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Burgo’s Top Albums of 2021

Oh. Hi.

Yep, it’s been four years since I last posted here. Man, that’s sad.

Anyway, here’s a “Best Albums of 2021” post. 21 albums for 2021.

21. Luca Brasi – Everything is Tenuous

Dependable melodic-punk, for when your inner 16-year-old needs to come out, and remind yourself that you’re not dead yet, dammit.

I can only speak for myself, but my inner 16-year-old needed to come out a lot, this year.

An album of bangers. Luca Brasi know how to write 3.5 minute songs that get you jamming, and that’s what this album does.

Standout track: Dying to Feel Alive (but honestly, the whole album bops)


20. Nas – King’s Disease II

Nas embracing Nas. Fully. Both who he is, and who he was. And it’s about time.

An album of killers. EPMD 2 (featuring Eminem and EPMD) has Em sounding the most fire he’s been in a while, and then the beautiful “Nobody” features the one and only Ms Lauryn Hill giving a lyrical masterclass; but the revelation of the album is Death Row East, where Nas gives an insight into his view of the East Coast/West Coast war, and his personal fallout with 2Pac (and the reconciliation that never had the opportunity to happen)

Standout track: Death Row East



19. The Hold Steady – Open Door Policy

The Hold Steady continue their renaissance, following 2019’s “Thrashing Thru the Passion“.

Sometimes, The Hold Steady sound like Craig Finn. This time around, Open Door Policy sounds like a band album. Once named “America’s Best Bar Band”, the “everyman” motifs are still there; but this certainly seems, to me at least, to be the most delicately textured of all of The Hold Steady’s albums. And it’s richer for it.

Standout track: Unpleasant Breakfast


18. Parquet Courts – Sympathy for Life

Parquet Courts head further into “Talking Heads” territory, and I love it.

Standout track: Walking at a Downtown Pace


17. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – The Future

Soul, R&B, Blues, Rock, Folk, Americana – yep, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats have always been a versatile outfit, but this album definitely shows it off to full effect. A vintage outing into warm nights and swinging tunes. Coming from the past, but absolutely looking into the future. Sometimes uneven in pacing, its still buoyed along by Rateliff’s trademark soulful bark, killer horns and absolute joys like “Survivor” and “Love Don’t“.

Standout track: Love Don’t


16. Hayden Calnin – What it Means to be Human

Australian electro-folk artist, Hayden Calnin is an aural technician. Seriously. His albums are auditory experiences, best listened to through headphones that immerse you in the intricacies. On What It Means to be Human, Hayden appears to have found himself. There’s a natural flow to this album that his previous double-album debut seemed oh so close to, but didn’t quite achieve.

Standout track: Oh What a Mess I’m In


15. Emily Scott Robinson – American Siren

Emily Scott Robinson absolutely devastated me last year with her tune “The Time For Flowers“, which came at just the right time for me in 2020. Even so, I wasn’t ready for American Siren, which welcomes in the lost and lonely with open arms from the very first tune, “Old Gods“.

For the life of me, I can’t listen to Emily Scott Robinson without thinking of Dolly Parton, and I mean that in the absolute best possible way. This record explores the ups and downs and roundabouts of life, faith, loss and new loves. It’s a journey.

Standout track: If Trouble Comes a Lookin’


14. Valerie June – The Moon & Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers

A wistful record, taking in past pain with a faint… pride? Fondness? Honestly, I’m not sure how to describe the mood of The Moon & Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers, but I can tell you this: it’s a beautiful, beautiful record full of acceptance and killer vocals that race up and down delicately, before slamming you with power. And Carla Thomas makes a feature! What else do you need?

Standout track: Call Me A Fool (feat. Carla Thomas)


13. Josiah and the Bonnevilles – Motel Mayday

I find Josiah and the Bonnevilles — and particularly frontman, Josiah Leming — just fascinating. The dude’s been a working, travelling muso for years now. On leaving school at 16, he took his first full-time job in a fruit and vegetable packing plant in Texas, and then headed across the States in search of gigs and open-mic nights. But despite the drive, determination and clear talent, he’s just never seemed to get the recognition I feel like he deserves. I wondered if this album would change that, but it seems to have passed pretty much under the radar, again.

Standout track: Oh No!


12. Sun June – Somewhere

Somewhere is certainly an apt name for this album. There is a yearning that pervades Sun June’s latest release… someone else, some place else, sometime else. The band produces “regret pop”, in their own words… but despite that framing, there’s an upbeat, airy quality to these somewhat weighty tunes.

Standout track: Everything I Had


11. Big Red Machine – How Long Do You Think It’s Gonna Last?

HLDYTIGL is a divisive album; you either like Big Red Machine, or you don’t… and if you don’t, you really won’t like this album. It’s not that the songs are indescernable, but — particularly in the second half of the album — the songs seem to meld into a mashed song somehow. You begin to miss ebbs and flows… there’s just no tension and release, and it starts to feel like there could have been some more ruthless editing on the album.

That’s if you don’t like Big Red Machine.

Fortunately for me, I do… so I could put up with that lull; although even I catch myself skipping a fair bit there. With all that said, I just feel like this is a pretty, pretty album, and if you like what Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner “do”, you’ll like this. The highlights come from Dessner himself, finally fronting songs like The Ghost of Cincinnati and Brycie (a very touching ode to his twin brother), and the copious crew of frequent collaborators that join the album, like Robin Pecknold from Fleet Foxes (featuring on certified bop, Phoenix), Anais Mitchell (who pens some of the best lyrics on the album) and, of course, Taylor Swift.

Standout track: Renegade (feat. Taylor Swift)


10. Amythyst Kiah – Wary + Strange

Wary + Strange is an intensely personal record, as Amythyst Kiah tries to work through her own feelings and past; without a care for what others think, mind you, as opener (and closer) track “Soapbox” warns the listener:

“Don’t wanna hear your soapbox speech / Don’t wanna know how you would do it / Don’t wanna know how it should be / ’Cause I don’t care what you think”

Kiah melds folk, country, southern blues and alt-rock effortlessly, as she explores her… self? There’s pain. Anger. Defiance. And progress.

Kiah’s multi-instrumental prowess is only matched by soaring vocals that rage and growl and dare. But it’s the introspective “Wild Turkey“, a song that deals with her mother’s suicide, that gets me every time. Opening with delicate finger-picking, it’s a slow burner of a song that slowly builds to wall of sound that totally sneaks up on you.

Standout track: Wild Turkey


9. Holy Holy – Hello My Beautiful World

An album of the pandemic, but just so… hopeful? Heading far further into electro-pop territory than I’ve yet heard from duo Holy Holy, this is an album of acceptance, but not resignation. Accepting that things may never be the same again, but being aware of the fact that the only way forward is to leave the past behind us. Tim Carroll spoke about how he became “quite obsessed” with an essay by author Arundhati Roy, “The Pandemic is a Portal”, which argued that:

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.

We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.

… and man, this album soundtracks that sentiment perfectly.

Standout track: The Aftergone (feat CLEWS)


8. Tyne-James Organ – Necessary Evil

Man, this is an album of ups and downs. Raw emotion (Heal You), and certified bops (Sunday Suit). Gritty rock vocals (Hold Me Back) and pop sensibilities (Stranger). Such is the range and versatility of Australian artist, Tyne-James Organ. Totally blows my mind to think this is his debut album. The confidence is staggering.

Standout track: Sunday Suit


7. Arlo Parks – Collapsed in Sunbeams

The album that we needed in 2021. This is the aural equivalent of a warm hug, comforting you that things will be ok again; or at least, “won’t hurt so much, forever”, as Parks repeats in the albums second song, “Hurt” (which is followed just two songs later by the aptly named “Hope”… see a theme here?)

Another debut album where I just can’t believe it’s a debut album. I can’t recall a single previous debut album that sounds this polished.

Music to watch the rain hit your window to, as you get lose in memories.

Standout track: Hope



6. The Killers – Pressure Machine

Brandon Flowers has never been shy about wearing his Springsteen-influence on his leave, but this album might be the most overt. The Killers’ “Nebraska”, Pressure Machine sees the band examining small-town lives, loves and losses in Flowers’ own hometown of Nephi, Utah.

Big stadium concerts are no longer a thing in the age of COVID, but honestly, I think that in some ways that’s freed up The Killers to explore parts of themselves outside of stadium pleasers. There’s a vulnerability here… and grief, and acceptance… that we haven’t seen before from the band.

Yet, despite all the pain that exists here, there’s a hope, too. Songs are punctuated by interviews with real residents of the town of Nephi. Before the second song – stunner “Quiet Town“, which deals with a death on the train tracks – kicks off, a resident talks about the train that winds its way through the town:

“I think the train is a way to find your way out of this life, if you get hit by it”

But in the final moments of album closer, “The Getting By”, we hear that train horn passing us by, and then another resident comments about the train:

“Twice a day it comes through — my grandkids, when it comes through, they run out and they look down the road, because they like to see it go by.”

Maybe that train is a way out of this life. But it depends on how it takes you.

Standout track: Sleepwalker


5. Strand of Oaks – In Heaven

Tim Showalter, the mastermind behind Strand of Oaks, just gets to me. The dude sings, and I feel it. Seven years since I heard Shut In, the guy is still soundtracking my feelings.

In Heaven is an album full of heartbreak and loss, but also hope. Showalter rails, rails against the dying of the light, and it gives us strength.

Standout track: Galacticana


4. Claud – Super Monster

An album made for day-dreaming to while staring out the window and thinking wistfully of past relationships. Claud may predominantly be known as a “bedroom-pop” artist, but this, their debut album released under Saddest Factory Records, is slick. And I mean that in the best possible way. This is an album that you can listen to from start to finish, and feel the cohesion throughout. That’s a pretty rare thing these days, and a welcome change in 2021.

An unflinching examination of relationships, Super Monster offers relatable, wry, and gut-punch observations from start to finish. If you listen to this album without bopping your head along at least once… well, check your soul.

Standout track: On Or In-Between (but such a close toss-up with opener, Overnight)


3. Cassandra Jenkins – An Overview on Phenomenal Nature

I honestly can’t quite describe this album. There are airy, floating, delicate vocals. Spoken word pieces. Buzzy guitars, wafting sax, flutes, strings, tight snares… there’s just so much happening over the course of 30 minutes, but all of it is touching.

Perhaps I’ll just try, by calling it a dreamscape in music. Cassandra Jenkins observes people (and art, and beauty) that enter her life, and leave (the gut-wrenching “New Bikini” deals with the sad loss of David Berman, and the all-too-relatable process of healing).

Healing, in particular, comes across strongly throughout this album. And there’s this line, towards the end of album centrepiece, “Hard Drive”, where Jenkins’ talks about healing hearts, that’s been living rent-free in my head for months now. Softly, barely there, the song ends with words that you can just hear the twinkle in the eye for…

“All those little pieces / One, two, three / We’re gonna put ’em back together now
… Are you ready?”

Standout track: Hard Drive


2. The War on Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore

Now, this makes me feel old, but it’s hard to believe it’s been 14 years since I first wrote about The War on Drugs on this site. It’s a 14-year love affair that’s still going strong, with the release of I Don’t Live Here Anymore.

I just get lost in this album. Completely foot-tappingly, head shakingly-lost.

We’re all growing up with Adam Granduciel, and I love it. 

Standout track: Harmonia’s Dream (but such a toss-up with the understand opener, “Living Proof”)


1. The Mountain Goats – Dark in Here

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… along with Josh Ritter, I view John Darnielle as one of the best lyricists of our generation.

As with other Mountain Goats releases, there’s a tension that simmers in Dark in Here… a desolation and ruin, balance with wry ruefulness. Religious fury abounds, and heartbreak and futility (I’ve never heard helplessness as beautiful as “Before I Got There“) and catastrophe. But perhaps, more than all of that, walking through the darkness with you… there’s empathy. While the songs here address the gloom, they never fall to it. As Darnielle sings in album closer, “Let Me Bathe In Demonic Light“:

“Swim right through the night / Break the surface and rise like a geyser / When my time is right / There I’ll be / And who among you is coming with me?”.

I just find this such an enjoyable listen.

Standout track: Mobile

Categories
2017 Releases Best of...

Burgo’s Top Albums of 2017

Well yes, here I am.

I know, it’s been a while.

In fact, it turns out last year was the first year since this blog’s founding that I didn’t do a “Best Albums of the Year” post, and – even though I haven’t posted on this blog at all since my “Best of 2015” post – I was determined to get something out this year.

For a couple of reasons, really. Firstly: this blog is now 1o years old. And I know I haven’t written on it much in the last few years, but 10 years seemed… worth celebrating. Secondly, this post is officially the 400th post on this blog… again, something worth celebrating.

Anyway, long story short… I’m back for this post. Then I’ll probably disappear again for a while.

Actually, while I have you here, indulge me, if you will. I have a theory a little bit about music bloggers, and how pretty much all of my favourite music blogs died out.

You see, 10 years ago or so, we music bloggers were really the taste-makers, of a kind. Before streaming services were popularised, and back when RSS readers were all the rage, loading up your favourite music blog to download an MP3 because a blogger who just got you had recommended it was pretty much the best part of your day.

You’d listen all day to the tune with that kind of euphoria that can only come from a well-matched, personalised mixtape.

But then streaming services came along.

Streaming services, obviously, devalued music bloggers. We traded in (sometimes) illicit substances that weren’t (easily) available otherwise. Then, suddenly, they were at your fingertips, available at an instant’s notice.

And, probably the biggest factor?

Before streaming, downloading MP3s was an investment. You invested your time, on your slow dial up modem. You invested your data, on your capped downloads. You trusted music bloggers to ensure you weren’t wasting these valuable commodities. That they had vetted the hundreds of emails they received in a month, and they were only posting the very best songs, and culling the duds. But suddenly, when you could stream any album for just a few seconds in seconds, the “opinion” of a music blogger wasn’t important anymore. You didn’t have to invest anything, or risk anything. It became… zero calorie snacking.

We became commodotised. We became… irrelevant.

Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m not whinging. I’ve been a Spotify premium subscriber since well before it officially expanded to Australia. I think it’s a great thing that taste-making is now democratised. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that a little part of me missed the old days, when I was motivated to do this whole music blogger thing.

Ahem.

Ok, that’s enough indulgence. Thanks for your time. Now, onto the real stuff. Without further ado, here is Burgo’s Top Albums of 2017.

15. Aimee Mann – Mental Illness

You guys, I’ll be honest. I fell in love with Aimee Mann 15 years ago, when she performed a cover of “Shed a Little Light” on the West Wing episode, “College Kids”.

I mean, just listen to this:

Her voice then just absolutely killed me. And it continues to, today.

Back in January, Mann called “Mental Illness” her “saddest, slowest, most acoustic, if-they’re-all-waltzes-so-be-it-record” that she’d ever created, and man, she wasn’t kidding. Mann leans into the cliched view of her as a “depressing songstress” completely with a sly wink, and the result is just stunning.

Standout track: Lies of Summer

14. Portugal. The Man – Woodstock

Hard to believe it’s been 10 years since I first wrote about these guys. But in all that time, Portugal. The Man have never failed to impress. People will complain they sold-out. Heck, the band clearly foresaw that, and started selling “I Liked Portugal. The Man Before They Sold Out” t shirts before the album was even released!

So yeah, I know I’m in the minority here. But, I dunno… allow me this one conceit, as someone who has written about them for the last 10 years. Their dive headfirst into pop sensibility is something to behold, in my opinion; and, if nothing else, makes for an interesting listen.

Despite all that, when I had to pull out a standout track for this post? It had to be “Feel It Still”, which is easily their closest approximation to their previous tunes. So perhaps I’m a little conflicted too.

Standout track: Feel It Still

13. Mountain Goats – Goths

An opus on Goths? Why yes, thank you. I’ve said on multiple occasions that I view Josh Ritter to be the lyricist of our generation, but I tell you what… John Darnielle is 100% up there, and nowhere is it more evident than on Goths. The flow is just effortless, the melancholy too casual, the details too… alive. No one breathes life into their characters with the little details like Darnielle.

Charting the life of a goth moving from the UK to the US to make it big in a band, playing for cocaine (“Paid in Cocaine”), refusing to open for Trent Rezor (“Shelved”), to dealing with being an aging goth, and all the realities that come with becoming… irrelvant. It’s heartbreaking, if it weren’t so bittersweet funny.

Standout track: We Do It Different On The West Coast

12. Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy

Ever since Yonkers, I’ve been waiting for… something, from Tyler, The Creator. I didn’t have any idea what that “something” was, mind you, which was frustrating for me… so I can only imagine how frustrating it could have been for Tyler.

That something came with “Flower Boy”.

It’s an album about finding yourself. Accepting, despite the otherness, which previously Tyler had always played up as being a “radical”. Here, Tyler confronts… well, himself.

In the album opener, “Foreword”, Tyler asks “How many cars can I buy ’til I run out of drive? How much drive can I have ’til I run out of road?”, and then goes on to question his relationships with, “Shout out to the girls that I lead on / For occasional head and always keeping my bed warm / And trying their hardest to keep my head on straight”; and those relationships, later, are even more confronting when you get to the songs, “Garden Shed” and “I Ain’t Got Time”, with its line “Next line will have ’em like “Woah” / I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004″.

I don’t want to say anything as trite as “with this album, Tyler, The Creator has found himself”; but, I will say that he’s looking clearly in the mirror, and that self-reflection has made for an amazing album.

Standout track: 911/Mr Lonely

11. The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

Another case where it’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 10 years since I first wrote about The War on Drugs, and their debut album “Wagonwheel Blues”. Since that time, Adam Granduciel has been a fair regular on this blog, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that “A Deeper Understanding” finds a place on this list.

These are long, meandering tunes full of texture. Granduciel played half the instruments on this album, and he weaves together a tapestry of fuzzy sonic lines that somehow come together into something coherent.

This album takes its time. On a warm summer’s night, go out into an open field overlooking the surrounds, and watch the sun set to this soundtrack.

Standout track: Thinking of a Place

10. Hollow Coves – Wanderlust 🇦🇺

The first of quite a few Australian releases on this list, “Wanderlust”, the debut EP from Brisbane folk-duo Hollow Coves is short, at just 21 minutes… but man, does it win you over quickly. From EP opener, “Coastline”, Ryan Henderson and Matt Carins have you completely hooked.

You’ll lose yourself in these tunes, guaranteed. Here’s to more of this.

Standout Track: The Woods

 

9. Alex the Astronaut – See You Soon 🇦🇺

Another EP? Hey, it’s my list, I can do what I want.

So, most Australians would be familiar with this release, thanks to the stunning tune, “Not Worth Hiding”, which was a timely release, coinciding with Australia going through a national survey on whether same sex marriage should be allowed (yes, seriously… we had a national survey on that).

The tune itself was premiered on Triple J, and I remember the text line just going (justifiably) absolutely mental when it was played. The entire EP is well worth a spin though.

Standout track: Not Worth Hiding

 

8. Polish Club – Alright Already 🇦🇺

14 songs. 39 minutes. And in that time, Sydney duo Polish Club lay out an album so accomplished, it’s like nothing I have ever heard from a debut. In their first release, “Alright Already”, Novak and John-Henry have released an honest-to-goodness guitar and drums, garage-rock blues album in a year that seemed to overlook these kind of tunes.

And oh man, is it fun.

This album, quite simply, rocks, and you need to get it into your earholes.

The first 11 tunes barrel along like no one’s business… and then track 12, “Divided” throws a curveball… a stripped-back tune that comes at just the right time, before “My Delight” and “Red River Rock” really turn things on their head. Listen… you’ll see what I mean.

Man, I love this album.

Standout track: Divided

7. Gang of Youths – Go Farther In Lightness 🇦🇺

If you’re feeling slightly lost; if you’re feeling… flat. This is the album you should listen to right now. Seriously. Stop reading this post, and listen to “Go Farther In Lightness”.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s a long album at 76 minutes, but you really need to listen to this in its entirety. It’s a cathartic process, and one that explores loss, heartbreak and confusion, but somehow with a purpose and optimism that, quite frankly, we all need right now.

You will lose yourself in this album. You will well up with tears. Your heart will swell. After listening to this album, you’ll feel like you can take on anything. And, you can, you know. It’s all just a choice.

Standout track: What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?

 

Bonus: Like A Version

Dave and Co. also gave us one of my favourite “Like A Version”s this year, with their cover of the Middle East’s “Blood”. Every time they kick into the instrumental outro around 3:30, I get goosebumps.

 

6. Ryan Adams – Prisoner

If you’ve read this blog at any point in the last 10 years, you’ll know my love for Ryan Adams. Of the now 400 posts on this blog, I’d hazard that Ryan makes up at least 30-40 of those posts. He remains, through thick and thin, “my” songwriter… the one who it seems will always get me, no matter how old we get or the fact that he has no idea I exist.

Dissecting his 6 year marriage to Mandy Moore which ended in 2015, “Prisoner” finds Ryan back in breakup territory… and, let’s not kid ourselves, Ryan (as a musician) is on familiar ground here. But that doesn’t mean that the album isn’t gorgeous, regardless. There is an element of honesty here that you just can’t help but admire, that makes these songs hit hard: there’s the internal monologue of “Shiver and Shake”; the heartbreak of “Breakdown”; the admission of things always wrong in “Broken Anyway”, and then the hopeful moving on of “We Disappear”.

Standout track: Shiver and Shake

5. Alex Lahey – I Love You Like A Brother 🇦🇺

In 2016, Alex Lahey had one of the absolute tunes of the year, with her single “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me”, which was eminently hummable. Her full-length debut, “I Love You Like A Brother” thankfully delivered on that promise. 35 minutes long, it’s a rollicking good time, full of relatable tunes packed full of witty observations, that are just made for singing along to.

Standout track: So, so many… but I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself

4. Lorde -Melodrama

Ella Yelich-O’Connor just turned 21 last month.

Let that sink in for a bit.

Yeah.

Standout track: Perfect Places

3. Future Islands – The Far Field

Oh man. Such a tender, fragile record.

“Catch me laughing / Catch me drinking past the dawn / Catch me singing / Catch me beaming—open armed” Samuel Herring sings, followed by “Don’t watch me weeping / Don’t watch me weep into my palms”, and it’s absolutely heart-breaking.

For such a sad, intimate album, it propels you along, particularly driven by the bouncing bass lines (see “Time On Her Side” below for an example)… this record never once gets boring in its 45 minutes.

And when Debbie Harry, at 71, steps in on the penultimate song, “Shadows”, to pull Herring out of the shadows and into the light? Just… wow.

Herring speaks of the heartache, with “A melody that trails and falls, yet never fully blooms / Plays like an old song / That’s just out of tune” and the wiser, older Harry retorts “Why can’t you just break free? / Is it the heat dreams, that fevers brought you?”

Finally, Harry turns Herring’s plaintive cries of “These old shadows” back on him with the refrain “They’re just shadows!”.

What an experience.

Standout track: I’m cheating and including two… “Time On Her Side” and “Shadows”

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Holy… you guys. You GUYS.

From the second track, DNA., you just know this album is special. The rhymes come blistering, effortless… it’s like Kendrick doesn’t need to breathe, he just flows.

I find it hard to write about this album. It’s just a visceral experience. Right from opener “Blood”, where Kendrick’s protagonist dies, to the backdrop of Geraldo Rivera’s criticism of Lamar’s take on police brutality on his 2015 track ‘Alright’, Lamar is pissed. And man, it’s amazing to listen to.

Standout track: FEEL.

1. Gordi – Reservoir 🇦🇺

A couple of years ago, I saw Sophie Payten (aka Gordi) open for The Tallest Man On Earth at QPAC in Brisbane, and I described it at the time as “something special”. Which sounds terribly mundane, but that’s because I was seriously lost for words. It was one of those gigs where the crowd stayed silent, holding their breath, the entire set, for fear of ruining that “something special”. At the time, Gordi was laying herself bare in front of us, and that vulnerability (particularly during her cover of Courtney Barnett’s “Avant Gardener”) just floored me.

Thankfully, her first full-length release, “Reservoir”, continued that trend.

This album is complicated. It’s layered. It’s nuanced. It is… something special.

And it’s my album of the year.

Standout track: Heaven I Know

Bonus: Like A Version

Gordi also provided us with one of my other favourite “Like A Version”s of this year, with her cover of Linkin Park’s “In The End”. Chills.

Categories
2015 releases Best of...

Burgo’s “Best Albums of 2015”

Wow. This is the first year since this blog launched back in 2007 that I haven’t posted during the year; my last post was a “Best of 2014” roundup. Oh well, life gets in the way. Let’s jump straight into 2015’s round up, shall we?

2015 was a strange one for music. There was an absolute flood of great releases, with one or two titans standing head and shoulders above the rest. I think that’s pretty evident by the alarming conformity in most of the other round ups I’ve seen so far. But it was probably the year I found myself listening to the least “new releases” in recent memory. Below are the tunes from this year that did make it onto my rotation.

15. James Bay – Chaos and the Calm

Errrybody be hating on this album. But screw you guys, it’s fun.

Standout track: If You Ever Want to Be in Love

14. Hop Along – Painted Shut

I don’t really know what it is about this album, but it makes me feel like I’m watching “Empire Records” again. This is a good thing.

Standout track: Horseshoe Crabs

13. Garrett Kato – That Low and Lonesome Sound

Originally from Canada, now calling Byron Bay home, Garrett Kato’s “That Low and Lonesome Sound” was the perfect album for this year. It sounds like Australian summer, which is why I’m listening to it right now, on holiday in Scott’s Head, overlooking the blown-out surf as the afternoon breeze cools the day off.

Standout track: UFOs

12. Leon Bridges – Coming Home

This is a completely comfortable album, and while that may not be what every artist wants to hear, it’s meant in a complimentary way. Bridges is utterly of the past, recalling Redding, Cooke and co. In that way, it’s both surprising that a 25 year old can pull this off in 2015, while at the same time being a completely familiar sound. Something that you can slip into after a long day at work, that shirt that feels just right against your skin.

Standout track: Better Man

11. Kyle Lionhart – Keep in Mind

Ok, seriously? Another Byron Bay artist? Why, yes. Kyle Lionhart needs to be heard by more people. “Keep in Mind”, his debut EP, was released in February of this year, and since then it’s been on pretty much constant rotation for me. I’ve seen him called “neb-folk/soul” before; I just think it sounds like heaven.

Standout track: Sleep by Rivers

10. Tame Impala – Currents

Kevin Parker can pretty much do anything, and I think at this point validation is the last thing on his mind. “Currents” sees him at his most precise yet, and even though he’s not trying to, this album is showing off; soul, R&B, psych-rock, dance-hall, pop… it’s all here.

Standout track: Eventually

9. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday

Strangely, didn’t hear much about this release online this year (outside of the NME, that is). Which is a shame, because “Chasing Yesterday” is a cracking release from Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds. “Chasing Yesterday” is, obviously, a self-aware title from Noel, and “We Can’t Go Back” is probably the most Oasis-like tune he’s written in some time, a gentle reminder to those after a reunion that it’s not something that’s going to happen any time soon. But there are other things he’d like to reflect on though, and he does it to great effect here.

Standout track: Riverman

8. Sons of the East – Already Gone

Yet another Australian release, which makes me inordinately proud. “Sons of the East” are an indie-folk band out of Sydney, and their EP release, “Already Gone”, absolutely blew me away. Basically a bucket of good times, you’d be hard-pressed not to tap your feet along to these tunes.

Standout track: Into the Sun

7. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

When “Boys & Girls” came out, Alabama Shakes were very quickly placed into the “retro-soul” box, because that was nice and easy. “Sound & Color”, however, is a rock album, although not a simple one. There’s hints of The Strokes and The Stones, but also Otis Redding. There’s strings, synths and organs. It’s an interesting mix that warns you not to pigeonhole the Shakes, because this crew have so much more exploring to do.

Standout track: Don’t Wanna Fight

6. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I sit and think and sometimes I just sit

Laconic, stream-of-consciousness, wry… call it what you will, but “Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit” is the ultimate “vignette” album, with observations of the mundane somehow combining to become something more as a whole. Barnett is playful and cutting at the same time, and the punk/grunge guitar is something I didn’t realise I’d been missing until I heard it.

Standout track: Elevator Operator

5. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down…

There’s something about Kurt Vile that’s that little half-step out of sync with things, and I’ll never stop loving it. “b’lieve i’m goin down” finds Vile at his absolute sharpest lyrics-wise, with lines that can be at the same time goofy but absolutely terrifying. The existential crisis of “Pretty Pimping”, for example, can be light-hearted on the one hand, but also scarily accurate, with lines like:

“I couldn’t tell you what the hell it was supposed to mean
But it was a Monday, no a Tuesday, no Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
Then Saturday came around and I said “Who’s this stupid clown blocking the bathroom sink?”

Standout track: Pretty Pimping

4. Vince Staples – Summertime ’06

If you’re hankering for a return to 80s hip hop, Vince Staples has you covered. “Summertime ’06” is stripped down, thoughtful, and thought-provoking. Staples is weary, and full of truth in this album. He talks about crime, but examines the reality rather than the theatre. It’s a difficult, and at times, depressing album to listen to, but it’s interestingly the title track, “Summertime”, that allows some vulnerability in.

“My teachers told me we was slaves
My mama told me we was kings
I don’t know who to listen to
I guess we somewhere in between
My feelings told me love is real
But feelings known to get you killed”

Standout track: Might Be Wrong

3. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Of course this was going to make this list. It’s been called a “masterpiece” by almost every music publication out there, and for once it’s not blogger hyperbole. “TPAB” is a complete and utter triumph, a release where Kendrick is questions not only himself, but an entire country in an unflinching way. Albums often have this symbiotic relationship with time; they are both defined by and define the time in which they are released, and TPAB (along with D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah”) is completely defined by, and simultaneously defines, 2015.

Standout track: King Kunta

2. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Sad, dark and completely beautiful, Sufjan Steven’s autobiographical tribute to his late mother, “Carrie and Lowell”, finds Stevens at his absolutely minimal best. Stripped back (to the bone), it’s an unflinching look at his history with his largely-absent mother, that somehow manages to be heartbreaking yet accepting at the same time. An absolute standout in 2016, and in any other year, would have been my album of the year.

Incidentally, Pitchfork sat down for a really powerful interview with Stevens to discuss his mother, his memories of her struggles, and her time with Lowell here. It’s a really worthwhile read.

Standout track: Should Have Known Better

1. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – Surf

A hip-hop/jazz fusion record as my album of the year? For those that have experienced “Surf”, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Name one other album that had the heart of “Surf” in 2015 – I don’t think it exists. When Chance the Rapper released his “Acid Rap” in 2013, you knew it was something special. His “follow up” this year is different yet again, because it’s not really a follow up at all – instead, it’s a collaboration with friend Nico Segal (aka Donnie Trumpet) that sees everyone from Jamila Woods to Busta Rhymes contributing.

It’s an album that’s full of humour, heart, life, freedom and youth. It is 2015.

Standout track: Slip-Slide

Honourable Mentions:
Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Joanna Newsome – Divers
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free
D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah
The Internet – Ego Death
Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

Categories
2014 releases Best of...

Burgo’s Top Tunes of 2014

So it’s Saturday, 3 January 2015 today, and I’ve just realised that 2014 was the first year since 2008 that I didn’t post a “best of the year” post. That kind of talks to how much I get to write on this blog these days (sorry about that), but I really didn’t want to break that streak this year. So, better late than never, here are my top tunes of 2014.

The usual caveats apply. The below are in playlist order, rather than ranked. I’ve embedded the spotify playlist below, but you can also listen on Soundcloud (although some tunes are missing there due to their catalogue).

The War On Drugs – Red Eyes
Broods – L.A.F
Ryn Weaver – OctaHate
Jungle – Busy Earnin’
MisterWives – Reflections
Spoon – Inside Out
Sylvan Esso – Coffee
The Preatures – Somebody’s Talking
Future Islands – Seasons (Waiting On You)
Snakadaktal – The Sun II
Woods – Leaves Like Glass
St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Call Me
Raury – God’s Whisper
Strand of Oaks – Shut In
Twin Forks – Cross My Mind
Many Things – Dear One
First Aid Kit – My Silver Lining
Angus & Julia Stone – Heart Beats Slow
Kim Churchill – Window to the Sky
Austin Basham – All Is Well
Old Man Canyon – Wiser
Calan Mai – We’ve Got Love
James Bay – Let It Go
Noah Gundersen – Dying Now
Noah Gundersen – First Defeat
Candy Robbers – 1000 Miles
Robert Francis – Love Is A Chemical
Ryan Adams – Kim

If you’re interested in looking through the archives, here’s a few other “best of” posts to catch up on:

Categories
2013 releases Best of...

Burgo’s Top Songs of 2013

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So, unlike my top albums post, I’ll be posting this without commentary. Below, in no particular order, are my favourite tunes of 2013:

CHVRCHES – We Sink
Atlas Genius – Trojans
Bastille – Flaws
Daft Punk – Get Lucky
Cloud Control – Scar
Peace – Lovesick
Noah And The Whale – There Will Come A Time
Lorde – Tennis Court
Art of Sleeping – Above The Water
Frank Turner – Recovery
Griffin House – Go Through It
Haim – Honey & I
Mr Little Jeans – Oh Sailor – feat. the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Youth Chorale
The National – Fireproof
Jason Isbell – Live Oak
Dustin Tebbutt – The Breach
London Grammar – Strong
Small Sur – Labor
Blue and Bordeaux – Know Me Well
Daughter – Human
James Vincent McMorrow – Cavalier
Kodaline – High Hopes
Phosphorescent – The Quotidian Beasts
Vance Joy – From Afar
Josh Ritter – Joy To You Baby
James Blake – Retrograde
Sticky Fingers – Australia Street

These songs can be found on my Spotify playlist here. Happy listening!

Categories
2013 releases Best of...

Burgo’s Top Albums of 2013

2014 was probably the “smoothest” year I can remember in music for quite some time. By that, I mean it was the year where polished pop music finally became cool again, and was totally embraced by the indie kids. That’s definitely reflected in my choices below; it’s by far the most “pop-driven” list of any of my end of year recaps, in all the years I’ve been blogging. And I think that’s actually a really, really cool thing.

Below are in no particular order, because I’m a rebel like that.

Bastille – Bad Blood

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Just a great, great album. There’s something here for everyone, and – although that sometimes can water down an album in other cases – in this case, Bad Blood is only stronger for it. From start to finish, Dan Smith speaks both for and to you, in completely predictable ways – but damned if that doesn’t just make me enjoy this more. Sometimes predictability isn’t a bad thing… it’s predictable because it feels right, natural. As a result, there’s a comfort and familiarity listening to these tunes, like it’s your favourite band from years ago; all this despite the fact that it’s Bastille’s debut album (EPs and previous singles aside).

Synth-laden and electronic pop that will appeal to fans of Mumford and the likes. Give it a spin.

Standout track: In an album of stand-out singles? Tough, but I’d have to go with album opener, “Pompeii”.

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

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So, I’ve had a thing about VW in the past. I caught myself humming along to their tunes, but in a lot of ways, I just couldn’t get into them as much as others did. Don’t get me wrong, I knew they were great at crafting catchy hooks, but whenever I tried to listen to a full album of theirs, something just seemed… off. There was a lot of hype and glossy style there, but they just couldn’t sustain me all the way through.

With “Modern Vampires of the City”, however, that all changed. In an interview with the New York Times, Ezra Koenig said, “In the past, I think a lot of our songs have had detours… I feel like every song on this album has a purpose”, and when I read that, I finally knew what was different. Ezra was spot on in his own awareness of their music; it’s the most complete album of theirs yet, and one that I can totally get in to. I don’t think it’s their most mature album – people have been using that label like they’ve been immature before – but I do think it’s their most focussed album.

Standout track: Unbelievers

Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe

Chvrches-The-Bones-Of-What-You-Believe1

Wow. Wow wow wow. Ok, seriously, find me a stronger album opening in 2013 than the trio of tunes that open, “The Bones of What You Believe”. Honestly, I’m hard pressed to think of a stronger opening act at all, come to think about it. “The Mother We Share”, already hyped in my own mind as one of the year’s best songs prior to the album’s release, was then followed by the even catchier “We Sink”, with “Gun” rounding out the hat-trick.

Overall, just a super-strong album, with only “You Caught the Light” seeming the odd tune out in terms of enjoyment. But, that aside, probably my favourite album of the year – and, again, it’s synth-driven electro-pop. I’m a singer-songwriter/folk/americana stalwart… what the heck happened in 2013??!

Standout track: We Sink

The National – Trouble Will Find Me

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So, we should probably get this out of the way: if you weren’t a The National fan before this album, I’m not sure this will be the one to turn you around. Like most albums from the band, it’s not an immediate winner. At first listen, you’ll probably be hard pressed to remember a “single”. But after multiple spins, you’ll find you just keep coming back to it, again and again… likely with a wistful sense of nostalgic desperation. Let’s be clear, it’s no Alligator, nor Boxer — but if you’ve grown with these guys from the beginning, it’s exactly where the album needed to be.

Self-aware to the extreme, it’s a slow burner that will bury itself deep inside your mind. The frantic sounds of Alligator aren’t here, and if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll be disappointed. But there’s something a whole lot more menacing, if weary, here.

Standout track: Graceless

Haim – Days Are Gone

HAIM-DAYS-ARE-GONE

You know, it was kind of inevitable that there would be the backlash against Haim. Danielle and Este Haim were a tween-pop outfit. “Valli Girls”, put together by Richard Marx (yes, that Richard Marx), prior to striking out on their own with younger sister, Alana. So, already, they’re tarnished with the “manufactured” label. And the production values on “Days Are Gone” don’t help their case; it’s so slick, so damn polished, that you’d immediately think that means it eliminates any personality, any soul from the release.

But somehow, Haim pull it off. Perhaps it’s because they’re just so insanely, insanely talented. “Days Are Gone” is an amazing debut for the sisters, and one that really isn’t worthy of the current hipster backlash on the LA trio. Because when you get down to it and throw all those preconceptions away, this is just a band making ridiculously tight music. So do your part and enjoy it.

Standout track: The Wire

Vance Joy – God Loves You When You’re Dancing

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Vance Joy, aka James Keogh, put out one of the Australian releases of the year, with his “God Loves You When You’re Dancing” EP. At 5 songs and around 24 minutes long, it all-too-fleeting, but for that short period of time you absolutely lose yourself in blissful, layered texturing, and heartbreaking tunes.

You would have been hard-pressed to get away from lead single, “Riptide” this year, but trust me – Vance Joy is no one-hit-wonder. All 5 songs on this EP are captivating, particularly album closer, “From Afar”

Standout track: From Afar

Phosphorescent – Muchacho

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Matthew Houck’s latest is one of my favourites from him – as always, the voice is faltering, and seemingly fragile; but Houck just lays it all out there with such raw honesty, those cracks and breaks make it seem all the more real.

There are some serious echoes of “Cold Roses”-era Cardinals in some of the tunes here, which is probably why I like it so much.

Standout track: The Quotidian Beasts

Griffin House – Balls

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Griffin House had an incredible 2007, when the popular “Flying Upside Down” came out. Critics raved about his warm, comfortable tunes, and great things were expected. Then “Learner” followed that in 2010, and reviews were… disappointing, to say the least. So I was absolutely stoked to hear Griffin House’s return with the simply-titled “Balls” this year.

Balls sounds like House at his most comfortable in years. And I love having him back.

Standout track: Go Through It

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Random-Access-Memories

Maybe not the album that EDM were hoping would come from Daft Punk, but definitely the album that EDM needed. It’s no surprise that DP went so purposefully away from the EDM riffs that they so strongly influenced on this record, and leaned heavily into the disco and funk from the 70s and 80s. You can’t help but think Daft Punk look at what has been wrought over the last few years with a bit of sadness. Which is why they came out with something so much damn fun.

Like their album opener says, “Give Life Back to Music”. Random Access Memories certainly does.

Standout track: Lose Yourself to Dance

Josh Ritter – The Beast in its Tracks

Josh-Ritter-The-Beast-in-Its-Tracks-e1355249577693

Ok, so I’m going to be brutally honest here – this is no “The Animal Years”. It’s possible that this won’t make many people’s “Best of 2013” lists, unless they’re massive fans of Josh Ritter and have this weird music-crush on the dude.

I’m one of those people.

This album, his “breakup album”, following his divorce in 2011, is at times wistful, sometimes spiteful, and fleetingly hopeful. I still believe that Ritter is one of the best lyricists of our time, and that’s on painful display in this album. His confronting honesty, combined with his masterful turn of phrase, turns some of these songs into cutting rapiers.

Standout track: A Certain Light

Volcano Choir – Repave

Volcano-Choir-Repave

Unexpectedly great release from Justin Vernon’s “second-tier” project. I say unexpected, not because I doubt Justin Vernon, nor Collection of Colony of Bees chops; just because 2009’s Unmap was, well… underwhelming. But with this follow up album, Volcano Choir looks set to become the Tier 1 piece in Justin Vernon’s quill. In fact, there’s a joy here that seems to have been lost in the confines of Bon Iver’s mythical status.

Freedom and lack of expectations sounds good on Volcano Choir.

Standout track: Byegone

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Note - Part of this post was contributed to the always awesome "Masey's Top Albums of the Year" roundup - I'd encourage you to head on over there to check out some picks from other contributors!

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Categories
Best of...

Burgo’s Top 5 Albums of 2012

Hi kids. This is an excerpt of a post I contributed to Masey, listing my top 5 albums of 2012. I’d encourage you to also click through and check out the other contributers’ selections, as there was definitely a diverse bunch.

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1. THROUGH THE DEEP DARK VALLEY – THE OH HELLOS

I have a lot to thank The Oh Hellos for. 2012 saw me lose faith in the music blogging gig, and they were the band that managed to pull me back out of a serious “blogging funk”, with their release “Through the Deep Dark Valley” – which is easily one of the most sincere celebrations of pure music I’ve ever heard.

There’s something about this album that is at once totally accessible (in some respects, it sounds like a band you might have had playing on your block), while at the same time unspeakably beautiful. It’s a weird thing that I’m probably not explaining very well, but the music is… friendly. Warm. Welcoming.

I simply cannot believe that “Through the Deep Dark Valley” is the first full-length album from siblings Maggie and Tyler Heath. It’s just so emotionally rich, with a seamless story, it’s like they’ve been spinning these tales their whole life. An album that really does need to be listened to in its entirety to fully appreciate, I really mean it when I say, “Please listen to this”. Damn near to album of the year for me.

Stand out track: This is really a tough one, because, as a concept album, each song builds on the other. But if I had to pick one, I’d go for “Second Child, Restless Child”.

2. HANDWRITTEN – THE GASLIGHT ANTHEM

Straight up, straight forward, chest-beating rock tunes. And “45″ is pretty much a masterclass for bands on how to open an album. It’s just… well, perfect.

Brian Fallon has one of my favourite voices in contemporary music, and on “Handwritten”, he’s in amazing form; sounding even more raw and honest than on “The ’59 Sound” (which, incidentally, was in my “Best Albums of the Decade” post for 00-09, so their track record so far is pretty good with me).

There’s one thing that the Gaslight Anthem do so well, and I love them for it: when you’ve loved and lost, but want to pick your chin up and take on the whole world… this is the album for you.

Stand out track: “Here Comes My Man”

3. THE LUMINEERS – THE LUMINEERS

I don’t know what it is with Americana, but it seems to be the genre of music that just skips my head and instantly connects with my heart. I remember the first time I heard Whiskeytown, it was like that. And the same thing happened with the Lumineers. I heard “Flowers in your Hair”, and as soon as the percussion kicked in about 60 seconds into the tune, I was in love.

It absolutely freaks me out to think of this as a debut album. It’s just ridiculously accomplished. More than any band on this list, I think The Lumineers have an incredibly tough job ahead of them. Where they go from this album, I have no idea.

Stand out track: “Stubborn Love”

4. STRANGER IN THE FIRST PLACE – ROBERT FRANCIS

You know, the lack of recognition for Robert Francis still boggles my mind. I first wrote about him 5 years ago, when I heard his debut album, “One by One”. At the time, the guy was just 19, and inspired something close to hero worship in me.

The guy is now 25 (24 at the time of this album’s release), and still writing songs that are well beyond his years, telling his stories with a dusty road and jack daniels soaked tinge.

“Strangers in the First Place” probably isn’t going to be for everyone, and I accept that by now; but, to my mind, it’s probably one of the best alt-folk records of the last 5 years.

If there was one dude I wanted to be in my own musical career on this list, it’s Robert Francis. The guy is a musical titan.

Stand out track: “Some Things Never Change”

5. CHANNEL ORANGE – FRANK OCEAN

You know, to be honest, I’ll be very surprised if this album isn’t on 90% of the lists in this post. Frank has always been the most intriguing member of OFWGKTA to me, and when I heard “Channel Orange”, I knew there was a reason.

This album is just so, so ambitious. And there are really 100 reasons why it shouldn’t have worked. But it just does.
The thing I love about Frank Ocean’s stuff is that the guy just clearly knows so damn much about music and the shared history of genres… and he somehow takes that knowledge, tips his hat to tradition, and then steps on, pushing boundaries into places where no one else has the guts (or vision) to go.

I dunno. I guess what I’m trying to say is: this is creativity, pure and simple. And it completely blows me away. And while other albums may resonate more for me in terms of playability and comfort, this is – without question – album of the year for me. The scale of what this kid has accomplished is, quite frankly, unfathomable.

Stand out track: “Pyramids”

 

Categories
Best of...

Burgo’s Best Songs of 2012

The usual caveat applies: these are “Burgo’s Best Songs of 2012″, so of course it’s a subjective list. Enjoy.
Oh… and despite the numbers, these really are in no particular order.

1. The Gaslight Anthem – 45
Pretty much a masterclass for other bands on how to open an album. A fantastic, straight-forward, fist-pumping rock tune. 3:30 of pure musical joy.

2. Robert Francis – Eighteen
Super tough call between this one and “Some things never change”. Really, I can’t tell you how I picked “Eighteen” between the two, apart from the mood I was in on the day. 5 years after first writing about Robert Francis, the guy is still soundtracking my life.

3. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love
It says something about Macklemore & Ryan Lewis that the dudes can flip from the hilarity of “Thrift Shop”, and land with “Same Love”. There’s something incredibly warm about this tune, that keeps it from lapsing into the “society issue song” territory. It’s a heartfelt tale, and is one of my favourite songs of the year, both from a personal level and a musical appreciation level.

4. Polica – Wandering Star
Just a great, great album, but this track is undeniably the highlight. If anything, this live version is even better, but the recorded release still gives me shivers.

5. Frank Ocean – Lost
Man, it was a tough call between this one and “Bad Religion”. Both are amazing, but how awesome is this track from Frank Ocean? Just killer.

6. The Presets – Promises
You know, it’s not often you hear dance tunes on this blog. But “Promises” from Aussie outfit, “The Presets” is an exception. This is a tune, plain and simply. Dare you to not sing along.

7. Asta – My Heart is on Fire
So Asta was this year’s winner of Triple J’s “Unearthed High” competition. The “High” refers to “high school”. Yep, a high school girl wrote this song. Hard to believe, right? Honestly, one of the catchiest songs of 2012, high school student or not.

8. The Lumineers – Flowers in Your Hair
When that percussion picks up around 60 seconds into the song, I fall in love every time. Another great album opener, this tune clocks in at just 1:51… but for those last 50 seconds, I relive every happy memory in my lifetime. It’s that kind of feeling.

9. The Oh Hellos – Second Child, Restless Child
Damn near to album of the year for me, The Oh Hellos make me love music again every time I listen to them. Off their debut full-length album, “Through the Deep Dark Valley”, it should be noted that the album is a concept album and really should be listened to in its entirety to get the full value out of each song… but “Second Child, Restless Child” stands out as its own story.

10. Walk the Moon – Anna Sun
Seriously, if you can listen to this song and not sing along with the “What do you know? this house is falling apart/What can I say? this house is falling apart/We got no money, but we got heart” lines, then please leave a comment below. I want to know what it’s like on your home planet.

11. Milo Greene – 1957
Really surprised this track has slipped under the radar… it should be showing up on more end of the year lists. That “I’ll Go I’ll Go I’ll Go I” refrain is just killer.

12. Michael Kiwanuka – I’ll Get Along
Smooth, velvety, warm, funky… yeah, I can live with this tune.

13. Lord Huron – She Lit a Fire
The understated guitar lines in this song are a thing of absolute beauty. She Lit a Fire is a standout track on an album full of great tunes.

14. Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks
Of course this song had to be on this list. Of course, commercial radio stations did their best to ruin this song for everyone, but despite that, I had to include it.



15. The Tallest Man on Earth – 1904

As usual, Kristian Mattsson just kills it with nimble guitar picking and emotion-tinged vocals that just trip right all over your heart.

Full playlist: