1. Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
It’s hard to expect anything but absolute sonic perfection from Florence Welch, but this latest offering convinced me that she is simply incapable of missing. Welch channels her unique vocal spirit into album after album of driving, symphonic genius, and this one is no exception. Track 9, “Third Eye,” is pure energy, not to be missed.
2. Chvrches, Every Open Eye
Full Review Here
3. Stereophonics – Keep the Village Alive
Don’t tell me to grow up – I’m just not ready to give up the Stereophonics. This album is in the familiar vein of their last few: driving, raucous and playful, not the slightest hint of middle-agedness anywhere. I’ll always be sorry they aren’t making albums like their first four from the nineties and early noughties, but that will never stop me from enjoying the more pared-down guitar rock sound they’ve settled into. “Sing Little Sister” has a killer grove you haven’t heard since “Dakota.”
4. Ryan Adams – 1989
While I still at least try to resist Taylor Swift‘s insidious charm, once you slap Ryan Adams on it, my defenses fall. These can’t even be called covers, really – Adams strips down the sugary pop songs, seismically altering the melody, tempo, instrumentation and occasionally even lyrics (there’s a lot less “shake” in his version of “Shake it off,” (which by the way sounds like classic Bruce Springsteen). The track that rocks the most is “Style,” which surprised me since it’s pretty dull in its original form.
5. Disclosure- Caracal
It would be hard to recreate the lightening in a bottle that was “Latch,” but this album has all the elements that made the first a massive hit, and the chemistry is there in every track, strong from start to finish. It’s hooky and infectious, full of guest vocalists who bring unique style to their tracks. The Weeknd’s track “Nocturnal” is, unsurprisingly, golden disco dance perfection, and Lorde’s guest vocals make “Magnets” as haunting and kinetic as everything else she touches.
6. FFS (Franz Ferdinand, Sparks) – FFS
This album shows off the pumping momentum and unusual sound we’re used to hearing from Franz Ferdinand, with plenty of colorful layered vocals and occasional operatic touches. Most songs manage to sound stripped and essential even with plenty of instruments, layers and odd overdubs. The highlight is definitely “Police Encounters,” which starts with just synth and piano before cranking into a frenetic pop rock jam with the very singable chorus, “Bomp bomp ditty ditty bomp bomp ditty ditty police encounters.”
7. Mark Ronson – Uptown Special
There is something wonderful about ‘Uptown Special‘, and I think it may be the album’s total disregard for orthodoxy. This gives Ronson free rein to run up and down the decades, curating the best hooks from old school funk, the best vibes from disco, the heavy-handed vocals of the ‘80s, and maybe some bad taste from the ‘90s. The end result is an irresistible boogie album that is simultaneously referential to many past eras and somehow still very fresh and new. “Daffodils” is the most traditional funk track, so it gets my vote. Fans of Paula Abdul (admit it) will love “I Can’t Lose.”
8. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness
Full review here
9. Everything Everything – Get To Heaven
Everything Everything made my best of 2013 list, and two years later I’m still trying to find the right adjectives for their wonderfully bizarre, unique sound. They’re decidedly indie rock but with pop instrumentation, otherworldly falsetto vocals, heavy lyrics and gleeful harmonies. Their energy and avant-garde feel will always remind me of Bloc Party, but they’re clearly developing a sound that doesn’t really brook comparison. All four singles from the new album are solid, but “Spring/Sun/Winter/Dread” is my favorite.
10. Guster – Evermotion
Guster is a band that will always make the list, an alternative rock-pop jam band that got its start when I was still in kindergarten. ‘Evermotion‘ is a little more laid-back and dreamy than some of their earlier, more energetic releases, but it brilliantly features the soaring vocals of lead singer Ryan Miller. Guster has always had a sound all their own, and this album continues that trend. The first single, “Simple Machine,” is absolute perfection, a driving track powered by drummer Brian “Thundergod” Rosenworcel.