping rock that covers subjects of life, love, and politics. Maybe not as flawless as his first solo release, but definitely a standout.
37 – The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
A band I discovered early last year, these Jersey boy pump out some ounce influenced american style rock. Their Bruce Springsteen influences are hard to ignore, and just like the Boss this album is a more complex progression from from their previous release. The songs have become more elaborate and more varied, making for a more satisfying listening experience.
36 – Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon II: The legend of Mr. Rager
An album that was not well received critically, but I couldn’t stop listening to it. It’s hard to classify this as hip hop or rap sometimes, but this is a mellow stoner rap album that just slinks into your head. This is an album that can be played front to back without missing a single radio hit.
35 – For a Minor Reflection – Höldum í átt að óreiðu
The second of 4 Icleandic artists/bands on the list. This is an exciting post rock outfit consisting of 4 men in their young 20’s. This album is a sonic journey that builds and swells, and crashes, then comes back down only to rebuild and repeat several times. And right in the middle is dansi dans, a lovely pliancy piano number. Recommended if you like the heavy instrumental passages of Sigur Ros, or Mogwai.
34 – Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
One of 2 releases this year (the other on Christmas Day) by Gorillaz. This is a pseudo concept album about the plight of the earth that just happens to have a lot of great songs on it. Less overtly poppy than previous albums, this is an album that took awhile to grow on me. Enjoy the mellow synths and slow beats and think about what we are doing to the planet.
33 – Dax Riggs – Say Goodnight to the World
This year is the first I have heard of Dax. He produces some dark sludgy songs that haunt your soul. This album fills the place in me that Danzig’s “IV” filled 15 years ago, but a little less dark. Not an album to smile to, but it definitely has a place. Say goodnight to the world.
32 – Gayngs – Relayted
A 70/80’s easy listening revivalist supergroup. Hell Ya!!! All those songs that you were forced to listen to on the easy listening stations (specifically 10cc’s “I’m not in love”) seem to be the main influence of this band created by Ryan Olson features an autotuned Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, members of Megafaun, Rhymesayers, and a collection of Jazz hornsmiths. This is an album that makes the 80’s seem cool again.
31 – The Dream – Love King
And on the topic of the 80’s, this is the album that Prince would have made had he still been in his 20’s today. Direct referencing and emulating 80’s Prince at times, this sprawling and lush album of sexy R&B comes out dripping and doesn’t stop. This is sexy R&B done right. Whereas most music of this style is straightforward, this album boasts a complexity and precision that is seldom seen. The back to back combo of “Yamaha” and “Nikki Pt. 2” is the strong standout of this album full of sweaty romps.
30 – Deer Tick – The Black Dirt Sessions
This alt-countryish band lets it all out on this release of songs recorded along side their fantastic album “Born on Flag Day”. Full of raw and naked songs this album will leave you hurting inside. The almost unbearably sad song “Goodbye, Dear Friend” is as somber as they come, and that voice sure knows how to emote despair.
29 – Girl Talk – All Day
In complete contrast to the previous album on the list is Girl Talk. Girl Talk for those who don’t know is what would happen if you took all the fun songs in the world, through them into a bottle, shook it, and sprayed it. It is pure mashup goodness. This is what you put on when you want to dance, or roadtrip. Hip hop and pop/rock never sounded so good together. And since this is his third album it doesn’t sound as innovative as it did 3 years ago, but man is it awesome.
28 – Broken Bells – Broken Bells
Danger Mouse and James Mercer of the Shins side project is not surprisingly really good. A logical combination of the two talents yields a number of great tracks and a very cohesive album that exudes summer and a beer.
27 – Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away
Another fantastic album from this folky singer that shows a strong progression with the band. As always his songs tells great stories and evoke memories of the past. This album took me a good month to really grasp, and after seeing him in concert for the third time the album really showed it’s strengths.
26 – Olafur Arnalds – …And they have escaped the weight of Darkness…
The third icelandic artist on the list is Olafur Arnalds. He blends classical piano and strings with minimalistic electronics to create sweeping pieces that develop into your mind. You can’t help but imagine and create landscapes of swirling colours like in fantasia. This was an album I listened to while working, driving, reading, sleeping, or whenever I needed a creative boost. We also got a chance to see him twice in Iceland.
25 – Drew Grow and the Pastor’s Wives – Drew Grow and the Pastor’s Wives
The first clangs of the opener show off the gospel roots that are inherent throughout this debut album from this Portland band. The second track then picks up the roots and slams it hard with a raucous crunchy anthem laden with harmonies. Drew Grow knows how to play songs that range from mellow acoustic number to electric bluesy romps and they fill them all with soul. Building to the closer featuring some of the best harmonies of the year.
24 – Tunng – …And then we saw land
This was an album that surprised me. The opener “hustle” is a song that I just couldn’t shake all year. It’s opening piano bits that leads into the acoustic guitar then yields into the fantastic banjo roll, and then the tambourine, and then the harmonic vocals. It’s a pop masterpiece. The rest of the album continues in the multi-instrumental sound and builds in different textures creating an album that feels organic and evokes feelings of autumn.
23 – Fyfe Dangerfield – Fly Yellow Moon
Former lead singer of the Guillemots released this album early in the year. The majority of this album is straightforward British rock music that wouldn’t sound out of place on the guillemots albums. But its the 4 out of left field tracks that lift this album above the standard fare. Most notably is “When you walk in the room” that exudes so much happiness that is had a place in our wedding ceremony. You just can’t help but strut when this song comes on. And “faster than the setting sun” and “she needs me” keep the momentum going.
22 – Big Boi – Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Proof that Outkast could be a successful one man show. This release is full of hip hop anthems. Full. Nearly every song is huge and pushed to the limit. This is southern hip hop to the extreme. Big Boi’s unique delivery coupled with at least one guest on nearly every track allow the album to stay fresh and yields multiple listens. Add in the numerous standouts that work on their own and you have a classic album that should hold it’s ground for a few years to come.
21 – Fistful of Mercy – As I call you down
This supergroup featuring Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur, and Dhani Harrison wrote and recorded nine songs in 2 days. The result is an album that showcases the talents of all three artists and ends up being very rootsy and bluesy. The all acoustic gutter based numbers feature harmonies and subtle embellishments that add to to the sparseness.