Allow me to preface this list by saying that this year has been a hella good year for new music. I have a Top 10, 5 Honorable Mentions, and a Top 5 EPs. And there was a huge amount of music I left out. Please feel free to discuss my choices and let me know if you agree, disagree, like, dislike, etc.
Top 5 EPs
Lauris Vidal – Better Part
P Is For Panda Records
States – Line ’em Up
Andy Shauf – Waiting For The Sun To Leave
P Is For Panda Records
Brandon Clark & The American Standard – Honestly
P Is For Panda Records
Satellite – Ring The Bells
Honorable Mentions (In alphabetical order)
Brett Detar – Bird In The Tangle
Favorite Tracks: Empty House on a Famous Hill, Road to Ruin Woman
Hellogoodbye – Would It Kill You?
Rocket Science Records
Favorite Tracks: Finding Something To Do, When We First Met
Jakob Dylan – Women & Country
Favorite Tracks: Nothing But The Whole Wide World, Everybody’s Hurting
Jimmy Eat World – Invented
Favorite Tracks: Movielike, Coffee and Cigarettes
Sky Sailing – An Airplane Carried Me To Bed
Sky Sailing/Republic Records
Favorite Tracks: Alaska, A Little Opera Goes A Long Way
And now for the Top 10.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers Mojo
I’ve always had a soft spot for TP. It’s my Dad’s favorite artist, so I grew up listening to him and loving his stuff because my Dad loved it. Then as I got older and learned to appreciate music, it helped me realize why Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers are as good as they are. With Mojo, they went back to their influences and created an album that was less pop based then all of their other stuff and created a straight up blues/rock album. With catchy tunes like I Should Have Known It and Jefferson Jericho Blues, they show they still have that pop sound. However, they aren’t afraid to just hit record and jam. With 4 tunes clocking in at 4:59 or longer, The Heartbreakers show off their amazing talent and just play to their heart’s content.
Anberlin – Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place
I have been a fan of Anberlin since I bought their album Cities a few months after it released. However, I was not a big fan of New Surrender. When I heard they had a new album coming out, I was slightly anxious because I feared they would continue down the road they had gone with the last album. I’m glad they didn’t. When I listen to this album, I hear catchy tune after catchy tune. Whether it’s Closer, You Belong Here, Pray Tell or Down I just think of how well they have done with this record.
Sara Bareilles – Kaleidoscope Heart
My love for Sara Bareilles started this summer when I saw her play for free in downtown St. Louis. Nicole had told me she was playing, and I was slightly hesitant to go. Thankfully, we decided to go out and see her. When we saw her, she had yet to release her new album, but she played several tunes from it. Every song she played from the new album was infinitely better than any song she had ever written before. When I finally got a copy of the album several months later, I fell even more in love with her songs. Uncharted just has that piano hook and lyrical hook that takes days to get out of your head. Let The Rain is one of her few guitar based songs, and it’s my personal favorite. I love the quirky clapping pattern and the following lyric:
Wish I were pretty, wish I were brave
If I owned this city, I’d make it behave
If I were fearless, I’d speak my truth
The world would hear this
That’s what I wish I’d do
Zach Strout – Luggage Rack
My freshman year at Greenville College, a band called Ellery Grange was created. It was such a different band than I was used to seeing; it consisted of two acoustic guitar players, a viola player, and a drummer. I had always wanted to start a folk band with a lineup and song collection similar to theirs, so I chose instead to fall in love with their music. After just a few short months together, the group called it quits and 2 of the members left Greenville College to pursue other opportunities. However, Zach Strout continued to create music and was signed as Blackroom Records’ first artist in over 5 years. His low key, guitar strummed style of folk music instantly drew me in. I quickly grew to love the amazing harmonies in Mary Lou, the stomp-clap part in La de Dah, and the poignant lyrics of Since I’ve Been Home.
Side note: When Zach played his CD release show, I was lucky enough to meet a very attractive string bass player, and well… the rest is history.
Andrew Belle – The Ladder
1L Music Inc.
Even thought I only downloaded this just a week or so ago, this album has quickly immersed itself as one of my favorites of the year. I love the way the album starts out with the track The Ladder, with the lyric “Woe is me/faithless you and selfish me/I will leave a key for you outside my doorway” and the song quickly picks up with kick drum and a haunting banjo riff. Song after song hits you hard, with poignant lyrics and music that matches the tone of the words so perfectly. My personal favorite on this album is Oh My Stars. The 2nd verse is so beautiful:
Tell me all about your foreign wars
And all about the photographs that line your drawers
‘Cause I know a lot about closing doors
But not enough about what opens up yours
Tokyo Police Club – Champ
Mom & Pop Music
One afternoon I was driving home from my summer internship. I was sitting in hardcore traffic on I-64 and decided to turn on the NPR station out of St. Louis. Just as I turned it on, they had just started giving a review on the new release from Tokyo Police Club. Just a few days later, Nicole went to see Passion Pit, whose opening act was Tokyo Police Club. She told me how good they were live, and I knew it was a sign that I needed to download the album. The opening song Favorite Food immediately sets the mood for the album, with its interesting synth intro, its slow guitar riff, and its flowing lyrics. Whether it’s a synth heavy song like Bambi or a guitar driven song like Gone, their style never wavers. The lyrics and Dave Monks’ baritone voice is always the centerpiece of the song, and is surrounded by a wave of instrumentation.
Jónsi – Go
It’s a little hard to pinpoint what it is about this album that makes it so good. Is it the quirky synths and orchestral-eque arrangements? Is it Jónsi’s ever-constant falsetto voice? Is it his unique accent and diction? Is it the penetrating lyrics? Yes, to all of the above. What was supposed to start out as a simple acoustic side project turned into an explosive masterpiece. Whether it’s the hyper and upbeat tune Animal Arithmetic or the slow and steady song Grow Til Tall, it’s easy to see why Jónsi’s debut album was so well received.
The National – High Violet
I did everything in my power not to like this album. I tried to convince myself that I hated Matt Berninger’s voice. I tried to convince myself that the songs were awful. But I couldn’t do it. I downloaded the album, listened to it all the way through once, and couldn’t stop thinking about how good it truly was. In a very airy, sad tone, each song cuts right through you and tells a story. In the lyrics, the songs seem so simple with often repetitive phrases, but that makes the songs so much more penetrating. My personal favorites off this record are Bloodbuzz Ohio, England, and Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.
Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
Glass Note Records
The first time I heard Little Lion Man this summer, I fell in love with Mumford & Sons. I loved that I heard a song filled with banjo, acoustic guitar, and rich harmonies immediately after hearing Dynamite by Taio Cruz on the same station. After I heard that song, I went home and looked up the album and listened to the whole thing. It was just a few days later I got the full album. While it was technically released in 2009 in the UK, it wasn’t released until February of 2010 in the US. My question was “How did I not hear about these guys for nearly 5 months?!” The rich harmonies, the ever present banjo, and the brutal lyrics are just a few of my favorite things about this band. It’s hard not to love a band with lyrics like this:
How can you say that your truth is better than ours?
Shoulder to shoulder, now brother, we carry no arms
The blind man sleeps in the doorway, his home
If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy I could have won
Menomena – Mines
I heard about Menomena this summer while spending my summer in St. Louis. The first time I listened to their album, it didn’t really click for me. I liked a few of the songs, but I wasn’t really feeling the flow of the album. And then one day it hit me.
I listened to their song Tithe. The intro, the piano riff, the guitar riff, and the first verse:
Spending the best years of a childhood horizontal on the floor
Like a bobsled minus the teamwork and the televised support
From that day on, I understood the flow of the album. Each song was so intuitive with the song before it, and each song was so unique. I had the opportunity to see them live when they came to St. Louis, and seeing them perform these intricate songs live just made the album come to life even more. The song Five Little Rooms add lots of variety to the album by putting an emphasis on the baritone saxophone played by bass player Justin Harris. Overall, this album is outstanding and definitely worth a listen.
Thanks for reading along and checking out my choices. Hope you’ve enjoyed!