Feeling only moderately provoked but more to the point inspired by Pitchfork’s list of the 100 best albums of the decade so far, I have compiled and extensively written out this list of my own. My list forgoes EPs, otherwise works by Blood Diamonds and Holy Other would have made the cut, Zola Jesus would have been placed higher, and Burial and FKA twigs may have been contenders – and perhaps I should have looked out for all of these a little bit, without encouraging them to take figurative dives for the metaphorical short-end money. I am also ignoring some excellent reissues and compilations: The Beach Boys’ The Smile Sessions; Robbie Basho’s Visions of the Country, one of several of his works reissued by Grass-Tops and Gnome Life; and the recently uncovered tandem of albums by the synth-pop artist known as Lewis. The list could have borne more rap and ambient electronic artists; and young and older luminaries of independent music, June Tabor, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Grouper, and St. Vincent, have marginally missed out. There is little sense and only a throwaway impulse behind the inclusion of two How To Dress Well albums, for instance, but not a third; or spurring the presence of Before Today but the absence of Mature Themes. Great albums always grow with age, which at least explains a proclivity towards the earlier years of the decade. I chose twenty-one albums because that is how my endeavour came out; and because there is something to be said for odd numbers, and for numbers which – like my own years – divide neatly by seven, an important figure for all manner of reasons.
21. Frankie Rose – Interstellar
Uniting rather than replacing the sounds of 60s surf pop and proto-punk with 80s synthesizers and new wave – like The Cure gazing skyward at night-time on the Florida Keys, or more simply Blondie turned celestial – Frankie Rose’s second solo album is a distilled triumph of pop music. The titular opening track introduces Rose as a disembodied voice on an astral plane, before a drum hits and she rebounds in the space between it and earth. This is the modus of Interstellar, bounded by glossy synths, glimmering chimes, and pulsing percussion, and rounded by Rose’s vocals, which at points coalesce with the music, and sound especially clear and open-throated on the album’s ballads. At the core of the record is the outstanding middle sequence of ‘Pair of Wings’, ‘Had We Had It’, and ‘Night Swim’.
20. Waka Flocka Flame – Flockaveli
Replete with a motif of mouthed gunshots, Waka Flocka Flame’s debut album is in the same gesture brash and grandiose. In name and conception, full of featuring artists, Flockaveli is an explicit call-back to the gangster rap of the mid-1990s and early 2000s. Yet it steps away from those forebears thanks to Lex Luger’s relentless production, which features dense and heavy-hitting drums, synthetic throbs, and flourishes of orchestral bombast; and Waka Flocka Flame’s aggressively playful vocal delivery. Buoyed by his percussive onomatopoeia, tracks thrust and double back upon themselves, winding up before unleashing with renewed intensity.
19. Zola Jesus – Conatus
Not as tightly wound as the Stridulum EP, Zola Jesus’s third full-length retains its industrial rhythms, dark synths, and Nika Roza Danilova’s voice: at once commanding and empathetic, calling out from a frozen horizon and intimately within the listener’s head, provoking a visceral response felt in the throat and the chest. Zola Jesus’s songs build and change shape. As her singing urges on and reaches a crescendo, the supporting synths may surge in accord, or they may dissipate into murky ambience; or else the music may sustain, while her words fall and inhabit the space with a hard-won hesitancy. On Conatus, Danilova’s singular voice is sometimes subsumed into layered choruses, and instants of voice bounce against and between one another. Her sound has widened, retaining its distinctiveness through more familiar song structures, as on ‘In Your Nature’; and excelling amid the dance environment of ‘Seekir’.
18. Olga Bell – Krai
Russia today – after the contested addition of Crimea and Sevastopol – is comprised of eighty-five federal subjects. Most of these subjects are oblasts, which are provinces with federally appointed governors and locally elected legislatures. Twenty-two republics are afforded more autonomy than the oblasts; five autonomous subjects see even greater autonomy granted to areas where ethnic minorities predominate; and there are also the federal cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, to which Sevastopol was added in March. ‘Krai’ is a historical designation, retained for nine of Russia’s subjects which were once considered frontier territories. Today, Russia’s nine krais function much like oblasts. The nine krais extend from Krasnodar, which looks out onto the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea; to Perm, by the Ural Mountains; Krasnoyarsk, a vast expanse in the heart of Siberia; Primorsky, which borders China, North Korea, and the Sea of Japan; and to Kamchatka, which gazes towards Alaska over the Bering Sea. In short, the krais cover the extent of Russia; and capturing that scope and that diversity on a single record is a stern task, but one at which Olga Bell proves adroitly capable. Trained as a classical pianist, she scored a throng of instruments for Krai, and cello, electric guitar and bass, harp, drums and glockenspiel are prominent among those which fill up the album. Rhythms coil and undulate, or drone as the sound slips effortlessly across the nine pieces from folk to the abstractions of modern electronic music. Voices of all accents accumulate, breaking apart in the best moments as the blazing clarity of Bell’s voice comes through.
17. Majical Cloudz – Impersonator
From within a small space, Devon Welsh commands an audience. In spare songs, comprised of short loops of synthesized keys and strings – guitar, organ, and piano are prominent – Welsh pushes his voice into the gaps of the music, stretching words out and conjuring unexpected sounds and searing emotions. His voice is at once straining, and decadent in its luxurious depth. Welsh’s partner in Majical Cloudz, Matthew Otto has noted that the majority of Impersonator was recorded or processed through analogue equipment – providing the album with a warm background hum, which is allied with brief bursts of white noise which create a lively surface texture. Welsh’s lyrics are acutely personal, yet often cloaked in an elusive language which makes their sentiment feel diverse and general. Some of the album’s strongest songs, including the title piece and ‘I Do Sing For You, show him curiously exploring his craft and his identity as a writer and singer.
16. Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
Daniel Lopatin’s Warp Records debut takes its impetus from constrained aesthetic production and the confines of modern life, and frames a view of America in wide perspective. The record’s title indicates Lopatin’s interest in Oulipo, a school of writing founded by Raymond Queneau, and whose practitioners have included Georges Perec and Italo Calvino, which seeks creativity through the imposition of constraints and adherence to identifiable patterns. One of Oulipo’s constraints, referred to as N+7, involves replacing each noun in a text with the noun seven places after it in a dictionary. Lopatin followed Oulipo’s strictures on R Plus Seven to spread disfigured vocals throughout his record. Chopped choirs chatter and chant, accompanied by synthesized brass and saxophone, new-age harmonies, and the sounds of nature, which break through and provide moments of respite. There is a sheen to these pieces which recalls something like Opiate’s Objects for an Ideal Home; but where that record is playful and often warm, R Plus Seven is more fractured. Concerned hums and throbs lie at the heart of tracks, and after the adjusted celebrations of ‘Americans’, tension increasingly builds. The word ‘wait’ is uttered on ‘Problem Areas’ – the only fully enunciated word on the record. The tension reaches a laden and hectic climax in ‘Still Life’, before ‘Chrome Country’ unburdens in a choir of children.
15. Mount Eerie – Clear Moon
‘If I look, / Or if I don’t look, / Clouds are always / Passing over’ – so sings Phil Elverum, the opening lines to ‘The Place I Live’, the third song from Clear Moon. Elverum consistently relays for us, compassionate and clear eyed, those minutiae which substantially comprise all of our lives. Clear Moon was the first of two records he released in 2012: both it and the denser, more experimental Ocean Roar focused immediately upon his hometown of Anacortes, Washington, and were recorded there in the large room of a converted church. Yet through both his lyrics and his music, the detail of his observations, the scope of his speculations and misgivings, and his tracings of the landscape come together to extend beyond the provincial and evoke that which is essentially human. On Clear Moon, accompanied by a rumbling acoustic guitar, steady percussion, and occasional backing vocals which wisp and wind, Elverum’s voice thinly sustains and encompasses.
14. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I saw Kanye West last year at the Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam, and his was an exceptionally conceived and fantastically rounded stage show: allowing space for elaborate costume changes and for a tirade against capitalism, slickly and energetically offering some of his biggest hits, but with an extended and improvised version of ‘Runaway’ at the culmination of the evening portraying the supremely talented and instinctively daring musician at the heart of his records. ‘Runaway’ is both the most introspective song and the star feature on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but the album is a tour de force: by the time the first piano chord on ‘Runaway’ plays, the record already seems to distend backwards, to the bluster and drama of ‘Monster’, with its featured performances by Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, and Bon Iver; to the horns and psychic gesturing of ‘All of the Lights’; and to the tribal sounds and Kanye’s snarling vocal delivery which urge on ‘Power’.
13. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
While Before Today proved a breakthrough album for Ariel Pink, noted for its clean sound after a decade of lo-fi recordings, and for its hooks which seemed to reconfigure generations of popular music, still the album also served to crystallise some of those aspects which have remained hallmarks of his peculiar aesthetic. Ariel reworked a number of songs for the album, including the centrepieces ‘Round and Round’ and ‘Beverly Kills’. I have discussed his music before in the context of heteroglossia, particularly in relation to the successor to Before Today, 2012’s equally engaging Mature Themes – but no two songs better disclose the tension-filled multiplicity of voices of which his music is uniquely capable. Ariel Pink combines sudden shifts in pitch, rhapsodic choruses and static refrains , and lyrics which contrast openhearted honesty with vague ejaculations and disconnected quotations from old Hollywood.
12. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Chords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do
Fiona Apple’s fourth album is defined musically by her piano playing, its plush jazz sound sparsely constructed whether softly repeating or restlessly pushing forth, and by variegated percussion: along with utilising field recordings, Apple and her drummer, Charley Drayton, are listed in the album credits as playing ‘thighs’ and ‘truck stomper’. The loose and flexible patterns of the percussion and the restrained piano allow Apple’s voice to hold the centre. Her singing is fearless, rolling out into torrents of words with palpable expressive vigour – the straining movements of the muscles in her face as she sings almost show through. The Idler Wheel… also possesses some ofsharpest lyrics written, from the vertiginous psychological insight of ‘Every Single Night’, through pages of personal history, to cultural allusions both recondite and pop-cultural, as in ‘Anything We Want’, which references folded fans and fighting championships.
11. How To Dress Well – What Is This Heart?
Where How To Dress Well’s predecessor Total Loss could feel like a coming together of inspired fragments, What Is This Heart? is more cohesive, despite being the most stylistically varied and sonically diverse work of Tom Krell’s musical career. From the acoustic guitar of album opener ‘2 Years On (Shame Dream)’, the bell chimes which spartanly introduce ‘What You Wanted’, and the industrial beats of ‘Face Again’, each song seems to inhabit a discrete realm of sound and to push towards a distinct genre; further on into the album, there is the steady orchestral surge of ‘Pour Cyril’, and the smooth R&B of ‘Precious Love’. What unites all of this is Krell’s voice, which sounds more relaxed and more tender than ever while reaching lofty tonal and emotive heights. The lyrics depict entangled family history, and see Krell engage acutely – most notably on ‘Repeat Pleasure’ and ‘Words I Don’t Remember’ – with the complexities of love, through its movements of desire and surfeit, as it both compels and cloisters the individual self. The flow of his language too is richly developed, on ‘House Inside (Future is Older than the Past)’ for instance, as the syllables pile up through the first three verses before the punchingly elegant chorus.
10. Jolie Holland – Pint of Blood
Jolie Holland’s songs have always had the quality of sounding, upon first listen, like nuanced and well-sung reworkings of American standards. Welcoming rather than requesting your time, as the songs open up over repeated hearings, their subtle gradations come into focus along with the poetry of her voice and her lyrics. Holland’s voice has become more ornate as her career has progressed, and this has sometimes seemed to alienate fans and serve as a barrier to her music, disguising her careful choice of words. Yet her voice has a majestic tone, and utilised in this way turns her pieces into encompassing soundscapes, amplifying rather than detracting from the underlying emotion. On Pint of Blood, tight song structures and amplified guitar and piano accompany her vocal reverberations: through the sneering ‘All Those Girls’; the moving ‘Tender Mirror’ and ‘Gold and Yellow’; coming to a close with Holland’s interpretation of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Rex’s Blues’, as she elongates the lines and embellishes the song’s steadfast fatalism.
9. Sean McCann – Music for Private Ensemble
Beginning his career with a series of experimental noise pieces released via cassette, on Music for Private Ensemble Sean McCann moved decisively towards modern classical composition. Playing an array of strings, keys, woodwinds, and percussion instruments himself, and sampling others, McCann’s four arrangements – with distinct parts – feature over a hundred layers of conscientiously edited instrumentation. The pieces fluctuate abruptly between different sounds and moods, with finely shaped tumult and orchestral swells giving way to spacious interludes. They are characterised by McCann’s violin, fluttering and billowing glockenspiel, dimly lighted French horn, reiterating cello, and a gentle choral conclusion – in ‘Arden’, the third section of the album’s final piece – built up by McCann from the vocals of Kayla Cohen.
8. Julia Holter – Ekstasis
Julia Holter has consistently cited illuminated manuscripts as an influence on her music, while Ekstasis was inspired particularly by the Alain Resnais/Alain Robbe-Grillet film Last Year in Marienbad. These sources show through in Ekstasis in its rich colours and bold contours, and in the impression it creates of cyclical navigation between long corridors and rooms which, though their features change markedly, remain inexpressibly the same. Though the sound is lighter and the compositions more complex, there is an austerity to Ekstasis which is reminiscent of Nico. Fragments of words emerge to be sung – as in ‘Goddess Eyes II’ and ‘Goddess Eyes I’, variations from the original on Tragedy, where the lyrics come from Euripides Hippolytus – and whirring pop structures advance from multilayered and jagged ambience. The album that results is densely musical, meticulously constructed, and yet in its fluid patternations and vocal flourishes instantly memorable.
7. The-Dream – Terius Nash: 1977
After three acclaimed albums established The-Dream as the grandest album-focused R&B artist since Prince, but failed to result in glorious commercial success, in late August 2011, The-Dream released for free this work under his birth name, and with his birth year as the title. Seen as a stop-gap while work on what would become IV Play progressed, the record went unheralded, even after Def Jam released it commercially at the end of 2012. But despite The-Dream sounding sombre as he dwells on failed love, Terius Nash: 1977 is a roundly accomplished work. The first five songs are especially strong, from the irony and wordplay of ‘Wake Me When It’s Over’ to the free-form crooning at the end ‘Ghetto’. And amid bright synths as he defiantly elaborates his feelings upon the wedding of a former lover, ‘Wedding Crasher’ stands – next to ‘Yamaha’ and ‘Cry’ – as one of The-Dream’s defining moments of the 2010s.
6. A$AP Rocky – Live.Love.A$AP
Critics digress, finding difficulties with A$AP Rocky’s commercialism – which seems to a suggest a culture which only embraces the rampant materialism of the mainstream and economically upper-class – and with the subject matter of his lyrics. All this can be laid aside, for Live.Love.A$AP is a perfect harmony of sound. Combining the influence of Southern hip-hop with the emergence of cloud rap, Rocky’s voice lingers and lulls effortlessly over loops and beats provided by producers including Clams Casino, A$AP Ty Beats, and Beautiful Lou. Any hack can write socially conscious lyrics, but few possess Rocky’s ear for cadence, his rapping languid yet emboldened and packed with internal rhymes. ‘Bass’ is especially remarkable, defined by Clams’ low-frequency looped sample which has an impalpable, gaseous quality. Live.Love.A$AP is enhanced too by entertaining cameos from SpaceGhostPurrp and A$AP Ferg. This is the best rap album released so far this decade.
5. Robyn – Body Talk
Body Talk – a compilation of three mini-albums bearing the same name released throughout 2010 – is an album of singles which speak across and echo within one another. Its numerous highlights – among them ‘Dancing on My Own’, ‘Hang with Me, and ‘Call Your Girlfriend’ – portray not the full bloom of love, but relationships which are tentative or disintegrating. Robyn’s romantic hold is therefore never firm; but her voice is both plaintive and commanding, as she endures tribulation and heartbreak without ever doubting or denying her sense of self. The depth of her voice is allied to crisp but continually surprising electronic music, to produce a potently moving, eminently dancable masterpiece of pop.
4. How To Dress Well – Love Remains
Love Remains was love on first listen. How To Dress Well’s debut album smothers softly a beautiful falsetto voice and R&B melodies underneath layers of thick reverb and unsettling percussion. Opening with ‘You Hold the Water’ – introduced by a line from Julianne Moore, from the Todd Haynes film Safe, with this borrowing from film a consistent facet of How To Dress Well albums – the first five songs sound like keening turned towards popular music. Tom Krell laments in turn strained relationships, a body and mind broken down, and the irrevocable past. ‘Suicide Dream 2’, the longest track on the album and one of its standouts, is equally stately and anguished, emerging steadily and dissolving in profound pain.
In the middle section of the album, the tempo picks up and the songs become more dance-oriented, but the album is unified by a resolute aesthetic, by the production and Krell’s voice. The atmosphere and the conceptualisation of the music call to mind projects like William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops and Max Richter’s The Blue Notebooks; the rhythms have seen How To Dress Well placed at the forefront of a posited movement which has been alternately dubbed PBR&B, alternative R&B, or bedroom R&B. Yet four years after its release, Love Remains still sounds like nothing else, and could equally have been produced in an empty church: it is an intensely personal and deeply spiritual record, which dwells close to the ground and still ascends as crooked smoke.
After the exuberant breaking clear of ‘Decisions’, ‘Suicide Dream 1’ provides a coda to the album. Krell’s continual refinements of these compositions – on the orchestral Just Once EP and for live performance – have shown the strength of the structures which underlay the sound of Love Remains. His two subsequent albums – Total Loss as well as What Is This Heart? – have proved equally affecting, maintaining something of the same pace and depth of feeling, while significantly broadening his sound palette and bringing his voice to the fore.
3. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me
Released in 2004, The Milk-Eyed Mender was a breathtaking debut album, which drew from the modes of folktale and the methods of modernist literature as much as from the sound palette of folk music; showcasing across concise, compact songs Joanna Newsom’s agile harp playing and her exceptional voice, at once delicate and twisting and flowing forth with words. Ys, which appeared two years later, featured ornate orchestral arrangements, with movements which seemed to capture mythologies in the act of their initial telling.
In touring for Ys, Newsom began working as part of a five-piece band, and together she and band-member Ryan Francesconi rearranged the album’s songs for live performance. These processes palpably influenced Have One on Me. Combining apparent performative ease with prolonged length and elaborate ornamentation, the album sprawls over two hours and three discs. For the first time, Newsom accompanies herself on piano as well as harp. Songs including the title piece and ‘Good Intentions Paving Company’ stretch out, and drive and build to a climax; and they sit happily next to shorter pieces like ’81’ and ‘On a Good Day’, which play as redolent parables.
Indeed, the album’s musical openness extends to its lyrics, which offer American histories and biographies and accounts of the road along with some of the most personal evocations on record. Prominent among these are ‘In California’, and ‘Does Not Suffice’, which closes Have One on Me and reprises the progression from the earlier song, as Newsom recounts in close material detail the strained ending of a relationship. ‘Baby Birch’ is especially devastating, culminating in violent discord as Newsom subjugates the realm of nursery rhyme and allows herself to sound sinister, as she suggestively depicts life’s losses and closed doors.
2. Björk – Biophilia
Conceived as a project as much as an album, the music of Biophilia was intended first to dwell within the rooms of a house-museum in Iceland, then to lead a 3D film which Björk hoped would be directed by her frequent collaborator Michel Gondry. When Biophilia eventually came to fruition, it was as a multimedia endeavour: comprising an album, accompanied by a complex of apps for the iPad and iPhone – replete with games, musical scores, and short essays – and a series of residencies at which the music was to be performed.
Björk’s first Biophilia performances took place in Manchester across June and July 2011, as part of that year’s Manchester International Festival. I attended one of these performances and – aside from the pleasure at seeing Bjork in such an intimate venue, joined by the excellent Graduale Nobili choir, and with the bespoke instruments crafted for the event, including a pendulum harp, MIDI-controlled organ, gameleste, and singing Tesla coil – was enraptured for the first time with ‘Moon’ and ‘Thunderbolt’, and invigorated by ‘Crystalline’, a piece of electronic dance music which draws from drum and bass and had just been released as the album’s first single.
At the same time, the concert closed with ‘Declare Independence’, a song from Björk’s previous album Volta. An exceptional work, with ‘The Dull Flame of Desire’ – based on a translation of Fyodor Tyutchev, and featuring Antony Hegarty – a highlight, Volta always felt to me more like Björk’s earlier albums: a strong collection of disparate songs rather than a closely integrated world, such as those evinced by Homogenic, Vespertine, and Medúlla. The performance of ‘Declare Independence’ in Manchester provoked a fuller conception of Volta. It was a rare and uniquely powerful instance of the communal potential of music. Still, Biophila marked for Björk a move again towards sparser electronics, alongside crunchy beats, unusual time signatures, and lyrical contemplation, with songs which entwine the private with the physiological, and all manner of natural and celestial phenomena. Björk’s voice freely traces the outlines of the music, and – as on Medúlla – she sounds close to the listener. The album stands with the best of her works, which together comprise one of the greatest catalogues in popular art.
1. Grimes – Visions
Grimes is often discussed within the framework of the postinternet – a product of the internet’s profusion of materials, its endless repetition and recontextualisation of images, its viral videos, its fractured texts and snatches of songs – and one of the characteristics of the internet’s materiality is that it speeds up time. With so much to view and to download, and popular content shared with millions and then shared again across a multitude of social networks, trends rise and fall with rapidity and what once gains favour quickly grows old. Yet despite the the wide acclaim and the wide appeal Grimes and her album have won since its release at the beginning of 2012, from the opening shuffle of ‘Infinite ♡ Without Fulfillment’, Visions still sounds like the shock of the new.
Age cannot wither, nor custom stale its infinite variety; and Grimes too makes hungry where she most satisfies: but it is not only the rhythmically propulsive loops and the exquisitely layered vocals, or the diverse influences which range from experimental noise music to K-pop, which make Visions a great album. Nor can it be reduced solely to an inherently modern or feminist manifesto – it took time for people to fully grasp the lyrics to ‘Oblivion’, for instance, while other songs offer profound enjoyment though their lyrical content remains undisclosed, abounding in utterance and expression while eschewing determinative statement. Equally important is the album’s structure and consistent sense of space.
It moves coherently from the opening’s multiple voices into the soaring synths and vocals of ‘Genesis’, while ‘Oblivion’ begins a movement into industrial sounds, squelching percussion, and dance. ‘Vowels = Space and Time’ explicitly gestures towards the inexplicability of language. ‘Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U)’ is monastic, and develops musically and lyrically the sense of waiting which is sustained throughout as one of the album’s predominant themes. Indeed, for an album with so many musical ideas and which abounds and rebounds with so much energy and replenished confidence, Visions feels markedly tranquil. An album which merges the generous impulse of a song like ‘Be a Body (侘寂)’ with the tender intimacy of ‘Skin’, Visions is the record of a person quietly embracing life at the same time as she boldly impels it onward.
Returning to this in March 2015, six months after its initial publication, whim, changing appreciations, and the release of new music together demand an inevitable rethink if the list is to be kept up to date. Of course a list like this is largely for fun; it is hardly definitive, even when it comes to my own tastes and preferences, and there is nothing that in any sensible way separates many of the albums which appear; but lists nevertheless have a life of their own. And it is an interesting idea – rather than sticking with static half-decade and full-decade ‘best ofs’ – to reconfigure this list every six months or so, even bearing in mind that this might precede or even serve to preclude a fully-fledged overhaul come the decade’s close.
Since last September, I properly embraced Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. While I liked the album upon its release, I didn’t take wholeheartedly to the beats and to the tonal quality of Kendrick’s voice on some of its songs. Listening to it more thoroughly, it has become one of my favourite rap albums. I love its use of samples and its haunting atmospherics; but most of all it succeeds on the strength of Kendrick Lamar’s personality, from the evocative narrative and the sense of a journey which he manages to convey despite his story covering such a short span of time, to the nuances of his voice as he examines his motivations and fluctuating sense of self.
Yeezus too has grown on me to the point that it – perhaps along with 808s & Heartbreak – is the Kanye album I most admire and enjoy. Meanwhile, Kendrick Lamar’s third album, To Pimp a Butterfly, has emerged this week. And both of these facts suggest another issue, which is that last September, How To Dress Well was the only artist to make my list twice. This was deliberate: at the time, How To Dress Well’s What Is This Heart? was my number one album of 2014, and I wanted to recognise the year without burdening my list with too many repetitions. With new albums since by Kendrick Lamar and Björk; more on the way from Grimes and Kanye West; a love for two works by Jolie Holland firmly entrenched; and continuing ambivalence regarding which albums should feature by, for instance, Ariel Pink, who has since released a third contender, or Julia Holter – all of this means that sticking to one album per artist is no longer tenable.
Along with Yeezus and good kid, m.A.A.d city, Björk’s Vulnicura, and Jolie Holland’s Wine Dark Sea, there are assorted albums from my collected favourites of 2014 which threaten for a place; while this year has already seen a host of excellent releases, including major works by Drake and Panda Bear. It is not too early and only enhances all else to put Vulnicura straight to the top spot. My revised list, extending from twenty-one to twenty-eight albums, reads:
28. Zola Jesus – Conatus
27. Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
26. Frankie Rose – Interstellar
25. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
24. Majical Cloudz – Impersonator
23. How To Dress Well – What Is This Heart?
22. Grouper – Ruins
21. Waxahatchee – American Weekend
20. Grimes – Halfaxa
19. Olga Bell – Krai
18. Mount Eerie – Clear Moon
17. Sean McCann – Music for Private Ensemble
16. Jolie Holland – Pint of Blood
15. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes
14. A$AP Rocky – Live.Love.A$AP
13. Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
12. Julia Holter – Ekstasis
11. The-Dream – Terius Nash: 1977
10. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Chords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do
9. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city
8. Robyn – Body Talk
7. Kanye West – Yeezus
6. Jolie Holland – Wine Dark Sea
5. How To Dress Well – Love Remains
4. Björk – Biophilia
3. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me
2. Grimes – Visions
1. Björk – Vulnicura