10.) Freakwater - Scheherazade
Americana with a punk sensibility is no longer reason enough to pay attention, but Freakwater have been doing it since the late ‘80s, playing open-mic gigs in strip clubs in their hometown of Louisville, KY. The urgent harmonies of Janet Bean and Catherine Irwin coupled with the dark and turbulent psych-country music form into what is truly a rebellious soundtrack for rural America.
9.) Deerhoof - The Magic
Deerhoof have been at this game since the late ‘90s, and their avant-garde sounds put them in a completely peerless category. The album kicks off with Satomi Matsuzaki cooing “The Magic,” then a beautifully orchestrated chaos follows in what sounds like an entire band tumbling down a mountain, picking up debris along the way, including an adorable cover the old ironic apocalyptical standard, “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire.”
8.) Mitski - Puberty 2
There’s a bit of a formula on this record, of songs that begin barely-there, then escalate to such a magnitude that they become all one can comprehend. Mitski Miyawaki brings a certain melodrama to her music that is coupled with a sharp sense of humor, and a voice that when un-bottled will knock you out.
7.) Preoccupations - Preoccupations
So as long as kids will be able to happen upon bands like Echo and the Bunnymen and Bauhaus, they’re going to be infatuated with them and go on to make their own bands. How could you even help it? Preoccupations, on their first album since changing their name, execute those sounds quite well, while offering a complex sonic pallet that pairs squelchy noises alongside Matt Flegel’s subdued baritone.
6.) Xiu Xiu - Plays the Music of Twin Peaks
As more details of the forthcoming reboot of the cult television series emerge you know people are h*cking ready for some Twin Peaks action. The original soundtrack is dark and weird. The music of Xiu Xiu is dark and weird. The combination of the two is an unfathomable loud dirge. Jamie Stewart has a way of changing his vocal delivery from fragile to enormous, and his take on Julee Cruise’s performance of “Into The Night” manages to both update and acknowledge the original, which is the mark of a perfect cover.
5.) Baroness - Purple
This is their first album since a serious bus accident that happened in 2012, one that left members of the band with multiple broken bones between them. Two of them, Allen Blickle and Matt Maggioni had unfortunately left the band as they were recovering so Purple is the first album with this lineup, featuring Nick Jost, and Sebastian Thomson of the post-rock band Trans Am. Baroness have always had a triumphant undercurrent to their music, bringing earthy sludge metal sounds alongside profound imagery offering a beacon in darkness.
4.) Angel Olsen - My Woman
In June Angel Olsen grabbed a lot of attentions by staring into a camera with a wig of silver glitter upon her head, her powerful voice accompanied by synthesizers. In a follow-up video for the song “Shut Up, Kiss Me” Olsen matter-of-factly asks the camera if she needs “to give more attitude or…” and right there she nails the exact thing that’s next-leveled her already stellar catalog: attitude.
3.) LVL UP - Return to Love
That thing I said earlier about kids discovering and loving ‘80s post-rock bands forever? The same will surely be true for ‘90s indie rock. This album chugs through as a mix-tape of the era, from the blown-speaker fuzz of The Olivia Tremor Control, the guitar wizardry of Built to Spill, even the contemplative mysticism of The Flaming Lips.
2.) A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
Speaking of the ‘90s, A Tribe Called Quest is back! It is unfortunate this album had to be released in the wake of Phife Dawg’s death earlier this year, though he is on it, and the band says he contributed to the blueprint of the album. This band has always been an important voice with sharp commentary in terms of race and class relations in society. It was released on November 11th, and it felt like it was already commenting on the exact news of that day. It’s also immensely entertaining, packed with guests, samples, and shifting beats.
1.) Bon Iver - 22, A Million
In retrospect, it’s clear that Justin Vernon was never merely a bearded folk singer, though it’s hard to imagine that anyone could have guessed that the lonely woodsman who made For Emma, Forever Ago would one day make this record. Its ambitious, difficult, and obsessed with technology, all the while being a beautiful document of frail humanity.