OK there are plenty of other great album of the year lists – there is a great summary appropriately on the Album of the Year site. I like Stephen Erlewine’s approach (one of our favourite music writers – we recommend subscribing) where he recognises the limitations of these lists and looks at them as more of a snapshot. Since we started compiling this list we recognised several obvious omissions, and trying to rank them is just impossible. So here are the ones we’ve enjoyed listening to more than once amidst the onslaught of great music this year. Some have been our “Albums of the Week” but many we’ve enjoyed haven’t been featured just because of ‘too many at once’. We’ll try and feature some of these overlooked gems over the summer – in fact this week’s (Semisonic’s Little Bit of Sun) is an example, released last month.
We started building a top ten most addictive albums but it was impossible – so we’ve opted for alphabetical order!
|Angie McMahon – Light, Dark, Light Again
Exquisite world class indie-pop from the Melbournian artist. “Filled with earnest incantations that sooth like a balm” (The Guardian)
|Ava Max – Diamonds & Dancefloors
A superb sophomore effort from Ava. “Two-for-two for Max’s catalog, delivering on the promise of her debut” (AllMusic)
|Belle and Sebastian – Late Developers
A late career highlight on their second album in twelve months. “A rewarding return to form” – The Guardian
|Ben Harper – Wide Open Light
Harper’s seventeenth album once again he ploughs his own furrow. “A quiet strength and emotional depth in its minimalism” – Folkradio.co.uk
|Ben Howard – Is It
After two mini strokes last year, Ben Howard has produced “a beautiful reconciliation, revelling in making something from a place of struggle” – Clash
|Birdy – Portraits
A beautiful collection of songs that shows Birdy continues to grow . “Simply her most confident and exploratory project to date” – The Line of Best Fit
|blur – The Ballad of Darren
The Britpop band return in fine form and with a fabulous album cover. NPR described it as a “‘Ballad’ to bittersweet midlife.”
|boygenius – record
If we had to choose a record of the year at gunpoint, this would probably be it. Shh.
|Caroline Polachek – Desire, I Want to Turn Into You
A fabulous edgy pop record from an incredibly talented lady. “Caroline Polachek’s best album of her career is a transformative pop experience, a passionate, richly melodic odyssey” – Pitchfork
|Caroline Rose – The Art of Forgetting
Another major stylistic swerve, this cathartic album “test[s] the limits of sadness, boredom, and isolation” – Pitchfork
|Cold War Kids – Cold War Kids
Their tenth studio album is filled with solid melodic rock – a rewarding listen that deserved much more attention.
|Depeche Mode – Memento Mori
A big success and return to form – “their most heartfelt, thoughtful, and moving statement in decades”. – AllMusic
|Dylan LeBlanc – Coyote
A superbly executed and tender slice of Americana
|Ed Sheeran – –
Perhaps not as commercially successful, this is a tender and honest album about pain and loss. “The album that places him among the greats”. The Telegraph
|Grace Potter – Mother Road
“A bold, colorful roots rock record filled with funky rhythms and big hooks”. – AllMusic
|Gregory Alan Isakov – Appaloosa Bones
Another exquisite slice of Americana from an incredible songwriter. “It is the work of a very mature, settled and talented artist”. – Spill Magazine
|Girl Ray – Prestige
A great dance album from the North London band – “like getting an all-access pass to the most relaxed and inclusive dance party”. – AllMusic
|Grian Chatten – Chaos For The Fly
The Fontaines DC frontman produced a great solo album, “unafraid to embrace chaos and complexity in pursuit of his art”. – musicOMH
|Gus Dapperton – Henge
The Alt Pop polymath produces a rewarding set of songs
|Half Moon Run – Salt
A really rewarding and enjoyable set of songs – “a captivating and unparalleled listening experience, tugging at the heartstrings of its audience”. – Spillmagazine
|Hozier – Unreal Unearth
Another fantastic contemporary folk album – “from choir swells to poetic lines that find a way to hit you unexpectedly, the album is a tremendously soulful experience”. – Paste
|Jack River – Endless Summer
A dreamy evocation of summer with strong melodies.
|Jenny Lewis – Joy’All
This talented country-rocker “balance[s] the far-out wisdom with the reality of life on Earth and her lived experiences” (NPR) in these witty songs.
|Jessie Ware – That Feels Great!
Jessie Ware has settled into her dance pop thing – her “sultry and confident vocals demand your attention”. – Medium
|Joy Oladokun – Proof of Life
Joy is a huge talent and has produced a fourth album of superb songs, “a very homey version of pop maximalism”. – NPR
|Kimbra – A Reckoning
Kimbra’s most confident and experimental album, she is pushing against expectations and her own limits.
|Lewis Capaldi – Broken By Desire to be Heavenly Sent
Following tough times after his massive success, somehow Lewis Capaldi has found his muse to deliver another great album endowed with his gritty powerful vocals.
|M83 – Fantasy
Another stunning album from the artist who “can turn mundane everyday-life moments into vivid, daleidoscopic movie montages”. – Stereogum
|Manchester Orchestra – The Valley of Vision
A beautiful and powerful album, a “cathartic, deeply ruminative vibe”. – AllMusic
|Margo Price – Strays
Another great collection of songwriter, the mushroom trip inspired record “bursts with easy confidence and kind, stoic wisdom”. – Pitchfork
|Miley Cyrus – Endless Summer
An absolute pop powerhouse, Miley produces one of her best collections of catchy well crafted bangers.
|Mimi Webb – Amelia
Mimi’s debut release combines great catchy songs with her honest vocals – “a dependable, invigorating debut”. – DIY Magazine
|Mitski – The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We
A move away from 80s electronic to more country sounds, Mitski continues to deliver with “her stories of love, loss and mental hardships in this career highlight”. – Medium
|Molly Tuttle – City of Gold
Another excellent album from the Californian picker. THe album “continues the youthful, feminine-but-not-girly bluegrass thread woven by Alison Krauss and Sara Watkin”. – Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
|Niall Horan – The Show
Niall’s talents as a pop craftsman continues to grow – “his most immediate and engaging set to date, endlessly listenable and full of heart and charm”. – AllMusic
|Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds – Council Skies
A really solid album that shows Noel can still do it. “Reaffirming his faith in rock as a transformative thrill, and adding atmospheric detours recalling late-period Weller and Bowie”. – Uncut
|P!nk – TRUSTFALL
A varied collection of pumping memorable anthems – “the bulk of the album [is] more reflective fare that provides a different kind of spiritual nourishment”. – AllMusic
|Peter Gabriel – I/O
Gestating for two decades this is a superb collection that stands alongside “So”. “This is some of Gabriel’s most vibrant music since the late ’80s, developing the digital soundscapes of his last proper album “Up” with more immediate melody and a more varied sonic palette”. – Tidal Magazine
|Róisín Murphy – Hit Parade
“Hit Parade lurches recklessly between soulful rhapsodies about getting what you want and shadowy techno tracing the allure of self-sabotage”.
|Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds
For guys who have been in the business for sixty years to produce an album as listenable and enjoyable as this is incredible. “The Stones’ first album of original material in 18 years crackles with a sense of purpose, with fabulous Keith Richards riffs and Mick Jagger sounding genuinely energised”. – The Guardian
|Sam Smith – Gloria
Smith’s most ostensibly pop album, “Smith’s vocals are, of course, beautiful. Creamy and curvaceous,; liquid with emotion”. – The Independent
|Semisonic – Little Bit of Sun
The 90s alternative band return with a polished set of tracks that rewards repeated listening.
|Stephen Sanchez – Angel Face
The songwriter produces a lush retro set of beautiful songs.
|The National – First Two Pages of Frankenstein
Despite being in hot demand for other projects, The National produce an outstanding album – “finest album in a decade”. – NME
|The Paper Kites – At the Roadhouse
Another Melbournian band, The Paper Kites have produced another solid collection of folk-rock.
|The Revivalists – Pour It Out Into The Night
This would certainly make the top ten albums of the year – quintessential anthemic roots rock music that sticks in the mind.
|Tom Grennan – What Ifs Maybes
The UK pop artists third album is filled with catchy tracks that you’ll end up putting on repeat.
|Winterbourne – Act of Disappearing
Another solid Australian album of contemporary rock, with great songs and melodies.