1. Viet Cong-Viet Cong
I'm kind of surprised I even like this record, let alone love it. Usually I find these hyped up bands overrated but Viet Cong deserves heaps of praise. This record is a challenge, and is really hard to love initially. You have to give it time. And really, what's more rewarding than that? And admittedly, this record took me a few listens before I was blown away. But the truth is, these seven songs are perfect. This is one of the most cohesive albums I've heard in a long time (okay, since Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave), and I can't believe how well it lives up to the hype. It's also very ambitious for a debut record. Not to mention, "Continental Shelf" is definitely the best song of the year. I swear, when the tempo change happens, I get chills! Still! After listening to it dozens of times! It's brilliant. And do I even have to explain about "Death?" Talk about ambition. Because this record's only seven songs, I'm really, really left wanting more, and I hope they get their second record out quickly. It's just refreshing to have a band who is/was as hyped as Viet Cong to not be obnoxious or shoved down our throats.
Also, side note, I did see them live and they are quite good. I just needed more show.
Favorite Tracks: Continental Shelf, Death, Silhouettes
2. Sufjan Stevens-Carrie and Lowell
We all know this is fantastic, right? I don't need to go on and on about it? I want to say that this is a return to form for Sufjan but that's just because I hated The Age of Adz. Carrie and Lowell just reminds me of old-school Sufjy, circa Seven Swans, which is my favorite record of his after Illinois (I don't want to meet a person whose favorite Sufjan record isn't Illinois, quite frankly). Anyway, Carrie and Lowell is subtle yet powerful, and, like most of his work, gorgeous. Yes, it is a heavy record but art isn't easy, right? It's raw and beautiful and full of pain and demands repeat listens. I feel like he truly bared his soul on this one, to the point where it feels almost uncomfortable and invasive. And that's kind of what makes it so brilliant.
Favorite Tracks: Fourth of July, Eugene, Carrie and Lowell
3. Admiral Fallow-Tiny Rewards
What, did you think I'd let this list go without a band from Scotland? This record is relatively new, and I've just begun listening to it but it's good. It's very, very good. I've tried to get into Admiral Fallow in the past but other than Louis Abbott's voice, I wasn't very taken with them. But they put on their big boy (and girl) pants and made a really great, enjoyable record. It feels...darker than their previous work, which is most likely the reason I enjoy it so much. Their first records were a little too poppy for my tastes, and kind of inconsequential. (I should go back and revisit them.) However, the beauty of this record is that the songs truly sneak up on you, and you feel like you have to keep starting them over and over again before you can actually finish them because you're like, "wait, what!? Amazing." It's kind of like the feeling of your body getting used to a really cold pool of water. You weren't sure at first, you wanted to get out, but you stuck around and now it's awesome. Plus Louis Abbott's voice, am I right? The last record I felt this way about was The Midnight Organ Fight.
Favorite Tracks: Holding the Strings, Some Kind of Life, Building as Foreign
4. Lower Dens-Escape From Evil
I'm gonna be honest with you here: I like this because it sounds like Beach House, and Beach House is a perfect band. And I haven't gotten a Beach House record in three years. (*whispers* Soon.) But regardless of Lower Dens' Beach House-like qualities, this is a great pop record. Jana Hunter's voice is terrific and in songs like, "I Am the Earth," it's downright haunting. I tried to get into their first record and it just didn't happen (running theme this year, I suppose) but this one really stuck with me.
Favorite Tracks: Your Heart Still Beating, I Am the Earth, Company
5. Belle and Sebastian-Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
I wrote extensively about this album earlier in the year so I won't get into it but bottom line: this is the most enjoyable record to come out all year.
Favorite Tracks: Enter Sylvia Plath, Play for Today, The Party Line
I'm going to stop at five simply because I feel like...it's been a good year for music already, certainly but I kind of lost four months of it listening to Dry the River. And quite frankly, if I had to say what my favorite record of the year has been so far, I'd say Shallow Bed. And I don't care that it's three years old. If you ask me which record has shaped the year for me, I'd say Shallow Bed. It is a terrific album, and I think it already ranks up there with all of my other favorite albums. Every damn song stands on its own, and there is no filler.
Anyway, I suspect this list will change and grow by December, considering there are records coming out by Destroyer and Beach House and Beirut and Titus Andronicus and Frank Turner and Glen Hansard (and maybe Frightened Rabbit?) and I'm bound to fall in love with at least one of them. I listened to the new Tame Impala record yesterday for the first time and that's quite good as well. So...exciting things to come, certainly!