1. Gorillaz, “Plastic Beach”
I had been a Gorillaz fan in the past, but this album solidified my love of Damon Albarn’s band. With guest appearances from Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Bobby Womack and Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of The Clash, the album contains a diverse catalogue of songs. On some songs, Albarn takes the backseat to the guest artist while on others he remains the leading force. After seeing the majority of the album played live, I knew that no other album would top this one. With “Plastic Beach,” Albarn has crafted some of his best songs to date.
2. Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs”
Waiting over three years for this album to come out was not easy. The band’s first two albums are two of my all time favorites, and “The Suburbs” ranks right up there with them. The album feels much more like their first, “Funeral,” than their second, “Neon Bible,” but it is still a very different album. Throughout, Win Butler philosophizes about suburban life and growing older, creating a more somber tone than the first two records. But mixed in are some fantastically upbeat tracks that rely heavily on synthesizer.
3. The National, “High Violet”
The National is one of those bands that are just perfect to listen to when you are in a bad mood or want to be in one. Singer and lyricist Matt Berninger knows exactly how to write depressing songs. But where “High Violet” really shines is in the instrumentation. At some points, Berninger’s lyrics are not quite as strong, but the music more than makes up for it. The Dessner twins, some of rock’s busiest musicians other than Jack White, know exactly how to craft a great song without any words, and that’s what you get on “High Violet.”
4. Yeasayer, “Odd Blood”
For their second album, Brooklyn band Yeasayer moved in an entirely different direction. While their first album is best described as a blend of world and experimental music, “Odd Blood” is much more reminiscent of 80’s pop. Yeasayer is a delightfully weird band, and the three full-time members translate this into one hell of a live show. On “Odd Blood,” they don’t always hit the mark, but when they do, the result is nearly perfect, such as the song “O.N.E.” After listening to the albums in order, the transition makes sense, and I’m eager to see what they come up with next.
5. LCD Soundsystem, “This Is Happening”
Let me start by saying that I didn’t listen to LCD Soundsystem before this album came out. Now, I can’t stop listening to James Murphy’s band. It’s hard to create an album that has both danceable music and interesting lyrics. “This Is Happening” is by far my favorite of Murphy’s albums. No other artist is able to consistently write songs over eight minutes long that keep my attention. How much do I regret not watching his entire set at Pitchfork this summer? Take a guess.
6. Beach House, “Teen Dream”
Just like LCD Soundsystem, Beach House never quite appealed to me before the release of “Teen Dream.” The album was one of the most hyped coming into the year and it didn’t fail to meet the high expectations. While the album does not sound too different from their previous two, nearly every song is perfected to the point where the album feels much more complete. Lead singer Victoria Legrand has one of the best and most haunting voices around. Seeing them live this year was a concert highlight.
1. Gorillaz, “Plastic Beach”