Keeping alive my annual tradition (albeit a bit late) I’ve rounded up what I listened to in the past year. The list is mostly based on iTunes playcounts, with a little bit of editorial judgement. This year it seems like there was an order of magnitude between each position in terms of how much I liked & listened to these albums.
Honorable Mentions: The Dark was the Night compilation has some great songs/covers by My Brightest Diamond, The National and Bon Iver. Speaking of Bon Iver, his Blood Bank EP was solid and I really like "Woods", vocal effects and all.
10. Dinosaur Jr, Farm - It has some great guitar-driven rock, with standout track "See You". (Bonus points for reminding of being in 8th grade, which was a good year for discovering new music.)
9. Discovery, LP - A quirky album, that is heavily produced and at times too sugary, but pretty engaging on tracks like "Orange Shirt" and "Osaka Loop Line". It also found its way into my hands at the right time for some late-summer pop.
8. Isis, Wavering Radiant - Haunting and full of great dynamics, starting with the album opener "Hall of the Dead". For me, the vocals (both screaming and singing) largely detract from it, and don't feel like the right fit. I'd be curious to hear it as an instrumental album.
7. Tegan & Sara, Sainthood - Doesn't live up to The Con, but is still well-made, fun power-pop. I think they work best when their songs are more driving, like on "Don't Rush", "Hell", and "Northshore" where there is less time to slow down and get a bit overwrought.
6. Neko Case, Middle Cyclone - I haven't listened to much Neko Case, so this was a welcome invitation for me to plump her catalog. Her voice is amazing, and shines on songs like "I'm an Animal".
5. Propagandhi, Supporting Caste - I don't listen to a lot of heavy stuff these days, but I found myself reaching for this all the time. I was a fan of "Less Talk, More Rock" back in the day, but they are just musically more interesting now, and still just as infectious. And songs like "Dear Coach's Corner" still combine their style of leftist politics and shared Canadian bonds over love of hockey.
4. Passion Pit, Manners - I think I have to admit that I'm no longer immediately put off by electro-pop with often falsetto vocals. Songs like "Little Secrets" and "The Reeling" make it more impressive that this is their first full-length album.
3. The Thermals, Now We Can See - I'm a sucker for their pop-punk sound and lyrical themes. Less political than "The Body, The Blood, The Machine", it remains full of energy on songs like "When I Was Afraid" and "You Dissolve".
2. Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca - An experimental album that got stuck in my head for weeks. Songs like "Useful Chamber" are doing a lot at once and meander around but don't lose me (especially with a fantastic build in the final minute).
1. Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - Great from the opening of "Lisztomania" to the close of "Armistice", and with more layers than I originally thought from hearing "1901" on the radio. Also prompted me to pick up It's Never Been Like That which is nearly as good. </ul>