In Descending Order
- Blur – The Magic Whip
Blur had released a few teasers of new material since they reformed back in 2009, but up until the surprise announcement of The Magic Whip, there was little reason to believe they were going to release anything else. But after a canceled festival appearance in Hong Kong, they set aside four days to record. Those circumstances should’ve resulted in something unlistenable, but thanks to the tireless post-production work of Graham Coxon and producer Stephen Street, they managed to tie it all together and make a beautiful, varied collection that easily ranks among their best work.
- Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
What Courtney Barnett lacks in a pitch perfect singing voice, she more than makes up for with a blazingly crystal clear lyrical sheet. Her knack for making the miniature universal makes her music a treat to return to again and again.
- The Decemberists – What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World
Returning from a lengthy break (for them anyway), The Decemberists didn’t strive to make any big breaks from their discography—instead they made a varied and constantly engaging collection of pop songs. When combines with Florasongs, their EP of leftovers, the whole collection makes an impressive and eclectic double record—which is probably the only thing The Decemberists haven’t tried at this point.
- Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi
A lot of people accused Death Cab For Cutie with reaching for the big leagues with their major label debut Plans, but really that was just a continuation of the work they’d always done. Kintsugi on the other hand, is a huge record. Never has one of their albums been so dynamic—every bit of reverb lingers, every snare drum punches. It’ll be interesting to see where the band goes from here, particularly after the departure of guitarist/producer Chris Walla.
- Belle & Sebastian – Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance
Belle & Sebastian are always so great at album titles. True to its name, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance finds the band trotting out the sequencers and stretching out their songs to epic lengths. It’s a refreshing change of pace for the group who remain awe-inspiring in their melodic invention and lyrical sophistication.
- Chris Walla – Tape Loops
When Chris Walla left Death Cab For Cutie, it was pretty much assumed he was going to produce some more top-shelf indie rock and maybe release another fantastic solo album. But Walla threw things for a loop (wordplay!). Instead, he made an ethereal instrumental album made up entirely of physical tape loops—loops that would change due to human interaction. The result is a hypnotic wonder that works as background music and focused headphone music.
- Young Rival – Interior Light
Known for their infections hooks and energy, Young Rival embraced a bit of the freaky with their latest album. Gone are the consistent clean downstrokes and instead comes a fuzzy collection of warbles that make for a dynamic and exciting listen (and still with hooks and energy!)
- Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love
Every band that’s broken up has reunited these days. Usually the reunions lead to diminishing tours and weaker new material, but when Sleater-Kinney surprise announced their return, they came back roaring to life. No Cities To Love is their best record yet—brimming with urgency, inventiveness and hunger. It’s an amazing feat that they were able to come back and not only not put a blight on their legacy, but they managed to enhance it.
- Tame Impala – Currents
The fact that Kevin Parker was ever able to actually finish this album is pretty incredible. A one-man band, Parker shows a meticulous production that brings Tame Impala into a funky falsetto paradise. It also helps that Parker his best collection of songs yet with every one providing another glimpse into his psychedilc mind.
- Ash – Kablammo!
Eight years after declaring they’d released their final album, Ash follows their insanely ambitious A-Z Series with a straightforward gut punch of a power-pop record. The band has not sounded this huge and direct since at least Meltdown and they haven’t this catchy since Free All Angels. It’s another impressive comeback in a career with at least three of them and you can’t really say more about it than it just sounds better and better with each subsequent spin.