It’s been a great year so far, in all areas and all genres. (And, as Lil Nas X reminded us, genres are meaningless anyway!)
These are my twenty favorite records of the year so far. I don’t know if they’ll still be faves by the end of the year, but I’ve found myself returning to these more than any others.
Before the list, I wanted to note some releases that didn’t quite make it. The first is Wide Right by Bad Bad Hat. It’s a strong indie EP from a DIY band—exactly the kind of music this site is designed to support. It doesn’t have the polish or depth it would take to make the list, but maybe it will show up on my end of year list. Actually, it definitely will if it stays in my rotation the way it has so far.
The next is the pop album ‘Cause I Love You by Lizzo I’m still not clear on whether being body positive means endorsing unhealthy food choices, but Lizzo doesn’t worry about all that. Instead, she’s uses a big voice that is comfortable—no, brash—about her talent. It’s no coincidence that Missy Elliot appears on the album. There are some really, really strong singles here but as an album it didn’t quite hold together for me. Same thing with Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend, which, if it had been one album instead of a double, probably would have made the list.
And finally: Lux Prima by Karen O and Dangermouse. Good to have you both back, and even better to have you together! Wasn’t sure this would work, but it ended up being very, very cool.
And now, the top 20…
20. When I Wake Up by Maverick Sabre
Why aren’t more people talking about this moody, complex album? I can only assume it’s because there’s so much music coming out, fast and furious, that a quiet and understated record like this can get lost.
19. Legacy! Legacy! by Jamilia Woods
A celebration of some of the legends of African America culture through folky soul remiscent of Tracy Chapman or Joan Armatrading—with an updated sound.
18. Eraserland by Strand of Oaks
This is an album I think people missed—and shouldn’t have. It’s slow and creeping, moody Americana/folk, that requires serious effort on the part of the listener. But take the time and you’ll be rewarded.
17. If You Need Me, Call Me by Emerson
This is a reissue of an old school rap/funk album that never got its proper due when it was released, as an underground hit, in the 1980s. It hit my nostalgia bone just right
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