Moreso than the previous years I’ve written these up, it feels like there are a handful of consensus AOTYs bouncing around the internet. Rather than making me feel like I’m simply losing my edge, it comforts me that a handful of artists who delivered truly engrossing albums received the acclaim they deserved. Though I tried to throw in a few dark horses, it is clear to me now that I more or less settled on the consensus picks. For good reason; these are some incredible albums.
20. Youth Lagoon– Savage Hills Ballroom
19. Panda Bear– Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
18. My Morning Jacket– The Waterfall
17. The Weeknd– Beauty Behind the Madness
16. Kurt Vile– b’lieve i’m goin down
15. Vince Staples– Summertime ’06
14. Tame Impala– Currents
13. Protomartyr– The Agent Intellect
12. Beirut– No, No, No
11. Beach House– Depression Cherry
10. Future– DS2. It feels weird to “love” this music, but I think I really do. It’s claustrophobic and depressing and deranged and full of mostly disgusting, scuzzy songs that make no cursory nods to hooks or melody. The whole thing weighs pretty heavy. And its awesome.
9. Wilco– Star Wars. The most fun and playful record in Wilco’s discography, I love every song in all of their fuzzy, angular glory. Sometimes I wonder what we did to be so lucky as to have Wilco in our lives.
8. Floating Points– Elaenia. Not at all what I had expected given his steady drip of singles the past few years, and the first few listens didn’t leave me with much of an impression. Yet I grew to love this album on its own terms, and trust it will continue to reveal itself and earn a reputation as some kind of classic.
7. Majical Cloudz– Are You Alone? I almost feel embarrassed for the guy for just how much of himself he puts out there, but man if this isn’t filled front to back with stop dead in your tracks level great songs. “Heavy” in particular.
6. Deerhunter– Fading Frontier. Didn’t quite live up to the billing of “an album full of Desire Lines” that I had heard, but easily the most pleasant, appealing record Deerhunter have ever recorded. “Ad Astra” joins “Helicopter” on the very short list of Deerhunter songs you might actually want to cuddle to.
5. Sufjan Stevens– Carrie and Lowell. This will age just as well as the best of Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen, or Elliot Smith.
4. Viet Cong– Viet Cong. An instant classic of abrasive post-punk. The Pitchfork metaphor of “like watching a bloodied hand sink into a bucket of ice” perfectly evokes the sound and atmosphere. Death leaves me drooling each time.
3. Grimes– Art Angels. This album is utterly impossible to resist, a fact eminently clear to me after about a month of nonstop listening. I’m a sucker for back loaded albums, and to end this with “Butterfly” is almost devastatingly perfect.
2. Kendrick Lamar– To Pimp a Butterfly. Kendrick follows a masterpiece with a masterpiece that captured the zeitgeist like nothing else this year. Still a little bit in awe of and intimidated by all that’s here.
1. Jamie XX– In Colour. Following years of singles and remixes, this completely surpasses the promise of what his debut LP could deliver. Intensely vivid, these songs evoke such a wide range of feelings that it’s a major trip to get through at first, but the genius of the pacing reveals itself over repeated listens.