1. Mitski — Puberty 2
A record full of life and haunted by death, that fizzes and rages and feels fresh and surprising on every listen.
2. Angel Olsen — My Woman
A shape-shifting statement of vulnerability and resilience.
3. Brian Fallon — Painkillers
An album made to be played on repeat as you’re driving at night, the only car on the road and no destination in mind.
4. Leonard Cohen — You Want it Darker
A supremely graceful final act
5. Beach Slang — A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
“Your arms are a car crash / I want to die in”
6. Frank Ocean — Blonde
The platonic ideal of the pop record as public diary entry.
7. David Bowie — Blackstar
“Look up here, I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen”
8. Teenage Fanclub — Here
Songs which instantly feel familiar in the best way, classic, timeless, warm.
9. Beyonce — Lemonade
One of the most zeitgeisty pop culture artefacts of the year, but even more satisfying as a record than thinkpiece fodder. Human, angry, tuneful, beautiful, vital. Both timely and timeless.
10. Julia Jacklin — Don’t Let the Kids Win
Prematurely world weary, like a twentysomething Neil Young likening to his life to an old man’s or Patsy Cline sighing into a golden microphone.
11.Car Seat Headrest — Teens of Denial
The album about growing up bored and and disillusioned that feels so homespun and relatable that we’d all like to think we could have written it .
12. Maxwell — BlackSUMMERS’night
The second part of an immaculately produced song suite where all the sharp edges have been sanded down to a smooth, shapely whole. A balm for strange times and a collection of songs to luxuriate in.
13. Bon Iver — 22, A Million
The year’s most enigmatic record. Pure gibberish or visionary genius? I’m willing to spend a lot of time figuring it out.
14. Bat For Lashes — The Bride
Underrated concept record with that brand of stylish, lush darkness only Natasha Khan can do.
15. Japanese Breakfast — Psychopomp
A record which explodes with sunshine and life and then reveals hidden depths. Bittersweet like all the best pop music.
16. The Radio Dept. — Running Out of Love
Pop symphonies for introverts.
17. Drive-By Truckers — American Band
At first glance, the title sounds blandly descriptive. A few listens later, it sounds like a mission statement of admirable clarity, something to strive towards.
18. The Handsome Family — Unseen
Dark, deeply funny, empathetic: a classic Handsome Family record.
19. Frankie Cosmos — Next Thing
The best collection yet from a prolific talent. Fragile earworms and intimate song sketches.
20. Solange — A Seat at the Table
The second entry of the Knowles family in this list #proudparents
21. Nada Surf — You Know Who You Are
Unfashionably melodic and improbably consistent, Nada Surf have had maybe the best career of any band ever written off as a one (novelty) hit wonder.
22. Pinegrove — Cardinal
Sturdy songs which feel lived in, formed of experience and wisdom.
23. Summer Flake — Hello Friends
A sleeper record built to both soothe and thrill. Melodies buried under a heat haze and guitar noise.
24. Hamilton Leithauser & Rostam — I Had a Dream That You Were Mine
A pop genius and a cult crooner team up. You’ll never believe what happens next…
25. Let’s Eat Grandma — I, Gemini
Almost single-handedly made recorders cool. Pop songs written by people who had never heard pop songs before.
Honourable mentions: Eleanor Friedberger, Hiss Golden Messenger, The Goon Sax