The only thread that connects the albums on my list this year is that I liked all of them. And I don’t like much, so that’s saying something.
The Bones of What You Believe
All those comparisons to the Knife and Purity Ring are apt and inescapable, but this Glasgow trio wields its synth arpeggios in aid of an urgently melancholic variety of electro-pop that will have you dancing with tears in your eyes.
Even if its best song—the automotive-themed Indo-Arabian banger “Bad Girls”—is from a 2010 mix tape, Matangi offers ample evidence that, when she’s firing on all cylinders, M.I.A.’s stew of hip-hop, pop, and pan-global beats still sounds as fresh as it did when she came out of nowhere a decade ago.
My Bloody Valentine
m b v
Was m b v worth waiting two decades for? Arguably not, because what would be? Even so, Kevin Shields and company delivered a potent reminder that something pretty fucking spectacular can happen when you combine seasick guitar noise with whisper-soft melodies.
My Name Is My Name
The Clipse MC’s first proper solo LP suffers a bit from the inconsistent quality that you would expect from any 12-track record with 15 credited producers. But “Nosetalgia” (featuring Kendrick Lamar), a coke-gang memoir with a dizzying volley of pop-culture references, is worth the price of admission.
Said the Whale
I’m not even going to say what a great, impeccably crafted indie-pop record hawaiii is because I don’t want it to go to Said the Whale’s collective head.
Sigur Rós is still exploring its own sonic world, only this time Iceland’s greatest export is digging deep into its molten core instead of skimming its placid glacial lakes.
The Heart of Juliet Jones
Anyone who can craft a perfect sock-hop bopper like the title cut of Tough Age’s debut LP, and make it sound effortless to boot, deserves your hopeless devotion. The Vancouver four-piece is pretty damn handy with fuzz-bombed garage rock, too.
Modern Vampires of the City
I’m a latecomer to this particular party, but Vampire Weekend finally won me over with gems like the filigreed baroque-pop lament “Step” and the melted-vinyl surf-rock single “Diane Young”.
Anna von Hausswolff
Okay, maybe this one’s a tough sell: a church pipe organ is the main instrument, death is the overarching theme, and there isn’t a hook to speak of on any of its 13 tracks. Nonetheless, the latest from Swedish singer-keyboardist Anna von Hausswolff is a dark, bewitching brew of liturgical song and sonorous postrock that’s just about perfect for late nights spent pondering quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore.
We Are the City
While we wait for We Are the City’s Norwegian-language feature film to see the light of day, we can fill the time listening to the local group’s jaw-droppingly accomplished second full-length. On Violent, the trio uses pop songcraft, prog-rock bravado, and serious compositional chops as vehicles for lyrical introspection. Try it—you’ll like it!