Let’s get right into 12-7, shall we?
12. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
This band had me at “I’m so sick of, fill in the blank”. This sounds like just the type of thing to cleanse the lacquer sheen off of pop music. It’s the Ramones if they had written songs over 3 minutes long and The Hold Steady of they were 20 years younger. It’s Pavement if they would have ever considered sampling The Cars. Will Toledo’s Napoleon Dynamite vibe is grating at times but it’s also what makes the band stick out. The album is hugely familiar but completely unique on its own terms. They’ve pulled off a huge feat here. The test will be to see if they can do it again.
11. Steve Mason – Meet the Humans
This is the weakest of the once-Beta Band front man’s solo albums. It’s very conventional in song structure and is almost void of the dread of his previous two works. In doing so, he’s traded some of the raw emotion and weirdness of his earlier works for melody. Some days this works in your headphones and others, not so much. Even still, it’s got some great melodies. Try to listen to “Water Bored” and not get that “Cause you can break it, ooh” refrain stuck in your head.
10. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
When this first came out I called it “A Moon Shaped Poo”. I couldn’t find a way into the record. It was like “Burn the Witch” happened and then the whole thing just disappeared. Which it still does to some extent unless you are listening to it with a large tumbler of bourbon in one hand and the lyrics in the other. It’s an album to focus on. If you don’t you might not hear it at all.
9. John Cale – M:Fans
A reworking of his 1982 album “Music for a New Society”, “M:Fans” is harrowing in a whole other way. Where his 80’s album was the sound of someone in the throes of addiction and in a downward spiral, the “M:Fans” album is one of the artist retelling a story that happened ages ago. Some events are out of order, others are mis-remembered but the story is still a gripping one. For Cale to be putting out work of this quality, with this kind of edge at 75 is heroic. One of the most under-rated artists of our time.
8. Miike Snow – III
I don’t know why this album did not get more notice this year. Maybe Miike Snow have jumped the shark and having them on this list blows my cred worse than including Sting. If so, it’s a shame because they’ve delivered an absolutely delightful autobahn record here. It’s synthy, dancy and has a real melodic punch. Not a stinker on this one. May even be better than their first two – of which I both loved.
7. Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger
Another music legend delivers another excellent album. “Stranger to Stranger” is the lighthearted cousin to “So Beautiful or So What” from a couple years back. It is an album focused on sound with Simon using all sorts of weird instruments to great effect. From the opener “Werewolf” to the closer “Horace and Pete” the album teases you in with sound and keeps you there with the lyrics and the stories Simon tells. Simon, also 75, is exploring like a man a quarter of his age and executing like a pro.