In no particular order…
Japanese Breakfast - Jubilee
With her third album as Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner displays a decidedly less lo-fi
sound, experimenting with different instruments, but still keeping her Elliott Smith/shoegaze/indie rock roots on display. Unlike her last two albums, written after her
mother’s death in 2014 and surrounded by themes of grief, Jubilee is a celebration of hope and joy.
Pretty Sick - Come Down
Pretty Sick doesn’t follow genre “rules.” Vocalist and bassist Sabrina Fuentes draws inspiration from 90’s alternative rock bands like Sonic Youth, The Breeders, and Hole, but creates her own unique and modern voice through the occasional layered vocal, drum machine, or sound effect. Though they’ve been playing music since 2014, I think Pretty Sick have really found their sound on this EP.
Jerry Cantrell - Brighten
Something I never expected to see was another Jerry Cantrell solo record. The Alice in Chains guitarist/vocalist's last album, Degradation Trip Volumes 1 & 2, was released in 2002, two months after the death of original AiC vocalist Layne Staley; a time when Cantrell, like Staley, was struggling with depression and addiction. Many of the songs could’ve been Alice songs filled with frustration and suffering stemming from said issues. In the nearly 20 years since this time in his life, Jerry has reflected, recovered, and healed. More akin to Jar of Flies than Dirt, this album tells a familiar, but new story. Yes, there is still pain, but now there’s a possibility that the darkness can “brighten.”
Beach House - Once Twice Melody
On their first release since 2017, Baltimore duo Beach House shows a lot of growth. The message of the songs comes through the lyrics more than instrumentation or atmosphere like a lot of their previous work. The vocals aren’t as buried in the music. That's not to say the music isn’t great too- they keep their psychedelic pop sound while, like lyrically, showing development and maturity. Only the first two “chapters'' of this double album (the first half) have been released, but if the next two are just as strong as the previous ones, I wouldn’t be surprised if they show up on my list again next year.
St. Vincent - Daddy’s Home
70’s psychedelia, motherhood, drug overdoses, and her father’s release from jail all paint the retro landscape of Annie Clark’s 7th studio effort. I love everything about this album, from the
cover (Clark dressed as Warhol Superstar Candy Darling,) to the lounge-pop undertones, to
Jack Antonoff's production.
Radiohead - Kid A Mnesia
My second and third favorite Radiohead albums reissued PLUS b-sides and outtakes? 20 years later and these albums are still topping charts? You know I had to put this one on here.
Snail Mail - Valentine
Maryland singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan writes with obvious maturity and a deeper
understanding of love on her second album. You get the feeling that she isn’t just writing about observations, but that she really knows, relates to, and is in tune with what she’s writing about now. Truly a Gen-Z pop masterpiece.
Tyler, the Creator - Call Me If You Get Lost
This album reminds me of Tyler’s studio debut, Goblin, with an aggressive tone in the lyrics and music that wasn’t as present on his last two albums, Igor (2019) and Flower Boy (2017.) He tackles issues on race, self-awareness, and heartbreak, keeping a coherent flow throughout. With guest appearances from Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Wayne, NBA Youngboy, and 42 Dugg, this album features some of the biggest names in hip hop.
Turnstile - Glow On
Some genuine hardcore punk rock out of Baltimore. We could all use some of this. Maryland
really had an excellent year for music, didn’t they?
Lucy Dacus - Home Video
Love and sexuality and religion and nostalgia tie the songs on Dacus’ third album together,
telling vivid stories of life. This album is soft, but keeps the listener engaged with hard hitting
lyrics and analogies. Listen to “VBS” if you wanna be reminded of being forced to go to Bible
school as a kid and “Please Stay” if you wanna cry.
Foo Fighters - Medicine at Midnight
Ok. I’ll be the first to admit it. This is not their best album. The Foo’s have gone through the
2010’s without much of a change in anything. On this album though, they try to branch out a bit. It’s kind of a halfhearted attempt at a disco/dance album that at the end of the day is still
power-pop, dad rock. It might not be my favorite or contain anything completely groundbreaking, and it sorta sounds like I’m trashing it (I swear I’m not). I think this album came out during a time when a lot of people really needed a positive album from one of everyone’s favorite band (alright, maybe not everyone).