15) Local Natives- Hummingbird
Sample Track: Colombia
On their debut album, Gorilla Manor, Local Natives thrived on immediacy. All of their songs buzzed with eager energy; from opener “Wide Eyes” to mid album highlight “Who Knows, Who Cares,” the Cali boys never lost their sense of wonder. With Hummingbird, Local Natives have mellowed out and crafted an album of songs a bit more scarred and wounded, which in turn takes a little longer to immediately sink in. After a few listens though, you uncover how beautiful their heartbreak sounds. Their lyrics are on display more than their debut, and the vocal vehicle they arrive in is as melancholic as it is beautiful. Hummingbird is an album for the wounded hearts, and Local Natives are happy to soundtrack your healing process.
14) Sigur Ros- Kviekur
Sample Track: Isjaki
Let me say one damn thing: Sigur Ros have gotten the short end of the stick far too long. Last year, they released that album of steamrolling ambience Valtari, which was admittedly somewhat a snoozer, but this year they released Kviekur, their true comeback album. Their most consistent release since Agaetis Byrjun, Sigur Ros have never sounded leaner or so driven. The gorgeous vocals are still provided by their angelic singer Jonsi, but the instrumentation plays with a newfound aggression. Drummer Orri Páll Dýrason finally gets room to flex his talents; he pushes the songs forward, keeping them lean and exciting. I’ve always taken time to listen to Sigur Ros albums; they’ve needed to be played out loud with room to breathe, each album reminding me of an ocean, a forest, the sky. Listening to Kviekur, I’m reminded of a cave, one that I will happily lose myself in anywhere I go.
13) Pusha-T- My Name is My Name
Sample Track: Nosetalgia
Terrence Thornton, stage name Pusha-T, is not here to make friends. In his songs, he is rude, crass and cocky, usually all within the same songs. He’s not exactly trying to win any friends here. Thankfully, On his solo debut, My Name is My Name, Thornton nabbed a dozen of GOOD Music’s best instrumentals and laid down the most vicious, compelling lyrical assault of the year. The production would be a highlight on many of today’s rap album, yet Thornton steals the show, proving himself one of the best lyricists working today. There is a refreshing focus on displa here; at a mere 12 tracks (no silly skits here!) you get a vivid portrait of a man who started slinging crack and is now signed to one of the more successful rap labels. There aren’t too many jokes, too many party tracks to be on My Name is My Name, but the sheer talent, the amount of skill and precision put into making these songs makes it very worth your while.
12) Savages- Silence Yourself
Sample Track: Husbands
As a theatre-maker and actor, my favorite type of work to produce, work on or attend attempts to enact social or political change (though today, that line is heavily blurred.) Sadly, a lot of work in the theatre world comes off as (buzz word!) “preachy” or “self-indulgent” or the true bane of modern theatre “boring.” All of those offenders, and myself included, can learn a ton from Savages. On their debut Silence Yourself, they sound off an alarm for all of the problems they see in modern gender politics, packing it in one of the fiercest punk albums of the year. Singer Jehnny Beth wails tales of her distress in crystal clear vocals (something lacking in many punk bands) that brim with intensity. Meanwhile the rest of the band soundtracks her rage with pounding drums, driving bass and guitars that slice and blaze in equal measure. Powerful, heartfelt, and vital, Savages throw down their beliefs and do their damndest to make you listen. This is music for a revolution.
11) Foals- Holy Fire
Sample Track: My Number
This year I worked my first multi-day festival, Governor’s Ball, also known as the three day wait for Kanye West show. There was a last minute change that final Sunday where Yeezus was playing: The ever shift Death from Above 1979 dropped and Foals got their slot at the final hour. That Sunday, I made my way to the front to my friend Tobi and a legion of other Kanye fans were waiting for Mr. West since the park opened. He asked “So who are these guys Foals like? Folk?” I responded “Kind of heavy…funky…British…just wait!” Their set list comprised mainly of tracks from Holy Fire, the pinnacle album of their fascinating rock music, and by the end of the day Tobi assured me several Kanye fans were also Foals fans. As I said before, Holy Fire is an album that doesn’t want to be described: it fuses heavy-metal riffs, electronic flourishes, falsetto, slow burning ballads all to glorious effect. It’s a modern day prog-rock album, I suppose, but don’t be turned off the fear of cheesy synthesizer solos: rest assured, if you like your rock loud and large, you will love Holy Fire.