I wrote this during December and January and I thought I published it. I didn't actually. Mostly written in airports, so you can blame the clunky writing to jetlag. As always, I follow music reviews a lot cause that's the only way I can find most of these bands (that and soundtracks) so the sample is not free of bias. Although the ranking is. And I'm pretty sure if Jai Paul released an entire album of 'Jasmine'-esque quality, it'd take the #1 spot. Maybe next year
20. El-P -Cancer 4 Cure
why: This guy usually makes weird albums and this is the least weird (but still very unusual, especially for hip-hop). Confrontational album but not a call-out, conceptual but not really. An album of paradoxes. Hip-hop that's about hip-hop itself and not what success in hip-hop is like.
19. Bob Dylan - Tempest
why: The darkest Dylan album I've heard but still talking about love and tough times and loss. Lots of different song styles and structures of the traditional forms. Dylan carries on, as he's done for the last 50 years, brilliantly steeped in American music.
18. Michael Kiwanuka - Home Again
why: One of the most distinctive albums of recent memory yet familiar because of the influences of traditional soul and R&B that are found throughout. Evoking memories of Otis Redding or Bob Dylan, it's the most classic album of the year, yet one of the most fresh. Somehow.
17. Alabama Shakes -Boys & Girls
why: This band sounds so retro, like blue-rock from the late 60s and early 70s. The guitar work is amazing (though more licks and melodies than technical, speedy solo-ing). It's a nice return to the clean, no-effects, pure type of sound from a bygone era. And the vocals are immense too.
16. Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
why: An album of piecework. There's a lot of different styles and genres comprising this album but they don't clash. Less eclectic than mosaic. There's not really a genre for their music, and although the album is possibly a little snobby, I think they've earned it.
15. Nas- Life is Good
why: Nas is back, if he ever went anywhere at all. Lyrics about life, easy flow and old-school beats and samples. It's the album of a mature rapper. Nas has been excellent since Illmatic,but this might be the closest album to that almost-perfect debut.
14. Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
why: Furious lyrics and high energy, like every Killer Mike album. Lots of reference to 80s rap. The beats from El-P work perfectly with the lyrical flow of this album. Still amazing how Killer Mike never manages to be immensely popular. But then again, how popular is intellectually stimulating music?
13. Beach House - Bloom
why: I love this band and their music. An album that's like Diane Keaton in Annie Hall or Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer, in the sense that it's quirky but enough bad times for dark moments and painful nostalgia. Subtle is the best way to describe the effect of this album. Like that ex you know is trouble but you remember the good times first
12.Grizzly Bear- Shields
why: Another Grizzly Bear album of gorgeous, interwoven melodies but finally some actual lyrical substance to go with it. A theme of isolation runs through the album which works well masterful production to leave a strong impact.
11.Plan B- Ill Manors
why: Soundtrack to a hip hop musical. Style more akin to the first Plan B than the soul music of the second although that's there too, cause he can both rap and sing. The lyrical level is very strong with the storytelling and the production is immense.