If it seems like I’m handing out career-achievement awards for half of this list, it’s probably related to the number of times this year I got three tracks into the latest best-fucking-thing-ever and ended up rolling my eyes and reaching for Let It Bleed instead. Farewell, indie rock (please).
The Bravest Man in the Universe
Bobby Womack has been, at times, a very, very troubled man, as the 68-year-old soul belter admits with palpable regret and much wisdom over this astonishing comeback disc. Even with its self-conscious electronic arrangements and time-stamped cameos (hello and goodbye, Lana Del Ray), this thing is a raging artistic success.
I realize that we’re all fabulous young moderns with awesome space-phones and a nodding acquaintance with the dominant electronic sounds of the time, but some things are just fucking eternal, like peanut butter in your chocolate and an Australian guy with Steve Marriott’s voice screaming along with a band that sounds like Swell Maps.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Chosen over Psychedelic Pill because, er, I haven’t heard Psychedelic Pill. Even then, I’m not sure if the pure joy I derived from this album could be matched, not least because it soared so high above anybody’s expectations. Best moment: the conceptual coup de grace of sticking the Silhouettes’ doo-wop standard “Get a Job” right in the middle of Young’s growling take on American folk standards like “Clementine”.
Amazingly, Bish Bosch manages to be both the bleakest and the funniest record in the trilogy Walker began so terrifyingly in 1995 with Tilt. Here’s the thing: point me to one other 69-year-old former pop god whose work so devastatingly reflects the terrible losses we’ve endured since the cultural pinnacle of the ’60s. The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore, indeed.
Not just the album we lonerists have long deserved, but decisive proof that the future-retro math of debut Innerspeaker could not only be duplicated under lab conditions but actually refined and improved.
Included here for his whole canon as much as Allegheny itself, DeCroo’s magnificent spoken-word album is like the melancholic epilogue to the inspired streak of roots-rock records that preceded it.
Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras Meet the Congos
Icon Give Thank
Or the Congos meet the smart-asses uptown, if you like. A fascinating clash of old-world manners and new dub schizophrenia, it’s as if everybody involved has forged a new musical Esperanto by the time the album ends.
In Your Brain
There’s a shit ton of great neo-soul out there but Monophonics keep it dirtier than most, which is why I have it piped into the master bedroom through the speaker hidden behind my black velvet painting of Pam Grier.
This gem of a debut went huge in the U.K., which is hardly surprising since it sounds like Alex Turner collaborating with an 18-year-old version of Lonnie Donegan. The neo-skiffle movement starts (and likely ends) here.
And so Sweden’s psych-masters Dungen begat Goat, who replaced the flutes and pastoral leanings with something that sounds like the Exorcist II soundtrack as played by voodoo pygmies. Un-fucking-believable.