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

I really enjoyed reading Mavis in her own words. In Billboard, and the Tennessean

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

This piece.

80. SOL Development — The SOL of Black Folk

Here.

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

This piece.

75. Summer Walker — Over It

This piece.

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

A lot of great writing on DaBaby this year, but just watch the BOP video again.

69. Denzel Curry — Zuu

68. Solange — When I Get Home

Read this & this & this & this

67. Black Moon — Rise of Da Moon

66. Miranda Lambert — Wildcard

This piece.

65. Vagabon — Vagabon

64. Sleep On It — Pride and Disaster

good interview here.

63. Apollo Brown — Sincerely, Detroit

62. Say Anything — Oliver Appropriate

This interview.

61. American Football — American Football

60. Megan Thee Stallion — Fever

This piece.

59. Craig Finn — I Need A New War

58. Next Town Down — Juliet

57. Jay Som — Anak Ko

This piece.

56. Tinashe — Songs For You

55. Mavi — Let The Sun Talk

Here you go.

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

This piece.

50. House Shoes and Big Tone — Big Shoes

Interview.

49. Sarob — Fear & Impermanence

This piece.

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

This piece. & this one.

44. Helado Negro — This Is How You Smile

43. Carly Rae Jepsen — Dedicated

42. JPEGMafia — All My Heroes Are Cornballs

This piece.

41. Clairo — Immunity

This piece

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

This piece.

36. Benny The Butcher — The Plugs I Met

35. Tyler, The Creator — Igor

Loved this piece.

34. Kelsey Lu — Blood

Listen/Read

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

Here’s a good profile. I also really liked this piece.

23. Tree and Parallel Thought — The Wild End

22. Carried By 6 — Carried By 6

This piece

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

This piece

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

This piece.

6. Defeater — Defeater

5. FKA twigs — Magdalene

4. PUP — Morbid Stuff

3. Big Thief — Two Hands

This piece.

2. Soul Glo — The Nigga In Me Is Me

  1. 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.

Poet. Writer. | Poetry editor @MuzzleMagazine | Author of The Crown Ain't Worth Much & They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us. | Ohioan

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