I am nothing if not consistent with these top 10 albums of [year] posts. Not consistent with much else on this space of the internet, but I feel like I’ve really got this topic down.
It is probably because music is one of the few consistencies in my life. I listen to (and sing along with) it on the way to work, listen to (and try not to sing along to) while at work, then sometimes on the way home and then on some nights I’ll go to a show where I’ll listen to it live. It’s good stuff, can’t recommend it enough.
My anxiety surrounding putting together this type of list has diminished this year for two reasons: 1.) nobody actually cares and 2.) it’s not a reflection of my worth as a human being because of the music I listen to and like! My list consists of the albums that really clicked with me and the ones I found myself going back to time and time again. That’s all there is to it!
With all that said, here are my favorites from this year.
1 – Lucy Dacus – Historian
If you’ll remember — and I’m sure you do as you’re as consistent of a reader of this site as I am at uploading to this website — Lucy Dacus made it on my Top Albums of 2016 list. She came out of nowhere and I fell head over heels for her debut album.
There is one song on there (“Direct Address”) that reverberated way too closely with an instance in my life at that time, and then she did it again with “Pillar of Truth” on this one. She wrote it about visiting her grandmother on her death bed, and I went through that experience in the last year. Each time I’ve seen her perform that song (three now) I do a good ol’ cry.
Her lyricism impresses me to no end, and her talent surpasses so many. She is so unpretentious and humble and real. I didn’t think I would be able to warm up to this new one as much as her first album, but I was happy to be proven wrong. I’m a proud Lucy stan and hope this album put her on the map for those who may have overlooked her before.
According to my last.fm account, I listened to the 12 tracks from Historian 202 times.
2 – Mitski – Be The Cowboy
Mitski’s reputation had preceded her before I clicked “play” for the first time on this album. I’d seen her open for the Pixies and knew a lot of people enjoyed her previous one, but her music hadn’t gelled with me the way it did others (like Stephanie who is forever and always My Cool Friend who goes to a lot of the same shows I do but she always knows and loves the opening band whereas I’m there for the headliner) — until now!
Holy buckets, I really admire the honesty in her lyrics. She sings things I have thought but never uttered aloud to another human, until I was singing along with them at her show at First Avenue. I also like that she gets right to the point — none of her songs run long, they’re succinct, she gets what she wants to say out and then moves on to the next. Be The Cowboy is divine from the first to last track, punctuated with at least five or six absolute treasures.
Also I just want her to get the kiss she is asking for from someone!!! Please!
According to my last.fm account, I listened to the 14 tracks on Be The Cowboy 360 times and, according to Spotify, I spent 18 hours overall listening to Mitski this year.
3 – boygenius – s/t EP
What did we do to deserve three of the most talented women making music today joining forces? When I first heard that they were actual friends, my heart grew three times in size because even though they’re of similar age and in the same realm of music, they haven’t viewed each other as threats and have instead shown how powerful it can be when women come together.
From what I’ve read, they each came with a finished song of their own and then created three brand new songs together based on ideas they brought, too. The way they can bring out qualities or skills in each other that don’t necessarily come out on their own records is so lovely to see and hear. I’ve never seen Phoebe sing a note as loud or long as she does on “Salt in the Wound” while Julien is playing a guitar solo louder and more rock-heavy than I’ve ever heard her play. It’s a beautiful thing to see. I am anxious to see what is in store for all of these women, both together and on their own.
My last.fm shows that I listened to the six songs on this EP 227 times aka I listened to it about 38 times all the way through.
4 – Big Red Machine – s/t
Have you ever heard a song and thought “This is what my depression would sound like if it made noise”? Cool, same. That’s what happened when I first heard “Forest Green” anyway. The bass line feels like it’s legitimately pulling on the strings of my soul and playing that Cat’s Cradle game with them. I’m not even high as I write this, I swear.
Oh yeah, I didn’t see this band perform but I did see Bon Iver play in February so that’s where the top photo is from. It also includes another artist on my list…!
I am a fan girl of both The National and Bon Iver so it should come as no surprise this album landed high on my list since this one brought together Aaron Dessner and Justin Vernon. They put out a song called “Big Red Machine” on a compilation album awhile back that I love, too. I just enjoy collabs that bring out the best in people, and admire Justin for being able to discern what makes a song a Bon Iver song a or Volcano Choir song or a Shouting Matches song (OK that one is more obvious just had to throw it in here). He has a ridiculously strong understanding of which project to channel what’s going on in his brain and I think that’s a unique quality.
Last.fm says I listened to the 10 songs on this album 202 times.
5 – Snail Mail – Lush
Another musician who can plainly speak many things I’ve thought or felt but never would have the courage to put into the universe for others to hear.
This is one I easily listened to multiple times front-to-back because it’s calming, chill and flows so well from one track to the next. It feels like a really full, complete set of songs in a tidy package that fills my heart each listen.
My last.fm says I listened to tracks from Lush 325 times!
6 – Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
Yee-haw, y’all. The opening track on this album, “Slow Burn,” reminded me so much of a Sufjan Stevens song it got me to continue listening to see if that sound continued throughout or appeared again. It did slightly in another one or two, but I am still glad I stuck around because dang, it surprised me how much I enjoyed it.
Golden Hour has some extremely genuine, folksy and heartfelt tracks (“Love is a Wild Thing” hello) then zooms into glitzy disco-y jams like “High Horse” — truly a wild ride that I am here for. I’m glad I snagged a ticket early on to her Palace show in February.
Last.fm says I listened to songs from Golden Hour 309 times.
7 – The Decemberists – I’ll Be Your Girl
As a long-time fan of The Decemberists, and someone who has a large tattoo on their body that references one of the band’s albums, I can honestly say this is a very biased entry. I didn’t notice it on a lot of (if any?) year-end lists, which is fine because as I said this is all a bunch of baloney anyway, but I still feel like they’re making genuinely good music! And seeing it performed live brought on an extra wave of adoration for this particular album.
A lot of times I find myself smiling politely while bands I’ve loved for a decade or more play their new songs, like a proud parent watching their kid squeakily play “Ode to Joy” on a violin at their first recital. But in the few weeks between when this album was released (March 16) and when I saw them live (April 7) I’d already grown attached to a handful of the new songs and was happy throughout the entire show.
I listened to the 11 tracks on I’ll Be Your Girl 97 times.
8 – Death Cab For Cutie – Thank You For Today
Do not dare come at me for this. Did you listen to it? Like the whole way through? And you are still trying to convince yourself not to enjoy music from Ben Gibbard in 2018? O-K if you really want to live that way I guess!
This is their best album since Narrow Stairs and I even liked most of Kintsugi which I believe is an unpopular opinion (??) But really there are some songs on this one that sound like they could have been leftovers from The Photo Album or even We Have the Facts and it brings me such joy. There were a few times during the show where I thought they WERE playing an old track but it was actually new and that is a fine compliment, in my opinion. Also Ben Gibbard can still definitely get it.
Last.fm says I listened to the 10 tracks from Thank You For Today 160 times.
9 – S. Carey – Hundred Acres
Sean Carey is one of those people who seems to be so talented it can be annoying??? Like you are a trained classical percussionist and also the drummer for a huge band like Bon Iver A N D you can also write music and sing O-K kinda annoying, gotta say.
This one came as a surprise to me because it didn’t click with me on a first listen, but my boyfriend said he really enjoyed it so I gave it another shot and, wow, yeah! It became a go-to for me to listen to while working. It’s just beautiful overall, and the music video for “More I See” is a delight.
Last.fm says I listened to the 10 songs on Hundred Acres 284 times!
10 – Tiny Moving Parts – Swell
This one was a surprise to me but I am glad I listened to a recommendation from my boyfriend because it led me to Tiny Moving Parts. He is a super-geek fan of ’em and now I might consider myself one, too. Why aren’t these guys playing more local festivals or shows?? They are fun as heck and sound so great live.
They’re emo but also math….rock-y? It’s rad. If you don’t know what that means, skip to the 35-second mark of “It’s Too Cold Tonight” — it’s that twinkly guitar sound. You should really give ’em a shot if you haven’t yet!
I listened to the 10 tracks from Swell 85 times.
11 – Superchunk – What a Time to Be Alive
12 – Joyce Manor – Million Dollars to Kill Me
13 – U.S. Girls – In A Poem Unimited
14 – Cursive – Vitriola
15 – Ariana Grande – Sweetener
In case you want to check out some of my favorite songs from each of these albums, I made this playlist: