20. Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creek
Back in 2014 this album wowed me. Now in 2015, it’s surpassed the wowing and has ventured onto consuming. My feelings are tied to lyrics, melodies, timbres, and thoughts all associated with this album. I love the variety it offers, with songs like “Last Words Of A Shooting Star” bringing some of the hottest lyrical heat on this list, while “Drunk Walk Home” brings the fiery, emotional energy. I really don’t know what to say besides this album deserves to be so high in this list.
19. Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here?
Always and forever, this will be the album I will return to when seeking moments of deep introspection and calm thoughts. Sure, there are other ambient albums out there that are probably much more soothing or what have you, but this one makes me really think out of the box. It sounds like the sounds of robots dreaming. Absolutely sublime washes of textures flood together in perfect harmony, while rogue bleeps and bloops filter in and out of the subconscious layer while a backbone of subtle guitars guide the track with what sounds like mindless jamming, but they’re there to aid you. And when this album does get intense, it goes all out. Flying arpeggios and oscillations every which way. A complete, understated masterpiece. Pick this up if you can.
18. Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell
Jeez. #1 album of 2014 and now in my Top 20?? What do I like about this album so much? Well, I guess that’s people might be thinking at me right now, which might not be the case, but that’s how I am. I just love Hundred Waters. What isn’t there to like? They’ve got the super interesting instrumentals with great variety, awesomely structured songs, lovely vocals, etc. There’s just a magical element to their music, like they’re playing about a certain universe that’s commonplace to them but unknown to the rest of the world and they’re doing their best trying to convey this alternate plane to the rest of us through albums.
17. Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid
I honestly haven’t listened to this album in a few years but still had no problem putting it in the Top 20 – I still love it that much. I got hooked with the incredible catchiness of singles “Cold War” and “Tightrope” and stayed for the incredible variety that the rest of the album employed. There are tracks with Of Montreal, Fleet Foxes-esque folk via Deep Cotton, poppy tracks, slower tracks, experimental tracks; you name it and this album probably has it. It’s the album that breathed new life into the pop/RnB concept album, setting a new standard on how they’re judged. Plus, it’s a ton of fun to listen to. Always love that in an album.
16. Tame Impala – Lonerism
Question: How do you make “psych rock” cool for young people trying to get away from their classic rock upbringing while also bringing in classic rock kids into the indie scene? Answer: you introduce them to this album, or, let them live their own damn lives, you creep. Stock full of Beatles, Pink Floyd and self-referential Led Zeppelin charm, this is the gateway that I’m sure many high-schoolers saw into the magical, mystical world of this crazy thing called “indie rock.” Well, now Tame Impala are bonafide festival headliners, bringing in new fans of the yellow-tinged rock n roll that they’re famous for bringing back. Snark aside, this album is good.
15. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
I don’t really know what to say about this record. This is probably Deerhunter’s most popular album. Totally loved by tons of people. It’s got some damn good songs on it; that’s what I can say. I remember there was one fall/winter day in 2010 where I only listened to the song “Helicopter.” Seriously, at a certain point I was like “alright, this is my life now.” A perfect balance of delicate and brash in the songwriting. Wish there was a bit more noise, but that’s all good. And of course there’s “He Would Have Laughed,” the tribute to the late Jay Reatard that gets me every time. If you haven’t listened to this album, go get into it.
14. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
While revisiting records from the last five years to make this list, I went in with hesitance towards Swing Lo Magellan. I’m not exactly sure why. Perhaps it could have been because I listened to Bitte Orca so much more than this one and that one is more finely tuned; but still, this album is pretty fantastic. It’s got more accessible songs on here while still cramming in that undeniable Dirty Projectors wit and charm. It also really personifies the band, showing some of the conversation behind some of the otherworldly harmonies by including little snippets of studio talk and bits of imperfection in the recording. That might have been it, actually. There are bits of imperfection, compared to Bitte Orca, which was built off of perfection. The imperfectness of this record is actually really appealing now and fun to smile and laugh to.
13. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City
Let’s start this anecdote with a prediction: Vampire Weekend will be voted as one of, if not the most important band birthed from the extremely formative period of the late 00s and early 10s music scene. They’re clearly super important to me and a bunch of other people my age. I feel as though Vampire Weekend never “sold out” either, which is a qualm that a ton of at-one-point-budding indie bands face once they become bigger and start seeing that big money come in. Whereas Contra was a building block record for the band, proving that they could overcome the “sophomore slump,” Modern Vampires is more of the crowning achievement of VW’s songwriting and instrumental progress. It has so much more dimension than the other records, but it still carries that lightweight, breathability that the other records had as well. This record also introduced young twenty-somethings to other side of the growing up song, the “slow-builder/life-examiner.” We see this in “Hannah Hunt.” Being a post-grad isn’t all about having a fun time. It’s a time for thinking, too. A bridge into adulthood. Cmon now, no one wants to listen to that. Well, now you do. Thanks, Vampy.
12. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
Clocking in at around 2 hours over three LPs, Have One On Me is a marathon of an album. Truth be told, I’ve only listened to it once all the way through. I made a day out of it, honestly: I put the LP on and I sat in a chair while it played in my room. I’m sure I had a glass of water with me, maybe a sandwich at some point. This album might be huge, but it’s meant to be consumed whole. Or at least, to get the full experience it would be good to experience it all the way through at least once, like a piece of classical music or jazz odyssey. Folk records just aren’t being made like this anymore and they weren’t before either- it is pretty much just Newsom, weaving wondrous tales with her harp, piano and fairy-like voice. This shit is my jam.
11. Destroyer – Kaputt
I gotta be honest – I’ve probably listened to this album the least out of all of the records on this list, but after listening to it more and more as I’ve narrowed down my selection, the higher it’s climbed. Every time I listen it’s like I’m settling into a bubble bath, with Dan Bejar creepily, yet appropriately, singing to me from across the lengthy hotel suite bathroom. The instrumentals are plush and blemish-free, yet smarmy and sound like they could pick your pocket with the slightest of hands. It reminds me of the character James Wait from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Galápagos. I read someone’s negative review of this album saying that “they didn’t like their pop to have delusions of grandeur.” Well why not? It’s pop music! It’s supposed to be the biggest thing possible, occupying giant spaces and achieving things that normal music couldn’t dream of reaching. This album is huge, outrageous, but lovely. The richness gets to its head, but it’s a cool enough guy to let it all slide.