Bit late with this but here’s my favourite albums of the year so far, a mid year list.
Maybe it’s because it’s been a very slow year for me. I’ve been let down by many artists I love, but it seems many of them have taken a break this year. New discoveries are few, but funnily enough they take up my top 2 anyway.
Some promising albums (Bell X1, Duckworth Lewis Method) I’ve not spent enough time with. And some great tracks with no albums to them. Here’s what I do recommend – and love.
5. Modern Vampires Of the City – Vampire Weekend
There’s a few new things on offer – samples, autotune – but it’s still Vampire Weekend. And there might be a limit on how far they can go with their soweto schtick, but they pull it off again – and I think marvelously. That weird mystery of what they sing about is up front, and they’ve made a really modern pop record. And they know how to craft a hook – just let Hannah Hunt or Diane Young live in your head for a few seconds – it will last for days. Against all odds they made another really good album – maybe they are keepers after all.
4. Tooth And Nail – Billy Bragg
The album I’ve wanted for years. Just Billy and a guitar again. No big rawkous rock band behind him, he hands in a bunch of crafty, sweet songs that are somehow deeply personal AND say his peice about the state of the world today. The opening three are the killers – January Song’s sly stabs at politics, No One Knows Nothing Anymore’s provocative uncertainty and Handyman Blues – as sweet a love song as he’s ever delivered. We always knew Bragg would turn into an fine angry old man, and if he can just not bury it keyboards, he is doing great.
3. Once I Was An Eagle – Laura Marling
Laura Marling has a way of making her last 5 star album feel like a 4 star album. This album wrecks me. The title track is one of the sexiest things she’s ever done. Whoever is looking after her is doing a great job. They’ve let her develop into a pure emotional wallop. And to that the ridiculous guitar playing and that hammond organ – swoon. And the way the songs drift in and out of each other… It’s a beautiful hazy dream. And we’re four for four.
2. The Hurting Scene – Melody Pool
Again, it’s the emotional honesty that really shines through. But this is a bit more fun, sometimes rocking job. Brad Jones, who did such a great job producing three of my favourite albums (Bob Evans’ Suburban Songbook, Josh Rouse’s 1972 and Nashville) does a great job here, really bringing pout the pop, without giving it too much of a gloss. But it’s the song – Someone You’ve Never Met Before, Xavier and Henry – all heartbreaking. A real star in the making.
1. Same Trailer Different Park – Kacey Musgraves
It’s a year for the ladies. This album is so fantastic – it’s hard to imagine anything topping it this year. Funny, fun, tender – it’s like a Randy Newman album, written by a 24 year old woman. Highlights abound – Follow Your Arrow is an anthem for the ages, This Is What It Is breaks your heart, Silver Lining shows the kind of wisdom that songwriters get at age 60.