It’s always hard to decide on what the ‘best’ albums of the year were… There could be some that you’d been eagerly awaiting and loved upon release and scarcely went back to thereafter, or even the opposite – the more you listened, the more it grew – as well as records that captured a particular moment in your life with so much clarity or undiscovered gems from previous years. When looking back on the past 12 months, we thought we’d look at those albums that we’ve returned to time and time again when deciding on our favourites.
The Xcerts – ‘There Is Only You’
Four years in the waiting, the Xcerts’ third album saw them step into the big league of loud pop bands with instant crossover appeal. Combining the grungey fuzz of second album ‘Scatterbrain’ with the more classic anthemics of debut ‘In the Cold Wind We Smile’, it’s one of those albums where almost every song sounds like a hit single. Live favourites ‘Shaking in the Water’ and the aptly named ‘Pop Song’ sound just as vibrant on record and this energy resounds throughout the album’s entirety.
Sharon Van Etten – ‘Are We There’
Bringing the piano to the forefront for the majority of the album, ‘Are We There’ may be a break-up album, but it’s not one without hope… Wry, self-referential National-style lyrics (‘I washed your dishes, then I shit in your bathroom’) combine with elegant folk-tinged harmonies to provide a powerful sense of meaning and Sharon’s voice has never sounded so sublime. Heartbreaking and optimistic, it’s pretty much perfect.
Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten
Rather brilliantly released in a graphic-novel format, ‘You Will Eventually Be Forgotten’ is a deeply personal and nostalgic look back at the key moments in Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) frontman Keith Latinen’s life –taking in everything from family canoe trips when he was a young boy to tragically short holidays with university friends. An over-riding theme throughout the record is the love he has for his wife (and bandmate) Cathy; the opener ‘Ribbon’ is a poignant and tender reminisce of the couple’s tumultuous wedding day that could melt even the coldest of hearts.
Talons – ‘New Topographics’
A friend once described every Talons song to us as ‘sounding like the end of the world’ and this compliment rings true throughout ‘New Topographics’. Opening with the eight-minute masterpiece ‘Monuments’, this the first Talons album in what seems like forever and they’ve clearly taken the time away to further hone their potent mix of instrumental post and math rock – it’s a dynamic and powerful record that will excite, surprise and invigorate you to the core.
Moose Blood – ‘I’ll Keep You in Mind, From Time to Time’
Canterbury’s emo heroes Moose Blood already had a passionate and dedicated fan base by the time they released their first full-length record and ‘I’ll Keep You in Mind, From Time to Time’ did not disappoint. Full of honest introspection and fervent enthusiasm, there’s talk of love, death and family with the stirring ‘Pups’ perhaps being the standout track. Referencing everyone from Morrissey to ‘Saved by the Bell’’s Kelly Kapowski, it’s a candid record with a refreshing frankness.
Other albums we’ve listened to time and time again this year include:
The Twilight Sad – ‘Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave’
Dad Rocks! –‘ Year of the Flesh’
Uncle Luc – ‘Humblebrag’
Ryan Adams – ‘Ryan Adams’
Samoans – ‘Rescue’
Blood Red Shoes – ‘Blood Red Shoes’
Wild Beasts – ‘Present Tense’
Spring Offensive – ‘Young Animal Hearts’
St. Vincent – ‘St. Vincent’
Seahaven – Reverie Lagoon: Music for Escapism Only