In keeping with a years-old tradition of picking an arbitrary number of albums based on how long a year has felt and how much music has come out, I’m going with 85 albums this year, which is the most I’ve ever ended up with. I think this is a function of how much I traveled this year — I spent more times on planes/in airports/in hotel rooms than I ever had before. And I also made a commitment to not rely on repetition as much. New geographies required new soundtracks. So that’s how I ended up here. It’s also notable that with each year of done this, the number of albums seems to increase. Which I think is good, but also probably indicative of the fact that the years are beginning to feel slower. Here is last year’s, for the curious. Unlike last year, when my memory around albums felt really cluttered and messy, there was a lot of clarity in my memory of the albums I loved this year. A lot of touchable moments attached to them, even if it was just a moment of watching the clouds grow thinner from the air as a city emerged from an airplane window. A few important notes: There are a few albums I really like but are still kind of new and I’m still sitting with them so I didn’t include them here. Among them are the Harry Styles album, Roc Marciano, Kaytranada, and Atmosphere. I’m still in heavy rotation mode on those, and they’re not included below because they still feel fresh. Also, it’s not an album but I feel like I must shout out the illuminati hotties single “ppl plzr” because I’ve listened to it every day for a month and a half. AND ALSO, I didn’t include Burial’s compilation album because it seemed a little unfair but yes, it is perfect. Lastly, it’s vital to note that these are just my personal favorites and not the definitive best. I liked and listened to more than 85 albums this year, but I had to stop somewhere. As always, I’ll drop in some good writing or stories done by my peers with most of the albums. Like every year, big part of me loves reading about musicians and albums as much as I love listening to the albums themselves.
85. Mavis Staples — We Get By
84. Terror Jr. — Unfortunately, Terror Jr.
This band has a good and weird backstory, but start here and work back.
83. Sir Babygirl — Crush On Me
Enjoyed this piece.
82. Maxo Kream — Brandon Banks
Good interview here.
81. Emeli Sandé — Real Life
80. SOL Development — The SOL of Black Folk
79. Sturgill Simpson — Sound & Fury
I liked this piece.
78. Charli XCX — Charli
this Spin story.
77. Bishop Briggs — Champion
76. Candlemass — The Door to Doom
75. Summer Walker — Over It
74. The National — I Am Easy To Find
(The National have been written about a lot but I’m using this space to say that seeing them play in Columbus this summer was one of the best live music experiences of my year.)
73. Pivot Gang — You Can’t Sit With Us
Good interview here.
72. Mountain Goats — In League with Dragons
71. Future Teens — Breakup Season
This piece. (also, this band was the last band I saw play live last year, literally nearing midnight.)
70. DaBaby — Baby On Baby
69. Denzel Curry — Zuu
68. Solange — When I Get Home
67. Black Moon — Rise of Da Moon
66. Miranda Lambert — Wildcard
65. Vagabon — Vagabon
64. Sleep On It — Pride and Disaster
good interview here.
63. Apollo Brown — Sincerely, Detroit
62. Say Anything — Oliver Appropriate
61. American Football — American Football
60. Megan Thee Stallion — Fever
59. Craig Finn — I Need A New War
58. Next Town Down — Juliet
57. Jay Som — Anak Ko
56. Tinashe — Songs For You
55. Mavi — Let The Sun Talk
54. Kehlani — While We Wait
53. Caroline Polachek — Pang
I loved this interview.
52. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties — Routine Maintenance
good interview here.
51. slowthai — Nothing Great About Britain
50. House Shoes and Big Tone — Big Shoes
49. Sarob — Fear & Impermanence
48. Chelsea Wolfe — Birth of Violence
47. Griselda — WWCD
46. Jayla Darden — Onto Something
(I didn’t want to include too many EPs, but this one is so filling, so layered.)
45. Rahphael Saadiq — Jimmy Lee
44. Helado Negro — This Is How You Smile
43. Carly Rae Jepsen — Dedicated
42. JPEGMafia — All My Heroes Are Cornballs
41. Clairo — Immunity
40. Danny Brown — uknowhatimsayin¿
39. Ragana — We Know That the Heavens Are Empty
The album takes its title from the poem “The Toast of Despair” by the anarchist poet Voltairine de Cleyre.
38. King Princess — Cheap Queen
King Princess covering Lady Gaga is the perfect artist/cover pairing.
37. Cherubs — Immaculada High
36. Benny The Butcher — The Plugs I Met
35. Tyler, The Creator — Igor
Loved this piece.
34. Kelsey Lu — Blood
33. Knocked Loose — A Different Shade Of Blue
32. Mark Lanegan Band — Somebody’s Knocking
31. Ari Lennox — Shea Butter Baby
I read this just last week and really enjoyed it.
30. Weyes Blood — Titanic Rising
29. Priests — The Seduction of Kansas
This piece. Also, gonna miss this band a lot.
28. Sampa The Great — The Return
27. Blood Incantation — Hidden History of the Human Race
26. Youth Fountain — Letters To Our Former Selves
25. Rapsody — Eve
This piece is from last year and not necessarily tied to the album, but I just love it so much.
24. Angel Olsen — All Mirrors
23. Tree and Parallel Thought — The Wild End
22. Carried By 6 — Carried By 6
21. Sudan Archives — Athena
Here’s a good interview/song breakdown.
20. Issues — Beautiful Oblivion
19. Earl Sweatshirt — Feet of Clay
Loved spending time with this video of Earl in conversation with his mother, Cheryl Harris.
18. Brittany Howard — Jaime
17. billy woods and Kenny Segal — Hiding Places
16. Quelle Chris — Guns
This was a great review.
15. The Menzingers — Hello Exile
14. Rico Nasty and Kenny Beats — Anger Management
13. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib — Bandana
Here’s Gibbs freestyling holding his son.
12. The Twilight Sad — It Won/t Be Like This All the Time
11. Michael Kiwanuka — Kiwanuka
10. The Get Up Kids — Problems
Good interview here.
9. Jamila Woods — Legacy! Legacy!
8. Ambré — Pulp
7. Little Simz — GREY Area
6. Defeater — Defeater
5. FKA twigs — Magdalene
4. PUP — Morbid Stuff
3. Big Thief — Two Hands
2. Soul Glo — The Nigga In Me Is Me
- Little Brother — May The Lord Watch
ADDITIONALLY: I decided to make a playlist this year, largely because I was on a long flight and had the extra time. But it’s a tradition I hope to continue. Grab the playlist here. Happy and hopeful new year.