#10. Girls, "Father, Son, Holy Ghost" Something about the pastiche-nature of Girls' songwriting approach lets me down a bit, but this is a still a very enjoyable pop excursion.
#9 Grooms, "Prom" An album that works so well as an album it's sometimes hard for me to differentiate individual tracks--that said, "Expression Of" is an excellent distillation of what is powerful about Grooms, namely the dynamic tension between the pent vocals and the taut, interlocking guitar lines.
#8 Extra Life, "Ripped Heart EP" Another engagingly ill outing for Extra Life, one of the most sonically masterful yet strangely unacknowledged acts going in music today. "Strong Brother, Weak Brother" is a forceful yet recondite endeavor, dialoguing with pop music while at the same time not setting aside the group's consistent insistence towards vital self-exploration.
#7 Parenthetical Girls, "Privilege IV" The entire Privilege sequence of EPs has been among my favorite as they have rolled out, but this entry, in particular the "title track" "The Privilege," strikes me as a true leap forward for P Girls. It's one of those songs that is so good upon hearing it once you feel as if you've been preparing to hum it to yourself your whole life.
#6 Nat Baldwin, "People Changes" Baldwin's songs on this record, both his originals and the two excellent covers of Arthur Russell and Kurt Weisman, testify to the power that is earned through solitary devotion to one's craft--charting Nat Baldwin's development is not a matter of the linear--it is a matter of sounding ever deepening reaches.
#5 PJ Harvey, "Let England Shake" Strangely, I've never previously been a fan of PJ Harvey. This album changed that. The recording is a masterpiece--the dynamics here are astonishing--and the songwriting and singing is incomparably strong. This is truly a dimensional record--it gives one a full feeling of space.
#4 Wye Oak, "Civilian" Not even really sure what to say about this record aside from that a) it's awesome and b) I wish I could write songs like these. It took me a while to get fully inside these songs but then I found, to my delight, they were fully inside me and I've been vibing deep ever since.
#3 Delicate Steve, "Wondervisions" Few records I've ever heard have brought me so much manifest joy. Feeling down? Put on Wondervisions. Feeling confused? Put on Wondervisions. It works. This is music that lifts the soul.
#2 Fleet Foxes, "Helplessness Blues" I saw them live not long after the record came out and it was astonishing. I've turned to this record a lot this year--the mood, the music, the lyrics--they all kind of suit me.
#1 Sam Mickens, "Slay & Slake" What, you expected an "objective" list? Sure, I'm biased, but I really find Sam's to be amongst the most iconoclastic voices presently going--who cares less for sacred cows, for the dogmas of the desperate, for the faith in selling-out that is so many artists' creed? Also: the music is genius, challenging, and extremely gratifying in a life affirming way.
Okay! Happy New Year!