“Well…” Be warned that the word “best” appears a lot below.
1. Los Campesinos – Hello Sadness: They’re now 4 albums into their career and this might be their best. Or their 4th best. They’re consistent, and this is their most mature, adult album, which means they can actually play instruments now and shout less.
2. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life: Speaking of shouting… In a year in which not a lot of bands even tried to matter, and those that did pee sitting down, it’s strange that a hardcore group with an uncommercial, ungooglable name would actually make a rock album. Yelling, female guest vocalists, presaging the Occupy Wall Street protests, the best guitar riffs I’ve heard in years? It’s all here.
3. Bon Iver – Calgary: Some people think Justin Vernon pees sitting down. I don’t. This is beautiful.
4. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake: Her best in recent memory, maybe ever, and I bet Nick Cave is kicking himself for letting Mick Harvey take The Colour of The Earth to PJ Harvey, or maybe that’s a story I like to tell myself.
5. The Roots – Undun: Stripping away between 25 and 34 minutes off your typical rap album in 2011, or 2007, one would think The Roots would be forced to actually focus. Instead you get a song cycle about a victim and perpetrator of inner city violence bookended by two Sufjan Stevens suites, which oddly makes for their best album since Illadelph Halflife, and maybe ever.
6. Comet Gain – Howl of the Lonely Crowd: Painfully jangly, painfully British. I just assumed it was a reissue from the C86 scene.
7. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost: It’s time to admit these guys, or this guy, are legit.
8. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die…: By embracing Krautrock and baroque, among other styles, Mogwai have made their best and most vital album in just about a decade. I placed it here because it doesn’t sound like Mogwai.
9. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar: Overproduced to the point of murder, but damn if it’s not the best sounding album of the year on computer speakers, which is the point of that overproduction.
10. Clams Casino – Instrumentals: Picture a cross between Moby’s Play and DJ Shadow’s Entroducing, if it were composed by someone who drinks too much cough syrup.
11. The Antlers – Burst Apart: A slow, gorgeous burn.
12. Yuck – s/t: Everything alt-90s-style power-pop is supposed to be, even if they wouldn’t know what breakfast was if Teenage fan Club didn’t eat it.
13. Seapony – Go With Me: Cuter and janglier, which is how I really like ‘em.
14. Veronica Falls – s/t: Cute and jangly, which is how I like ‘em.
15. The Amazing – Gentle Stream: I don’t know who these guys are, or what their backstory is, but the blend of British pastoral folk with psych and shoegaze is a winner. More please.