#1 Julien Baker - Sprained Ankle (6131 Records)
These are truly the kind of albums that I live for every year. They just seem to come out of nowhere. I knew after listening to the first song that I was going to love this album. She is sort of like a young Chan Marshall of Cat Power. A beautiful and haunting voice that I just can't resist. An album I want to listen to again as soon as it ends. I have always been a fan of anything Mark Kozelek and Bill Callahan. All things dark and introspective. And she will fit nicely on your shelf next to those artists. I never find music like this depressing. There were a lot of great albums out this year but it was sort of hard to come up with my favorite of the year. But as soon as I finished this album for the first time I knew that I had found it. A perfect album.
#2 Tamaryn - Cranekiss (Mexican Summer)
This is the third album by Tamaryn but my favorite by them so far. And it is really rare to make an album this good on your third try. A perfect album for fans of anything dream pop or shoegaze. Tamaryn often sounds to me like 90s shoegaze greats like Cocteau Twins, Cranes or Curve. I have spent a lot of time with this album this year. The perfect album for long drives home from work. I can never get enough of this genre and am so happy that bands keep putting out albums like this.
Bartoli's latest album, as is her custom, explores uncharted areas with the music of the little-known but brilliant Italian Baroque composer and diplomat Agostino Steffani. The deluxe album has extensive notes reviewing Steffani's amazing career.
The former conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic is also a brilliant composer and recently composed an adventurous violin concerto for the celebrated violinist Leila Josefowicz. The music incorporates pop elements but is in no way a crossover piece and is a deeply personal statement by Salonen.
These are the sort of weeks that I live for. There are so many new releases out this week that are getting me excited. This week could easily leave me content for the rest of the year. I am very much looking forward to a new EP from Antony & the Johnsons in a couple of weeks and the new Bloc Party next month, but it is really all about this week. There has to be something out this week that you will at least fall in love with a little bit. There are big new albums by Mogwai, Jenny Lewis, Brightblack Morning Light, Kings of Leon, and TV on the Radio. These guys have all been around before and are pretty consistent with their albums. If you like these bands you will probably like their new albums. The new TV on the Radio is awesome, and there are also some very exciting debut albums out this week. I have been absolutely obsessed with this Friendly Fires album for a month now. It is so good. I have been listening to it almost every day at work for the past couple of weeks. I think I love it as much as I love that Teenagers album from a couple of months ago. And by the way, I still love that Teenagers album. It just grows on me more every month and I think it is brilliant. Please listen to it and you will see. More on the Friendly Fires later. The Tough Alliance get their U.S. debut on Modular, New Chance. I also love this album. I just talked about their Swedish label mates, Air France, last week. They are also from Gothenberg, Sweden. It is a super fun electronic pop album. And there are two great albums out on Fat Cat this week-- very different albums. There is the debut album from Ten Kens. I really liked this album when I first heard it a couple of weeks ago, but it was not until early this week that I realized just how much I like it. It is more intense than the Friendly Fires and Tough Alliance -- it sounds like Sonic Youth a bit. It reminds me of something that I have heard before but also sounds like something completely new and unique. I can't quite put my finger on what exactly it sounds like, but it is comfortably familiar. And I finally have decided to get into classical music this week with the new Max Richter. It might not be you typical classical release but it is classical none the less.