5. Watch The Throne – The Throne
This one took awhile to sink into my brain. After one or two listens, I think I fluffed it off as basically leftovers from Kanye’s not awesome album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. There were hints of vintage Kanye but nothing that kept me entertained enough for repeat visits. Fast forward to last month when I heard the opening number, No Church In The Wild, used in a big action scene in a movie trailer. The song made the movie look incredibly awesome, and I thought it wasn’t half bad. So I gave that and a few other key tracks another listen. Turns out I liked them a lot more. Not sure why, but it just resonated with me a little more after some time. While this is certainly no Late Registration or Graduation (I hate that I even have to mention the Beyonce-featuring Lift Off in the same sentence as, say, the Chris Martin-featuring Homecoming), it is a far cry from 808s And Heartbreaks and the aforementioned MBDTF. I think the lesson here is that any project with Jay-Z will be about 7 times better than the same project with him. Remember that Kanye. For additional thoughts, take a glance through Adam Cooper’s review of the album. He expresses nearly every thought I have about the album, especially my view on Otis, Lift Off, and New Day. The only real thought I would add is that the album cover is atrocious.
Standout tracks: No Church In The Wild, New Day, That’s My Bitch
4. A Very She & Him Christmas – She & Him
Adding Christmas music to my library is weird. I have most of the Christmas albums I want, and it is so rare that anyone comes out with a Christmas album that isn’t just a rehash of things done before (last innately original Christmas album(s) was Sufjan Steven’s Songs For Christmas). So while this new collection of holiday tunes by Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward isn’t groundbreaking, it sure is great because they make great music. Deschanel’s voice is pretty divisive; people either love it or hate it. I find it very soothing. She has a very antique sound about her; her voice would be well-suited to come out of a crackly AM radio in the 1940s. And the reverb-heavy guitar work of M. Ward suits it perfectly. They make a great pair and this is a really fun and calming set of Christmas tunes.
Standout tracks: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Christmas Day, The Christmas Song
3. Mylo Xyloto – Coldplay
Most of my thoughts are compiled here. After a month of listening to it and mixing it in with other listened-to albums, it stands up well. Coldplay will most likely always be immediately listenable for me. This album is certainly no exception.
Standout tracks: Princess Of China, Paradise, Up In Flames
2. Revelator – Tedeschi Trucks Band
Already written about this one too. Long story short: Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks form a band that fuses 17 different musical genres and creates something beautiful and kick-ass at the same time. Tedeschi’s voice is a gift and should be heard by more people. This record should win a Grammy for Best Blues Album, unfortunately a category that probably won’t be broadcast on national TV.
Standout tracks: Until You Remember, Shelter, Midnight In Harlem
1. 21 – Adele
I couldn’t be more happy for Adele. After releasing a heartbreakingly good debut album, she followed it up with this one. And subsequently broke a million sales records. Along with getting nearly universal critical acclaim (which it more than warrants), it has spent multiple weeks out of this year #1 on many different charts, in many different countries. Remember when the record industry freaked out when the Internet gave us Napster, file-sharing, and iTunes? They wouldn’t have to worry if more artists could release music this exceptional. Adele’s voice goes on for days. She somehow strikes this balance of sounding weighed down by the woes and despondency of love lost, yet her voice is unencumbered by it. It soars amidst her melancholy. It’s really powerful music. And it connects, man. You listen to her songs and you feel like you’re there, hanging up the phone after a big fight with the ex you’re still in love with and just feeling bitterness and rage and frustration and love and sadness. It’s insane. She evokes such a range of emotions with her music that it becomes this universal movement. We can only hope that she continues to spurn the traditional route of our culture’s female pop artists and make music that means something. She is a true talent and this album is a perfect reflection of that.
Standout tracks: He Won’t Go, Set Fire To The Rain, Someone Like You