I had Harry Styles as my top artist this year until I learned that he spit on Captain Kirk. Harry now has a lifetime ban from all future lists. Same goes for Taylor Swift. She knows why.
Runner Ups: Oh Betty by Fantastic Negrito, The Rip by Porridge Radio, and stabilise by Nilufer Yanya
10. Training Montage, The Mountain Goats – If you’ve ever wanted to hear a great song inspired by an action movie training sequence, look no further.
9. That’s Where I Am, Maggie Rogers – With her second album she has exploded beyond the constraints of the pop genre, we should expand our expectations for what she will accomplish in her career.
8. Hangover, Madi Diaz – The slow build, passionate vocals, and resonating lyrics create a powerful breakup anthem.
7. Selfish Soul, Sudan Archives – I was a big fan of her violin-driven first album. Her new songwriting is very different, and maybe even more impressive.
6. Wet Dream, Wet Leg – It’s fun, it rocks, and who doesn’t love a good Buffalo 66 reference?!
5. Interior People, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – They released 90 songs this year! Is anybody else more prolific? Of all those songs, this one stands out.
4. Anti-glory, Horsegirl – They consistently create great garage band singles featuring monotone vocals combined with fantastic guitar parts.
Top 3 Songs:
3. Spitting Off the Edge of the World, Yeah Yeah Yeahs & Perfume Genius
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs came flying back onto the scene after a nine year absence and instead of falling for the nostalgia trap they created a dynamic and exciting sound, especially in the album’s single. The wall of synth is overwhelming but it still makes room for Karen O to belt out her lyrics accompanied by the great Perfume Genius. Together they sing the different perspectives as the end of the world draws near. I would have never expected this collaboration, but it is exactly what the song needs.
2. Work Until I Die, S.G. Goodman
Goodman found a very catchy bassline to establish this epic 6.5 minute song before the lead guitar takes over. She crams in amazing references throughout the song including Song of the South, All Along the Watchtower, and dinner blessings. As a Southerner, she takes aim at the exploitation of the southern working class: “Make the rich more rich, no won’t be you, pennies for your time and crumbs to chew.”
1. This is a Photograph, Kevin Morby
During COVID lockdown Morby realized how much he missed the live shows and sharing his music with audiences. As a result he made it a mission to create a banger that would be fun to play live. Amazingly he also created a profound song that marks the passing of the generations inspired by his father’s health scare. He reflects on his parents’ lives when they were his age and he laments the passing of their time in the sun. While it’s a depressing subject, the song’s upbeat tempo makes the difficult reality of our pending doom more palatable while also emphasizing the rapid passage of time.
Runner Ups: Bleed Out by The Mountain Goats, Teeth Marks by S.G. Goodman, and Life On Earth by Hooray for Riff Raff
5. (a) Head Full of Sugar, Sunflower Bean
I only learned about this rock/pop/punk band this year, and according to Spotify I listened to them more than any other artist this year. While many aspects of the album deserve credit, the drumming of Olive Faber is explosive and is a standout feature of many of the songs. Jacob Portrait (of Unknown Mortal Orchestra) produced the album and it seems he was able to instill some of the great synth rhythms that we have come to expect from his music.
5. (b) Expert In A Dying Field, The Beths
The New Zealand band created a fantastic follow up to their 2020 album Jump Rope Gazers. Their brand of indie pop rock with killer guitar parts and clever wordplay would make Ted Leo proud. The songs on the album tackle the high-level concepts involved in a breakup “Maybe in other realities the road never took this twist. And I can close the door on us, but the room still exists.”
4. Orange Blood, Mt. Joy
This album’s release marks the band’s recent evolution, transitioning from standard-fare folk rock to a more complicated and dynamic sound. I love the unexpected twists that the songs take, especially in the standout track Lemon Tree. Matt Quinn sings “I just found a lemon tree, it’s a bad day for my enemies.” He then indicates that the lemon tree was the last ingredient needed to become one with the universe prompting the song to explode with a fantastic fuzz guitar drop. I admire the band’s willingness to push out from the formula that achieved success and experiment with influences as diverse as Khruangbin and U2.
3. Entering Heaven Alive, Jack White
Jack White shows a new side to his musical abilities by taking the guitar and the vocals down a couple notches. In my opinion, this adjustment helped him create his best work since the White Stripes. White’s songwriting emphasizes fantastic piano parts that propel the songs into exciting directions. The album’s jumps between musical genres didn’t work for me at first, but after spending some time with the album I began to appreciate how the sounds build on each other to make something special.
2. Male Models, Wilder Maker
This album takes a step away from their slower retro sounds and creates a more upbeat indie rock album. Nearly half the tracks feature some great guest vocalist, such as Katie Von Schleicher. Gabe Birnbaum also constructed some very impressive lyrics such as “Sorry that I told your sister’s boyfriend that he was history’s greatest monster” from the leadoff track. Or “The whole world looks like a finger slammed in the door” from the pessimistic track Static.
1. Cheat Codes, Danger Mouse & Black Thoughts
This album had been a work in progress for 16 years, and perhaps that extra time enabled the collaborators to find slick groves and the perfect samples to accompany Tariq Trotter’s rapping. The extended timeline probably also enabled great contributions from talents such as Raekwon, MF DOOM, Michael Kiwanuka, A$AP Rocky, and Run the Jewels. Each track on this album is great, and unsurprisingly they are packed with clever lyrics that add another level to the listening experience.
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