I honestly did not go out of my way to compile a stupidly eclectic list this year. My tastes just happen to be eclectic. And I just happen to be stupid. Alphabetical, as usual.
Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally don’t do anything on Bloom that they hadn’t done on the three albums that came before it, but the astral swirl of keyboards, cascading guitar lines, and Legrand’s placid singing sounds bigger, brighter, and more confident than ever before.
Father John Misty
It took quitting Fleet Foxes and moving to Los Angeles to transform Josh Tillman from a mopey, earnest singer-songwriter to a bold, golden-voiced weirdo with a thing for ’shrooms and jokes at his own expense. J. Tillman might have feared fun, but Father John Misty sure as hell doesn’t.
Sure, Claire Boucher’s singing often conjures up thoughts of Smurfette on a helium bender, but you’ve got to give props to anyone who can distill the influence of Cocteau Twins, Nine Inch Nails, and Mariah Carey into her songs and sound totally sincere about all of it.
good kid, m.A.A.d. city
What you take away from the morally ambiguous story of a young man pulled into the bloody sphere of Compton gang-bangers is up to you. What’s undeniable is that Kendrick Lamar is a master storyteller with an ear for killer beats.
Combine the chopped and screwed vocal samples of Dirty South hip-hop, the wobbly synths of dubstep, and the venereal horror of David Cronenberg, and you’ll wind up with either Purity Ring or the most beautiful nightmare of your life.
The one-time Vivian Girl makes it clear she has zero interest in residing in the lo-fi ghetto. The star-gazing Interstellar sounds like something that 4AD might have released in 1990, and I mean that in a good way.
Master of My Make-Believe
The occupy-your-own-life empowerment of “Disparate Youth” may seem at odds with the bitch-slapping “Look at These Hoes”, but on a record that bounces from bare-bones dancehall to thundering-drums tribalism, it all makes sense.
We all need at least one head-spinning psychedelic-rock LP in our lives, don’t we? This one is full of fuzz-seared garage-metal pop, sounding like that one time Syd Barrett and Tony Iommi jammed with the rhythm section from the Seeds.
It was a bit of a dark horse, but Jon Barthmus’s second album as Sun Airway wraps his warm, yearning voice in dream-state electro and baroque strings. As its creator intended, Soft Fall evokes the feeling of floating weightless down the mirrored corridors of an imaginary Versailles.
And some of us need more than one head-spinning psychedelic-rock LP in our lives. This time out, Aussie Kevin Parker serves up circuit-fried synth sounds that will melt your brain like acid-infused butter.