Hundred Visions – Permanent Basement
Standout Tracks: “Where Do I Sign?” / “Last Cab from Tunis” / “Regina, Hold the Line”
This Austin band may have screeched into my Top Ten based on their insanely entertaining live performance last April, but as long as I get the answer right I shouldn’t have to show my work. They can veer from genre to genre and get it all right, and as they say to Regina while she’s holding the line – “resistance is futile.” Buy this album for everyone on your Christmas list, and they will all love you and bake shit for you as a thank you.
Father John Misty - Fear Fun
Standout Tracks: “Nancy From Now On” / “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” / “Every Man Needs a Companion”
Whatshisface Tillman (he spends a lot of time talking about how much he dislikes his first name) may be the loveliest man born in the past 35 years and his voice can get you pregnant through your headphones, so ladies, you’ll want to be careful when listening to this album.
Dum Dum Girls - End Of Daze
Standout Tracks: “Lord Knows” / “I Got Nothing” / “Season in Hell”
Okay, it’s only an EP, but when five songs sound this good scrunched together the rules should be bent a bit. Dee Dee Penny’s voice is a work of art on this effort, and if you’re going through a difficult period in your life you’d be well-served to have this as your road-to-recovery soundtrack.
La Sera - Sees The Light
Standout Tracks: “Break My Heart” / “Love That’s Gone” / “Please Be My Third Eye”
Kickball Katie has put together a kickassy little album that’s about as solid as anything that’s been produced in the past 10 years. She’s got amazing vocal range and can just straight up play a bass guitar, and as an added bonus she’s completely adorable.
Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
Standout Tracks: “Hang Loose” / “On Your Way” / “I Found You”
Seriously? You need me to describe this album? It’s been everywhere this year and has been played at every festival, twice. Throwback 60’s sound with everything swept off the floor of an awesome southern dive bar tossed in for good measure. Rock, Roll, Hill, Billy, Gospel, and R&B – it’s all in there.
Beach House - Bloom
Standout Tracks: “Lazuli” / “Wishes” / “Myth”
Lush, lush, lush, gorgeous, and more lush. With a lot of nodding back to the best of Cocteau Twins and other similarly-veined artists from the 1980s, Bloom is a beautifully produced highlight reel for Victoria Legrand’s vocals and the hundreds of loops it spawns.
Japandroids - Celebration Rock
Standout Tracks: “Adrenaline Nightshift” / “The Nights of Wine and Roses” / “Younger Us”
This album is obviously one-notey, but when that note sounds this f#*king good and spills into this many songs, it goes in the Top 5 – no questions asked.
Cold Specks - I Predict A Graceful Expulsion
Standout Tracks: “Winter Solstice” / “Blank Maps” / “Elephant Head”
If we have a harsh winter this year, it will be because Al Spx’s devastating voice can call down the weather. This debut is the perfect album for the holidays, if you really don’t care much for your family and just want to sink into a really dark funk with some terrific music.
David Wax Museum - Knock Knock Get Up
Standout Tracks: “Rumors are True” / “A Dog in this Fight” / “Harder Before it Gets Easier”
Mexifolk-laden, multi-instrumental songs not only have an amazing feel to each and every freaking one of them, but the lyrics are something that only a really smart dude could come up with – a really smart dude from Harvard, as it turns out.
Alt J - An Awesome Wave
Standout Tracks: “Taro” / “Something Good” / “Breezeblocks”
It’s nearly impossible to describe the album, which won this year’s Mercury award in Britain, without referencing that Alt-J has clearly found the soul and innovation Radiohead abandoned over the past five years. Joe Newman’s reedy voice weaves the best threads of world influence into ridiculously layered electronics, and the entire album runs like a drug-addled trip around the globe. The band’s name is written Alt-J because that’s the keyboard shortcut on a Mac to make the Delta symbol (?) – if this album weren’t spectacular, the whole thing would smack of a project by a bunch of art school jackholes, but fortunately for them it is spectacular.