I usually try to track my year-end favorites throughout the year, but of course, this year has been different. And because of all that upheaval, I can’t say I’ve been paying much attention to newer releases. I’m surprised I managed to rank as many items as I did, although two of them are live albums.
The rise of digital downloads and streaming services put new releases in competition with catalog. I still listen to a lot of music, just not much music released in the current year.
- Santigold, Master of My Make-Believe My first few spins of Master of My Make-Believe left me with the impression that this album would be a sophomore slump. Then “God From the Machine” and “Look at These Hoes” started to play in my head without much prompting. I don’t know how Santigold did it, but she created an album that’s subconsciously compelling.
- Jeremy Denk, Ligeti/Beethoven I’m familiar with Györgi Ligeti’s piano etudes from the Naxos recording by Idil Biret. Ligeti’s etudes have been described as “athletic”, although “tortuous” would probably be a better adjective for what the pianist goes through. That said, Denk’s take on these pieces are muscular. He stabs at them with more force than Biret. Denk also pairs the Etudes with Beethoven’s final piano sonata, and it doesn’t sound out of place.
- Lana del Rey, Born to Die I’m unclear as to the controversy surrounding the way Lana del Rey has been marketed. I just know there are times I wish Hope Sandoval had a cup of strong green tea before going into the recording booth, and Lana del Rey fulfills that fantasy.
- Molotov, Desde Rusia con Amor For bands who painstakingly craft their studio albums, live albums that strip down that work end up disappointing. Thankfully, Molotov is WYHIWG. In fact, Desde Rusia con Amor captures the band’s live show incredibly well. (I’ve seen Molotov four times.)
- Tokyo Jihen, Tokyo Collection This album is spurring me to catch on all the live DVDs I’ve missed because it always seemed Tokyo Jihen would be much better live than in the studio. Then again, the track listing cuts the chaff from Tokyo Jihen’s oeuvre.
- FLiP, XX Emotion FLiP is one of those bands I like to follow but can’t say I adore enough to acquire everything they do. Michi Revolution struck me as an album that lives up to the potential they displayed at SXSW 2009. But XX Emotion feels like they’ve begun to exceed that potential.
- The Magnetic Fields, Love at the Bottom of the Sea The Magnetic Fields is one of those case-by-case bands for me — when I like what they do, I tend to like it alot, and when they don’t … who are they again?