I realize I don’t write enough about music on this blog, but that can change if there’s a big push for it. Let me know on Twitter or in the comments. On with the list…
5. Shane Carruth – Upstream Color
All due respect to any other musicians composing film scores this year, but nothing you create will be as evocative, haunting and memorable as Carruth’s score to his own brilliant film. Even disconnected from it, this is beautiful music.
4. Kurt Vile – Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze
Now this is country music. Vile’s biggest album to date features tracks that range from long, contemplative pieces to quick ‘n’ dirty jams. I’m glad I finally started listening to him and you should start, too.
3. Kanye West – Yeezus
“Ya see there’s leaders/And there’s followers/But I’d rather be a dick/Than a swallower” Kanye’s latest is a raw portrait of one of the most image-conscious performers of all-time. It’s also just the latest in an unbroken stretch of six great albums, something no other artist can claim. So when he sings “I am a god,” it’s not 100% blasphemous.
2. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
I’m as surprised as you are to find them on this list. Putting an end to their Graceland-aping period, the band has undoubtedly matured into something that’s not only tolerable but also relatable. Other bands will put out quarter-life crisis albums, but none will be on par with this effort.
1. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
Like it would be anything else. Their first studio effort in eight years delivers mostly collaborations, all of them great. Pharell. Nile Rodgers. Paul Williams. Panda Bear. No album by a single artist provided more variety this year, and it features one of the hallmarks of an all-time classic: Depending on the week, any track could be your favorite and you’d be right.
4. Robin Thicke feat. Pharell and T.I. – “Blurred Lines”
Controversial video aside, and dismissing those who would read too much into the lyrics, this is absolutely the song I’d most want to dance to at a club if I did that sort of thing. So yes, I’m always dancing with a goofy smile plastered on my face every time this song comes on the radio.
3. Kanye West – “Black Skinhead”
Of all the incredible tracks on Yeezus, this one sticks out the most to me, mostly because of the amazing trailer for The Wolf of Wall Street. It also finally finds a good use for a Marilyn Manson song.
2. Vampire Weekend – “Unbelievers”
This song singlehandedly changed my opinion of the band when I first heard it at Pitchfork last summer. Gone are the silly ditties about punctuation. They’ve replaced them with reflections on faith and hells both literal and metaphorical. A total transformation.
1. Daft Punk feat. Pharell – “Get Lucky”
As I mentioned above, I could have picked any track on the album. But I’m going with this one because it makes me most hopeful about the future of pop music. It does not have to be dominated by the Rihannas and Katy Perrys of the world. There’s still a place on mainstream radio for real live instrumentation and country music doesn’t have to have all the good songs about good times.